Even the most dedicated movie buffs probably won't find their mailboxes jammed with invites to hip Hollywood parties. So the trick to hosting your own buzz-worthy Academy Awards party is to make your home and guests feel as glam as the real thing. A little planning and a few simple recipes and party tips from Oscar party veterans are all that's required.
For foods for the big event, which takes place Feb. 25, think finger-friendly. Wolfgang Puck has catered Oscar parties for more than a decade and keeps a couple of easy-to-eat items on the menu year after year, including mini-cheeseburgers, smoked salmon and caviar pizza.
To simplify that approach for home, consider making mini-grilled cheese sandwiches with pineapple or ham. And small pizzas are easy with purchased dough. Consider buying it from a local pizza shop. Most are happy to sell it, and the quality is excellent.
Valerie McSorley, president of Avant Garde Events in Boston, plans an eclectic mix of menu items for the Oscar party she is producing this year for the Boston-based Ellie Fund, which benefits breast cancer research.
The menu will feature not only oysters and caviar, but also popcorn and candy.
"My goal is to make you forget that you're really not in Hollywood," she said. "The more fun you can make it, the better."
It's also important to choose dishes that can be made in advance so you can properly greet your own "celebrity" guests as they arrive.
As the executive director of the Mill Valley Film Festival outside San Francisco, Mark Fishkin is hosting one of the Academy's sanctioned regional Oscar parties. He suggests serving salmon (either smoked or cooked and cooled) over an elegant salad.
For dessert, Fishkin likes going decadent. His crowd will enjoy a chocolate fountain. But you could impress just as nicely with purchased truffles or mini-cheesecakes, or from-scratch cream cheese brownies or chocolate mousse.
If you prefer a simpler menu, you can have fun with the movie theme. Put your favorite cold cuts or fillings - chicken salad with cranberries, thyme and pistachios is nice - inside sandwich wraps and call it an "It's a Wrap" party.
For a potluck gathering, consider challenging your guests to bring dishes inspired by Oscar nominees (cookies in the shape of "Cars," perhaps, or tea-style - as in high tea - sandwiches fit for "The Queen").
Don't forget the drinks. Champagne or other sparkling wine is an obvious choice. Giada De Laurentiis, host of the Food Network's "Everyday Italian," suggests setting up a "Bellini Bar." While a traditional Bellini is made from peaches and sparkling wine, De Laurentiis suggests a choice of fruit syrups.
And if old Hollywood is more your scene, visit Bombshells.com at http://bombshells.com for mixed drink recipes inspired by actresses. The "Jayne Mansfield" - a luscious blend of coconut cream and pineapple juice - is excellent with or without vodka.
And don't forget to have something for the winners of your ballot and trivia contests. A copy of a nominated movie, song or score will keep with the night's theme.
Pizzas with smoked salmon and caviar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 large batch pizza dough (1 batch if purchased from a pizza shop, 2 if from a grocer), at room temperature
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large thinly sliced red onion
8 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
4 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
4 tablespoons caviar (optional)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Use the cornmeal to dust two baking sheets (1 tablespoon each). Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, shallots, dill, lemon juice and white pepper. Set aside.
Divide the pizza dough in four (if using dough from the grocer, divide each in half). On a lightly floured surface, roll each into an 8-inch round. Transfer two rounds to each prepared baking sheet.
Brush each pizza with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkle each with a quarter of the red pepper flakes (or more, to taste). Top each pizza with one clove minced garlic.
Bake the pizzas 5 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool several minutes.
Use a spoon to spread a quarter of the sour cream mixture over each pizza, then top each with slices of red onion. Cover each pizza with a single layer of smoked salmon, then garnish with chives and small mounds of caviar.
To serve, cut each pizza into wedges. Start to finish: 30 minutes. Serves eight.
Source: Adapted from Wolfgang Puck
2 ounces vodka, very cold
1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
3/4 ounce cream
3/4 ounce coconut cream
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve in a tall glass topped with maraschino cherries.
For a thicker version, combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously to combine, then strain into a cocktail glass.
Start to finish, 5 minutes. Makes 1 serving.
Source: Dawn Marie of Bombshells.com at http://bombshells.com.
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
16-ounce bag frozen peaches, thawed
1 teaspoon orange zest
16-ounce bag frozen strawberries, thawed
16-ounce bag frozen blueberries or blackberries, thawed
4 to 6 bottles sparkling wine, chilled
Fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, for garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
In a blender, combine 1/2 cup of the cooled syrup, the peaches and orange zest. Puree until smooth, then strain into a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Rinse the blender, then use it to puree the strawberries and 1/3 cup of the syrup. Strain into another bowl, cover and chill. Repeat this process with the blueberries and 1/3 cup of the syrup.
When ready to serve, transfer each of the purees into clear glass bowls or small pitchers.
For each serving, pour 2 to 4 tablespoons of puree into a Champagne flute. Slowly add enough sparkling wine to fill the glass. Gently stir to blend. Garnish with the whole berries.
Start to finish: 25 minutes. Makes 12 to 18 drinks.
Source: The Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis