How to host an urban scavenger hunt party, part 3

Over the past week, I have been working on a series: How to host a scavenger hunt party (pirate-theme optional). We covered awesome invitations and the list of things to find.

Now let’s move on to locations, strategies for the competition and prizes. Oh yeah, and what kind of food to eat afterward!

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How to host an urban scavenger hunt party, Part 2

Scavenger hunt list, a cupcake and an off-camera serenade. This was one team’s way of collecting 20 points!

* If you missed Part 1, check out Monday’s post! We covered the basic theme for the party as well as how to make kick-ass pirate-approved invitations.

Now on to the Scavenger Hunt list, rules and the game itself!

Once the invitations were sent out, I moved on to the most important thing — the scavenger hunt list. First off, I needed to decide how to go about having people “find” things. I chose to combine digital photography with physical evidence. Some of the things were just needed to be captured on camera  — things like:

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Soirées & Snacks: My favorite thing about parties is the food…

There is nothing I love more than party food. Something about food on toothpicks or passed nibbles on tiny plates just calls out to me. Everything is more fun when it’s on pretty platters and available for grazing. I love having a glass of wine in one hand and a plate brimming with appetizers in the other.

Posting all the food pictures from my birthday party a few weeks ago inspired me to go back through last year’s birthday photos. My first thought upon seeing them was hmm, I need to plan another party very soon.

This is a very dangerous thought — one, that if given a chance, would devour all of my productive energy for months. So I decided to write a bit about party food in an effort to keep the demons at bay.

First up are some delicious hors d’oeuvres. Last year, I did a variation of pub trivia for my birthday party, which was held at my favorite local bar, The Lion’s Eye Tavern. After the quiz portion was done, we walked back to my place to soak up the beer with a whole lot of food.

Greek-salad skewers -- tomatoes, feta, cucmbers and olivesIn planning my menu, I was heavily influenced by these Greek salad skewers I had seen in an issue of Food & Wine and wanted to do a ton of them in a variety of flavors. I bought a salami (whole, not sliced), pitted olives, cucumbers, sharp white cheddar, goat cheese and baby mozzarella balls, pickled pipparras and piquillo peppers, cherry tomatoes and pickled asparagus. Most of the stuff I was able to get at an upscale grocery store’s olive bar. They had so many great things that I just got a little of everything. Then I got to work putting them in assorted patterns on little bamboo skewers.

* Helpful hint: I used some feta too but the brand I bought was apparently too soft and so I had a hard time keeping it on the sticks. Instead I sliced the olives open and stuffed them with the cheese and then slid the whole thing on the skewer. *

The nice thing is there are so many choices, nobody has to pick off the things they don’t like — good for picky eaters as well as the lone vegetarian. Plus they are so colorful, they basically double as party decorations!

Next I needed some fun snack mixes, a nod to the pub theme I had developed. My mind went first to an Asian-style brittle recipe I had seen on Martha’s website. I had been dying to make it since it’s full of tasty morsels  — wasabi peas, various nuts and sesame sticks. It’s a little spicy and a little salty, altogether ideal for a post-pub party. I also wanted some pretzels but not just out of the bag, something a little more festive was required. Luckily, Martha had a recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pretzel Mix using pretzel sticks, almonds, cayenne and sugar. These were a cinch to make and very addictive. I had to remind myself to stay away from them until the party started!

Then I went searching for something more exciting than regular Chex Mix and found this awesome Maple & Soy Chex Mix recipe. It sounded perfect (the recipe even has some curry in it which really intrigued me) and I could tailor the components so I didn’t overlap too many ingredients — I used mainly Chex cereal (rice and corn), sesame sticks and toasted corn since I had already used so many nuts in the other two mixes.

I made a ton of each one of these mixes, thinking I’d have plenty of leftovers to enjoy afterwards, but they were quickly demolished by hungry guests. Which is a good indicator that these recipes are worth making again!

Other party food favorites of mine are, of course, anything on puff pastry as well as a simple old-fashioned charcuterie board, like the one below. I think my husband put this together one lazy Sunday for us to snack on when we didn’t feel like cooking.

I like offer up a few patés (you can usually buy some nice ones at an upscale butcher shop), some salami or prosciutto, some cheese, coarse-grain mustard and cornichons. This plate also has an all-time favorite of mine — a beet terrine made with goat cheese. Some day I will show you how to make this. It is so very good and so pretty.

Finally, here are a few more party nibbles my friend Ariel and I put together when we catered a housewarming party for my parents. We needed it to be relatively simple since we only had one day to prep, but I think we did a nice spread. Ariel had a recipe for a frittata that could be sliced up and I had been dreaming about this recipe for adorable mini mac-and-cheese bites. I used some larger macaroni noodles that I had on hand — in hindsight I should have bought some smaller ones since they might have worked better in the mini-muffin pan, but these still got rave reviews.

Spinach Frittata and Mini Mac’n’Cheeses

A veggie crudite garden

Mammoth cheese ball

The veggies were inspired by this Martha Stewart spread, where the crudite are arranged to look like they are in a garden. We just did ours in a big bowl, but Ariel worked some magic with those veggies and made them beautiful. We had an herb-filled buttermilk dressing for dipping, though you can use any salad dressing you have handy.

We also spent a good portion of the evening before the party making a laughably enormous cheese ball. I honestly don’t know how it happened, but it was larger than a softball. We started with some goat cheese (like maybe a pound, which might explain why it was so huge) mixed with cream cheese and then threw in store-bought pesto plus extra pine nuts and basil. I think we had half of this sucker left over, but it was a great post-party snack. I even used some with cooked pasta as an easy creamy and very cheesy sauce.

So basic rules for party food: cheese should always be present, food that can be eaten with one hand is ideal and anything on a stick will make people happy.

Now go forth and party on!

Everyone needs a party hive

Forget beer pong, king’s cup and playing rounds of quarters, I bring to you the greatest party game of all time…

Behold the Hive!

My hive, which was a key element in my birthday party this year, was a pretty intense project. It took two months of planning and two weeks of building to get roughly two hours of the most hilarious enjoyment from it. Thankfully since it’s only partially deconstructed, the hive is easily accessible for future hours of entertainment. In fact, even though my liver is shaking in fear, I may already be planning its next party appearance.

After the unspeakably ridiculous adventures my friends and I had with this hive, I have come to the conclusion that everyone should have one. Or at least know someone who has one. But since I’m a big believer in independence, here’s how to make your own:

First, decide on a shape. If you are fine with a straight-up square, just get a piece of poster board in the size you want. Since I was after a honeycomb shape, I bought two pieces of white poster board and cut one into two pieces to fashion the edges. I used a hole puncher and some metal brads to hold all the pieces together. Yes, it was a bit delicate, but it worked just fine. Just be gentle when moving it around.

Next up is to buy a ton of cheap plastic party cups. This is where I could have made my life slightly easier and gone with a solid color of cup. But since all I saw at the store was red, I went with clear instead. I’m sure I wouldn’t have had any trouble finding solid yellow if I had checked other stores, but I was anxious to get started. While my cups would eventually just contain slips of folded paper, if you decide to fill some of the cups with candy or prizes, you’ll have to then conceal the contents to keep your sneaky friends from cheating. And they will try. I promise.

The next step is attaching the cups to the board. I used a box cutter to cut a slit in the poster board and to stab a hole in the bottom of the cups. Then I got busy attaching each one by its base to the board with a metal brad. Helpful hint: this is a prime time to catch up on whatever trashy TV programs you have been waiting to watch. I highly recommend Gossip Girl.

This is what you should end up with…

Next is to start decorating. Even if you use solid cups, the crepe paper adds an extra bit of festivity. This is not very exciting to look at…

But this is!

Now that it’s looking colorful and you have your paper, prizes, whatever in each cup you get to move on to the final stage. Get out your bottle of Mod Podge, a foam brush, tissue paper and scissors. I went a little overboard and cut out the tissue paper in octagon/honeycomb shapes, but I would recommend just plain circles, ovals, whatever shape floats your boat. They don’t even need to be consistent sizes because eventually the paper will all blend together.

After everything has had a chance to dry, you’re ready to party! Get your friends together and take turns punching through the paper to see what’s in store for you. Here’s mine at the beginning on the madness…

As a warning, this is exhilarating and addicting. I expected us to leisurely take turns throughout the night, casually discovering we won a prize or needed to perform a dare. Instead the hive immediately turned us all into punch-happy maniacs who were quick to regulate the order of things so no one got an extra turn. Once it was over, we were all a bit exhausted and the hive itself looked like it had been through a war. Though that could be because a slightly tipsy Oliver Lucky sat on it halfway through the night. It’s hard to say.

Any any rate, you should make one! Your friends will thank you. And you will feel awesome because you will have the greatest party prop in all the land…

This year’s bee-day party was a seriously sweet success!

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I never really thought I’d throw a whole party centered around bees and honey, but now that my birthday party is over, I think it was one of my favorite party themes to date. And that’s saying a lot given … Continue reading