If you want to have some friends over to ring in the new year, but you’re feeling partied out from all the holiday festivities, we have some no-stress ideas for hosting a New Year’s Eve bash.
Chef Michelle Peña has been in the restaurant industry for more than 15 years and owns a catering business based in Scottsdale, The Gourmet Girl. She specializes in dinner parties, interactive cooking classes and preparing meals in your home to last you a week.
We asked her what she would do on a tight budget to create a fun party vibe for her friends on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s all about theme parties right now,” she says. “Casinos, James Bond, Mardi Gras. Themes are an easy way to do parties, because you just need to research the details.”
With the Internet at most people’s fingertips, you can pick a theme that sounds fun and then look up the details you need to pull it off. Peña decided that since New Year’s Eve marks the passing of time it would be fun to throw a party all about time, or specifically time gone by. She shares with At Home readers how she would throw a 1940s, 1960s or 1980s theme party without spending too much time or money.
The Gourmet Girl
1940s Swing back
The food: Relish trays — piled high with an assortment of pickles and olives, Swedish meatballs and a molded gelatin dessert — will give guests a sampling of what was popular during the 1940s.
The drink: The Manhattan cocktail became popular in the 1930s, but was still a swinging choice in the ’40s. The blend of sweet vermouth and whisky with a cherry garnish is a throwback to the era of big bands and glamour.
The decorations: Peña suggests placing records of popular ’40s musicians around the room — the covers usually have great photos, and vinyl discs will promote reminiscing by some and curiosity by others — great icebreakers. Some musicians to look for include Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller. If you can’t find the records, make high-quality prints of the covers from images found on the Internet.
The activities: Time capsules are much older than the 1940s, but what we think of as a time capsule was introduced at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and has been a popular idea in the U.S. since. Peña says a fun party activity would be to ask each of your guests to write down their predictions for 2007 and seal them in a capsule until the following New Year’s Eve, when you can open them and find out if any of the predications came true.
1960s Let’s be groovy
The food: Fondue was all the rage in the 1960s, and it makes great party food because it’s bite-sized and it encourages people to gather around the table and socialize. Make a cheesy fondue with breads and vegetables for dipping and a chocolate fondue for dessert, with fruit and cake.
The drink: A popular drink was the martini, but make it classic, because this was pre-Cosmopolitan or appletini days.
The decorations: Bright, bold colors and wacky patterns characterize the days of the ’60s. Think tie-dyed or swirly table clothes and napkins. Peace signs, flowers and lava lamps placed around the room will also enhance the mood.
The activities: What’s a ’60s party without some far-out dancing? Show your friends how to do the shake, the locomotion or the mash — or better yet, have a twist contest.
1980s Like, totally party, dude
The food: Finger foods, such as loaded potato skins, and seven-layer dip were staples during 1980s get-togethers.
The drink: Anyone who lived it knows wine coolers and zinfandels were hip with the younger crowd in the ’80s. Serving them at your party will elicit some giggles, but your friends will love it, says Peña.
The decorations: Like, duh, what would an ’80s party be without posters of ’80s pop culture icons. Plaster shots of Bon Jovi, Madonna, New Kids on the Block or Debbie Gibson on your walls and instantly time-warp back to the bedroom of any teenager in the ’80s. Try searching sites like eBay for inexpensive vintage posters.
The activities: Peña suggest board games such as Life, Chutes and Ladders, and Trivial Pursuit (they make a “Totally ’80s” version.) Also, play movies such as “Heathers,” “The Breakfast Club” or “Say Anything” in the background so you and your friends can bond over the bad hair and pegged pants.
Yield: 10 appetizer-size servings
Source: Michelle Peña
8 slices white bread
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons dill
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon beef base
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 pound ground veal or ground pork
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place the bread slices in a large mixing bowl and dampen with heavy cream.
3. Once bread is soaked through, add the rest of the ingredients, except the meat, and mix well.
4. Mix in the meat.
5. Roll the mixture into 1-inch meatballs and bake, uncovered, on
a lightly greased baking pan for 45 minutes.
6. Serve the meatballs hot, with gravy if desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Source: Michelle Peña
1 1/2 pounds imported Swiss cheese, shredded (can use 1 pound Swiss, 1/2 pound Gruyere )
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside.
2. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard.
3. Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in nutmeg.
4. Arrange an assortment of bitesized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of sourdough and dark pumpernickel breads. I also suggest Asian pears, Roma apples, fresh vegetables, (cauliflower, broccoli and carrots) and various meats including gourmet apple sausage, hot dogs and chicken tenders.
5. Spear with fondue forks, dip and swirl.