A Tasteful Affair

Food and drinks to make spirits bright

By Amelia Rasmus

It’s a well-known holiday equation.

Food + Drinks=A Good Party!

As any hostess with the mostest will tell you, fabulous nibbles and cocktails can overshadow your mother-in-law’s rhinestone-encrusted reindeer sweater, your Uncle Bob’s off-color jokes and even the lampshade-topped antics of Dan From Accounting.

Whether you’re throwing an informal get-together for a couple buddies or a full-fledged soiree to impress your boss, recipes from the following six, recent cookbooks can help you create an evening to remember.

Blood Orange Sparkler
Whiskey and Ginger Punch Web Extra!
Oysters au Vin de Champagne
Broiled Oyster Canapes Web Extra!
Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches With Fresh Mint
Maghreb Olives Web Extra!
Insomniac City
Panda Antics Web Extra!
The 1812 Overture Margarita
The Chimayo Cocktail Web Extra!
Traditional Tex-Mex Nachos
Pico de Gallo >Web Extra!

“Raising the Bar: Better Drinks, Better Entertaining”
By Nick Mautone with Marah Stets
Published by Artisan

Blood Orange Sparkler


1 blood orange
3 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons sweet vermouth
1 (750-milliliter) bottle sparkling wine, chilled
Blood orange slices for garnish


Using a sharp knife, cut off and discard the ends of the blood orange.

Stand it upright on a cutting board and slice the rind and white pith off the fruit using a gentle downward sawing motion, cutting away as little of the flesh as possible. Discard the rinds.

Cut the fruit crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Divide the slices evenly among 6 wine glasses.

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sugar into each glass and muddle to extract the orange juice.

Add 1/2 teaspoon vermouth to each glass and stir.

Divide the sparkling wine among the glasses, stir, garnish with blood orange slices, and serve.

Makes 6 (5-ounce) drinks.

Whiskey and Ginger Punch


1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup sugar
16 ounces bourbon, chilled
4 ounces fresh lime juice, chilled
4 (12-ounce) bottles ginger beer, chilled
2 limes, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
Freshly grated nutmeg for garnish


The punch should be served very cold, so either refrigerate the ingredients the night before you assemble the punch or chill the prepared punch overnight.

Place the ginger and sugar in a punch bowl and muddle to extract the ginger's essential oils.

Add the bourbon and lime juice and stir well to combine. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add the ginger beer and limes and stir well. Sprinkle fresh nutmeg over the top and serve.

Makes 16 (4-ounce) servings.

Back to top.

“Oysters: A Culinary Celebration”

By Joan Reardon
Published by The Lyons Press

Oysters au Vin de Champagne


24 shucked oysters, liquor and deep shells
1 cup Champagne
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup flaked, cooked back-fin crab meat
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the oysters from the shells, reserving the liquor. Scrub and dry the shells and place them on a baking sheet.

Pat the oysters dry and set them aside in a bowl.

Boil the Champagne and shallots in a saucepan until the liquid is reduced by half.

Strain the oyster liquor, add the wine, and reduce by half.

Add the cream, reduce again and season to taste. There should be about 2 cups of sauce.

Stir some of the sauce into the crabmeat and spoon the mixture into the shells. Place an oyster on each shell and sprinkle with lemon juice.

Bake about 2 minutes until the oysters are heated. Nap with the remaining sauce, return to the oven and heat until sauce bubbles.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Broiled Oyster Canapes


24 shucked, small oysters
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
24 white bread rounds


Preheat the oven to high broil.

Cream the butter with garlic, mustard, parsley, lemon juice, cayenne and paprika in a food processor or with a fork.

Toast the bread rounds lightly on one side, remove from the oven, turn over, and spread with the seasoned butter.

Drain and dry the oysters and place one on each bread round.

Sprinkle with additional paprika.

Broil about 2 minutes, or until the oysters begin to plump.

Makes 8 servings.

Back to top.

“David Rosengarten Entertains”

By David Rosengarten
Published by John Wiley & Sons

Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches With Fresh Mint


2 large English cucumbers, unpeeled
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 cups loosely packed mint leaves
3 cups cream cheese, softened
24 thin slices white bread
Kosher salt


Cut the cucumber, peel-on, into 1/16-inch slices. Marinate the cucumber slices in the vinegar 1 hour.

Chop the mint finely and mix it well with the cream cheese.

Spread each slice of bread with minted cream cheese, dividing the cream cheese evenly.

Drain the cucumber and arrange the slices on 12 of the bread slices, spreading the cucumbers out evenly.

Salt lightly and top with the remaining slices of bread.

Working with a bread knife or a knife with a serrated edge, remove the crusts from the sandwiches on all 4 sides.

Cut the sandwiches on the diagonal; serve immediately. Or, place the sandwiches on a plate, loosely drape with damp paper towels, then cover completely with plastic wrap.

Makes 2 dozen triangular half-sandwiches.

Maghreb Olives


2 pounds black oil-cured olives
1 to 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 to 3 teaspoons Ras el Hanout (see recipe below)
1/4 cup fruity olive oil


Combine the olives with the crushed red pepper and Ras el Hanout, mixing well.

Toss with the olive oil, and hold or serve.

Makes 12 servings.

Ras el Hanout


3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground coriander seed
1 tablespoon ground anise seed
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1-1/2 teaspoons ground green cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Store in an airtight container up to 6 months.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Back to top.

“Jiggelo: Inventive Gelatin Shots for Creative Imbibers”

By Mary Breidenbach, Barrett J. Calhoon and Sharon L. Calhoon
Published by Ten Speed Press

Insomniac City


2/3 cup cold milk
1/3 cup room-temperature coffee
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup Kahlua
1/3 cup vodka
1/4 cup Frangelico


Pour the milk and coffee into a small saucepan and sprinkle with the gelatin. Whisk the mixture well, then let it set 3 minutes.

Place the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently to ensure the gelatin dissolves.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool 10 minutes.

Add the Kahlua, vodka and Frangelico, mixing well.

Divide the mixture among 16 to 18 disposable, 1-ounce cups.

Chill in the refrigerator until firm, 2 to 4 hours.

Makes 16 to 18 jiggelos.

Panda Antics


1 cup chilled AriZona Green Tea With Ginseng and Honey
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 cup sake
16 to 18 red gummy bears


Pour tea into a small sauce pan and sprinkle with the gelatin. Whisk the mixture well, then let it set 3 minutes.

Place the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool 10 minutes.

Add the sake, mixing well.

Divide the mixture among 16 to 18 disposable 1-ounce cups, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top of each .

Chill 40 minutes and then push a gummy bear into each shot, using a toothpick to position the bear.

Chill in the refrigerator 2 to 4 hours, or until firm.

Makes 16 to 18 jiggelos.

Back to top.

“The Great Margarita Book”

By Al Lucero
Published by Ten Speed Press

The 1812 Overture Margarita


1 lemon or lime wedge
Saucer of kosher salt (about 1/4 inch deep)
1-1/4 ounces Cuervo 1800 Reposado
1 ounce Cointreau
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice


Run the lemon or lime wedge around the rim of a hurricane-style margarita glass. Dip the rim of the glass into the saucer of salt, rotating the rim in the salt until the desired amount has collected on the glass.

Measure the tequila, Cointreau and lemon or lime juice into a 16-ounce cocktail shaker glass full of ice.

Place a stainless steel cocktail shaker over the glass, tapping the top to create a seal.

Shake vigorously about 5 seconds and pour into the salt-rimmed glass.

Makes 1 margarita.

The Chimayo Cocktail


1-1/4 ounces Herradura Silver tequila
1/4 ounce crème de cassis
1 ounce fresh apple cider or juice
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 red apple wedge


Fill a double old-fashioned glass with ice.

Pour the tequila, creme de cassis, apple cider or juice and lemon juice over the ice and stir.

Garnish the glass with an apple wedge and serve.

Makes 1 cocktail.

Back to top.

“Macho Nachos”
By Kate Heyhoe
Published by Clarkson Potter

Traditional Tex-Mex Nachos


4 to 5 ounces corn tortilla chips
1 to 1-1/2 cups refried beans
6 to 8 ounces (1-1/2 to 2 cups) shredded cheddar cheese
2 to 3 pickled jalapenos, sliced


Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, or preheat the broiler, with the rack positioned about 7 inches from the top of the oven or the heat source.

To assemble the nachos, smear each tortilla chip with a dab of beans and arrange in a single layer on a 12- X 18-inch baking sheet or ovenproof platter.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.

Place a jalapeno slice on each chip.

Bake the nachos 4 to 6 minutes, or broil, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Makes one 12- X 18-inch tray of nachos.

Pico de Gallo


1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 to 2 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 green Serrano or jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
Salt to taste


In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients.

Chill about 15 minutes before serving (any longer and the flavors weaken).

Stir the mixture must before serving.

Back to top.