There was never a caterer, she never asked her guests to bring a thing, and she never lost her cool. Her secret was a well-edited bag of tricks, a reliable set of recipes that she mixed, matched and recycled year after year, party after party. There was a taco dip, a perfect iced chocolate cake and for cocktail parties a batch of roulade-style canapés made from crustless sandwich bread that were made-ahead and frozen. Even her cracker selection was consistent.
I love to throw a party too, and once I set out on my own it didn’t take long for me to develop my own bag of tricks, my own party fall-backs. And here’s the thing: nobody minds. On the contrary, friends love to know that a cocktail party at my house necessarily involves a tray of classic Parisian jambon buerre, chicken liver mousse, eggplant caviar and a big bowl of pistachios, the very same recipes I’ve been making since my twenties, tried-and-true, consistent and always delicious.
But things have gotten a bit more complicated as of late. My dear friend (and business partner at CAP Beauty) has celiac and leans heavily vegan. There are those who avoid carbs and those who shun dairy, cleansers and detoxers of every kind (including me!). So I’ve realized that my bag of tricks must evolve to accommodate a host of dietary restrictions and needs… Or does it? One could certainly argue that if you have special needs, whether they’re medically necessary or self-imposed, you must fend for yourself. Bring your own gluten-free crackers. Eat beforehand. Starve.
That’s just not my style. Entertaining, after all, is about treating your guests, making them feel like a million bucks. So how do you plan a party and cater to all these restrictions without punishing your friends who still hope to indulge? Here are a few of my newest tricks, what I’ve learned from my last few years of partying and playing host to the wellness set.
Don’t bastardize the classics. Stick to what naturally works. In other words, avoid the gimmicky and complicated vegan or gluten-free versions of foods that just aren’t. No vegan soufflés or pot roasts. No vegan “ham” sandwiches. Make avocado toasts instead. Or better yet, swap the bread for a delicious raw cracker. Delicious and naturally vegan.
Do what you’re good at. If you love to bake, go for it. Make a special gluten-free cake for your celiac guest. If you’re not so inclined, serve sundaes.
Don’t dismiss pasta. Oddly enough, pasta is an easy meal to alter for your gluten-free friends. Its just an extra pot of water and a package of GF pasta or my favorite, zucchini noodles. Plus, there are countless raw, vegan and vegetarian sauces and no one goes hungry.
Bubbly and bubbles. Of course nothing guarantees a great party like an endless flow of champagne, but make sure to have something special for your friends who don’t drink. Even if it’s just a few bottles of ice cold Pellegrino. A virgin version of the night’s cocktail is even better.
Crudité! So classic yet so timely. This is a great way to add a truly healthy component to even the most indulgent menu, and fresh raw vegetables work for every way of eating: vegan, raw, paleo, whatever. Up the ante by serving a great dip. Find some inspiration here!
Go with recipes that are easy to personalize. Nachos with or without cheese. Taco night. You get the point.