Friday, March 02, 2012

Photo Essay: The Swarts Baby Shower

In March of 2010, Cooper and I, along with Alicia, Mike and Bill, threw a Napa-themed wedding shower for Kyle and Mary. A week ago, not quite two years later, we threw another shower - this one for their baby-to-be, Eva Maxine ("Evie"), who's due in April.

Kyle is kind of freaking out at the prospect of having a daughter. Mary is much more serene.
And, of course, she looks fantastic:

The shower was on Saturday evening and the theme was "cocktails and mocktails." We created a little bellini bar, with pomegranate, cranberry and peach purees for mixing with prosecco or champagne - or ginger ale:

Big bellini bar lesson #1: Everyone drinks the pomegranate and peach. I dumped most of the cranberry juice after the party. Lesson #2: When the parents-to-be bring three bottles of Moet & Chandon, everyone will drink that before they drink the (much less fancy) prosecco.

We set up the bellinis and the regular bar at the front of our house, in the dining room. The red wine - a big hit called Snap Dragon- was a blend we tasted at the Elliott's Pour House wine club. And we picked up the fabric covering the bar for next to nothing at Debois Textiles. I have drawers full of fabric from Debois - all cute and all very inexpensive, making it perfect for parties. Alicia and I just folded the fabric carefully, hiding the rough edges, and layered it over cheap white tablecloths from Walmart. You'd never know that we actually use Dixon's dresser as a bar. He thinks it's hilarious.

Evie's bedroom is super girly, all pink and green, so we ran with those colors for the shower. Alicia bought bunches of green spider mums and pink gerbera daisies at Fresh Market and used low, rectangular vases to make tight arrangements that were simple, but very pretty and fun:

The shower started at 5 PM, so we made sure the food was heavy enough for dinner, but easy enough to eat, cocktail-party style. It also all fit into the color scheme - pink, green or some sort of neutral shade.
I found the recipe for these simple brie bites on Pinterest:

A couple of recipe comments: First, make sure when you start working with the puff pastry, it's thawed, but still very cold. It's much easier to deal with if it's not too thawed.

Also, instead of cutting the whole sheet of puff pastry into 24 pieces, then making 12 bites, just cut it into 12 rectangles and make the bites by folding the pastry over.

Finally, don't skimp on the cheese. I was worried about the brie seeping out, so I didn't use as much as I might have. That was a mistake - the brie flavor got lost in many of the bites. Which doesn't mean they were bad - puff pastry is delicious - but they weren't as good as they could've been.

This cashew and Marcona almond butter with crispy rosemary was inspired by this Food and Wine recipe for smoked almond butter. Necessity is the mother of invention - I couldn't find any smoked almonds on short notice.

I know that nut butter, even if it is homemade, seems like a childish dish for a cocktail party, but thanks to the rosemary, it was really pretty sophisticated. Also, it's much, much better with pears, apples or pita chips than it is with celery. It keeps well, too - I had some for lunch yesterday, on crackers with slices of pear.

Pinterest also inspired these caprese bites, which I made with marinated mozzarella, so they didn't need any sort of vinaigrette:

Cooper wasn't in love with this heart of palm dip (also from Food and Wine), but it was a big hit with most of the guests, even the ones who don't like heart of palm. (I know, right? Who doesn't like heart of palm?) The flavor was milder than heart of palm straight out of the jar, and the texture was light and airy. With pita chips, it was very, very easy to eat:

In honor of Mary's family (and also because it's delicious), we served her parents' neighbor's jalapeno jelly over cream cheese. Sadly, we ate it all, so I don't have any for future parties. It hits the exact right spot between sweet and spicy:

We put some of the heartier food next to the bar, on the dining room table, which was pushed into a corner and covered with more of our fabric from Debois:

I'd been looking for a reason to make these Ham Delights, little sandwiches of ham, cheese and an onion-mustard spread, ever since last October, when I read the recipe in Julia Reed's column for Taigan's online magazine Fetch. They sounded amazing and certainly did not disappoint:

They're not hard to make, either - though I have to admit, they're best when they're right out of the oven. At room temperature, they're OK, but warm, they're great.

Pinterest was also the source for this recipe for cucumber feta rolls (note: I ditched the olive in the recipe and instead used both red pepper and sundried tomatoes).

With my mandoline, they weren't terribly difficult to make and they really did look pretty. Plus, since I made them in the morning and they had time to set in the refrigerator, they held together nicely, even when someone bit into them:

I'd definitely make them again.

We served Mary's family's jalapeno jelly, so obviously we had to throw a little love Kyle's way, too. These Buffalo shrimp could not have been easier - they're just peeled shrimp (with the tails left on), marinated in Frank's Red Hot sauce and roasted in a 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes on pans that heated in the oven while it was preheating:

They were probably the biggest hit at the party - they disappeared very quickly.

I'm not much of a baker, which is why it's so lucky that Alicia is so good at making cupcakes. For the shower, she played on the grownup baby shower theme, making a peanut butter and jelly cupcake that was actually much more sophisticated than it sounds.

The cake was devil's food and the peanut butter was a creamy peanut butter cream.
The jelly? A ripe strawberry, right on top:

It was a great time. Tons to eat, tons to drink (at Kyle's request, we had a keg...because everyone knows baby showers are better with beer and really, when you have a reason to buy pink Solo cups, you should). And, most importantly, tons to celebrate. We can't wait to meet Little Miss Evie Swarts.


theminx said...

Looks like a great spread!

Kit Pollard said...

Thanks! I was happy with how everything turned out. Well, except for the sweet and savory chickpeas - another Pinterest find - which were so boring that I threw them out before the party.

strawberriesinparis said...

What a feast!! Good job Kit!


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