Throw a Cocktail Party Like a Pro - Easy Tips From Colin Cowie
This holiday season, I'm bringing decorating and entertaining tips to you directly from some of the most well-known celebrity experts.
Today's tips come from one of the best known celebrity party planners and Lifetime's Get Married TV show host, Colin Cowie. Continue reading and you will get tips for an easy holiday cocktail party. Ideas, recipes - it's all here.
Colin Cowie hosted a Holiday party together with Electrolux ICON in his fabulously decorated Manhattan penthouse last month, and I was invited to the party. I was excited to get the scoop on Colin's holiday entertaining secrets. He was in town for only one night, as he is busy traveling around the world designing the interiors of world-class hotels, planning events and sharing his elegant style with millions. The party was simply elegant, yet it was believable that it was put together in a short time - which shows us that you too can throw a no-fuss party on a whim.
- Prepare the menu in advance and select a mixture of homemade and store-bought menu items to keep it easy.
- Use shortcuts like ordering takeouts from your favorite restaurant, such as pre-made salads and gourmet dressings.
- Make some dishes ahead of time, freeze and then thaw and cook for the party. Colin always has his signature dishes, like Sausage Rolls and Beef Samosas, frozen and he'll just heat them in his Electrolux ICON double wall oven for last-minute parties.
- Stay organized. Make lists to ensure you have enough time to get everything done before the party.
- Do as much as you can ahead of time - even decorating the table and laying out platters and glasses; use sticky notes to label what goes where.
- Set the mood with festive music, dimmed lights and candles. Use unscented candles on the dinner table to create a relaxed vibe, but still let the aroma of your delicious dishes shine.
- Use fresh-cut flowers to decorate.
- When decorating, keep a thread of style by using a set of colors and/or a theme. Have it running from the wreath on your front door, to the garland over your fireplace, to the stair banister, and all the way to your dinner table.
- Mix and match your china. It's OK if it isn't all the same set: Mix it up to make it interesting. Use what you have.
Colin Cowie kept his cocktail party menu easy: Spice-Dusted Roasted Nuts, Beef Samosas & Chili Dip, Sausage Rolls, Shrimp Cocktail, Cheese plate, Salami, Baguette, Crackers & Fresh Fruit; Cape Brandy Tart with Brandy Sauce, and Pear Passion as a signature cocktail.
Two of the warm dishes were pre-prepared and just heated for the party. The Spice-Dusted Roasted Nuts gave a nice aroma to his apartment while being roasted. There is nothing more classic than shrimp cocktail and a cheese platter with salami, fruits and fresh bread, and all of those are very easy to put together fast. The tart can be done days ahead, and then frozen.
Spice-Dusted Toasted Nuts
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound raw peanuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 to 12 whole dried small red chili peppers, for garnish (optional)
Combine the coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Set aside. Roast the nuts in olive oil in a saute pan, stirring continually, until they are lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Dust the nuts with the spices and toast for another 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper and then spread out to cool on a bed of paper towels. Once cool, place in a bowl and serve with whole chili peppers as garnish.
Cape Brandy Tart with Brandy Sauce
1 cup pitted, chopped dates
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup glaceé cherries
Brandy sauce (recipe below)
1 to 2 cups whipped cream, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the dates in 1 cup of boiling water, and add baking soda. Let stand for 10 minutes. Combine the butter and sugar, and beat until creamy with electric mixer. Beat in the egg. Sift in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the date mixture, including the water, and the pecans. Mix well. Line a lightly buttered 9-inch aluminum pie plate with parchment paper. (Alternatively, use a 9-inch springform pan.) Pour the date and nut mixture into the prepared plate and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Allow to cool slightly, cut into wedges, and top with brandy sauce and whipped cream.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup brandy (or rum)
Combine the sugar with 1/4 cup cold water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and continue to boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla, followed by the brandy.
Note: To store the tart, if made in advance: First, allow it to cool to room temperature. Then place it in a plastic freezer bag, expel the air, seal the bag, and place it in the freezer for up to one month. To reheat the tart, place it in a 250 F oven until warm, about 45 minutes.
Full disclosure: I was invited to Colin Cowie's party and received his newest book and a product from his line sold at HSN.