Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wine, Cheese & Appetizer Party

This past Saturday night we had about 100 people over for a Wine, cheese and appetizer party. Now that might seem a lot of people, and indeed it was. But it was a totally no-stress, relaxing evening for me.

We were fortunate to have “perfect” weather in the low 70s for the evening, so about half of our guests mingled with friends outside on the patio and pool area. After dark, my husband turned on the tiki torches and firepit, and lots of people huddled together in the sunken fire pit area. It was really a relaxing evening!

We served up lots of appetizers, including some sweet bite-sized dessert treats. We have a front office which we made our “red wine” room, so we put the red wines in there and set up about 50 wine glasses on the big wood desk in that office. We made our dining room the “white wine” room. We set up a folding table on the patio with all the non-alcoholic beverages on them (after all, we invited families with kids to the evening too, and we wanted to have special drinks for the non-adult guests). The table in the kitchen had all the desserts, plus a tray of cordial glasses and several kinds of liqueurs. Then the center island and countertops in the kitchen, and the coffee table in the family room had all the savory appetizers and snacks.

The way I do these parties is I ask guests to bring either a bottle of wine or an appetizer of some kind to share. I made plenty of food to start with: lots of cheese and cracker trays, spinach and mushroom appetizer quiches, appetizer puffs, appetizer roll-ups, buffalo hot wings, and several desserts. Even if our guests didn’t bring any food, we would have had lots to eat. But our guests brought plenty! (We have lots of friends who are great cooks and everyone seems to enjoy bringing a food to share. I knew I could count on them!) It was super fun sampling all the different foods, mingling and chatting with different groups of people.

These kinds of parties are great mixers because you’re not “parked” at one seat at a dinner table all evening. Most people spent the evening moving around and talking with different people. It was easy to get conversations started as you were moving from one food “station” to another and sampling what was there. I overheard lots of conversations being initiated with lines like, “Oh, who made this?!!” and “Yum, this is SO hot. Have you tried it?”

I actually like these kinds of parties better than just a straight wine and cheese party. If you’re a wine connoisseur, there was lots of different wines to sample last night, and quite a few different cheeses to try out. But for people who wanted more than just wine and cheese, there was lots of other kinds of hors doeuvres to try as well—enough to make it an evening meal. We certainly had all the food groups covered! And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I like to plan get-togethers where entire family units can get together with other families. Teens, for instance, already spend a lot of time with people in their age group at school. I think it’s nice for teens to also be in social settings where they’re around their friends’ parents and other adults (Obviously the wine room is off-limits to the teens, but we made a point to have some teen-friendly beverages just for them.). And it’s nice for parents of teens to get to know their kids’ friends parents.

I already posted recipes for the mini chocolate and berry mousse cups, spinach and mushroom appetizer quiches, appetizer chicken salad puffs, which I served. Here are the recipes for some of the other bite-sized foods which I served:

Tex Mex Roll-Ups

10 burrito size flour tortillas
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 pkg. Fiesta Ranch dip mix or taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
6 green onions, sliced thinly
½ cup pitted black olives, chopped

Blend cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning together; set aside. Over each tortilla, spread thin layers of refried beans, cream cheese mixture, cheddar cheese, onions and black olives. Tightly roll up each tortilla and refrigerate at least one hour or up to one day in advance. Once chilled, slice into ½ inch pinwheels. Serve with salsa.

***Baked Buffalo Hot Wings for a Crowd***

40 chicken wings
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
1 ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
¾ tsp. salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup hot pepper sauce (such as Frank's, Tabasco or Tapatio)

Cut the tips off chicken wings using kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Discard wing tips. Cut the remaining wing in half at the joint. You will now have two pieces for each wing. Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt into a ziplock plastic bag, and shake to combine the coating mix together. Put 5-6 wing pieces at a time into the bag and shake to coat. Put coated wings onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes.

While wings are cooking, make wing sauce by stirring the ½ cup melted butter and hot pepper sauce together. After the wings have baked for about 30 minutes, remove them from the oven and brush generously with about half the wing sauce. Return to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes more. Then remove the wings from the oven, turn each wing over and brush with the rest of the wing sauce. Return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven serve immediately. These wings are wonderful dipped in blue cheese or ranch dressing.

These hot wings can be baked a day in advance and refrigerated. Right before serving, they just need to be microwaved for about 15 minutes. Ths is what I did. They tasted just like they were just cooked. It was a great time saver--and was an easy way to cook/heat them since both ovens were already being used to heat other appetizers like the mini quiches. Once they were heated, I put them in a chafing dish on a low flame.

Here are a couple photos of my chocolate dipped-and-decorated strawberries which I served at the party for dessert:

We also served up dessert cheeseballs with cookies. These were made from mixes from Wind & Willow. This company makes a wide variety of savory and sweet cheeseball and dip mixes. You can buy them online and at specialty grocery stores. I have used them for years and highly recommend them. The only suggestion I have with them is sometimes you need to add a little extra cheeseball coating; there’s not always quite enough in the mix. For instance, with the tiramisu mix, I added extra chocolate sprinkles that I had. Otherwise, there just wasn’t quite enough coating in the mix for my taste. Here are a couple of pics of our dessert ball trays:

I could post many more pics, but this is probably enough for now. Maybe this will give you some ideas next time you’re trying to come up with a fun get-together with friends…

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