Tapas Party

Make sure you carefully enunciate when you invite folks to this party – speak too quickly and folks will think you are hosting a topless party (yes it happened more than once!).  Themed cocktail parties are really fun to do and so easy, this time I went Spanish.  Sometimes when I am trying to come up with a menu I can get paralyzed by all of the options but if you focus on one cuisine or type of food, not only will your menu be more cohesive but it will be much easier to put it all together.  Patrick had been craving patatas bravas for a while so I decided I would try my hand at making my own aioli and then heck if I am making my own mayo might as well invite some people over, and then well we might as well have a Spanish theme…this is usually how my party snowball starts.  We hosted this on a busy weekend so unlike most cocktail parties, I committed to only making 2 things and purchasing the rest.  A little part of me died doing this, but honestly no one notices, and I didn’t end up looking like the Tasmanian devil right before our friends arrived.

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The key to really fleshing out a cocktail party without a lot of work is of course your best friend – the cheese board.  Unwrap a bunch of cheeses and done.  I also keep a variety of crackers on hand and some accompaniments to compliment the cheese.  To keep with the theme I put out membrillo paste, a Spanish quince jelly type spread that goes well with sheep and goat cheeses.  I got it at Righteous Cheese, an incredible cheese shop in Union Market, but you can find it pretty easily at your local cheese counter.  For the cheese selections you always want to have a mix of soft and hard cheeses, mild and strong, and a mix of cow, sheep and cow.  We of course had a manchego, the king of Spanish cheeses, along with a cabrales blue, an incredible washed rind goat and a cheddar.  No, cheddar is not Spanish but when you host your own party, you make your own rules!  When you do a cheese board make sure to fill in the empty spaces on the board with crackers or grapes so it doesn’t look chintzy.  I used this beautiful board my darling friend Erica had made for me – I have my own merch now!  Also make sure to set out cheese knives that can actually do the job – nothing worse than wanting a nice hunk of a hard cheese just to be greeted by a wimpy little knife.  I have this amazing cheese cleaver from Sabre that we got in Paris, that can really handle any cheese, a great wire cutter thingy also from Righteous Cheese and then I have these  gold bamboo spreaders from Home Goods that I can pair with soft cheese.

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In addition to the cheese board we also had Spanish marcona almonds, sliced chorizo, olives and grapes.  Put them on a footed silver compote or in a lovely bowl and BAM! you have a pretty good spread.  Of course I had to satisfy the patatas bravas craving right?  If you have never had them, they are crispy potatoes sprinkled with smoked paprika, sometimes with a spicy tomato sauce and always with a really garlicy aioli sauce.  To make this classic tapas a little more cocktail party friendly I cooked up some pee wee potatoes and make an aioli with smoked paprika in it to dip them in.  Some recipes I saw had you add garlic and paprika to mayo but making aioli was so easy and MUCH better than anything made with premade mayo.  I used this Food and Wine recipe and it was delicious.

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I had to make sure there was meat on the table so I also made some grilled chicken skewers to dip into my Uncle Bill’s amazing chimichurri sauce (recipe below).  Notice the extra char on the skewers – a good reminder to everyone to soak those sticks but also to watch them on the grill!

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Last but not least was the booze – we did a mix of riojas, albarinos and cava along with beer.  Usually I would have also made a signature cocktail but I was keeping this simple, right?  No, ok confession time – I tried and failed to make sangria popsicles to go with the meal.  Oh well, the night was a success anyway – try a tapas party next time you are looking to mix things up.  Have a great weekend!

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Red Wine Chimichurri (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my Uncle Bill’s amazing BBQ dinners
Special Equipment:  food processor or blender

  • 2 cups fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine 
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2  jalapeños, roasted and peeled (do this like the rajas)
  • 1 garlic clove

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender along with 2 tablespoons of water and puree until smooth.  Season with salt.  This sauce keeps in the fridge for several days and is great with steak or fish as well.

Red Wine Chimichurri

  • Servings: lots
  • Print

Special Equipment:  food processor or blender

  • 2 cups fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine 
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2  jalapeños, roasted and peeled (do this like the rajas)
  • 1 garlic clove

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender along with 2 tablespoons of water and puree until smooth.  Season with salt.  This sauce keeps in the fridge for several days and is great with steak or fish as well.

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