Over the weekend, I popped my apartment’s entertaining cherry. My place is tiny, like postage stamp tiny, so I always figured I couldn’t really host proper parties at my girl pad. Oh, how wrong I was…
Between football (college + NFL), Halloween and Thanksgiving, there is no shortage of parties and get-togethers in the fall. I partnered up with Food Should Taste Good (remember the delicious,
calorie-free stuffed banana pepper dip?) to share my tips for fall entertaining. I am in no way, shape, or form an entertaining guru and hostess whisperer. But if I can play hostess without setting off my obnoxiously-sensitive smoke detector in my teeny apartment, so can you!
My guests were set to arrive at 4 and at 3:20, I finally was able to wash my hair. I quickly ironed my outfit and silently scolded myself for not being better at remembering to iron my clothes immediately after I clean them. When my guests arrived, my hair was still half-wet. Martha would’ve been proud. Stay tuned for the real kicker at the end of the post : )
They say the devil is in the details, so I’m going to walk through the little things that pulled all of this together. I already talked about my drink name tag DIY so let’s start with decorations and work our way through the spread. Trust me, you’re going to want to stick around for all the food porn.
While I was looking for a post-college job, I worked at Paper Source in Georgetown so naturally, it was a no-brainer to pay the shop a visit for some decor inspiration. After tearing myself away from the card wall (There were at least 30 cards that applied directly to my life/the lives of my friends), I picked up their Small Die Cut Fall Leaves and items for my drink tags. Using washi tape, I taped the leaves to my wall above the beer cooler so they appeared to be gracefully cascading.
The rest of the fall leaves were scattered in between the dishes to keep this theme train goin’.
I’m a big fan of using what you already have, a great party doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. I scouted around my apartment and relocated a couple hardcover books to the dining table. Layering the books added dimension to the spread and the books’ colors fit in nicely with the autumn leaves.
Going on “use what you have” theme, I repurposed this old flower windowbox to keep the beers cold. I lined the inside with a garbage bag, poured in ice and added the beer. Bonus: the clean-up was a breeze!
Trader Joe’s had mini pumpkins (99 cents) and gourds (69 cents), I practically had to stock up. I arranged the gourds in a favorite vase and spread the pumpkin love across my dining table and side tables. A bunch of bright sunflowers are the finishing touch on the spread.
I could probably count on one hand the things I know about beer. I know that Natty Light is widely considered undrinkable and that Marylanders love Natty Boh. Blue Moon battered fish fries are insanely good. Shocktop comes served with an orange slice. And, oh yeah, beer to me tastes like liquid pretzels. Love pretzels, strongly dislike the taste of beer.
But I wanted to have beer on hand for the guys at the party and I picked Sam Adams in both the regular lager and the seasonal pumpkin ale.
As for the womenfolk, I supplied the ingredients for apple cider mimosas so they could determine the strength of their own drink. Or I ran out of time and couldn’t mix the mimosas before my guests arrived. Draw your own conclusions. Visit again on Thursday for to hear more about my feelings on apple cider + mimosas! Being an upstate New York, I have so many feelings about apple cider.
I can pretty much hear you all exclaiming, “Thank God! Took ya long enough to get to the good stuff, Lauren.” When I was picking my menu, I wanted to create dishes that would complement Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato and Olive chips. I said it before in my last Food Should Taste Good post that I’m not a fan of sweet potato. But these chips won me over and I’ve been brainstorming how to add them to more dishes. The olive chips are a flavorful experience and were an incredible addition to my Greek salads. With these ideas in mind, I set out to create a menu that would complement these flavor palettes and filled with fall comfort.
First Dish: Pulled Pork (sides: coleslaw and candied jalapeños)
Until Sunday, I never used a crockpot. So now I need to think of another culinary “Never have I ever.” Growing up with a fireman for a dad, slow cookers were a big no-no. The idea of a meal cooking while you (gasp) were out of the house?! Sacrilege and blasphemy, folks. But the happiness of others depended on the pulled pork. I really had no choice, you guys. My hands were tied.
Food Network’s Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe was incredibly easy to follow and was a big hit, meaning there was absolutely none leftover. My dreams of pulled pork desk lunches quickly went out the window. Funny story about the pulled pork: once it was done cooking, I was a bit hesitant about actually shredding it. I realize it’s foolproof but still, this was all uncharted territory. Standing in my apartment were 2 Texans, 1 Alabamian, 1 Tennessean, 1 North Carolinian, 1 South Carolinian and 1 Connecticutian. Take a guess who ended up helping me with the shredding? The Connecticutian. That’s right, in a room filled with Southerners, it fell to the Yankees to prep the pulled pork. The irony is almost too great.
The sweet potato chips combined with the pulled pork, coleslaw and candied jalapeños made a delicious BBQ version of nachos. Funny enough, the candied jalapeños were a last minute decision to make them, even though they take at least a day to make since they have to marinate, but were the least high-maintenance item on the menu. They were wildly popular and I’m going to have to bring them back into regular rotation for fall and winter.
Second Dish: Greek “salad”
To go with the olive chips, I created a quick Greek salad of sorts. Halved cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, julienned fresh basil leaves and a comical amount of feta are all it takes. Side note: I brought the leftover Greek “salad” as lunch yesterday, goodbye, sad desk lunch!
Third Dish: Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese
Photos by Caroline Holman
Okay, so I went for the comfort jugular with this dish. I dare you to name a dish more comfort foodie than mac ‘n cheese. I’ll wait while you think of one but you won’t because mac ‘n cheese is the end-all, be-all of comfort foods. It’s the Big Cheese, so to speak.
I’ve been itching to use Trader Joe’s Langostino Tails in a recipe and this seemed like as good a time as any to give Ina Garten’s Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese a whirl. Ina, you saucy minx you, you’ve done it again. I apologize for thinking mean thoughts about you while I furiously grated the Gruyere and willed my guests to arrive fashionably late. You know it’s a good mac ‘n cheese when the Southern contigency in my living room had several helpings each.
Crumbling the Food Should Taste Good sweet potato chips on top added a wonderful crunch, I was a happy camper. Especially after a couple apple cider mimosas.
I had an incredible time hosting this get-together and bringing my friends together for an evening. With all the hustle and bustle, it wasn’t until I had cleaned up, gotten into my pjs and went to take off my makeup before bed that I realized with a start: I never got around to putting on my makeup. I was so busy with party preparations and then too busy enjoying myself surrounded by good friends and good food that the thought of putting on makeup went completely out the window. And guess what, no one said a single thing of it.
Now that’s one heck of a party!
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This post was sponsored by Food Should Taste Good Chips®. All opinions and product sentiments are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that support DC Girl in Pearls!