Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 40 Issue 11 • July 5-21, 2010
now in our 40th season

Party Plans

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

Summertime brings friends and relatives to the island.  Of course this means entertaining, and parties.  Who doesn’t love a good party?  Anyone with a big budget can throw a gala event, but entertaining on a small budget can be a little more challenging.  Regardless of the size of the shin-dig, here are a few tips that can be followed by anyone help ensure a good get together.   

First decide the time and place.  Always take a good look at the calendar when deciding on having a party.   The party may fall on the same as another big event, and if your party is not tied to it, may yield few guests. 

What is the theme of the party? Although great parties don’t necessarily need a theme, but sometimes it can make the planning easier, and more fun.  For example a clambake or luau brings to mind certain foods, narrowing a menu down.  It helps gives guests an idea of the formality or informality of the party, too. Who doesn’t love breaking out that Hawaiian shirt or Mumu once in a while.   Props (grass skirts, coconut bras, limbo sticks) can be great for ice breaking at the beginning of a party.  Even with a tight budget theme parties can be a great idea.  Some of the best parties I have attended were on a shoe string.  Potlucks can bring out the competitive nature in great cooks, and those who don’t like to cook can bring chips or, better yet, beverages.  One of the more creative parties was a beer exchange; everyone brought an unusual or favorite beer and their favorite food to eat with it.  It was as educational as a wine tasting, and so fun (inexpensive too!).  The best part of that particular party (other than the beer) was everyone was interested in the subject, and the conversation was limitless. 

A guest list is also important.  Without jotting down names, what is thought will be a little get together can turn into a big party fast.  It also gives you a better idea whether to have the party indoors or outdoors.  It may also remind you of guests who may be vegetarian, or have other special dietary needs.  Remember to include some food for them to enjoy.    

Think about having a friend or two help out.  Even having an extra pair of hands to move a table, or turn the music on, or mix drinks, can be a huge help.  It will also keep you more relaxed and that makes for relaxed guests.  Also prepping food and making pitchers of drinks ahead of time can be huge to the party’s success.  Even if you are planning on making guests individual drinks, it is a great idea to have a pitcher of something pre-made, in case it gets too busy to make drinks, or you start to run out of certain ingredients.  Keep in mind many guest prefer to serve themselves. 

Pick out some appropriate music, and start it early,  it should be on when the first guests arrive, frequently I cook and prep the party to the same music to see if it seems to flow.  If you have no budget and a good friend who is a musician, ask if they would like to play at the party.  Since many musicians are of the “starving artist” variety, they may enjoy playing, in exchange for free food, beer, and good conversation.  Have backup music too, so your friend can enjoy the party too.

Having games or activities are optional, but it is often a good idea to have a few ready just in case.  Also cook food that is tried and true.  It can be stressful trying a new creation, and what if it does not come out properly.  Remember to enjoy the party too, that is what it is all about after all.

Istanbul (not Constantinople) Tomato Salad

  • 6 medium sized ripe tomatoes
  • 1-2 cucumbers
  • 1 cup chopped arugula
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
  • 1-and one half cups chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4-6 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 4 tablespoons capers
  • One quarter cup extra virgin olive oil (buttery or fruity is best)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the tomatoes in half and lightly squeeze out many of the seeds.  Medium dice the tomatoes, and set aside in strainer to drain.  Cut cucumbers lengthwise then lengthwise again to create quarters.  Thinly sliced the quartered cucumbers.  Mix together with the tomatoes, arugula, mint, parsley, thyme, jalapeños, and capers.  Make a dressing in a separate bowl from olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vinegar.  Toss all the ingredients together, and then season with salt and pepper.  Chill for about 20 minutes before serving.  Delicious with grilled meat.  Serves 6-8

Spicy Roasted Nuts

  • One half stick butter (one quarter cup)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • One half teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • One half teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 3 cups nuts (almonds, cashews or pecans are my favorite or make a blend)
  • Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a sauce pan on low heat.  Add all the dry spices, next add Worcestershire and nuts.  Toss until well coated. Put nuts on a sheet pan, and bake for about 10-15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Toss with salt.  Makes 3 cups

Little Angel Food Cupcakes with Lemon Whipped Cream

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • One quarter teaspoon salt
  • Three quarter cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • One third cup all-purpose flour
  • Fresh wild or domestic blueberries (optional)
  • Lemon zest (optional)

Whipped Cream Frosting:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 half teaspoon lemon extract

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees, and line 18 mini muffin cups with fluted paper baking liners.  In a large bowl beat egg whites until foamy (if you have a mixer, use it!).  Add the cream of tartar, salt, half of the sugar, and the vanilla.  Beat until very stiff glossy peaks form.  Sift together flour and remaining sugar together.  Fold the flour mixture carefully into the egg mixture. 

Carefully scoop the batter into the muffin cups.  Fill only 2/3 full.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.  They should look light brown, and should spring back when touched, without leaving a dent.  Remove from pan to wire cooling rack.  Let them cool completely, the cupcakes shrink a little when they cool. 

For the prettiest presentation, remove the paper cups before serving, and complete the cupcakes with a rosette or dollop of whipped cream, lemon zest and a fresh blueberry.  Yields 18 mini cupcakes

Do not forget to plan on 2 drinks per person per hour, for two hours, then one drink per hour after that.  Also 1 pound of ice per person is a good rule of thumb.  Even the best planned parties sometimes take on a life of their own, so don’t worry if it does not turn out exactly as expected. If at first you don’t succeed, plan another party!


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