FEBRUARY PARTY THEMES In the middle of the winter doldrums, unless you are lucky enough to be in Australia, it is fun to think about warm weather. This is a great time to host a Caribbean Party, Hawaiian Party, Southwestern Party - you get the idea. These are two themes for you to enjoy: Tropical: For a tropical party, go all out and have your guests wear flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts. Turn up the heat and if you are brave or have an enclosed porch, fill up a small blow-up pool with sand and seashells.
If you really have cabin fever, go crazy, get some fake palm trees from the party store, and hang tropical flowers from the fronds. Get large seashells and paint your guests names on them. Mardi Gras: The end of February is time for Mardi Gras. Just go to any party store and gather up those cheap, shiny beads, hats and feathers. Get some bright colored flowers for the table and scatter beads and confetti all over - a very inexpensive and colorful way to decorate. SOUNDS AND AROMAS: For Tropical, play your favorite island music.
Burn candles fragrant with coconut. For Mardi Gras, find some great jazz from New Orleans. DRINKS: Make your favorite boat drink for a tropical theme, or try your hand at a Sazarac for Mardi Gras. Many people think that New Orleans is the home of the cocktail, and that this may have been the first cocktail invented. So these are just some ideas. Pick something that makes you happy and go from there.
Be creative and have fun. BRIGHTEN UP THE HOUSE Start bringing spring flowers indoors. This is the time for primroses and forcing bulbs. If you want to lift your spirits and soothe your soul, stop into your local greenhouse or florist for lots of ideas and an instantaneous pick-me-up.
The bright colors and fragrant scents of spring blossoms will do wonders. Get a few pots of primroses to scatter all over your kitchen or hallway or living room. Try to place them in areas that you pass by a lot when you are at home.
Mix colors and inter-space these with pots of variegated ivy. This is also the time that fresh cut tulips are in - buy bunches - they are very reasonably priced. Valentine's Day and 'Ask the Cook' Red, Red, Red - What a great color for February. From red candles to red tulips, use this color lavishly throughout the house.
Wear red. Also, remember it is the time to think of others, and to be a bit romantic in the midst of our crazy lives. These are a few questions, and my answers, which were recently asked of me for an article on Valentine's Day: Q:-What is your idea of a romantic repast -- particularly at home? A : My ideal romantic meal would be a surprise and entirely arranged by my husband. The table would be set with linens, candles and flowers, with my favorite music playing.
As for the food, it wouldn't matter if he made dinner or if he went to a local, really good restaurant and got take-out. The surprise factor and the time that he would take to organize and present this dinner would be very romantic for me. Q: At home -Do you set the mood? (candles, flowers, etc.) Yes, I must say especially when entertaining or when there is a special occasion, I always set the mood. I usually pick a color theme first, and then select the china and glassware or crystal. Cloth tablecloths and napkins, flowers and candles are always a part of these meals.
Soft lighting is also really important for setting the mood. I may use a dozen votive lights in glass containers, and put the overhead lights on low. Also, being organized ahead of time and cooking most of the meal ahead really helps to set the mood. I want to be sure I am not frazzled at the last minute - nothing can ruin a mood than rushing around trying to cook everything at the same time. And no kids, no pets, and no telephone calls.
Q: What make food sexy? (I wasn't quite sure how to answer this one at first.) A: Texture definitely makes food sexy - the creaminess of a crème Brule or the experience of a ripe, juicy pear or peach. The velvety feel of a chocolate truffle all fall into the sexy food category.
And Taste also goes a long way to make food sexy - Cold salty fresh oysters with a hint of the sea. Deep, rich, dark chocolate, which melts away, is also quite nice. Q: Ideas for plating? Setting the table? A: Serve the dinner already plated. Tuck a small rose or other flower on the plate.
Details matter! Use the dining room if you have one, for a change. I would like to use either a gold or silver trimmed plate, a red or white tablecloth and starched white napkins with a small silver or glass vase filled with red roses and red and white carnations or freesias . Keep the flowers small and low. Stay away from highly scented flowers such as stargazer lilies.
Too intense. Add lots of white votive lights, soft music, chilled wine or champagne, and your mood is set to go. Q: Creating the mood - What are your top 3-5 favorite romantic/sexy foods? Why? A: A juicy, ripe fresh pear or peach - the smooth texture and the sweetness and the juice of these fruits are incomparable for a mouth-watering experience. Very cold Champagne- the explosion of the bubbles and coldness of the Champagne in the mouth has a very dramatic feel to it. Lobster or lump crabmeat - juicy sautéed lobster or crab dipped and dripping in melted butter taste quite decadent.
Dark chocolate sauce poured on strawberries - the warm chocolate sauce and the sweetness of ripe strawberries really gets your mouth watering - what a combination. Q: What one should include in a romantic dinner for two for Valentine's day? A: Mood wise- taking the time to do something special and showing that you care is most important. Valentine's Day is a perfect holiday to give to others by doing something special. A romantic meal is not just about food- it is about the effort and meaning that goes into it. Some Tips: What do you want to serve? Keep it simple - have 3 or 4 items, and not everything has to be homemade.
Cook an easy recipe. Get a great dessert -go out and buy the most decadent chocolate cake you can find, or find fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate from your local candy store. Make it light - a bloated heavy feeling is not really favorable to romance. And no garlic, please.
Choose food that your partner likes, not just what you like. This shows that you have put a lot of thought in to this and care, which is the point. Be sure to start several days in advance. If you save everything for the day of the celebration, you will be frazzled and in not much of a mood to enjoy this time together. Linger - savor the food and each other.
Remember that this is about Love, not Technique. Don't cook a complicated menu if you haven't cooked that way before. You both need to enjoy yourselves.
As with other activities associated with love, cooking does not have to be totally perfect. If something does not come out in time, or if it doesn't look exactly like the picture in the cookbook, relax. Stay in the mood you set out to create- being grumpy or upset defeats the purpose. Laugh and have fun. ______________________________________ Speaking of hearts, February is National Women's Heart Health Month. Everyone needs to know about heart health and about the signs of heart problems.
Visit the American Heart Association and other related websites for more informaion. Do something special for yourself and your family and find out about heart health. _________________________________________ Enjoy the best of the season- Marybeth www.girlfriendsinthekitchen.
By: Marybeth Gregg