Shrink Your Food. That's Scot Meacham Wood's advice for a great cocktail party.
He gave a talk tonight at Kravat in SF - he was charming, warm, funny, and had a lot of other great ideas, from lovely custom menu cards by Pat McIntosh of Lulalina (who is also warm and charming)
to the coolest wreath created in minutes. The secret? Buy one of those fake pine wreaths. The branches are all wired and you can use them to twist around fresh magnolia branches, some cedar sprigs (okay a lot of cedar sprigs) and a bit of fir. Then you can stick in ornaments, feathers, fruit (real or fake) berries - and they all stay in the fake pine, which by this time has been obliterated by all the cool stuff you've stuffed in. So simple, like Brunelleschi and the egg - but he thought of it, we didn't.
More of Scot's Fabulous Ideas:
1. Shrink your food - think of a meal. Meat, salad, veggies, dessert. Serve miniature open-faced prime rib sandwiches. Serve stuffing baked in mini muffin cups topped with a dab of cranberry relish. Make mini shepherd's pies.
2. Do one show-stopper per party - more and you won't enjoy the party.
3. Plan on one or two pieces of each hors d'oeuvre per person. Two for the show-stopper.
4. If you find someone parked by the food shoveling it in, grab him (or her) by the arm, and drag them away exclaiming "Have you met Lisa? You simply must meet Lisa!'
5. Spread the food around. To prevent the Gazelles Around The Watering Hole syndrome. Or having to find someone named Lisa.
6. Turn off all the lights. Light all the candles. If the party isn't going well turn off more lights, light more candles.
7. If it's a sit-down dinner do something you're comfortable with. Scot's favorite: His grandmother's Chicken Pot Pie. No complicated new recipes. Only complicated familiar recipes please.
8. Set the table and do the flowers the day before.
9. It's a thing. On a thing. With something on top. That's an hors d'oeuvre. It's not rocket science. Have some fun, spread your wings. It's art not science.
10. Serve dessert - passed (preferably by someone you've hired to help) when it's time for the guests to go. They'll get the hint.
And finally: Go to your own party. Have fun. Don't look at the pictures of your party the next day and wonder when that happened - be there. Not in the kitchen squirting something on an hors d'oeuvre. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Hire some help. Have some fun. If you don't, your guests won't.
He also had some fabulous custom-made cocktails (and some great non-alcoholic ideas) but those are for later. I'm off to plan our Holiday Party...I can see visions of sugarplums already.