By Nathan Wood, Daily Food Columnist
Published February 21, 2013
What do eating and the Oscars have in common? For me, it’s that I prefer to do both on the couch. But most people, you know, get much more excited about these Oscars parties: Everyone dresses up as if they were on the red carpet themselves, drinks fruity cocktails, eats dainty hors d’oeuvres and concentrates on the television broadcast.
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In my eyes, the whole point is to fake an air of sophistication, eat good food and pretend you are full of exigent reviews of the past year’s cinema, which are all things I do regularly anyway. So if you — unlike me — plan to partake in such frivolities and are even thinking about throwing your first Oscars party, let me guide you with a few entertaining suggestions.
Send out invitations. People like invitations. Design something elegant yet modern, save it as a picture file and send it as an attachment in an e-mail individualized for each of your guests. Tip: Spelling out R.S.V.P. — répondez s’il vous plait — is a surefire way to seem sophisticated.
Force everyone to dress up, but be reasonable. You aren’t going to get any guys to wear a tux, and no girl’s going to show up with a $31-million diamond necklace (unless Carrie Underwood’s on your guest list). Tip: “Formal attire required” is a classy, ambiguous phrase that still demands everyone look snazzy.
Go buy a tablecloth, because — let’s be real — you don’t have one. Set it out with some artsy, film-themed centerpiece (flowers and unwound camera film?) and make little freestanding cards with the names of the foods you’re making in a script-y font. Tip: Edwardian Scrip ITC = script-y.
And now for the food.
Each year, the who’s who among Oscars attendees dine at the Governors Ball, which takes place immediately after the awards ceremony. Wolfgang Puck has been catering the event for the past 19 years, and it’s kind of a big deal. But since Chef Puck isn’t going to be catering your party, let me walk you through an easy-to-do home version based on his menu for this year’s ball.
Each of the following dishes should be served in small portions (two to three bites) on large platters. Provide tableware and allow your guests to serve themselves as they desire.
Pesto and grilled vegetable pizza
Spread a layer of pesto onto an unbaked pizza crust. Add slices of fresh mozzarella. Grill up an assortment of chopped vegetables, such as bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, eggplant and mushrooms (yes, I realize mushrooms are not technically vegetables). Top the pizza with the vegetables, cook at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or so, cut into small squares and serve warm. This is a flavorful, hearty and healthy small bite that will satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Tip: This pizza can be made on Oscars eve, refrigerated for a day and cooked just before your guests arrive to cut down on your party pressures.
These dates can and should be made one day (or more) ahead to ensure proper cooking and, as an added bonus, less stress on the day of! Buy a few pitted dates (e.g., the tender Medjool), stuff them with a good quality goat cheese and wrap with a half of a slice of bacon. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. Place the prepared dates on a baking sheet and freeze until they’re to be cooked. When ready, place the baking sheet of prepared dates in the oven at 400 degrees. Cook the dates for 20 minutes or until the bacon is brown and crispy, flipping each after 10 minutes. The chewy sweetness from the dates combined with the crunch, saltiness and smokiness from the bacon and tang from the goat cheese ensure these bites will be a hit.
Fried truffle mac and cheese bites
Make a homemade mac and cheese using the standby favorites — milk, butter, elbow macaroni, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper — and then throw in a few twists: a more exotic cheese, such as a smoked gouda, Fontina or Gruyère (my pick) and a bit of truffle oil.