Savoir Faire: Hosting A Party (Part II)

morganioneyeager-1477_original Last week Kirsten Schubert took us through the steps of planning a killer fete and those extra little touches that make your guests know they're in for something special (hello...party favors???). Chad Walsh, her paramour and partner-in-partying is one formidable host, both by nature and by trade. As the bar manager at the Dutch, Chad knows a thing or two about keeping guests happy. Food and alcohol are obviously big players in that equation, but when it's your own party, do you really want to spend the whole time pouring drinks like you're on service detail? Chad gives us some savvy advice for avoiding that amateur pitfall, along with a recipe for something large-format you can make in advance: Dutch Punch. It's a rum-based cocktail, which is especially great for summertime tippling, but if you're more of a "bubbly" kind of person, Chad 's got the lowdown on sparkling wines that don't necessarily bear the Champagne designation (ie, they're less expensive), but just as tasty. I personally love these recommendations, since Champagne and Cremant are about all I've been wanting to drink this summer—especially since seeing the Great Gatsby. And like a true restaurant man, Chad wouldn't leave you hungry. Food tips included too!

... I love making drinks at parties, even if it's not my party, but I also like mingling at parties. If you make a fancy cocktail with an egg white and some high-class bitters, you are suddenly everyone's best friend, and it's only a matter of time before you are making all the other guests one of the same. I have spent whole parties in the kitchen, sweating, and realizing before long that I was the only one completely sober. Don't do this to yourself—keep it simple and make punch! This is not a new idea, David Wondrich wrote a wonderful book on the complete history of these concoctions, and there are a myriad of recipes.

The recipe I am sharing is a simple rum punch, with a little Coco Lopez for sweetness and texture, Orgeat, an easy-to find almond syrup that is great for summer (read: Tiki) cocktails, as well as the distinctive New Orleans bitters, Peychaud's, to add a little color.

Punch doesn't have to be rum, of course, and you can even make a large batch of your favorite cocktail as long as you keep it cold, but not iced (to prevent dilution). Gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup with a bottle of club soda (a Tom Collins) is delicious and super simple. Swing-top bottles are great for this; batch your cocktail directly into it, and then toss them on some ice in a bucket or a cooler. You'll be able to stay out of the kitchen and actually enjoy your own party!

DUTCH RUM PUNCH 1L Bottle Plantation 3 Star White Rum 750mL Bottle Blackwell Dark Rum 10oz. Coco Lopez (about 2/3 of a can) 16oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice 8oz. Orgeat Peychaud's to taste ~ about 2oz. (Available here via Amazon)

Combine ingredients in a large vessel and then chill. Just before serving using a hand mixer (or a whisk) will bring some fluffiness out of the Coco Lopez . Serve over ice into your small glass of choice (or a young coconut with the milk removed if you’re feeling frisky). Can be topped with sparkling wine or club soda.

Serves about 20

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Is there any beverage better than punch for a party? The only competition comes from Champagne, or sparkling wine in general. Champagne of course, coming from that pocket of France just east of Paris and above the wine growing regions of Burgundy, has gotten pretty expensive. There are some great values from some of the smaller producers, but you'd be lucky to find anything decent for less than $40/bottle at a retail store. For lower priced options, there is no shortage of alternatives in the sparkling wine market, but the breadth of choices can be a bit overwhelming.

One guarantee of quality, limited to French alternatives, is the 'Cremant' appellation that many of the other regions have adopted, such as Burgundy, Alsace, and the Loire. These are wines made in the same traditional method of Champagne, where the secondary fermentation, which provides the fizz, occurs in the bottle, and is aged on its lees (the dead yeast cells left over after the secondary fermentation), for a prolonged period. This is different from Prosecco, and other wines made in the Charmat method, where the fermentation occurs in a large tank, and is then bottled. What's the difference? The French have words like mousse and perlage to describe the sensation of the bubbles and their texture, and wines made in the traditional way have a much finer, more delicate, mouthfeel. They also often have more richness from the flavors that they pick up from resting on the lees. Cremants can be a great compromise – they are impressive served on their own, and affordable enough to put in a cocktail without feeling guilty.

One of my favorites is from Chablis up-and-comer Patrick Piuze, who started Val De Mer with help from the Champagne producer Moutard, to make elegant sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the Cremant de Bourgogne [Burgundy] appellation. There are many other great options, and for something unique try a Cremant de Limoux, from the Languedoc region in the south of France, which have to include a certain portion of a local variety called Mauzac, and hails from an area that has been making sparkling wine since 1531- long before Dom Perignon was even born.

Cremant de Bourgogne - Val de Mer NV France Cremant de Limoux - Toques et Clochers NV France 

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Deciding what food to serve at a party is always a challenge. Even if it's clear that dinner isn't being served, people are more convivial with some food in their system. Make it easy for you and your guests (especially if you're dealing with any potential dietary restrictions) by laying out an array of things that can be combined in a variety of ways. A sliced baguette never fails to please, but a spread of crudites like breakfast radishes with some sea salt, bell peppers, pickled cauliflower, and snap peas, is an easy, healthy way to satiate different tastes—and colorful too.

Fresh ricotta with a little olive oil is always nice, but if you want to surprise people, find a good Greek taramosalata or make a simple tonnato (Tuna dip, Italian-style). With some sliced soppresatta, you have plenty of options for grazing, without much hassle in terms of production.

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Savoir Faire: Hosting A Party