Holiday Party Post Mortem
After each party – big or little – I do a little post mortem of the event. I track things like who attended and how many, what items seemed to be favorites and what didn’t work so well, how much wine we used and anything that might be useful when planning in the future. I also sometimes record a little vignette or something that happened to help me remember the party – it’s amazing how years later that little bit of information can bring the whole party back to your memory!
Since I posted the menu a couple days ago I’m just going to jump right in…
I had a total of 24 guests, 8 people cancelled in the last 24 hours (always a little frustrating since by then I’m well into the prep and can’t really adjust amounts) and 2 no-shows, however, 3 who were “maybes” were able to make it, which was nice.
People were very good at mixing and mingling this year. I invite friends from different parts of my life and there are times that they get a little bunchy – with people only talking to those they know – but this year everyone made an attempt to talk to others, which I really appreciated.
Over the last year I’ve made some changes to my living room/dining room area including rearranging furniture and I thought the layout worked much better than past years.
The mini-flank steak sandwiches were good and went over well, although a couple people told me they stayed away from them afraid that they’d be too filling and wouldn’t allow them room to try all the other things. Also, the pure horseradish (on the side) took a couple people by surprise. I guess I should have put a “warning” label on it! :-)
The brie was good, but in the past I’ve used other types of caramel or toppings that might have been a little better. For some reason my pears went brown this year which was disappointing and I’m not sure why. I used D’Anjou’s and dipped them in lemon water after cutting but that did not do the trick this year.
The mushrooms, pinwheels and pork were big hits as they always are. The pinwheels especially amaze me because it’s such a “50’s” type recipe. I’ll post some recipes in the next few days and include that one, as people really love them!
The Turkey Tea Sandwiches were good but I had more left than in past years. Maybe because people chose either the Mini-Flank Steak Sandwiches or the Turkey Teas but not both.
The prosciutto-wrapped melon was the disaster of the night. I’ve done this before but not for awhile. Last time I used cantaloupe and it was great. This time I used a really beautiful, ripe, sweet honeydew. That was a mistake! The salty prosciutto had the effect of pulling all of the juice from the melon, which soaked the prosciutto and made it mushy. If you could get over the texture it still tasted great but they were slimy messes. Yuck!
The shrimp were okay but I used plain rice wine vinegar instead of sweetened and it was not as good. I need to replace this item as it’s really labor intensive and takes too much time right before party time. I’ll have to wean people from it.
The Pecan Chicken Salad is one of my favorites. I liked the idea of serving it on endive (normally I use cucumbers which is also good) but the endive at this time of year was not necessarily the best choice. I think I’d use endive in the summer but stick with cukes (or maybe crostini) in the winter.
The Smoked Salmon Platter and the Crab and Artichoke Dip are always big hits. They look great, taste great and are easy to prepare so they are pretty much perfect!
The bleu cheese was really wonderful! It was “St. Agar” and I got it at DeLaurenti’s. It was a smooth cheese and farily full flavored. I used Granny Smith apples – they are really crisp and tart this time of year. The contrast was great!
It’s been years since I’ve done a Meat and Cheese Plate but it was a nice addition this year. I used Mole, Winter and Finnocchiona salamis from Salumi. People always find the Mole fascinating with it’s slight hint of chocolate. For the cheese I used Cambozola, Fresh Chevre rolled in basil from Port Madison Farm and Gaperon D’Auvergne, that I picked up at Costco.
The gougeres were also a big hit. These were flavored with parmesan and poppy and are very good. Next time I think I’ll try some new flavorings, just for a little variety. I especially like these because you can make the batter a couple days ahead of time and then on the day of the party I set up a couple of baking sheets, which I pop in the oven throughout the party. The gougeres are really good hot from the oven! Yum!
The mini-Mocha Panna Cottas were a bit hit, too! I served them in tiny “sidekicks” with demitasse spoons – besides tasting good they were really cute!
We drank 5 bottles of champagne, 4 bottles of red wine and 1 white, quite a bit of coffee, about a quart of the Cranberry Toddy and some soft drinks. A little less alcohol than groups of this size in the past.
Overall, I was pleased with all of the food, except the melon. :-( However, I’ve been using many of these recipes for quite some time now, so next year might see a major shakeup in the menu!