This post is especially for Girlfriend D, who was sick and missed the entire thing. We missed you too!
Every year our family hosts what has come to be called Sophie's Carousel Party. Five families, a group known as The Usual Suspects, gathers at our home on a Sunday evening in December. We've all known each other for years and were friends before many of us were married and before any of us had children. We really don't give a damn whether the kids like each other or not but fortunately they really do. Most of the time.
We start with appetizers and drinks. Once it's dark, everyone except me drives to the Tilden Park carousel, which is all decked out in holiday finery. While they're gone, I wave my hostess wand, and *poof!* the appetizers disappear. I set the tables for dinner, turn off all the lights, light lots of candles, and wait for my guest to return. We then have a simple dinner, the children exchange gifts of books (each child is paired with another), children are handed their favor bags, and everyone is on their way.
But let's break it down, ok?
Here's a cheesy hostess shot: appetizers and me (drinks are in the other room).
We started with hot buttered rum and kir royales. Very festive! Appetizers included . . .
Dates stuffed with Gorgonzola, chevre, and almonds and wrapped in prosciutto. This was a new recipe for me this year. The salty and sweet provided a nice balance. This recipe could be assembled the day before and only needed a few minutes in a hot oven to crisp up the prosciutto before serving.
Smoked salmon spread on endive leaves. The salmon is from our Alaska trip this summer. I combined with chopped cornichons and a little mayo.
Carmelized onion dip. Another make-ahead hit.
Babaganoush with pomegranate seeds. The pomegranate seeds gave it a nice look and tasted great also.
And of course crudites.
And three cheeses: a goat brie, Costwold, and another brie the cheese seller recommended.
And something for kids large and small: gingerbread men.
And it's off to the carousel. Our house is right on the edge of this regional park, so it's a quick drive. The carousel was built in 1911 and lived in several places before landing here. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It's truly beautiful but spins so fast it makes me sick (as Sophie says "nausy") even to stand on the side and watch it. They do an amazing job of decking it out in lights for the holidays.
It probably won't be too long before our kids (The Usual Suspects, Next Generation) are too old for carousels, but the other night we had some pretty excited kids.
There's 18 of us (10 adults, 8 kids), which is too many to seat at our dining room table, so I have a special table ready in the kitchen for the kids. The men were all placing bets on which kid would break the first champagne flute. There were a couple of close calls and some spilled sparkling apple cider, but all glasses survived. Hurray for the kids!
We all tucked into a simple dinner of homemade macaroni and cheese and green salad with pomegranate seeds, sliced Bosc pear, and balsamic vinaigrette.
For dessert, the kids had vanilla ice cream with homemade hot fudge, candy cane pieces, and whipped cream. Adults got this:
From epicurious.com, one of my favorite food sites, the Chocolate Tart with Candied Cranberries. This is their picture, but mine looked almost as good. If you venture here, heed the tip from one of the reviewers about freezing the cranberries before baking them. Very important.
After dinner the kids opened their presents beneath the tree, a book for each from one of the other families. Sophie got my favorite holiday book this year:
Favor bags were distributed, and the evening was at a close.
After an Art Faire and a holiday party in a single weekend, I feel like I'm on a downhill coast for the rest of the holiday season! Now, about those cards . . .