That idea lasted about 5 minutes. As I was thinking about what I'd like to have a caterer do, I was already mentally outlining possible menu items, mostly dishes I'd been dying to make.
Real cooks would probably never experiment on their guests with new recipes. They would practice recipes in advance to be sure they could pull them off, make sure they actually taste good. But who has time for that?
In my spare time, I troll recipes using Pinterest to organize ones I'd like to try later. This time "later" turned out to be the week leading up to our holiday party.
So which recipes/food choices were the biggest crowd pleasers? Here's a rundown of the best/worst performers of the night:
No. 1: The Red Beret
Featuring wild hibiscus flowers, cognac, raspberry vodka and prosecco or champagne.
This was our signature cocktail for the party and probably the recipe that had me losing the most sleep. We normally wouldn't leave cocktail testing until the day of the party, but because my husband was traveling and because the main ingredient had to be shipped to us, we didn't play with this until a few hours before guests started arriving.
Turns out we didn't have anything to worry about. It was by far the most popular drink we've ever served (It even blew away last year's popular Chartreuse and our house favorite the Alberto No. 1). Even though I'd managed to round up 20 champagne flutes, I found myself rewashing. But more surprisingly, our guests blew threw six bottles of bubbly in the first 90 minutes of the open house.
No. 2: Kings Hawaiian Baked Ham & Swiss Sandwiches
Featuring Kings Hawaiian rolls with butter and Dijon mustard sauce.
This was a Pinterest find that was a huge success. I only ended up with a small taste. But it got raves until the plate was wiped clean.
Featuring black beans, veggie stock, roasted poblanos, cilantro, scallions & goat cheese layered like lasagna.
I first had this a a friend's birthday party. They couldn't make it to our place this year, but they sent the recipe instead. It's absolutely delicious and can be made a day in advance, then baked day of. We baked this in a bread pan, but I think it would be easier to serve in a shallower dish.
No. 4: Jalapeno Popper Dip
Featuring four cheeses - cream, sharp, mozzarella and Parmesan - plus bacon and green onions.
There is nothing healthy about this one, but it seemed to be a hit based on what was left and the compliments.
Featuring 100% beef meatballs simmered in grape jelly and chili sauce.
Sigh. I've noted before that I've given in on this clear crown pleaser. I doubled what I made last year and we still ran out.
No. 6: Shrimp
Featuring Sim's homemade cocktail sauce.
This was another easy one to prep and a popular one with the grazers.
No. 7: Salmon & Stilton
Featuring smoked salmon and English Stilton.
My error here was not placing the cheese on the meat tray so that guests knew they should be eaten together. But no matter because many folks figured it out.
No. 8: Eggnog Pie
A custard-like pie with eggnog as a key ingredient.
This was a wildcard. I'd never made it before. And my first attempt was a spectacular failure when I misread the instructions and ended up with four cups of vanilla pudding that I still don't know what to do with. Luckily, I found a second recipe with ingredients I had on hand. I wish I had a better description of the flavor. But I only got a tiny taste. By the time I came back for a little bit more, it was gone.
No. 9: Homemade Cookies
A guest brought these and they were flying off the plate as I walked them to the table. Again...I wish I could describe the flavor, but they were gone before I walked back to the table to check on things.
No. 10: Salted Caramel Butter Bars
Featuring caramel, a shortbread cookie base and top, plus a pound of butter and sea salt.
These are delicious, but extremely rich. Did I mention the pound of butter? I put these in our party goodie bags and passed them out with a White Chocolate, Pistachio & Cranberry Holiday Bark I made the weekend before.
The Hot Chocolate Bar also was a big hit again with the kids. Three bags of marshmallows -- peppermint, chocolate/mint, and holiday -- almost gone. Same goes for the candy cane stir sticks.
The Italian meats tray with Gouda was popular too. Hard to go wrong with salty pork and rich cheese.
The MissesAs for what didn't go over so well... I'd like to blame placement, but two of these things were next to the plates, forks & napkins...and on the same buffet as the meatballs. Still, they were hardly touched, though the folks who did eat them offered praises.
Pumpkin Pie in Cast Iron Skillet
Featuring fresh roasted pumpkin.
Upon request, I'll freeze the leftovers for my sister-in-law. So, really, there is nothing to complain about here.
Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
Featuring a family recipe, plus a lot of sugar, cream and half/half.
Again, this will get eaten by the family, so there's no worry of waste.
Layered Greek Dip
Featuring basil hummus, red bell pepper, cucumber, and olives.
I was a little surprised this didn't do better. I was so confident it would do well, I had enough for a second tray. I see Greek salad in our future or hummus wraps.
Hot Red Michigan Wine
Featuring Leelanau Cellars' Witches Brew, a lovely mulled wine.
This was my favorite. It's a smooth mulled wine with absolutely no bitterness. I'm pretty sure placement, in a crock pot in the kitchen, had something to do with this failure.
Dill Pickle Dip
Featuring cream cheese and dill pickles.
This sounded much better on a recipe card than it did in real life. I modified this a bit by adding fresh green onion and a bit of sour cream. Even though I had to refresh the veggies, the dip didn't seem to be as popular.