Budget-friendly Cocktail Party
Around this time of year, my friends all come to Miami to escape the chilly weather. In order to get everyone together in a budget-friendly way, I throw cocktail parties at my apartment. Recently, a few girlfriends of mine came into town, but the only day we could all get together was on a Wednesday. Initially, I thought having to work all day and then worry about a cocktail party was going to be pretty hectic. Turns out throwing a mid-week cocktail party was easy, and inexpensive. Here’s how I did it:
I like to scope out specialty food stores to find rare cheeses and cured meats, which led me to discover one in Coral Gables called Bottega La Dolce Vita. They had a huge assortment of cheeses and cured meats, so I had the owner help me pick out a few. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; this is the best way to find good food within your budget.
For the cheese plate, I like to make sure I have a hard cheese, soft cheese, and semi-soft cheese so my friends have a variety to choose from. Make sure to try each first, because if you don’t like it, your friends probably won’t either. For the cured meats, I love a good prosciutto or salami, just pick out whichever tastes most delicious to you, and fits your budget. You can also buy olives or fresh fruits to compliment the cheeses and meats.
Aside from cheeses, olives, and cured meats, I also like to have a couple of homemade spreads. My favorite part about these recipes is that they take absolutely no effort and can be made the night before.
The first, Bruschetta, is a traditional Italian appetizer and is insanely easy to make. Feel free to play around with the measurements (some people may like less garlic, some people may like more basil).
· 4-5 large ripe tomatoes
· 2 cloves of fresh garlic
· 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· About a tablespoon of freshly chopped basil
· Salt and Pepper
1) Dice tomatoes into desired size (chunkier tomatoes = chunkier Bruschetta) and mince garlic into very fine pieces.
2) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3) Let stand in the fridge for at least 10 min.
4) Serve atop rounds of toasted French bread from your local market.
The second spread I made is my take on Hummus. Instead of Chickpeas, I use Cannelllini beans, which make for a smoother texture. This also works great as a healthy mid-day snack.
White Bean and Rosemary Dip:
· 2 cans of Italian white Cannellini Beans
· About a tablespoon of chopped fresh Rosemary
· 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or more, depending on your taste)
· Salt and Pepper
1) Drain and rinse the Cannellini beans under cold water.
2) Combine beans, rosemary, and olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3) Using a food processor, blend ingredients until smooth.
4) Use as a topping on some toasted French bread or some warm, baked pita.
I’ll keep this simple: Buy champagne, strawberries, and peaches. In a blender, combine the strawberries (about a pint) and about two tablespoons of sugar and blend until smooth. Do the same for the peaches. You can leave out the sugar if the fruits are ripe and sweet enough.
Pour the fruit purée into a champagne flute, and top it off with some champagne. If champagne is out of your budget, other sparkling wines such as Cavas (from Spain) and Prosecco (Italian) are great and inexpensive substitutes.
You can also use the fruit purées in a vodka drink by combining ice, vodka, and the purée of your choice and shaking until chilled. Pour into a martini glass or high-ball glass, and serve.
Mid-week cocktail parties can be easy and inexpensive, just follow these few simple tips and you’ll be drinking, eating, and most importantly enjoying your friend’s company without a huge price-tag.