Party Basics, Style Recipes and
Favorite Sources for Special Occasions

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July 15, 2008: Maria Reviews the Fancy Food Show

June 24, 2008: Outdoor Celebrating

June 13, 2008: Maria Reviews the NY Stationery Show

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Bar Tastes

Dress up champagne cocktails with an edible wild Australian hibiscus (WildHibiscus.com) sold in bottles with simple syrup that is naturally flavored and colored by the blooms imparting a raspberry rhubarb essence to each sip.

Dress up your table or bar with a couturier's flourish, Christian Lacroix inspired by one of his luxe gowns, designed a limited edition of fashionable glass Evian (ShopEvian.com) bottles. 750ml bottles are sold individually for just under $10 dollars or by the case. Afterwards why not reuse the lace print bottles for simple vases?

Black tie events will pour the chicest gin and tonics with delicious Q tonic (QTonic.com) made from Peruvian quinine sweetened with organic agave nectar, lemon and water makes a naturally calorie-light, delicious alternative to corn syrup flavored tonics on the market. Bottled in recycled Mexican glass.

From Quebec comes a delicious addition to the bar, Neige, an apple ice wine (AppleIceWine.com), that is made from cryoconcentration (a winter pressing of fall harvested apples, the juice is then frozen to extract water and then fermented) and its sister wine Frimas, that is made from a cryoextraction process that presses frozen apples harvested at below freezing temperatures before fermenting. Serve cold or with a splash of champagne for a sparkling toast for learning two new polysyllabic words!

One Great Bag

To carry all with style contact Mixed Bag Designs (MixedBagDesigns.com) chic and sensible reusable, recyclable plastic totes can lug up to 50 pounds of stuff and will make chic goodie bags for any event.

Maria Reviews the Fancy Food Show

It took me a couple of weeks to digest the annual Fancy Food Show, held over a long weekend recently in New York City with about 2400 vendors representing 79 countries and every state. There were over 180,000 individual products to review, best sellers and about 10,000 new products competed for attention in a tasting orgy. From organic caviar (CaviarStar.com) to tea-infused chocolates (CharlesChocolates.com), to alternative mixers (TwelveBeverage.com) flowering teas (TzuniTea.com) and foods flavored with agave nectars (Wholemato.com) or sustainable products like 100% recycled aluminum foil (IfYouCare.com) this was the place to source new tastes, packaging and display products for caterers, restaurants, stores and event planners. Ideas were every where including 100 pounds of hummus sculpted into the busts of Obama and McCain! The close of the show found 300 volunteers collecting over 100,000 pounds of leftover food to donate to City Harvest (CityHarvest.org) for distribution to needy kitchens, good taste for a very good cause.

Bite-sized News

Anticipating the savory sensation, Yohay Baking Company (Yohay.com) introduced miniature two-bite wafer cones in four different flavors including garlic. Perfect for filling with lobster salad, scrambled eggs and caviar , tuna tartare or chicken salad. To make serving events easy, they also sell acrylic trays with 15 round holes sized to fit the mini cones.

Using all natural ingredients, a pair of L.A. based chefs make hand-crafted hors d'oeuvres frozen in oven-safe trays, making it possible for fuss free catering. The Percfect Bite (ThePerfectBiteCo.com) sells comfort finger foods from pastry kisses to samosas, Asian buns , mini burgers and Frenched chicken wings which exposes the end of the bone of the meaty segment to make clever chicken lollipops . Shipments are sent over night, a boon for last minute events, there is a $200 minimum order.

One stop shopping for foodies who want to serve bite-sized flavors in tasty pastries. Hafner (Hafner.com) distributes over 70 varieties of ready-to-be filled shapes and doughs from tart shells, puff pastry and cream puffs to sheets of sponge cake for desserts.

Alba (Tradcoltd.com), the distributor of professional mixes and ingredients also sells clever miniature serving vessles for all sorts of hors d'oeurve presentations. Plastic disposables are recyclable and come in conical flutes with long spoons, shot glasses, mini squares, super-petite spoons. Belix (Belix.us) manufactures the complete collection plus a wide array of mini bamboo plates and wood veneer cones. Every caterer should have these sites bookmarked.

Super Sweet Treats

Le Rasin (MademoiselleDeMargaux.fr), is a decadent sweet from the Margaux district in the heart of Medoc, vine-ripened grapes are preserved in rum before being dipped in dark chocolate . Ooh la la.

An ode to Joe.You'll find it hard to cut down on coffee with Choc-o-lait (Choc-o-Lait.co.uk), when you swirl this dark square of chocolate on a stick in a cup of freshly brewed coffee & steamed milk.

A company that can easily be renamed Lollipops 'R Us (MelvilleCandyCompany.com) the Melville Candy Company sells 100s of shapes: seasonal red Valentine hearts, spring flowers and fall leaves to novelties like palm trees, light houses, gold fish, red lobsters, all great for kids parties, wedding favors or to send out as whimsical reminders to save-the-date. Now comes a new twist, mini lolly cocktail swizzle sticks. Green apple slices, citrus wedges and cherries will make a stir on the bar circuit.

The culinary fascination with fusion confusion has led to blending of many unlikely flavors into unexpectedly delicious combinations---and some ghastly mistakes. Turns out blending real ice cream or sorbet with real wine is a successful paring. Two great products to consider are (MercersDairy.com) and (WineCellarSorbet.com). Swizzle with your favorite liqueur for a happy ending.

Edible sugar flower (SweetFields.com) are harvested on a family farm in southern California. Edible pansies and miniature roses are glazed with sugar, a natural preservative, to become virtually non-perishable. The Sweet Dust variety are blooms that have been crystallized with sugar, semi-glazed (making it water tolerant and perfect to float in cocktails) then dusted with edible gold or silver powder to also make a sparkling finish to any confection or cocktail.