Browsing Tag

cocktail party


The Costco Challenge: The Making of a Stylish Cocktail Party on a Budget

stylish canapes costco challenge

stylish canapes costco challenge

This article from Town & Country is the proof that you do not need to spend a fortune to entertain in style 20 guests. Event planner David Monn bought at Costco the food he needed to make stylish canapés.

menu costco shopping list

David Monn spent $10.40 per guest. His cocktail party menu was comprehensive with 8 savoury hors d’oeuvres and 2 sweet treats. You get a nice mix of meat and seafood for that price. I’m impressed!

menu costco

I plan to make his Norwegian Smoked Salmon filled with scallion cream cheese and tied with a string of chive. Who will not love a Brie and apple on bruschetta topped with caramelized walnuts?

Get the details on the April 2012 issue of Town & Country magazine. Go to Zinio for a digital version delivered to the device of your choice.

+  photos by Juliana Sohn – Courtesy of Town & Country magazine


5-Minute Martha: Peter Callahan’s Bite by Bite

salmon pork and hot dog canapes

amuse-bouches for kids

At last, you can get a finger-sized hors d’oeuvres cookbook that will not require you to stay up all night or cook all day. Why do I say that? It is not obvious when you look at the stunning food presentation but the recipes proposed by Peter Callahan have shortcuts. For example, his peace of pizza contains only 4 ingredients, which includes store-bought pizza dough and marinara sauce.

bite by bite stylish hors d'oeuvre

Who knew that spaghetti and meatballs could become so stylish? You can save time when hosting a dinner party by preparing one type of hors d’oeuvres. You can stretch it to two hors d’oeuvre types, if they are simple to make. Select one bite as your show-stopper element, plus prepare a batch of simply tasty canapes.

\salmon pork and hot dog canapes

For the soccer game night or your Super Bowl annual reunion, get inspired by his Pigs in a Blanket canapes.

mini margarita served with fish tacos

It is really simple to serve personal vodka with caviar blinis. Individual alcohol bottles add panache to a common drink. As a bonus, you do not have to clean the glasses after the party. I love this idea!

This stylish entertaining cookbook can also help you organize your next kids party. All kids will be in awe when they see the cute doggy canapes or the tiny fudge pops.

+ via Glam
+ cookbook photos: Con Poulos and Glam
+ For Americans: Bite by Bite: 100 Stylish Little Plates You Can Make for Any Party from Peter Callahan $18.92 USD [affiliate link]
+ For Canadians: Bite by Bite: 100 Stylish Little Plates You Can Make for Any Party from Peter Callahan $25.08 CAD at Indigo


A Sapphire French Highball Paired with Speakeasy Clams

kim is making drinks with merlin griffiths

kim is making drinks with merlin griffiths

The Bombay Sapphire media event gave us the occasion to learn new cocktail recipes. They collaborated with a local chef to pair each cocktail with an appetizer. This year, Eric Gonzales of Auberge Saint-Gabriel was the invited chef in Montreal. I learned several cooking tips from Eric. His food was delicious. I shared his recipes so you can try it at home while sipping your drink.

Merlin Griffiths showed us how to make his modern take on the classic French 75 cocktail. The addition of pear nectar adds a rich, fresh flavor that helps to combat the acidity of the lemon and champagne. I helped Merlin prepared the Sapphire French Highball at the Bombay Sapphire media event. We put it on tape. The images aren’t great due to the lights from the windows but Merlin gives good insights.

Sapphire French Highball Recipe

sapphire French Highball drink


  • 1 oz Bombay Sapphire
  • 0.5 oz Lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz Simple syrup – 2 parts sugar & 1 part boiling water; stir until dissolved and chill
  • 1 oz Pear nectar/juice
  • Top with Champagne or Sparkling Wine
  • Garnish: lemon twist and edible gold flakes

Add the gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and pear nectar to a highball glass. Stir. Fill the glass with cracked ice (lightly smash some ice cubes). Top slowly with champagne and stir once more. Garnish with a long “shoestring” lemon twist and edible gold flakes for pizzazz.

If you do not find it at your local grocery store, know that edible gold flakes are available at Indian food stores.

Cooking with Gin

eric gonzales is cooking with gin

If you wish to cook with the Bombay Sapphire gin, Chef Eric Gonzales thinks that it seafood and gin are a perfect combination. You can go with scallops, urchin or mussels. For the event, Eric cooked us a tasty clam recipe.

Speakeasy Clam Recipe

Speakeasy Clams :: recipe by chef eric gonzales

Serves 1 dozen clams

Canned clams were a favorite during the prohibition era. You have to remember that there were no fridge at the time; so canned food was more popular. This recipe is a spin on “Classic Clams Casino”, a dish that was served in the popular restaurants and supper clubs in the 1920’s. The use of toasted crushed almonds in this recipe highlights the almond botanicals featured in Bombay Sapphire gin.


  • 50 cl Olive oil
  • 60 g Shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 Clove garlic
  • 10 cl Bombay Sapphire gin
  • 2 small sticks of Liquorice (or fennel) – Liquorice sticks can be bought at the drugstore.
  • 2 springs of Fresh thyme
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Sea salt, freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add pepper (to taste), clams and deglaze with a drizzle of  gin. Add lemon zest, thyme, liquorice, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Uncover, remove the clams and leave to cool. Remove clams from their shells. Reduce the juices by half.

Clam and crab topping


  • 125 g Snow crab meat
  • 35 g chopped Italian parsley
  • 20 g finely chopped fresh basil
  • 35 g melted Butter
  • 50 g shredded Parmesan
  • 60 g Breadcrumbs
  • 40 g crushed, roasted almonds
  • Zest and juice of one lemon to taste

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Sauté the shallots until soft, deglaze with the gin, reduce by half. Add the clams after cutting them in half, the crab meat, herbs, parmesan and season with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Mix the almonds, breadcrumbs and melted butter together. Preheat the oven to 375º F, place the clam shelves on a cookie sheet, garnish with the clam and crab mixture, top with breadcrumbs and bake for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and enjoy.

I shared more photos on my Facebook page. Come to see our Bombay Sapphire Media Event 2011 album.

bombay sapphire media event 2011


How to Host a (Bombay Sapphire) Speakeasy Party

dress the part

merlin griffiths

The media event of Bombay Sapphire is my overall favorite media event. Every year, I always looked for it. One reason might be that the global ambassador of Bombay Sapphire Merlin Griffiths is an amazing storyteller. Plus, I always left the event with three more drinks to add to my cocktail recipe book.

speakeasy props

The theme was speakeasy, which led to great tales. Take notes since it is a theme that would be awesome for a birthday party. In case that you do not know, a speakeasy, also called a blind pig or blind tiger, is a secret establishment that illegally sells alcoholic beverages. They gained popularity during the prohibition era. They were often members-only establishments. One famous speakeasy in Chicago used a personalized gold key to identify their members. The gold key attached to my invitation told me that we would get a treat. We did!

speakeasy invites

How to Host a Speakeasy Party at Home

dress the part

Keep to an invitation-only guest list. Speakeasy were about a selected few. Therefore, invite a small number of close friends. Ask your guests to dress the part by either wearing 1920s-style clothes or their favorite stylish clothes. Display a few props and serve a few classic cocktails.

Chunks of Ice in Your Drinks

ice block

Good quality ice plays a role in making outstanding cocktails. Make yours with boiled water for a clear, pure taste. If you wish to stay true to the era, serve your drinks on ice chunks, that you smash from an ice block. Merlin explained to us how to make your own ice block. Pour the boiled water in an Eskimo cooler and put it on the freezer for 3 or 4 days. This is the amount of time it takes to freeze.

ice block

One last details are the glasses. Your grandma treasures would be perfect for this occasion. Otherwise, shop at a dollar store or visit the flea markets to find your set of old-style tumblers and highball glasses.

Have a look at this video for all the insights on how to make your own Sapphire and Sin (recipe below).

Sapphire and Sin Recipe

sapphire and sin recipe


  • 1.5 oz. of Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 1 oz. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 0.5 oz. fresh ginger syrup (recipe below)
  • Ginger slices and cilantro leaves for garnish

You can make it ahead and filter the juice in a fine strainer.

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, starting with the gin, follow by the juices and the ginger syrup. Add big pieces of ice that you just smashed from your ice block. Then, shake vigorously. Serve on the rocks in a tumbler. Garnish with ginger slices and cilantro leaves.

Ginger Syrup Recipe

Put in a saucepan 1 cup of powdered white sugar, 3/4 cup of boiling water and 5 thick slices of peeled ginger root. Or you could use ginger root juice to infuse your simple syrup with flavor. Cook the mixture for 10 minutes over medium heat. Let it cool for 30 minutes and strain into a clean bottle. Refrigerate. You can keep it for several weeks in the fridge.

I will share more drink recipes in the coming days. In the meantime, you can see more photos on my Facebook page.

bombay sapphire media event 2011



On A Stick! by Matt Armendariz | Book Preview

matt bites on a stick book cover

matt bites on a stick book cover

I love spending time in the cookbook section of the bookstore, ogling creative food styling and searching for dinner inspiration – but it takes some serious salivating to get me to actually purchase a cookbook to take home. I’ve often judged a cookbook by it’s photography, only to discover same-old recipes that fall flat on the plate and the palate.

Something tells me that won’t be the case with On A Stick!, the first book by Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites, a fave foodie blog of both Kim and I.

matt bites book panzanella salad on a stick

For some reason, food just seems to taste better when it’s on a stick (cake pops, anyone?). Matt’s book goes beyond popsicles and kebabs, skewering culinary classics like spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, and fish and chips. Don’t worry, sweet tooths: the book isn’t without its share of desserts. Smores, chocolate-dipped waffles, caramel popcorn balls and plenty of others make an appearance.

matt bites book shrimp on a stick

matt bites book spaghetti on a stick

And, since food on a stick is just asking to be dipped and dunked in a sauce, the book includes recipes for a few of those too, as well as an overview of skewer suggestions. I, for one, can’t wait create to create an entire skewer-based meal: no cutlery required!


+ For Americans: On A Stick! from $10.93 USD at [affiliate link]
+ For Canadians: On A Stick! from $13.68 CAD at [affiliate link]
+ All photos by Matt Armendariz


Vacu Vin Party People Snack Markers

party people snack markers by vacu vin

You might recall the Party People glass markers that I introduced in 2009. The same jolly characters are now available as snack markers. Each of the 8 characters tops a stainless steel fork. This is an eco-friendly alternative to the usual wooden fork or toothpick that you throw away after each bite.

+ For USA: Party People Snack Markers $9.95 for set of 8 at CB2
+ For Canada: Vacu Vin Snack Markers $12.99 CAD at [affiliate link]


Ready-to-fill Tartlet Shells, Cones, and Cone Stands

ready-to-fill tartlet shells and cones :: la roise noire collection

ready-to-fill tartlet shells and cones :: la roise noire collection

Cool & Simple is a fabulous boutique in Montreal that will answer many of your entertaining dreams. They sell upscale frozen food that are perfect for entertaining at home. I served several times their products at my parties. I like the fact that you can buy it in advance.

Ready-to-fill Cones and Tartlet Shells

I am sure that many of you will welcome a little help with the basics. Take for instance, these ready-to-fill tartlet shells and cones. You simply reheat the shells, if necessary, and prepare your own fillings to create awesome canapes.

Introduced in Hong Kong by avant-garde pastry chef Gérard Dubois, the cones from La Rose Noire collection come in 7 flavors: black sesame, spinach black sesame, green tea, tomato, curry, chocolate, and plain white. You can fill them with hot, cold, salty or sweet fillings.

cone stands for entertaining

You are probably wondering how you will serve the cones at your buffet table. Do not worry since Cool & Simple carries several cone stands. You will find one that fits your party size.

The tartlet shells are shaped as a square, a circle, a triangle and a rectangle. The tartlet shells are available in several dimensions. Some are savory while the sweet shells are made with a vanilla or a chocolate shell.

With those, you do not need to hire a caterer to get a professional look that your guests will remember. Beware that these more fancy products are not available online. In that case, you must shop at the Cool & Simple boutique or get it through one of Gastronomia’s distributors.

+ La Rose Noire Collection at Gastronomia
+ Black sesame cones $42.95 CAD for 83 cones at Cool & Simple
+ Mini-triangle savory tartlet shells $13.95 CAD for 35 shells


Cocktail Party Essentials

glamorous drink station


Holiday party season is in full swing. Whether you’re hosting family and friends for dinner, neighbours during an afternoon open house or a glamorous New Year’s Eve gathering, consider upgrading your existing bar accessories or invest in these essentials pre-party. A well-appointed bar with all the tools of the trade will help you quench all of your guest’s drink requests.

Stylish Glassware

Even if you’re well-stocked with a variety of glassware styles, these fun and festive options will have your guests lining up to claim their cup. Check department stores for other seasonal options that are likely already on sale.

Cocktail Shaker

Cocktail shakers

A cocktail shaker is essential for creating martinis and other mixed drinks. You can find inexpensive, basic shakers at most kitchen and department stores. Personalize this vintage-inspired shaker from Pottery Barn with a frosted glass monogram. For a statement shaker you’ll want to leave on display, consider this gorgeous, but pricey, stainless steel Bauhaus design by Alessi.

Large Tray or Bar Cart

glamorous drink station

Use a tray, or bar cart to create a serving station and keep bar tools and glassware corralled. You can also re-purpose an existing console table or your dining table for the occasion.

airy modern drink station in white and blue

Style at Home proposed an airy, modern take on the drink station that would be perfect for New Year’s Eve.

Sticks and Picks

Cocktail picks and coasters

Cocktail picks are great for garnishes and do double-duty as stir sticks. My “pick” for a holiday party? This stainless steel set topped with jingle bells from Crate and Barrel.


Coasters are a must to protect furniture and other valuables from glassware. There are sets to fit every party theme and decor, from glass to ceramic to pretty letterpressed paper.

+ Winter Tree Stemless Glassware $25 USD at West Elm
+ Mr. and Mrs. Highball Glasses by Furbish Studio $18 USD (set of 2)
Bauhaus Cocktail Shaker by Alessi $388 USD at Unica Home
+ Hotel Cocktail Shaker $29 USD at Pottery Barn
+ Drink Station by Lulu Powers for Lonny magazine – December 2010 issue – photo by Patrick Cline
Small Space Cocktail Party Planner by Style at Home – photo by Michael Graydon
+ Jingle Bell Picks $10.95 USD (set of 6) at Crate & Barrel
+ Letterpress Coasters by Red Bird Ink $10 USD (set of 4) on Etsy


The Bubbly Bar | Book Review

naughty negroni drink recipe :: the bubbly bar by maria c. hunt

naughty negroni drink recipe :: the bubbly bar by maria c. hunt

In her book, The Bubbly Bar, Maria C. Hunt shared a vast assortment of champagne and sparkling wine cocktail recipes. I just bought the book; I did not have time to yet to try her recipes. With the wedding season, I think that many of you would like options to serve a bubbly concoctions.

One section of her book that I am sure you will not want to miss for entertaining this summer is the dessert corner. She proposed seven refreshing desserts make with Champagne or sparkling wines. A Lemon Ice transforms lemon sorbet into an elegant, grown-up dessert by adding Prosecco, vodka and a mint leaf to garnish. Otherwise, the Grapefruit Vanilla Granita made with brut rosé sparkling wine sounds divine to end a Sunday brunch.

If you are not familiar with Champagne and sparkling wines, Maria wrote an effective guide at the end of her book. To give you an idea of the type of cocktail recipes you will on her book, I scoured the Web and found the recipe of her Naughty Negroni on Canadian House and Home. The recipe of her Pure Passion drink recipe is published on the

About the Naughty Negroni Drink Recipe

As you can guess from the name, it is a twist on the classic Negroni. Although at first glance, I thought that is was similar to a Negroni Sbagliato that I introduced last year. But after checking, it’s quite different. A Naughty Negroni is made with 4 measures of Moscato d’Asti Sparkling Wine, a top-quality sparkling wine from the Piedmont region. Moscato d’Asti is superior and less sweet than Asti or Asti Spumante but make no mistakes, Moscato d’Asti is a sweet wine. She also keeps a half measure of gin from the classic Negroni recipe. A Negroni Sbagliato simply replaces the measure of gin by a measure of a Prosecco Brut (dry).

If you do not recall, the classic Negroni is one measure of gin, one measure of Campari, one measure of sweet vermouth (red vermouth) served with an orange slice. I prefer the tall Negroni where you pour some soda water over your Negroni. I usually will ask for a chaser of soda water because it is hard enough for most restaurants to serve a decent Negroni. The idea to try it with sparkling wine is appealing.

+ For Americans: The Bubbly Bar by Maria C. Hunt $11.55 USD [affiliate link]
+ For Canadians: The Bubbly Bar by Maria C. Hunt $15.87 USD [affiliate link]
+ Naughty Negroni recipe


Easy to Make Cocktail Recipes for Mother’s Day

pink drinks by saq :: strawberry smoothie and cape cod recipes

pink drinks by saq :: strawberry smoothie and sparkling rose recipes

The Escape Cocktails by the SAQ is a good source for cocktail recipes. I select these 6 cocktails, either because they look girlie or should taste great. Select the one that will fit the taste of your mother or will pair the best with your menu.

+ You can start the brunch with a Strawberry smoothie that includes . After all, we need something that has no alcohol to fill up energy and vitamins. It contains apple juice, pineapple juice, strawberries, a banana, rose syrup and honey.
+ Then, you can sip a Sparkling rose made with vodka, cranberry juice, sparkling wine and a dash of vanilla extract.

Cranberry and Vodka Based Drinks

cranberry and vodka drinks :: recipe by saq

+ The Skyy Rosé is a rich, fruity cocktail. Its smooth taste comes from Skyy vodka, litchi juice, cranberry juice, a splash of 35% cream and one strawberry as garnish.
+ Cape Cod is a milder drink that you prepare with vodka, cranberry juice and tonic water. Garnish with 2 lemon wedges.

Dry Gin Cocktail Recipes

gin drink recipes by espace cocktails saq

+ The Mystery Martini refers to the old-fashioned herb liqueur since it is prepared with green Chartreuse. This is the stronger drink on my list. You will probably just serve no more than one per guest.
+ The Cucumber Collins adds style and a refreshing flavor to a classic drink. I like drinks with cucumbers. You start this drink by crushing cucumber slices with a muddler in a highball glass. For the rest, you prepare a classic Tom Collins and garnish with a cucumber spear.


Outstanding Mingling Plates: Puzzleboard by Oooms and Out of Work

puzzleboard by oooms let you mingle, drink and eat tapas with one free hand

puzzleboard by oooms let you mingle, drink and eat tapas with one free hand

You know my fascination with mingling plates. I am always on the lookout for more. I spotted the Puzzleboard by Oooms earlier. It was always depicted as a service tray or an interlocked cutting board. I thought it was a fun design. Now, I think that the Puzzleboard is brilliant! I discovered that each jigsaw puzzle piece  is also a mingling plate. The multi-purpose characteristic makes it a good buy. Oooms ships worldwide for a flat fee of  7.50 euro per order.

Most mingling plates are built to support a wine glass. I mentioned before the Social plates, which fit different glass types and a soda can. But the bare essential look of the Social Plates is not suitable for a hip cocktail party.

What if you prefer a glass of beer

out of work :: outside of work mingling plate for beer drinkers

I discovered on Design-Milk two Spanish designers who found a stylish solution for a beer and tapas night. Giovanna de Ávila and Joan Sunyol collaborated to create  Out of Work (also named Outside of work), a mingling plate that comes with a handmade blown glass beer glass. O.O.W.’s hand made ceramic plate is stackable.

O.O.W. was exhibited for the first time at Designboom’s Mart 2010 at Stockholm’s Furniture Fair. As far as I know, it is not available in stores, at least for the moment. I suggest that you contact Giovanna de Ávila, if you are interested by these artisan mingling plates.

+ Puzzleboard by Oooms 19.50 euro / $27.15 USD
+ Out of Work on Giovanna de Ávila‘s Web site
+ O.O.W. photos: News about Giovanna de Ávilas