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January 31, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out - January 31, 2006

Dorothy Parker once wrote, “I misremember who first was cruel enough to nurture the cocktail party into life. But perhaps it would be not too much to say, in fact it would be not enough to say, that it was not worth the trouble.” This sentiment is also echoed in Brooks Atkinson’s Once Around the Sun: “The cocktail party…is a device either for getting rid of social obligations hurriedly en masse or for making overtures toward more serious social relationships, as in the etiquette of whoring.” Oh Ms. Parker, Mr. Atkinson, how can you say such things? I have no shame—I adore cocktail parties. Better yet, I adore themed cocktail parties.

Every year I throw a themed cocktail party that I call “Lauren’s Super-Fabulous Cocktail Party.” The first year was the summer before college, and, because a lot of my friends were attending colleges in New York City, I decided to throw them a party to welcome them to my hometown. The music was easy enough (“New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra and “I Love NYC” by Andrew W.K. were some of the songs), and there are a good number of drinks that pertain specifically to the Big Apple, among them the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan.

The following year I chose the somewhat inexplicable theme of 1960s Hawaii. Elvis’s “Blue Hawaii” played on repeat on my old fashioned record player, and I dressed according to the theme by turning one of my father’s old Hawaiian shirts into a makeshift dress and wearing one of those plastic flower leis on my head. I also became more adventuresome with the food that year, churning out pu-pu platter favorites such as fried chicken sesame balls, pineapple salsa, and Asian salmon tartare atop squares of nori, along with the requisite macadamia nuts and Japanese rice crackers. The drinks were equally festive and rainbow colored, as I served blue Hawaiis, pineapple fizzes, and mai-tais.

The third year was my send-off to Paris, since I was participating in the University’s year-long Paris program. So the theme was, aptly, Paris. Paris was one of the easiest themes because there are so many French cheeses and salami meats, and the French, bien sûr, are known for their cocktails: kirs, Ricard, and the perhaps not-so-French French martinis.

Last year’s theme, however, topped all others: S and M.

No, not that kind of S and M, you dirty-minded people. Rather, I decided that all of the food and drink would begin with either the letter S or M. Lucky for me, a great number of foods begin with the letters S or M. I usually serve a cheese plate and a meat plate, so this proved quite fortuitous, as I offered my guests a plate of Morbier (a sweet raw cow’s milk cheese from France), Manchego (a firm Spanish sheep’s milk cheese), and Mozzarella balls and a platter of salami, soppresata (a type of cured Italian salami), and speck (cured ham). From there, however, I started thinking of all the other foods that began with the letters S and M: sardines, marshmallows, sushi, mayonnaise, salsa, melon, scallions, mint, shrimp, miso…the list seemed endless. And then there were the gems of the food world that contained the letters S and M: stuffed mushrooms, spaghetti and meatballs, speck wrapped melon, sausages topped with mustard.

I planned on a vegetable plate that contained mushrooms, scallions, cucumbers (when people sneered at me saying that cucumbers began with the letter “C,” I proudly replied that cucumbers were in fact members of the squash family, which begins with the letter “S”), and sugar snap peas, served with a sesame mayonnaise dip. From there I turned to the drinks, which included sherry, Sapporo beer, and martinis. Clearly, I had outdone myself.

As any hostess with the mostest will tell you, a good cocktail party is not based on the food and drink alone (though usually if there is a lot of drink, the crowd becomes quite jovial). Nevertheless, I received many a compliment on the ingenuity of my theme. Of course that means that the pressure is on for next August, leaving me only seven months left to plan. That should be just enough time to get things in order.

More S and M Drinks

Mango Spritzer

Fill a glass 4/5 of the way with mango juice. Top with seltzer water. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Midori Sour

In a lowball glass, mix together 3 oz. Melon liqueur and 1.5 oz. Sweet and Sour mix. Stir well.

More S and M Snacks

Cheese Plate

Have a cheese plate with some interesting cheeses. This would be a good opportunity to try some new cheese you wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. Pick three of the following cheeses: Morbier, Manchego, Selles-sur-Cher, St. Marcellin, St. Nectaire.

Mango Salsa

Serve chips with mango salsa. In a bowl, combine 2 cups finely chopped ripe mangoes, 2 minced jalapeño peppers, 2/3 cup diced red onion, juice of half a lime, and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.

Sausage Links

Buy some sausage links and fry or grill until done. When cooled, slice into 1/2 inch thick slices and top with grainy mustard. Garnish with a parsley leaf.