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September 17, 2015
At Home with Friends

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2nd Annual Apps & Alcohol Party

Last year’s party was so much fun, I couldn’t wait to do it again. Since part of my joy comes from the planning and cooking, I decided to do all new recipes. At the last minute, I added the Kaleakopita because people couldn’t get enough of it last year — or this.

This year’s party had many unexpected surprises. People who sent regrets because they had a prior engagement, showed up. People who were the first to RSVP never appeared. People invited as singles brought plus ones. My friend Dano had left for London the day before to visit family.

I had planned to serve a Sangria but instead we ended up with Basil Pomegranate Vodka Martinis. I just rolled with it all and had a blast!

The party started at 7:00 p.m. and we were still going strong at 1:00 a.m. You never know what’s going to happen at my house. But you always know it will be a joyous adventure.

Since there was lots of alcohol, I wanted to be sure we had enough real food. The Lamb Sliders were simply seasoned with salt, pepper, with fresh Italian oregano from my garden. Instead of usual burger add-ons, I did caramelized onions, fresh Raita and roasted jalapeno peppers. The richness of the lamb was complimented by the sweet caramelized onions, the heat of the jalapenos and the coolness of the raita.

There were Shrimp and Corn Cakes that were made with ground gluten free crackers as a binder. This was just something I made up that was a big hit.

The Mini Veggie Frittatas were one-bite wonders: tasty, satisfying and oh, healthy and gluten free.

I created Individual Onion Pies with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. While we were tasting them, we tried adding slices of Dubliner cheese, slices of fresh figs, even a dollop of fig jam. All the variations were delicious but I decided to serve them plain, just out of the oven.

The fresh figs and the fig jam made it onto the Cheese Platter. A Cheese Platter is a great idea only if you use great cheeses. If you use boring cheeses no one will eat them. I used some blue cheeses, some goat cheeses, white cheddar, smoked gouda and a neutral Manchego. I added dried fruit, fresh figs and nuts. I like to label the cheeses so people know what they’re eating.

Beautiful wild Crab Claws were another simple appetizer that I added to the mix. Served simply on a bed of ice and a red dipping sauce, they were a hit!

I also did a Mozzarella Tart with Fresh Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic. I used store bought puff pastry and it was beautiful and simple. I was sort of on a puff pastry run and did another one with olive tapenade and fresh ricotta. Totally different flavors, equally delicious!

In case you haven’t noticed, there were lots of vegetarian options. There were Grilled Veggie Crostini topped with pesto, goat cheese and grilled veggies or crostini topped with red pepper spread, goat cheese and grilled veggies.

I decided that we needed something a bit exotic and came up with the Cauliflower Fritters loaded with cumin seeds and served with a fresh yoghurt raita.

When it comes to dessert, my friends know I pull out all the stops, and this was no different. People kept trying to rank the desserts in order of their favorites. Of course, this required multiple tastings.

There was an intense Mocha Pot de Crème served with a dollop of whipped cream, a decadent, rich Basmati Rice Pudding served with Peach Chutney, a White and Dark Chocolate Brownie with White Chocolate Ganache Frosting, a Triple Almond Cookie and a Rocky Road Toffee.

When we were cutting the cookies, brownies and toffee in the kitchen, my friend Keith’s knife kept missing the mark and we had oddly shaped pieces which ended up in a dish for the staff. I kind of think it was accidentally on purpose. When you see the desserts, I think you’ll agree.

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