Party Food

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Quick, rank the following from least important to most important, on the subject of “what makes a good New Year’s party”: a. food; b. music; c. decorations/lighting.

Many of us food lovers would like to believe that music and decorations rank less than food when it comes to a happy New Year’s eve, but now that I am the survivor of my very own New Year’s party–one that lasted into the wee hours and alienated us from our upstairs neighbors–I can say, with great confidence, the ranking goes like this: food is the least important, decorations matter more and music matters the most. (Actually, alcohol matters the most; but we’ll get to that later.)

So first things first: let’s give Craig credit for making a killer playlist. Of course, doing so might fan his ego (he did take a bit too much pride in his New Year’s playlist); but by 3 am, when everyone was bopping to Le Tigre, David Bowie and The Ramones, he knew he’d done his job well.

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I’ll take credit for the decorations which were super cheesy, but in a good way. There were party hats, there was a “Happy New Year” banner, there were noisemakers. Sure, the elegant party host within you might scoff when you see those things at Party City two days before the party, but–to be honest–if you’re such an elegant party host, why are you at Party City? I think people are happy to have that stuff, even if they don’t admit it.

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And then, of course, there’s the food. I tried to keep myself from going overboard; Lord knows at one point I considered making The Barefoot Contessa’s caviar dip, but decided against it. I decided, ultimately, to make two sweet things–Martha Stewart’s gingerbread blondies (recipe here) and David Lebovitz’s buttercrunch toffee (recipe here)–along with a sweet/savory batch of David’s “Best Holiday Snack Ever” which is a mixture of nuts and pretzels baked with brown sugar and cayenne pepper.

Also, the day of the party, I went to Bierkraft in Park Slope to buy three gourmet cheeses. You wouldn’t necessarily think a shop that specializes in beer would have cheese worth writing about, but Bierkraft certainly does. They have a large, impressive cheese counter and, more importantly, they’re really helpful when you tell them you’re having a party and want some cheese to put out. I sampled more cheese than I probably should have (especially after having a fried fish sandwich for lunch!) but settled on three cheeses that, I’m sure, you’d love to know the names of—unfortunately, the names totally escape me. I can tell you one was a cow’s milk, one was goat’s milk and one was a sheep’s milk, but that’s probably true of any cheese plate you’ve ever seen.

So let’s see how our table of food fared; here’s a picture post-party, the morning after:

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As you can see, the cheese was the biggest hit of the night–almost totally decimated and gone from the world. The holiday snack mix did well too, but see that glass cake dish in the back? Those are still filled with gingerbread blondies. And see the white plate next to it, it’s still mostly covered with buttercrunch toffee.

So the lesson is: when having a party–especially a New Year’s party–make savory food. It goes better with drink and, when people are partying into the wee hours, they just want food that makes their drinks go down faster. Cheese? Yes. Pretzel/nut mix? Yes. Gingerbread blondies with white chocolate? Not so much.

Lesson learned; but it’s a happy lesson, because now there are now 8,000 blondies and 20 pounds of toffee for Craig and I to enjoy in 2009. There’s also a giant bottle of vodka no one touched because they were too busy sloshing down Prosecco and Champagne. So our New Year’s resolution is to eat and drink it all by 2010: we want to get as drunk and fat as possible. Then, next New Year’s, we’ll serve carrot sticks and Smoothies and make way too much and all will be well. At least that’s the plan.

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