I love planning parties. I love the idea of bringing people together and I love cooking for others. I love the challenge of planning a menu, especially when it comes to lots of different little bites.
To truly sparkle as a hostess, you’ll not only want to delight your guests’ taste buds, you’ll also want to be calm, cool and collected, and have everything nearly ready by the time people arrive so can you really mingle. Creating a menu with many things that have to be served hot and made to order can take away from the party’s ambiance. So to create the best experience for both you and your guests, I aim to plan carefully on what can be made ahead, what can be kept warm, and what can be plated and served at room temperature or cold.
When I plan a menu of hors-d’oeuvres, I try to choose 5-7 bites. I like to err on the side of being able to serve most things room temperature or cold and have a balance between bites that are savory and sweet, decadent and refreshing, and a good mix of meat, seafood, and vegetarian. I always ask my guests if they have any dietary restrictions prior to the party and make sure that all guests can eat at least most of the items.
For my Valentines’ Day girls night in, I invited about 12 girls over to my tiny New York City apartment for a treat of fancy bites and cocktails. Here’s how I did it.
Prep the day before: print out your menu, prepare a tealight candle and grab a neutral tablecloth and some spray roses. Nowadays, I opt to frame my menu in a simple gold 5×7 picture frame. I got this one from Target.
Planning your display ahead of time can be really helpful. I typically place my buffet setting the night before – that way I already know how everything will look before the food is ready to be served.
I had my guests start with gruyere gougères. These can be made in advance, frozen and placed in a hot oven for a few minutes to warm up. Not only does it make the house smell wonderful, it also allows you to greet your guests with a delightful, fresh warm bite with little effort and stress.
As guests snacked on the gougères. I started to put together the rest of the appetizers. Several friends came a few minutes early and were able to help me with a few last minute touches.
These beet-pickled deviled eggs are not only beautiful, they also pack in so much flavor! A little bit of curry powder adds a unique twist to the classic deviled egg, and soaking the boiled eggs in beet juice gives them their pretty hue.
These almond financiers are made perfect with the addition of creamy chicken liver mousse. This sweet and salty combination is inspired by a dish I had at State Bird Provisions in San Francisco. They use a duck-fat financier, but I opted for the classic brown butter version of the little french cake.
Buckwheat blinis with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, paddlefish caviar and chives are the perfect fancy bite. It’s luxurious, delicious and makes a serious impression.
Each of the bites were approximately the same size, and ranged between 1-2 bites, which is perfect since I didn’t need to provide my guests with serious silverware. Instead, I put out tiny cocktail forks in a glass.
For dessert, I prepped a tower of sweets and refreshing fruits that the girls could dip in either dark or milk chocolate fondue. Not only was this easy to prepare, it was also really fun and delicious. I typically spend a lot of time baking, but wanted to focus on the savory food instead, so I ended up buying things like cookies from Trader Joe’s and pound cake for dipping.
We had so much fun! To me, this was the perfect way to treat my girls to a night of decadence, love and celebration.
Paddlefish Caviar and Smoked Salmon Blinis
Chicken Liver Mousse on Almond Financiers
Beet Pickled Deviled Eggs
Roasted Shrimp with Green Goddess Dressing
Carrot Ginger Shooters with Gruyere Gougères
Milk and Dark Chocolate Fondue
Salted Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Here are a couple of books that I used for reference and recipes for this night: