My Plan to Entertain: Mike’s Halloween Birthday Party

If you leave everything to the last minute you will have only one minute to do everything.

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 11.38.12 PMHalloween is a week from tomorrow. So, to get my one relaxed hour prior to guest arrival I need to use this weekend — a full weekend before my party — to get lots done.

Once I commit to doing a party, I establish my party parameters. These parameters establish both my aspirations and limitations.

My party parameters for Mike’s Halloween Birthday Party:
8-10 guests — mostly family plus a few friends
All pretty adventuresome eaters
Food that Mike likes
Something that I can mostly do ahead, requires little last minute work and keeps me out of the kitchen

Based on these parameters I did a first draft of a menu. I took a hard look at what I set out to do and a realistic assessment of my available time — and help — and decided to pare it back and rely more on buying some things — what I call Hybrid Entertaining in At Home. This included asking my Frog Commissary Bakery to make Mike’s Carrot Cake Birthday Cake. I understand you may not have your own bakery, but there are lots of good bakeries.

So after some re-thinking and tinkering, here’s my menu plan:
Champagne with pear nectar garnished with a pear slice
Assorted olives that I will pick-up at my local Whole Foods or DiBruno’s
A few good cheeses and bread from the Metropolitan Bakery around the corner
Roasted Beets, Endive, Apples & Radicchio with Cider Vinaigrette (P.145)
A Chili Bar with Turkey & Black Bean Chili (P.246) plus sour cream, chopped onion, grated cheese, hot sauce, a Bowl of Green (P.248) and a Bowl of Red
Commissary Carrot Cake (This I plan to ask my Frog Commissary bakery to make for me.)

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 11.05.45 PM

My next step was to go to At Home Online and print out all of the recipes that I am using. I find that having hard copies of recipes laid out in front of me is the best way to develop my shopping list and establish a schedule. In planning my schedule I look for every possible thing I can do ahead. It’s the only way to protect my one relaxed hour.

This weekend I plan to make the chili, bowl or red and bowl of green and get the champagne. I have to work most of Saturday so I will do my shopping this evening and do my cooking on Sunday while I watch the Eagles rebound from last weekends humiliating loss. I will also make my shopping list for the balance of the meal. Gracie and I will be away Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but maybe we’ll shop on the way home Thursday evening. That will leave my Friday evening to chill the champagne and pear nectar, roast the beets and make my re-positionable labels to give Gracie to pick plates, platters and serving pieces on Saturday. On Saturday I’ll buy flowers, pick-up the olives, cheese and bread and fetch the carrot cake. The only really last minute task will be to assemble the salad. It’s a plan that should get me my one relaxed hour…and probably more. Stay tuned.

A Halloween Treat: If you are an invited guest to a Halloween party, At Home is the perfect treat for your host. At Home — the book and At Home Online, the companion website — is only available at — never in bookstores — and at occasional personal appearances.

My Free Library Event Podcast
If you were not able to attend my recent Free Library event, here’s a link to the podcast. The link will take you to the Free Libray page for the event. Once there, click on Listen on MP3.

Reading Terminal on Saturday, November 7th.
I will be at Reading Terminal with a little At Home roadshow on Saturday, November 7th from 11 AM to 2 PM. I will work with selected Reading Terminal merchants on making your Thanksgiving better and easier. At Home will be available for sale.

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Family and Friends, Holidays, Menus

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