Jane e-mailed me from Italy in November, asking if I would consider co-hosting a New Year’s party with her. As if I hesitated before saying yes to an opportunity to entertain and experiment with new recipes.
As we were both in recovery from illness and/or vacation hangover, it wasn’t until a few days before the 31st that we brainstormed potential hors dourves we wanted to serve our guests. A few e-mails and one discussion later, we had it down to five plates each, plus a beverage to have ready for Monday.
As I was scheduled to work a half day that morning, I made sure to choose recipes that would allow for advanced preparation. Of course, I didn’t anticipate that prior to launching into a cooking extravaganza on Sunday night, that I would first have to help my family put together a feast for my sister and her 20 merry friends in celebration of her birthday.
After dinner, I got started. Donna Hay’s 3 Cheese Puffs (made from thawed puff pastry sheets) probably had a dash too much oregano, but were assembled quite quickly, and were ready to be baked the next day. After making a sour cream pound cake from scratch, I diced about half of it for Individual Raspberry Trifle Parfaits (using disposable wine glasses found at Dollarama), which would be garnished with chocolate curls at the party. Giada’s Stuffed Mushrooms were next, modified using suggestions from others who had tried the recipe (adding chopped mushroom stems and cutting down on the amount of breadcrumbs used to reduce dryness), and placed in an oiled glass baking dish which would be put directly into the oven in the evening. Lastly, with my Mum’s help, I duplicated the Barbecue Duck Salad Rolls I had made a few weeks earlier for a potluck at work (thinking that a cold appetizer would be the best idea for a party where guests would be drifting in over the course of five hours). A colourful vegetable platter and dip was my last sustenance-offering. I also had a Ricardo cocktail in mind, a Pink Grapefruit-Flavoured Wine, but was to be infused for just a few hours, so I packed up my grapefruit and bottle of White Zinfandel to be prepared the next day.
I got to Jane’s place that evening at about a quarter to six, but given that our friends have a penchant for being fashionably late, we had more than enough time to heat and dress our food.
In the end, our guests were quite impressed with the spread. Jane’s dips and pita chips were a hit (I particularly liked the White Bean and Sun Dried Tomato), as were her meatballs (she also made Focaccia bread, green onion cakes, and brownies). Most people liked my cheese puffs and stuffed mushrooms (the latter were a bit dry in my opinion, and a touch too garlicky). As for the trifles, they were all right, though the thawed raspberries ended up tasting sour, and in hindsight, I should have used frozen blueberries instead. Out of all the dishes, I’d actually be most likely to make the cocktail again; inexpensive and easy to drink, it would make a great dessert “wine” to end off a meal.
After the food and some requisite Cranium, we headed to Churchill Square to watch the fireworks. Having been born and raised in Edmonton, it would be surprising to most to know that this was my first time catching them live on the Square. The music accompaniment was a bit wonky, but the fireworks themselves were very nice indeed, and lasted 13 minutes, as promised.
Though it was like pulling teeth for some (you know who you are), we had every guest write down either a resolution or a hope for 2008 on a small card, and their mailing address in a corresponding envelope, which was then sealed. These little letters will then be sent out in about 6 months’ time, to serve as written benchmarks or reminders (I can’t take credit for the idea – I stole it from Real Simple Celebrations).
Thanks again to Jane for allowing us to use your new apartment!
Happy New Year, everyone!