Entertaining 101: Make it Special (and Use Chocolate!)

Entertaining 101: Make it Special (and Use Chocolate!)

Putting the fun in fondue!

When my girlfriends Jen and Dana said they wanted a chocolate party at my house, my initial response was: “Okay, see you in an hour?”

Thankfully, they gave me more time to plan and organize a chocolate themed party.  In the week leading up to it, I found myself giddy with joy and anticipation.  It’s an exhilirating feeling when friends feel comfortable enough to invite themselves over (and over again!)  To me, it feels like I’ve done my job: that I’ve made guests truly feel welcome in my home.

When it comes to entertaining, I’ve found the best times are built around small, special gatherings.   Whether it’s a champagne brunch, an afternoon cookie exchange, or roasting weenies in your backyard around a fire — the only goal a host should have is to make the gathering a special time for all.

So what does “special” mean?  In my opinion, it’s the ability to weave your own sense of fun, creativity, talent and appreciation of your friends into a small block of time.  You don’t need the finest china, pressed linens or gourmet foods to do this.  What you need is good friends, a sincere invitation and a location.  Alcohol helps too!

I filled the table with small bowls of delicious foods.

For the chocolate party, I decided a small group of girlfriends for a luncheon would be ideal.  Since we were going to indulge in a rich dessert, balancing the meal with crisp salads was the way to go.  Before I knew it, I was putting together a Mediterranean themed menu, complete with falafel, lamb meatballs, cous-cous, stuffed dates and a lemon orzo dish.  Dessert would be the pièce de résistance: a chocolate fondue with all kinds of wonderful sweets to dip and enjoy.

There were three menu favorites yesterday: the goat cheese stuffed dates, the lamb meatballs and the chocolate fondue.  The dates were easy, simply mix goat cheese with heavy cream and stuff the dates.  Voila!  You have luxurious bite-sized hors d’oeurves in no time.  The lamb meatballs were flavorful and rich, so I’m including the recipe below.  And the chocolate — well the chocolate was fun because everyone had a “hand” in it.

Jen volunteered to make the dippers platter.  She put together a beautiful spread of fresh fruits, pretzels, graham crackers, marshmallows, rice treats and brownies.  Korey, Dana and Lesa were assigned to clear the table then assemble the fondue pot.  I stood over the stove and melted dark and milk chocolate with heavy cream and a pat of butter.  It all came together beautifully!

All smiles before dipping into chocolate.

Remember what I said about weaving in your own sense of fun and creativity?  I decided that with dessert, we needed to play a few rounds of “Just Dance 2” on the Wii.  It turned out to be hours of fun! We had a blast shaking our booties to Ke$ha, Avril Lavigne, Kris-Kross and even the song “Jai Ho.”  Before I knew it, the whole day passed, and we were breathless from dancing and laughing (and a lack of good cardio training).

To Jen, Dana, Korey and Lesa, thank you for sharing such a special day with me. And to everyone else, may your next gathering with friends be filled with fun, creativity and lots of laughter.  After all, that’s what makes everything in life so special.

Kofte (Lamb Meatballs)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Mix all the ingredients and allow meat to marinate in the refrigerator for two hours or overnight.  Using a small portion scoop or scant 2 tablespoons, portion the meat into small balls using your hands to roll.

    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

    Saute the meatballs in a skillet with olive oil, approximately 3 minutes per side.  Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and finish in the oven, about 15 minutes.  Serve as is, or with roasted red peppers, tomatoes and onions.  Cucumber yogurt (tzatziki) is also a nice addition.

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