One Party Theme…Two Ways – Part One!

February is an odd month amongst my friends and I, because there are a very large quantity of birthdays crammed into that month. This might explain why I haven’t been posting as much lately, since I’ve been planning and making birthday packages and birthday party-ing all month.

My friend Lauren, a frequent guest blogger here on That’s Megs (now Little Stirrings…woop woop!), has yet another treat for us. Since her birthday was February 5th, and mine was February 21st, we decided to do the same birthday party theme, two different ways. She had her own party in North Carolina, and I had mine here in Maryland, and afterwards, we compared notes. Since she is a fantastic writer, here is the summary of her party, in her own words.

The Theme: Wine Tasting and Tapas Birthday Party

The Premise: I wanted to do something different for my birthday, something a little more grown up – because 25 is SUCH a distinguished birthday. I love few things in life more than hosting a good dinner party, so I wanted to do something similar without spending as much money to feed 12-15 people a full meal OR spending the whole day in the kitchen. (Update: Backfire on that goal. I spent more money than I meant to and spent most of my birthday day in the kitchen anyhow – with the help of my lovely husband and my friends Corey and Katelyn).

The Invitation: We asked each person or couple to bring a bottle of wine to share for the tasting – no limitations, and unless you have a very predictable group of friends, you’ll likely end up with a lot of different wines. I’d dare say we didn’t have any duplicates even on type (Malbec, Pinot Grigio, etc.). As guests arrived, we looked up the wines they brought and created little cards with information on each one, including flavors to notice, ideal pairings and trivia about the maker. We did this so everyone could taste at their own pace without sacrificing the education. 🙂

The Menu: I tried to stay relatively true to authentic Spanish tapas, but they eat a lot of mayo, people! And weird fish things. So I pulled in Mediterranean small plate dishes as well. All recipes are from Barnes & Noble’s Essential Cooking Series: Tapas cookbook unless otherwise noted. I’ve also included main ingredients when not totally obvious. Here’s what it came out to:
+ Greek chicken skewers [Inspired by my fave tapas restaurant: Soul, Charlotte, NC; Pampered Chef Greek rub from Megs and fresh lemon juice]
+ Shrimp skewers [Soul]
+ Chorizo in red wine
+ Asparagus wrapped in prosuitto
+ Sauteed green beans & pine nuts
+ Pita chips with hummus, tzatziki and white bean dip [insanely simple, delicious white bean dip recipe compliments of Giada de Laurentiis]
+ Sauteed mushrooms [Momma’s recipe; butter, EVOO, Italian herbs]
+ Brussle sprouts in truffle oil [Inspired by Table 6, Denver, CO; white truffle oil, fresh lemon juice and parmesan cheese]
+ Patatas bravas [Spanish classic; pan crispy potatos (rather than the traditional fried) with bravas sauce, which is mostly mayo, ketchup, paprika, annnnd stuff.]
+ Provolone and roasted red pepper crisps [Real Simple recipe; it’s little flatbread pizzas! Surprisingly wonderful]
+ Red velvet cupcakes [more birthday than Spanish, from one Betty Crocker]

Tips: I sometimes learn the hard way. So you don’t have to:
+ If you have a lot of stemless wine glasses, as we do, think of a way to distinguish between guests’ glasses (I’ve used ribbons and charms for stemmed glasses, but we had nothing for the stemless among us. Cor and Kate informed me that dry-erase markers work relatively well on those.)
+ Separate the wine tasting area and the food area. It keeps one area from being congested. We covered the table in food, and set the wines on the counter.
+ Prep EVERYTHING you can ahead of time. Identify which glasses and serving bowls you’ll use at least the day before.
+ Toothpicks. Invest in a bunch. And by invest, I mean that they’re $0.99 for 250 of them.
+ Tapas involve a TON of pots and pans, some of which have to be used right up until you’re ready to eat. Brilliant Joshua put all the dirty things in the oven and closed it up until post-party. (honesty: next day. Excessive red wine consumption hardly inspires dish washing at 2am). No mess out, but also no one washing dishes for the first hour of the party!
+ Once we’d all eaten and mingled for a while, we actually threw in a WILDLY entertaining game of Cranium. In the absence of a seated dinner, the game allowed us to keep tasting wines and hanging out as a big group. Highly recommend an activity if the night calls for some organized bonding.

+ Skewers on fire are a handy, if far-reaching, substitute for birthday candles. Who knew!

The Verdict: Two thumbs up! I loved it. I liked that it was different and easy to throw together. The atmosphere and set-up were condusive to lots of conversations between many friends who were meeting for the first time. Viva las tapas!

The fabulous Lauren & Josh, wife & husband extraordinaire.

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