I am going to begin a little recurring topic titled Hostess Tips. Now, I know that seems a little redundant because this entire blog is supposed to be tips and recipes, but the simple but important ones need to stand out. It is also a way to share some of my own experiences on what not to do. So here's to Hostess Tip #1:
Wine = Black Shoes
It all came about in a simple conversation between friends. She passed me an incredible Pumpkin Martini recipe, since I love anything pumpkin flavored. I told her a story about how I made pumpkin martinis for a party once, with a not-so-positive end result. And the end of the story resulted in my Hostess Tip #1.
The thing is, when you are throwing a party, the easiest recipes are for cocktails. And how delicious if you could make a couple signature cocktails for your party, in cute glasses, with twisty straws or a festive garnish!! You immediately serve your guests your signature cocktail as they arrive, and soon thereafter, you serve the food you have slaved over that you hope they will also love. There is just one problem... pumpkin martinis don't go well with the Teriyaki chicken skewer appetizer, Paula Dean's potatoes, the Tuscan tossed salad, slow roasted beef tenderloin, nor the dessert of rich creme brulee. They will feel sick, maybe even before the salad. Trust me... I haven't had a pumpkin martini since.
Such a rich or strong cocktail may be delicious by itself, but when paired with a menu, you have to think about its elements. The heavy pie filling and cream and alcohol in the pumpkin martini should be served as dessert, and never before. Not only will you be on a sugar rush, but you will be full before the food ever arrives. And the lingering taste will ruin all the beautiful flavors of the meal to come.
Enter WINE. Wine is like black shoes.... it goes with everything. If you are not sure what wine to buy, get several different bottles! Red and white! Smooth or dry! Chances are, one will be the perfect pairing for your food, and a few more may work nicely too. (Most people like wine, and if they don't, have beer and water in the fridge. Seriously, who doesn't like wine?). Wine doesn't ruin the flavor, or fill you up after one glass. It only enhances what you are eating. And then maybe you'll have room for the creme brulee.
However, if you are insistent on a signature cocktail, then skip to Hostess Tip #2:
Cocktails + Food = Love Match
You have to pair your cocktails with the food you are serving. Have to, for the sake of your guests. If you are clueless as to how to pair food and drinks, here are some great resources to help:
Food Pairing - a quick and easy reference guide online
About.com Guide: How to Pair Cocktails and Food - a great article that keeps it simple for all to understand
MatchingFoodandWine.com with Fiona Beckett-if in doubt about what wines to pair with food
What to Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg- a great book, even as a hostess gift... maybe a hint to a hostess who needs to read this post!
So this holiday season, please use these tips for your party planning. And the last tip (a bonus!)- if in doubt about serving spirits before dinner, serve the signature cocktail as dessert. Surely, even if your guests are full, they will have room for just one sip. Cheers!