The Philly Fakeout

The best friend will probably acquire the best wife, because a good marriage is founded on the talent for friendship.

– Friedrich Nietzsche

 

I got to be in on one of my best friends secrets. Not a little secret either. A big one. A life altering one. Oh, and a happy one too. Those are always the best.

With the intention of asking his perfectly wonderful girlfriend to marry him earlier in the day in the near future, my friend asked for my help planning a gathering for family and friends to come together and celebrate. Offering me an in on a secret and the opportunity to host a gathering? I was obviously game!

We had to start by getting guests to save the date. Luckily, my friend has a birthday coming up, and I was just going to happen to be out of town the week leading up to his actual birthday. The obvious ploy was to throw Wade a birthday party. Now that we had our excuse to invite people I just needed an invitation to send.

Wade's BDay Blog

Happy 30th!

30th birthday invites for males are kind of tricky. I wanted it to be visually appealing without being cheesy, and knowing that this was just a place holder invite I didn’t want to spend too much time on it. Ultimately, I just downloaded a simple chalkboard background and a few fun fonts. Simple and easy, but bold and it draws lots of attention to the fact he is turning 30!

Luckily, everyone seemed to take the bait and we got the date on their calenders. With the placeholder invite out of the way, I could work on a much more exciting invitation.

Engagement Party Invite

Engagement Party Invite

This is, by far, the most fun invitation I have made to date. Not only are there sparkles, but it is for their engagement party!

As you might have already figured out, that ring was just burning a hole in his pocket and Thursday just wasn’t coming soon enough. On Sunday afternoon, under the guise of going for a run Wade led Jamie under a pair of ancient oak trees on her mother’s property and asked her to marry him.

The question.

The question.

 

Needless to say, B and I are over the moon excited for them, and eager for Thursday to arrive to celebrate them fully. Congratulations to them both!

Wade, we couldn’t be happier for you. You came into our lives about 5 years ago and instantly became part of our family, we cannot thank you enough for finding someone that fits just as easily into our lives. I know that sounds totally selfish, and it is, but it is a bit more. You found someone you can be yourself around, someone that required no pretense. Someone who would love and appreciate every little thing about you from your fanatical but fleeting obsession with restaurants to your unfailing loyalty and integrity.

Jamie, we are so excited to officially welcome you into the little family Brandon and I have made for ourselves in Columbia, even though, you were in from the start. From the first time we officially met I knew that you just had to meet Wade, and it didn’t hurt that you were tall. 🙂 Brandon and I are so thankful for your friendship, but mostly, how happy you have made Wade.

Now let’s celebrate!

 

Grading Draughts at the Draft

“Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best and it ain’t no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try
Take a chance on me” -Abba

 

Now that the Draft is over it is time to do what any good draft analyst would do. Let’s grade Draughts at the Draft!

BINGO!

BINGO!

Please pardon the picture quality. I might have realized after half of the food was gone and the draft was well underway that I have restarted this whole blogging thing, and that blogs are way cooler with photos.  Now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the food!

Johnny Football’s Signature Chips and Salsa:

Proliferation of Vikings Paraphernalia and Johnny Football's Signature Chips and Salsa

Proliferation of Vikings Paraphernalia and Johnny Football’s Signature Chips and Salsa

Player’s Overall Draft Pick: 22

Player Inspired Menu item Grade: B

Obviously, chips and salsa are a clear winner any day of the week. My highfalutin dreams of making my own salsa went out the window when I was derailed by rather intense back pain. That being said, refrigerator section salsa from the grocery store isn’t too shabby, and made for an easy fan favorite. You might notice in the picture above I recognized that you, the reader, know what chips and salsa look like, and you would obviously rather see some pretty awesome Vikings schwag. You’re welcome. One more side note, I was able to take a deep breath and relax when the Vikes so wisely chose to skip over picking up Johnny with the 8th/9th pick.

What’s Eating Justin Gilbert’s Grape Crostinis:

Justin Gilbert's Grape Crostinis

Justin Gilbert’s Grape Crostinis

Player’s Overall Draft Pick: 8

Player Inspired Menu item Grade: A

I think this was quite possibly the winner of the night. I have linked the recipe to the picture in case you would like try it yourself. This little bite of deliciousness hit all of the right notes, there was salty, sweet, tart, cheese and carbohydrates. Okay, cheese and carbs aren’t really notes, but they are usually key to an excellent app. This is another quick recipe that just requires a little assembly, but the flavors come together for a real punch of flavor. I have a multitude of  ideas for how I can incorporate roasted grapes into more dishes…so be on the look out.

Blake Bortelaise Mushroom Cups:

Blake Borttelaise Cups

Blake Borttelaise Cups

Player’s Overall Draft Pick: 3

Player Inspired Menu item Grade: B+

Things I learned, bordelaise sauce is not something you want to whip up for a small football themed party. Luckily, this became abundantly clear when I looked at the recipe and saw veal bones listed as an ingredient. I quickly scrapped my original plan and instead went for a minced mushroom and Gorgonzola cup. I am not sure I am ready to share the recipe yet, because I think it is not quite there, but I will give you the gist.

While onion was caramelizing in a pan with olive oil, I threw fresh mushrooms in my blender till I had tiny mushroom chunks. Once the onions were nice and brown I added the mushrooms, a bit of fresh thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Once everything was browned I deglazed the pan with a good swig of white wine and stirred till evaporated. The now completed mushroom mixture went into the phyllo cups and was topped with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and thrown into a 400° oven to melt the cheese.

They ended up disappearing over the course of the night, but next time I am thinking of maybe adding sour cream or something slightly saucy to loosen up the consistency, like bordelaise sauce…

 

Sammy Watkins’ “Special Brownies”:

 

Sammy's Special Brownies

Sammy’s Special Brownies

Player’s Overall Draft Pick: 4

Player Inspired Menu item Grade: A-

It is hard to beat a brownie. It is harder to beat a box mix brownie. So once again, despite my best intentions I let my back win out and took a shortcut with the box mix. The only special part of these brownies were the sprinkles added on top and a few extra chocolate chips that got thrown into the batter. The only reason these are an A- is that I didn’t make them from scratch, I am a tough self-grader.

 

Anthony “Cookie” Barrs

Anthony "Cookie" Barrs

Anthony “Cookie” Barrs

Player’s Overall Draft Pick: 9

Player Inspired Menu item Grade: B-

You might be able to tell from the picture that these were a goopy mess. I am now terrified because Anthony Barr was the Vikings draft pick, and his inspired food was the only one that didn’t turn out. I am now hoping and praying that I didn’t just jinx our pick. Despite the fact that I baked these for an additional 15 minutes and put them in the freezer afterwards, they refused to firm up. I am not sure if I missed something in the recipe or went too crazy when adding the condensed milk, but these were the messiest non-bar, bars ever made. They ended up actually being super tasty and between the gathering on Thursday and a few hours in my office’s break room they were devoured. Granted, I could put worms dipped in chocolate and rolled in Cheetos in the break room and they would be gone by days end. I am still considering this not a total failure. If you would like to take your own stab at making them (I know, I have totally sold you on how easy they are to make) I have included a link with the picture.

 

Thanks so much to everyone how came over to enjoy my favorite holiday sports event, and those who virtually partook! Only 115 days till we get to see these newly minted NFL players on the field. Here’s hoping Anthony Barr will turn out!

Draughts at the Draft

These little town blues
Are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
– Frank Sinatra

 

Image

 

The NFL Draft is my sports Christmas. The pagentry. The suspense. The crazy suits. You just can’t beat it. Last year was our inaugural Draughts at the Draft party, and I am so excited for the second installment. This year themed food and Bingo have been added to the mix. I wanted to share what I am working on before the event in case you would like to select a bingo card and play along at home or print some off for your own gathering.

 

NFL Draft Bingo Board

NFL Draft Bingo Board

Draft Bingo – click for 16 printable bingo boards

My current plan is to serve several 1st round draftee inspired dishes, all of which have a link to my Pinterest inspiration.

Sammy Watkins “Special Brownies”

Anthony Cookie Barrs

Johnny Football’s “Signature” Chips and Salsa

Blake Bortleaise Toasts – this doesn’t have a clear connection to the pin I posted, but how can you not make something with Bordelaise when the kids last name is Bortles?!

Justin Gilbert Grape, Blue Cheese & Honey Crostini

So that’s the plan, I will post pictures hopefully on Friday and let you know how it all worked out.

Everyone loves a party…

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8/Pete Seeger

 

I have had a bit of an epiphany here recently. I love to throw a good shindig.

 

Creating invitations, planning a menu, and having everyone over is just about my favorite thing ever. I don’t need a particularly great reason to do it, I will celebrate just about any event to the fullest. That being said, instead of going out of my way to create a blog, I really should just be blogging about the gatherings I am already hosting. Makes sense doesn’t it?

It just so happens that I was smart enough to think of this in time to get pictures of the most recent soiree. A dear friend in my office is getting married this weekend and is unfortunately moving out of town shortly there after. With nearly all of us getting married within a year span of each other there have been lots of fun showers, but as Pippi is moving away, hers was extra special. Also, her party had a theme, and I just cannot help myself from going a little “overboard” when I have a theme to play with.

Pippi is getting married at the beach and has a general nautical theme going, so we ran with it, and I mean ran, we are talking marathon level theme exploitation.

Every gathering of note starts with an invitation:

Pippi's Nautical Shower Invitation

Pippi’s Nautical Shower Invitation

The RSVP included two choices A Frayed Knot or Knot Going To Miss it…I told you, I am theme obsessed.

Our work friend showers are truly delightful, not only do we get to hangout with a glass of champagne outside of the office, but we have the party throwing process down to a science. We all pitch in for a small group gift, bring a bottle of bubbly and an appetizer to share. I nearly always offer to host at my house for a multitude of reasons, but mostly it offers me a chance to make a gazillion different hard-to-transport and last minute heat requiring goodies. This gathering took hard to transport to a whole new level so I am especially glad I was able to host.

I nearly always start menu planning on Pinterest. Luckily, nautical themed parties are quite popular (mostly for boy baby showers) and I was able to find a plethora of ideas. For my portion of the menu I made, deviled egg boats, pimento cheese boats, chicken salad crabs and jello boats. I also wrapped up utensils in napkins with lifesavers. All in all, everything was easy and quick, with just a dash of creative knife work.

 

Theme Food!

Theme Food!

Lifesaving Utensils

Lifesaving Utensils

For the deviled eggs I just used what I had on hand as I was afraid I had already overextended myself. I simply mixed the yolk with a bit of mustard, a dash of hot sauce and and pepper. A bit of warning, I have found just about every store brand mustard (Kroger and Publix) is extremely salty, and therefore no additional salt is needed. Once the deviled eggs were prepared I cut and inserted sails made out of small sweet peppers. So simple, but so delicious and festive.

deviled egg

Deviled Egg Boats

 

Keeping with the boat theme, I spotted hummus and pepper boats on pinterest and knew I had to take a stab at them. I used the same small sweet peppers that I used to make the deviled egg sails and used them as the boats hull. While hummus would have been an equally easy and tasty route, I decided to use pimento cheese. Palmetto Cheese was scooped into the halved and hollowed peppers, and jicima was sliced about an eight of an inch thick to make sails that would stand upright. These little boats set sail on a bed of kale to complete the presentation.

cheese boats

Pimento Cheese Boats

Finally, I knew I needed one slightly more substantial menu item to absorb libations. I decided on chicken salad and croissant sandwiches that with the simple addition of toothpicks and olives became rather precious crabs.

crab

Chicken Salad Crabs

My beverage contribution for the gathering was not so much a beverage, but jello oceans that packed a little punch. These little shots were super easy to make ahead, and I just had the clementine wedge and sail right before serving.

jello

Jello Oceans

This was just part of the fabulous spread we all pulled together. There were also, crab puffs, garlic knots, chips and dip, cheese and  Whitney made amazing blue velvet anchor cupcakes.

cupcakes

Anchors Away Cupcakes

It was a wonderful and filling evening. Pippi was celebrated to the fullest extent…oh did I mention we had hats?

#pippiparty

#pippiparty

It will be with heavy hearts that we bid her farewell as she voyages up north to Charlotte, but in the meantime we will focus on what is sure to be a truly beautiful ceremony and jubilant reception this weekend. Congratulations Pippi and Todd!!!

 

Well, there we have it, my first attempt at a new and improved blogging theme. No promises shall be made of more frequent posting, as I think I have failed on that commitment several times over. Next up will hopefully be a recap of our draft night party. I have lots of great ideas, and if I can get my act together I will post my 2014 Draft Bingo cards so someone else doesn’t have to torture themselves randomizing their own cards.