2001: a Lounge Odyssey
What better way to celebrate the New Year when one lives in a house with The Lounge than with a Retro Cocktail Party?
A Retro Cocktail Party provides the best of both worlds: the snooty, pretentious cocktail aspect of things, as well as the kitsch and fun of a retro party. So slip into a Little Black Dress or an elegant suit, put that Harry Mancini LP on the Hi-Fi, and let me fix you a martini....
Unlike the Over-the-Top Pomposity of our Thanksgiving feast, we're focusing a little more on ease of preparation for the Retro Cocktail Party. And unlike the White Trash Party, we need a much more cosmopolitan and upscale feel to our kitsch. We want to balance tackiness with elegance, snobbery with lightheartedness, and, above all, create an authentic and fun atmosphere. When one has a pink quilted leather bar, you'd think that the authentic atmosphere would be easy to come by.... But no. Instead, we have to live up to that bar, live up to that leather and Formica. It's not as seamless as you'd think.
So we're picking cocktails that smack of Retro Party, but might be honked up a bit with a contemporary feel. And, of course, don't take a whole lot of prep work.
Retro cocktails were rooted in a Polynesian/Asian feel; things like sweet-and-sour and teriyaki were considered quite exotic a half-century ago (think Trader Vic's), and my older cookbooks abound with "Oahu" this and "Ginger" that in the appetizer sections. Stuff served in or with sauces, like shrimp cocktail or meatballs, was also popular. The Holy Duo of cocktail parties were cheese puffs and cocktail weenies/pigs-in-blankets; if you had these, you were set. A lot of what was then considered classy party fare has now been relegated to, like, family picnics or office parties (like the aforementioned crock pot o' cocktail meatballs, deviled eggs, stuffed celery, stuff made with powdered onion soup mix, processed cheese food things, casserole dishes, and layered bean dip... greasier stuff, messier stuff). And some elements of the old cocktail parties are just plain grody by contemporary standards... for instance, serving canned things: Vienna sausages, pre-prepared spreads, canned olives, stuff made from deviled ham, tuna fish and salmon. Eyuch!
The Retro Party menu is based on canapés and crudités, nuts and cheeses... hors d'oeuvres that were popular then and are popular still... and stuff that'll be easy to prepare, store and serve. We'll undoubtedly supplement with whatever goodies we can find at Trader Joe's and Gelson's... ready-made phyllo things or mini quiches. And of course, we'll include some of that greasy, messy stuff too... you know, for that authentic feel! And we might wind things up with one of our famous chocolate fondues....
Of course, everything will be garnished, a la my 3rd-generation cookbooks, with carrot and celery curls and tomato roses, maybe even some scalloped radish flowers, if I get adventurous.
So what's gonna be passed around The Lounge on Gramma's pink plastic platter? Grab your frilly toothpicks and stab into
Food ain't the only important thing for a Lounge Party... you gotta have music, too! Since, unfortunately, I won't have Gramma's hi-fi restored and ready for New Year's Eve, we'll have to do without my kick-ass Yma Sumac album collection or Annette Funicello Sings Your Favorite Italian Hits, and stick to CDs. Even sans vinyl, options are countless. Some artists and tunes to really make a Retro Cocktail Party come alive include:
Don’t forget stuff by:
Some contemporary stuff to include might be:
Ain’t THAT a kick in the head!
Want to see some pictures of the haps? Take a peek!