Party gurus say keep it simple

Posted On November 4, 2006

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Planning a big party? Don’t stress, it’s not as hard as it looks.

It’s all about “mini-madness” or turning full-sized food into handheld delicacies an expert says. “Jazz up an everyday concept, like a holiday picnic with hamburgers and hot dogs” suggests another. When all else fails, fake them out, dressing up prepared, instant or restaurant foods with your own ingredients is both creative and quick. Above all, experts say: Keep it simple.

Think ahead >

  • Choose foods, like a pork or beef tenderloin, that can be cooked ahead of time yet taste good at room temperature.
  • Choose foods that can be prepared days or weeks in advance and frozen.
  • Think fake-out food: Try steamed broccoli or green beans from a Chinese restaurant. At home, add scallions and horseradish to the broccoli or candied nuts and dried cranberries to the green beans.
  • Add truffles and champagne to microwaveable or instant mashed potatoes.
  • Have groceries delivered.
  • Don’t turn down offers of help. Let guests bring something. And I don’t mean ice.
  • Delegate responsibilities to family members. Let children pass or refill food trays.
  • Serve appetizers rather than a sit-down meal.

On decor >

  • Take the time to bring out the fine china no matter what you’re serving. It gives a festive feel.
  • Mix and match dishes and serving ware. Think of it as eclectic, not incomplete.
  • Buy monogrammed silverware from flea markets. It’s cheap and unusual.
  • Use wide-mouthed mixing bowls as vases. Float the tops of flowers in water. Try surrounding them with cloves or herbs.
  • Use baskets and other household containers to serve food or hold napkins and silverware.
  • Place fresh fruit such as oranges, apples, lemons and limes and vegetables such as artichokes around the house. It’s a cheap and edible way to decorate.
  • Buy candles from the dollar store. Be sure they’re dripless to prevent messes. Load up on votives. That’s where you get the most bang for your buck.

What’s in >

  • Pomegranates, in food and drink.
  • Mini foods and mini drinks.
  • Ethnic foods, especially Latin, Asian and Mediterranean.
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