Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Fling

It's been a long while since I've put on a party where I've gone all out with food, booze and music. So I thought why not use the spring as an excuse to gather a few friends and get some shots done for my website Little Miss Party, which is currently being updated by Hi Design.

My web designer who I love suggested the photographer Scott Clark.  He shoots for 100 Layer Cake and I adore the site.  His wife is the site's founder and food stylist.  Insanely talented and a major inspiration to LMP.  So I got in touch and was able to work with this fabulous gent.

He arrived promptly at 7pm with a minimal but useful amount of gear in tow.  I on the other hand, was definitely scrambling to get everything out since the party started at 9 and I was a bit nervous to set the food out too early, but understood we needed to start shooting with what was left of the daylight.

It was a pleasure working with Scott.  He was professional and personable and his work is fantastic.  He sent me a link to all of the pictures to view the day after the party.  Being that I am a person with absolutely no patience, this was pretty huge to me.

I am so grateful for getting the chance to work with this talented photographer and hope that one day I can work with his wife too.  If you want to see more of his work you should check out his blog - Scott Clark Photo - for postings filled with fantastic shots.

Party Time ~
For starters, I used this table as my design inspiration:
*Image taken from Amy Atlas's website.
And remember this post about the wheatgrass seeds I was trying to grow in egg shells?  Check out the final product...not too shabby wouldn't ya say?
I wanted to serve Passover tapas that was easy to eat and refreshingly tasty and eye catching for spring.  So I designed the following menu for my spring fling party:
~ Hot Italian sausage & roasted red pepper bites with dijon mustard for dipping
~ Cucumber & dried salami rounds
~ Crudite with three dips:  lemon peppercorn & parmesan, ranch & cucumber, dill & yogurt
~ Platter of assorted cheese cubes, grapes and dried figs
~ Caprese skewers
~ Watermelon, feta & mint skewers
~ Lollipops from Dylan's candy bar
~ Green chocolate flowers
~ Toffee & chocolate covered matzo (AKA matzo crack)
~ Frozen banana pops
~ Brownie bites (Kosher for Passover, leftover dessert frozen from seder #1)
~ Fruit skewers

My colors were pink and green.

I did hours of research to come up with fun ways for displaying food as well as effortless recipes for a minimal amount of prep work allowing me to be a guest at my own party. With the creative help of my sister who also has a great knack for throwing parties, I found this photo of lollipops displayed in a bed of greenery.  I love the color contrast between the pink and green but thought it would look much fresher in a bed of vibrant wheatgrass.  Below you'll see how I incorporated this inspiration into my dessert table...
*Photo taken from the site Blow Out Party.  

On Thursday (the day before the fling) I was out the door by 8am.  I started at the flower market.  Picked up one bundle of cherry blossoms and 4 (2 large, 2 small) crates of wheatgrass.  I weeded through the branches and made my arrangements around the apartment and then strapped LM on me and ran some errands.  Most importantly, a trip to Dylan's Candy Bar for my special centerpiece pink and white lollipops like you see in the photo above.  Well, have you ever been to this place?  It's bright, colorful, full of kids and filled with loads of every type of candy you could ever possibly imagine.  What I didn't anticipate was Easter weekend was 24 hours away.  There was a giant bunny rabbit for what felt like 800 people in this store to take pictures with.  The store was a zoo.  I'm not kidding you...a zoo.  Kids flying around on sugar everywhere, parents yelling, babies screaming...I felt like I was in some type of horror movie.
After waiting in line for about 25 minutes just to buy 6 perfectly pink and white lollipops, I got home and hit the couch for a little while.  The rest of the day was used to set up for the party and a quick bite out before hitting the hay to get a good night's sleep before go time...
Day of the party I thread the skewers.  Took me about an hour to do each combo.  For the caprese sticks I used fresh mozzarella from Whole Foods that was marinated in olive oil, basil and chili peppers.  What I found after set up was the cheese was too heavy for the sticks and kept falling down.  BUT tasted amazing.  I put a bowl of balsamic & olive oil for dipping too.  As for the watermelon & feta - I bought pre-cut watermelon to make life much easier.  As I was threading the feta was cracking and breaking because it was getting too soft.  I also cut the watermelon too big.  This dish was a bomb.  It should have been served as a salad with a dressing starring the mint in mini white bowls. Note for next time!
As for the shooters, I made this dish up at the very last minute to get some pink color on the table and add to the flair of the photos that I was having taken.  I took a few cubes of watermelon, few mint leaves and 3 tbsp of sugar and blended in my mini Cuisanart.  I took the mixture and put about 1/4 cup into a margartia shaker with some ice and a couple shots of vodka...shake shake shake...and top with whip cream!  Voila!  Gorgeous.  Not all that tasty...but pretty in the pics!
The sasuage bites were a huge hit and so incredibly easy to make.  My friend Joe suggested this dish to me and it worked out perfectly.  I put these in the oven at 4pm.  Hot Italian sausages placed on a wire rack over tinfoil on a baking sheet and cooked at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.  I let cool and sliced on an angle with a serated knife.  I topped each piece off with a square of roasted red pepper and a party fork.
As for the individual crudite veggie dishes I used glass vases that I've collected over the years from flower arrangements and added pre-washed and bagged radishes.  I realize now looking at this picture I should have trimmed the radishes and made them look symmetrical with the peppers.  I will pay great attention to this the next time I present.
Here is the final presentation.  I absolutely love how the wheat grass and cherry blossoms look on the table.  I also love the colors from all of the fresh veggies.  Very spring fling.
Now for the dessert table....something pretty unbelievable is that I made all of the components on the day of the party.  I would normally make everything here in advance but couldn't because the week was so busy. So I must say, wow!  I started with the chocolate flowers because they are the easiest to make.  I take chocolate discs and melt in the microwave on 30 minute intervals.  I then spoon them into a flower shaped mould with 18 individual slots and let them set in the fridge for about 15 minutes.  Pop em out and call it a day.  I stored in a glass jar to keep fresh until I served and made two batches so I had 36 chocolates to display with several leftover to snack on.  I also turned to this cute allergy free website for the frozen chocolate covered banana pops.  A brilliant idea to avoid gluten or keep Kosher for Passover!
Onto the matzo crack:  toffee and chocolate covered matzo.  I got this recipe from The Kitchn.  I friggin love this site.  I always find great recipes and ideas on here!!  And the photographs are simply amazing.  I first tried this recipe over the weekend out at the house.  First batch that I made, I followed the recipe and used wax paper to bake the matzo on.  This was a huge mistake.  The matzo melted with the toffee onto the paper and you couldn't get it off without eating it. Sick.  Had to throw out a huge batch which was a total waste.  Shame.  Second batch that I tested, I sprayed a nonstick cookie sheet with Pam and placed the matzo directly on.  When I removed from oven I let cool and then stuck into the fridge for a few minutes to set the chocolate.  When I peeled the crack off the removed with ease and tasted beyond delicious.  I have yet to eat just one!  I made the batches for the party day of.  
Two batches fit into the day just fine.
The bar is always up to my husband.  He's the bar expert when it comes to the booze shopping, slicing lemons + limes and ordering up the ice. He sets up and mans the bottles for the night.  Great job for him and a needed relief for me!
As the daylight dimmed the food started to look romantic and desirable.  I love how the dried figs photographed and tasted next to the grapes and cheese I served with.
I stored leftover matzo crack in this sweet glass given to me by dear girlfriends years ago...looks pretty and keeps fresh for days to follow for guilty snacking.
The fruit skewers (also thread day of) were so refreshingly tasting and really pretty in color.  Unfortunately they did not look even on the sticks and were a bit tilted.  Note to align better next round of making.
The cherry blossoms look pretty during the day and night.  I love how the pink looks against the deep blue hue in the sky when the night falls.  Overall I was so incredibly happy with my set up, quality of food and turn out for the party.  And I couldn't be more thankful for these gorgeous photos!