Thursday, July 21, 2011

Appetizer and Cocktail Pairing Party

I wanted to host a fun cocktail party for some special guests who were in town (Kyle's  parents, Gary & Lyla) and thought of an appetizer and cocktail pairing.  So, I decided to make a variety of appetizers with accompanying drinks for each dish.  All served in individual miniature glasses and dishes, of course (thanks Pier One!).
Kyle had the nerve to question the idea.  First, he talked me down from 12 courses to 10.  Then, he claimed that the guests might not "want to drink 10 drinks each".  I ignored that ludicrous piece of advice.  It turned out that not only did the guests want to drink 10 miniature drinks each, but they also drank extra cocktails between courses, something I hadn't even considered.  The point is, everyone had a great time!
I spent quite a bit of time researching food and drink pairings to make sure that the flavors were complementary.  I set out the menu, and all the dishes and glasses in advance, so that I could be ready to serve everything as soon as each item was ready.  I also made myself a "map" of the glasses and dishes I was going to use to serve each item, and that really turned out to be helpful what with all the chaos that always ensues!

Here is a link to the menu I created for this event:  Appetizer & Cocktail Pairing Menu
I will post most of these recipes individually as well, but here is a run down of the courses.

To start, we had Posh Popcorn with The Stilleto Cocktail.
This was a recipe I found online, which was actually just microwave popcorn, drizzled with butter, parmesan cheese, and some spices.  It ended up being on of the favorites of the party, believe it or not!  It just figures that the easiest thing to prepare would be the thing people loved the most...

Posh Popcorn Recipe

I paired this with The Stilleto, which is basically a martini, made with champagne, cognac, grand marnier, and a spiral of orange zest.  The light, fruity flavor of the cocktail complemented the salty, cheesy popcorn quite well.

The Stilleto Cocktail Recipe
I made most of the cocktails in advance, and put them in plastic pitchers in the refrigerator, so that saved some time with serving each course.

Next, we had Shanghai Chicken Drumsticks, paired with Anticipation Punch.
This was my first time using this recipe for drumsticks, and what I liked about it was that, after marinating them in the sauce all night, and cooking them for about an hour in the oven that morning, all they needed was a quick crisping in the oven before serving.  Great recipe!  These were also very tasty, somewhat smoky and sweet.

Shanghai Chicken Drummettes Recipe
The Anticipation Punch was a mixture of white grape juice, vodka, and assorted fruit.  Very refreshing!

Anticipation Punch Recipe
The next pairing was Bacon Wrapped Scallops, with Jalapeno Papaya Sauce.  I liked this recipe so much that I filmed my first cooking episode for this blog on the preparation of it!  Check out the link below.

Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops with Jalapeno Papaya Sauce
I paired this with Champagne Sangria, which is a mixture of pureed strawberries and peaches, triple sec, lime juice, and champagne.  I personally would have liked this drink a bit sweeter, but my friend Mary, who was helping to serve the dishes, ended up refilling sangria until the pitchers were empty, and said it was the favorite drink of the night.  So, what do I know?!

Champagne Sangria Recipe
Next I served Chorizo Sobres with Smoky Papaya dipping sauce, paired with El Zete.  I stole this entire pairing from a cocktail website.  Sobres is Spanish for envelope.  These were fried won tons with a mixture of chorizo and diced peaches, served with a creamy paprika dipping sauce.

I cannot tell you what these tasted like, even though I made about 50 of them, because as soon as they came out of the pot, someone devoured them.  I did hear good things from my guests though, and considering the rate at which these disappeared, I think I can vouch for them.

Chorizo Sobres with Smoky Paprika Dipping Sauce
My friend Mark must have eaten an entire plate of these little chorizo envelopes, and after the party, I found this incriminating photo.  I am pretty sure he was sneaking something from behind me as my picture was being taken!  And I thought he came in the kitchen to hang out with me.... how can I ever trust him again?
The Chorizo Sobres were served with a drink called El Zete.  I have no clue what that means!  But, it was a delicious combination of tequila, white wine, and lemon juice.

El Zete
The next pairing we had was Garlic Shrimp with Lemongrass Fried Rice, paired with the Lava Lamp.  This recipe is one I've made before with lobster (and posted on this site), and I decided to modify it and use shrimp.  Basically, I halved the recipe and then used large prawns in place of the lobster (and served it in individual dishes, as seen below).

Garlic Black Pepper Lobster with Lemongrass Fried Rice
The Lava Lamp cocktail was really cute.  Place a handful of pomegranate seeds in the bottom, a bit of pomegranata liqueur, and then top it off with champagne.  When the champagne hits the seeds, they dance up and down for a moment like a lava lamp.  Fun!

Next, I served something a bit more simple - a miniature Margherita Pizza, paired with Le Fin Du Monde, which is a Belgian golden ale that I enjoy.  Pizza and beer, now that's a combination no one can argue with!    I used a cookie cutter to make tiny, bite sized pizzas.  No recipe here, just a basic margherita pizza, with fresh basil and marinara sauce, garlic, and mozzarella cheese.
After that, a Flank Steak Crostini with Chimichurri Sauce.  You can't have a dinner party without serving at least one thing on a crostini!

The crostini was paired with a Watermelon Mint Mojito, which was one of my favorite drinks of the night.  It was easy to make - you simply puree fresh watermelon and mix it with rum, lime juice, sugar and mint leaves.  Sweet, minty, and delicious!
Watermelon Mint Mojito

The guests were beginning to get a bit drunk, but they were still hungry, so I continued serving the courses!  It was taking a bit longer than planned to get everything out, but no one seemed to care, so I just kept serving.
At some point, there was apparently a male dance party.  I can't say I witnessed this personally, but this is the evidence I found.

Next, we had Lobster Passion Fruit Ceviche, paired with a drink called Dancing Belly.  The ceviche was a complete rip off from a restaurant I went to in Vegas - I fell in love with the mixture of lobster, coconut and passion fruit juice, and wrote down all the ingredients I could detect so that I could make it for myself!  Here is the recipe:

Lobster Passion Fruit Ceviche
The Dancing Belly was a mixture of citrus vodka, malibu rum, white grape juice, and lime juice, which I served as a shot.  The fruitiness of the ceviche and the drink made for a nice pairing. Here is a link to the recipe:

Dancing Belly
Finally, at 12:30 am, I presented the desserts.  To be honest, I was surprised that everyone stuck around - it was a weeknight after all, and it did take me around 7 hours to serve all of the courses.  I guess I got them drunk enough that they forgot to go home!

The first dessert was a White Chocolate Creme Brulee, paired with Marianne at Midnight.  When I was looking up cocktail and appetizer pairings for the menu, I found Marianne - I loved the name, and the showmanship of the drink, so much that "she" was on the list immediately.  A floating rose petal in the drink?  How could I resist?

White Chocolate Creme Brulee 

Then for the final pairing - a Chocolate Cranberry Torte with a warm chocolate & raspberry sauce, complemented by a French Martini.  The torte took me nearly all day to make, and was the main reason so many of the other dishes were delayed.  So many glazes... so many garnishes.... SO many sauces!  Exhausting.  But it turned out very pretty, so it was worth the effort.
Here's the recipe:

The French Martini was the perfect complement, with a combination of Chambord (raspberry liquer), gin and pineapple juice.

That was it, the last drink for the last course!

It was a great party and I have to thank my VIP guests, who persevered in having a great time at the party, despite the 100 + tiny glasses they washed (much to my dismay and repeated protests) and the 7 am wake up call for the airport the next day.  Cheers, Lyla and Gary - you are troopers, great house guests, and amazing social animals!


  1. Brilliant! I love your passion! If you ever get crazy enough to try another pairing...
    Key Lime tarts and Kamikazes...the best I've run across yet.

  2. The menu looks very great !
    Thanks for great tips!
    Im also very curious where you found the most of the combinations, or the idea's to make this good pairings.

  3. Great!!! I have been purchasing sets little by little. Love what you have done, and cannot wait for my party. Thanks for some great food and drink ideas!!