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October 1999 Issue
by Jenny Wojcik
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We’re even touched on the menu, so planning step # 5 is underway! We want food that can be prepared in advance, look good, taste good, and hold well since our soiree’ is a four hour holiday open house. Planning step # 6 is decorating, and since our open house comes during the holiday season, our traditional holiday décor will work! We will simply add to or arrange our normal holiday accessories in a manner that will enhance our party.

We addressed our seating (# 7) with the decision to serve a buffet or drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and now all we have to decide EXACTLY is what food will be served in what dish. We’re well on our way to being planned. Now we need to prep(are).

As I’ve shared before, planning takes the most brain power. Prepping takes the most time, and presenting is the most fun. To prepare for your get together, clear your calendar of any heavy duty activity the week of your party. Invite your guests early. Include the opening and closing time of your party, or state that it is an Open House from (start time) to (end time).

In preparing your shopping lists, assume that guests will take two of everything. If you expect 26 people, assume you will need 53 of each hors d’oeuvre. Some people will eat more, some will eat less, but one portion equals two pieces per guest is a good rule of thumb. Keep this in mind when finalizing your menu also. For instance, smoked salmon is a delicacy, and if you shop smart, you may find it during the holidays at very reasonable prices. Because of the delicate nature of smoked salmon, people eat less of it than say, steamed shrimp. While steamed shrimp party-picked to a green cone and surrounded by a moat of cocktail sauce is colorful and holiday appropriate, it will be consumed quickly and cost you a bundle! (People will come out of the woodwork for steamed shrimp!) With shrimp, the ‘two pieces per guest’ rule of thumb just left the building with your wallet.

Another word about menus. The day before your party is NOT the time to try new recipes that you have never prepared before. If your party is weeks ahead, try it now and see if you like it. Prepare things that you are comfortable making or buying. Yes, I said buying. And I don’t mean those yucky platters of too-old-to-sell-as-fresh veggies -- those are a rip off as far as I’m concerned. You may however, find a great price on frozen miniature quiche’ or assorted puff-pastry appetizers that you bake yourself, and if you do, and it’s part of your plan, then do it. You may want to purchase specialty food from a gourmet grocery or bakery, and that’s fine. No one said you had to do it all! Besides, that will give you more time to create a beautiful presentation!

The prepping stage includes the time you’ll need to collect, clean, rent, buy, or borrow for your party. I won’t repeat myself here, but I did write a feature article called "There’s a Party in Your Closet" which ran in the October 1998 issue of Seasoned Cooking. Take some time to peruse it for some tips on things that you should have on hand for instant party success. Remember that disposable plates and glasses are expensive, and fees for renting party goods also add up very quickly. You may want to start your own party prop closet now. If so, check garage sales, antique stores, mass merchandise stores, outlets and national discount chains that carry household goods. Restaurant supply houses are another great resource for wine glasses, plates, flatware, etc.

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