Since I plan parties for a living, I dearly love a good occasion; I'm a party animal and, besides, they pay my mortgage. So, here we are, fast approaching Valentine's Day, and, as usual, I just wasn't excited at all.
It's not just that it's silly and contrived and horrendously boring (I'm used to dealing with that), but, as you can imagine, it doesn't exactly present a lot of windfall opportunities for those of us in the party business, making it a bust on all counts.
Truly, who can produce a jolly evening for only two guests, no matter what all the "fabulous" lifestyle and party experts are touting on TV?
But, I do love a challenge, so I gave it a shot. In fact, I think I'm going to host one.
I'm proposing a soiree celebrating the joys of being a couple. I mean, it's clear that while parenthood is nauseatingly in vogue, but couplehood is not having a great decade.
And, as to the romance of spending this evening alone together, I've gotten unanimous agreement on my poll: once you've slept with someone a few times, it's much hotter to be with them at a party and THEN go home together. The expected Valentine's date: either in some overcrowded, poorly serviced restaurant or ordering in food, stuffing yourself into a peignoir and propping up seductively on the bed you sleep in each night somehow doesn't quite make it.
So, with two-ness being the theme, I've come up with a plethora of ever so clever ideas:
1. This fete definitely works best for a larger group; ten couples minimum to really pump the energy up, and keep it from being sad and embarrassing. Shouldn't be too difficult, everyone invited will be so grateful, it's like being asked somewhere for New Year's Eve: it relieves all the pressure of finding something so terribly, terribly special to do. What a gift.
2. All invitees must be a real couple. Sexuality preferences notwithstanding, they must be "involved" for at least six months -(harsh I know, and it definitely makes the guest list challenging.)
3. Guests must dress as another couple - preferably some witty concept, but classics are acceptable. Sid and Nancy, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and so on.
4. The menu will consist of perfect pairings: And it should be typed or beautifully handwritten to really get the point across of just how inventive you are:
Sauterne and Roquefort cheese
Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Melon and prosciutto
Mini franks and sauerkraut
Shot glasses of tomato soup with teeny grilled cheese sandwiches
Mac and Cheese (see recipe below) or Spaghetti and Meatballs
Fish and Chips
Mixed Greens with Oil and Vinegar Dressing
Pie and Ice Cream
Black and White Cookies
Kahlua and cream shots
5. Swapping, while quaint, is discouraged.
6. Other inspired touches:
A large and colorful poster of Noah's Ark at the entrance.
Blowups of Lennon and McCartney, milk and cookies, Bush and Cheney, and anything and everything printable such as cocktail napkins should be embellished with ampersands (&).
7. And for music:
"Ebony and Ivory," Stevie Wonder
"It Takes Two Baby," Marvin Gaye
"Love and Marriage," Frank Sinatra
You get the idea...
Admittedly, it might take a few years before this catches on, but I am very into creating new rituals and this one is an absolute natural. Imagine, actually looking forward to Valentine's Day!
Rich Macaroni and Cheese
1/2 lb butter, plus extra for baking dish
1 1/4 lbs elbow macaroni
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup flour, sifted
5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Munster cheese
2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9x13x4 inch baking dish.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the macaroni until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Drain
3. In a small bowl, combine the cream and milk.
4. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the ½ pound of butter and cook the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the flour, stirring constantly for 3 minutes and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes.
5. Stir in 4 cups of the cheddar, the munster cheese, 1 cup of the grated parmesan, the paprika and cumin. Stir until all the cheese has melted: the sauce will appear very thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the pasta. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar, then the parmesan, and finally the bread crumbs.
7. Bake uncovered on the middle shelf for about 20 minutes until bubbling and brown on top.
Please check out Marcy's website at www.marcyblum.com