Wednesday, October 27, 2010

That Party We Threw: The Details

It's been a couple of weeks, but I'm still decompressing from the big, huge party we threw earlier in the month. It was a great time, but exhausting, both in terms of prep and cleanup. As it turns out, prep didn't have to be so tiring, but I of course overbought on absolutely everything (especially salad). Now I know that's not necessary.

Before I block it all out entirely, I do want to share some the menu and some of the additional plans we put into action.

First, the decor. It's an outdoor party, billed as "Fall-ish fun" and fortunately, the weather cooperated, so we had a ton of people in the yard. We didn't do much to the yard itself, but we did block off the driveway on one end with the RV (aka kids' playhouse) and we lined the driveway on one side with tables to serve as a bar and to hold hors d'oeuvres.

My original plan involved two specialty cocktails, but at go-time, I revised that down to one - a simple combination of cranberry juice and prosecco, served in a punch bowl. It was a warm day, so it worked pretty nicely.

The garage served as our primary indoor space. It was lined with tables on the left and right sides - left for main courses and right for desserts. Plus, in the middle, we stuck a table full of appetizers.

Since it is a working garage, we store a ton of stuff in there - like all of Cooper's tools, a snowblower, lots of ladders - stuff like that. We moved some of the smaller things upstairs into the loft (it's a big garage) but some of it just wasn't going anywhere, so I decided to cover it. I went down to DeBois Textiles and bought a bunch of yards of fabric in two orange and white patterns to hang from the ceiling, covering the busier parts of the space.

In this picture, Dixon (making a weird face and carrying a crossbow) and Cooper's sister Missy are sitting in front of Cooper's dirty toolbench, but you wouldn't even know it:

On the food front, my main goal was not to have to work too hard myself. It worked, except that I forgot that even if I didn't do a lot of cooking, I'd still have to do a lot of plating.

On the appetizer front, we went simple, with cheese and crackers and three types of dips from Samos (eggplant, tzatziki and red pepper dip, though I'd actually ordered hummus instead of red pepper and didn't realize until I got home that I had something different). We had pita bread and pita chips and vegetables for the dips...and more than enough of all three.

The eggplant dip was a surprising hit, actually. I didn't order too much of it because I thought it might freak people out, but it was really well-received: We also ordered tons of salad from Samos - we went through about two big tubs of it (but had six or seven). It is good stuff, but the reality is that people just went straight for the proteins.

And proteins...we had them. I coordinated the menu so that I wouldn't have to work that hard - but that doesn't mean I didn't load Cooper up with responsibilities. The day before the party, he grilled 10 London broils, which we served with his horsey sauce. Then, the morning of, he cooked about seven pork shoulders in the Caja China and made a spicy, vinegary barbecue sauce to accompany them. THEN he fired the Caja China back up to cook about eight chickens.

He hadn't cooked chickens in the box before, but even without practice, they were a huge success. All he did was rub them with Old Bay (can't go wrong) and follow the Caja China directions for timing and charcoal. They took under two hours and came out crispy and juicy:

We served them cut into big pieces - and to huge praise. We'll definitely do that again.

In addition to the salad and meats (and rolls to accompany), we had Mrs. Barger's shrimp and macaroni salad and meatballs by my friend Alison (that were delicious but so spicy that she asked me to write a warning sign). Plus, on Friday, I grilled a bunch of vegetables and just reaheated them in the oven just before serving.

Oh, and there were Chick-fil-A nuggets. "For the kids." I ate about 30 of them.

Then there was dessert. I made a bunch of chocolate chip cookies, but they definitely weren't the main attraction. Everything else was. So many people brought desserts, I couldn't even keep track - but it was great.

Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of most of the desserts - including the cupcakes that Alicia and LP brought. They were kind of hot commodities among both kids and adults (and rightly so). I did manage, however, to get a picture of two of the desserts that sat inside:

I think Missy made the pumpkin bars - they were great - but I have no idea who made the whoopie pies. They were red velvet cake and ridiculous (if they were yours, let me know! You deserve some credit!).

So that was it...the party in a nutshell. On to the planning for next year!


Nakiya @ Taste of Baltimore said...

BAH this looks AMAZING. Sorry I missed it!!!!!!!!!

Perry P. Perkins said...

Those chickens look awesome! I love my la Caja China.

FYI...La Caja China (finally) released their first cookbook:

- Perry

TheSlapster said...

I will confess to not being able to keep my hands out of those choc chip cookies. It's a weakness, I'm working on it with a therapist.

And the pork w/ homemade bbq sauce was phenomenal! Kudos to Cooper, wish I'd had room to try the chicken too but I planned poorly. Live & learn.

Kit Pollard said...

Rob - there's always next year for the chicken...

We talked for a while about that BBQ sauce last night. Cooper is QUITE reluctant to let me follow him and write down the recipe. He doesn't want to share.


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