I was completely caught off guard when Foodbuzz emailed me to tell me that they’d selected my idea for their monthly 24×24, wherein 24 of their featured publishers throw a dinner party on the same day and write a post about it. I had sent in my proposal in a “why not?” moment, never actually expecting to be picked. I mean, do these people know that sometimes I consider going to bed in my work clothes so I can sleep in 40 minutes later? Or that I once got in the shower with socks on?
But all in all, I was excited. I was up for making all kinds of delicious, dainty finger foods to serve to my friends, and no one even has to know about Shower Socks. Smooth.
The menu I had in mind was centered around light, interesting, seasonally-focused finger foods. Also, since one of my guests is lactose-intolerant while another is allergic to tree nuts, this presented a bit of a challenge. I ultimately decided on:
-Classic cucumber tea sandwiches with minted avocado and fresh green apple
-Smoked trout and roasted beet tea sandwiches on dark rye
-Grilled tea sandwiches with roasted butternut squash, roasted red onion, prosciutto, coppa ham and rice “cheese”
-Caramelized balsamic pear bruschetta on tofu cream cheese and honey with pomegranate seeds
-Honey and bourbon iced tea cocktail
-Gourmet loose-leaf and bagged teas
And on it was.
I even began preparations the day before. I had Friday off from work for Nevada Day, which I consider to be the best-timed state holiday ever. If I made a pro-con list for moving out of Nevada, losing a day off on Halloween weekend would most certainly be on the con side. Oh, I love it so. When I rolled out of bed around 10, I got to work. First order of business: baking pumpkin madeleines.
Having just one madeleine pan, I lost count of how many batches I did, but I’m pretty sure it was at least five, which obviously ended up consuming quite a bit of time. I ended up with a LOT of cookies, and even as I’m writing this on Sunday night, there is a big plate of them in my kitchen. You should come over and help me out–it’d be rude not to.
Traditional they are not, but tasty and pretty is important. The batter isn’t particularly sweet, so a dusting of cinnamon sugar rounded everything out perfectly. (The recipe came from The Love Bite.)
I had three types of tea sandwiches in mind, plus caramelized pear bruschetta. The prepping… Oh, the chopping and the slicing. When I’d done pretty much all I could do in advance, I cleaned. By nighttime, I needed a break from being so domestic, so I ended up here, sitting next to a guy dressed up as Casey Anthony for Halloween.
The next day, all of it came together. Sandwiches, though simple, are quite ambitious in this scenario–make them too early, and they’ll become a soggy mess. Plus, there are ingredients like apples and avocados, which obviously turn brown and unappetizing as time passes. It was definitely a challenge for me to get it all done and time everything right. I figured the beet and smoked trout would hold up the best, so those came first. Inspiration for these came from the Table Set Podcast, and I followed this recipe somewhat (I used tofu sour cream instead of cream cheese/sour cream, and didn’t use horseradish, but added lemon juice and chives).
Oven time: roasting and toasting came next. The squash and onion is for the grilled sandwiches I made, and one of my guests had already arrived by the time I started making those. In a rush, I didn’t get a photo of them, and to tell you the truth, they weren’t that pretty, but by far the crowd favorite.
Caramelized balsamic pear bruschetta on a tofu cream cheese and honey mixture, plus a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. To make the bruschetta, I sauteed a couple diced Bosc pears in a little bit of butter (Colleen survived) with cinnamon and a generous splash of balsamic.
Though cucumbers are definitely out of season right now, cucumber tea sandwiches seemed like a must for a tea party. I made them somewhat seasonal with the addition of crisp green apples, and substituted the traditional butter spread with creamy minted avocado with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
This was the only flavor combination I tested out in advance, since I wasn’t sure it would taste as good as it sounded in my head. I was actually right! Lots of tasty crisp, green, herbal flavors.
A corner of my kitchen served as a tea station of sorts. I bought some locally made loose-leaf teas from Tahoe Teas, along with chocolate strawberry, coconut chai and mint mojito bags. Even though the party is long over, this setup is still there. Today, I’ve been drinking lots (of tea), and it feels like Jack Donaghy’s “business drunk” liquor station.
Now for the fun part! Colleen and Melissa showed up, and it was (tea) party time. We had to squeeze this in between various Halloween festivities everyone had going on, but we made it happen. My dear friend Nikki came a little later but was feeling camera shy. A small gathering is never boring when my friends are involved. See? Just a lactose intolerance and a serious case of nut allergies, living and eating side by side.
This photo definitely gives away how old my phone is… Yikes. A more in-depth discussion (and recipe) on the bourbon iced tea cocktail can be found here.
Their stomachs are sworn enemies, but their hearts are one.
In fact, at some point they realized that, having gone to the same school at different times, they still knew the Galena High cheers… And this tea party ended like this in my living room:
My manfriend is man enough for cucumber sandwiches, too. He showed up just as the girls left, ready to go carousing about town as Harry Caray. I resurrected my Mia Wallace getup from three years ago, and out we went. Many thanks to Foodbuzz, Drew, Colleen, Melissa and Nikki!
“HAY! Have you got an ice cold Budweiser?!”