Last night was my annual Halloween Party. Salt Boy gets into it too, but the crazy motivation for throwing a giant costume party comes from me. Unsurprising, since these days it’s a holiday about sugar.
Here are my notes to myself for next year.
- Don’t have a snowstorm on the night of your party. The only thing New Yorkers hate more than tromping to another borough is doing it in weather. Nobody could have predicted this a couple weeks in advance, so when I locked in the date it was already doomed. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
- Choose a proper dinner party or a post-dinner hour party with munchies. This in-between hour doesn’t help you and it lengthens the number of hours you’re on call.
- A/V: the netflix instant queue of horror movies with the sound off, half behind a shroud, often leads to a fun MST3K effect. On the playlist front though: people expect more of me now, so the playlist has to run 5 hours with no repeats. It’s only about 3 and a half now. Needs work.
- Drinks: we didn’t really have a great plan until an hour before the party. I blame Salt Boy. Mulled Cider in the crock pot with a bottle of bourbon next to it was a total win for those who dragged themselves through the snow. The other two mixed cocktails flopped a bit. Our beet-gin martini is awesome, but it’s a real gin martini. It is not froofy. It is not for everyone, but it looks like blood and it’s a great party trick for Halloween. We can make it, but it has to be a side-show item, not a main event. Next year: two pitcher drinks with autumn flavors, no fizzy water that can go flat, and not too much fruit-puree body that can separate or be off-putting (our pear puree and brandy concoction). Base them on classic cocktails and change one element. Fall: apple, pear, fig, pumpkin, warm spices, butternut squash, concord grapes, muscadine grapes, ginger, cranberries, persimmon. Put out a labeled carafe of water with a separate set of cups.
- Savories: cheddar-chive gougeres are always a hit. If I ever threaten to leave them off the list again, slap me. Salt Boy did my gougeres mise-en-place 20 min before showtime while I was getting into costume, and I’m so glad we didn’t just let it go. Smoked-paprika salted pumpkin seeds were a hit with those who tried them. I think I need more labels. People are more likely to try stuff if they know the general ingredients. Store bought guac and blue corn chips always work. Cheese plate and rice crackers were just ok.
- Sweets: Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are always great. Salt Boy baked a crumble-top apple pie and a (Serious Eats) Cheddar Apple Skillet Pie with top crust only to get rid of our farm share’s avalanche of apples the day before. They were great, but suffer from the cocktail party’s general dislike of non-finger foods. The moment you need a fork and a plate, demand goes down. The Harold McGee microwave turkish delight is AWESOME-SAUCE. I replaced most of the water in the recipe with pomegranate juice. The resulting higher initial sugar concentration meant it set up a lot quicker, but the procedure is the same as for the saffron version in the NYTimes. I know what people in my family are getting for Christmas. We made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which I took as an excuse to pack some into the freezer for later. I think I miss the black-sesame lace cookies (Florentines). While the salt/sugar of chocolate chip is classic, the burnt-sugar tang of Florentines feels more adult.
- Decorations: I must remember that I don’t need to shop for Halloween decorations. Everything I need is already in the house, and shopping for halloween stuff at Michaels, Kmart, etc makes me frustrated and sad. The stuff I make by hand or acquire from specialty suppliers is so much better and comes at no additional cost. If I’m going to spend money at Halloween, it should be on food for recipes, produce at the farmer’s market, or one beautiful pumpkin. Also, allow <$100 to grab stuff off of Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, and Grandin Road the day after Halloween to stash for next year. It’s not the animatronic witch in the catalogue photo shoot that you want, really: it’s the set drapery, the gothic-y furniture, the lighting and the accessories like borosilicate lab glass beakers that come from specialty suppliers (not Pottery Barn). I have yards of remnant black fabric from the Garment District, a set of graduated beakers and an Erlenmeyer flask, a couple of great candelabras, and lots of luminarias printed from internet clip art and wrapped around standard votives, fed by a standard 100-pack of tea lights and a set of flameless tea lights I picked up three years ago on Amazon. Don’t give in to the polyester spiderwebs. Invest in classier, reusable pieces at the end of the season or don’t spend the money. Thus endeth the rant.
- Organization: I lost the theater-lighting quality gels Salt Boy bought last year. They’re in the apartment somewhere, but I don’t know where. It’s really frustrating. By next year, I hope I’ll have turned the place upside down and organized the halloween box so that it actually contains all of the halloween stuff. Also think about stock costume pieces to have of hand and inflict on costumeless guests.