More to eat than sweet treats


October 21, 1992|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

It's not fair. Kids have all the Halloween fun -- costumes, candy, compliments and plenty of good scares. Adults just get to pay, sew and chaperon. It's time grown-ups got some of the treats and some of the good times -- how about a Halloween party of their own?

If you keep it simple and make it a cooperative effort, it can be a fun and inexpensive evening. Of course everyone should come in costume. But specify that "costumes" have to come from ordinary household items -- no purchases allowed. And ask everyone to bring a "treat" of a favorite appetizer -- far more savory and fulfilling for grown-ups than candy.

And if you need entertainment, pop "The Addams Family" or "Poltergeist" or some other spooky show into the VCR.

The main thing is just to have fun.

"For Halloween parties, absolutely anything goes," says Jerry Edwards, of Chef's Expressions catering in Timonium. "That's a nice thing about it. Nothing's really tacky on Halloween. You can have skulls on your table."

As for decorations, "you want to bring the season in," Mr. Edwards said. He suggested using a buffet set-up with a black tablecloth ("Easy to rent," he said; or you could simply use a length of black cloth). If you live near a cornfield, you might be able to cut down some dried cornstalks; tie two or three together with black or orange ribbon, or a Halloween-design ribbon from a craft store, and lean them in corners.

When Chef's Expressions decorates for Halloween parties, Mr. Edwards said, "we use shellacked gourds, and we use little baby pumpkin Jack O'Lanterns. For lighting on buffets, you can carve out pumpkins and put candles in them."

He recalled seeing pinatas in the shape of witches' heads, Dracula and Frankenstein in a local mass retail store, which could be filled with candy and knocked down to provide "dessert." Little twig witches' brooms, spotted at a craft store, would make great party favors; roll up silverware in a black or orange napkin and tie it up with orange or black ribbon, and tuck the broom into the ribbon.

Brilliantly colored leaves make nice decorations too, Mr. Edwards said. "Just pull them off and toss them onto the table, entwined around the plates."

The most interesting buffets have foods at different levels, he said. You can put boxes or bricks or trivets under the cloth to elevate some foods. And finally, he suggested using appropriate serving containers. "You have to think, if you were in Transylvania, what would you have to serve something in? You )) wouldn't have a silver platter, you'd have wooden trays and old caldrons."

Dips could be served in a caldron; slip a glass or plastic bowl inside.

Invite enough people to provide eight to 12 appetizer dishes; or, for a smaller party, the host might provide a "Harvest Cornucopia" and punch, while the guests bring three or four appetizers. Be sure to offer a non-alcoholic witches' brew for folks who'll be driving.

Of course, you needn't be a whiz in the kitchen to turn out dazzling appetizers. Chefs at Sutton Place Gourmet in Reisterstown suggest filling a carved-out pumpkin with their seafood salad and placing it in the center of a "field" of endive leaves dabbed with creme fraiche and black and red caviar. Slices of olive bread could be placed in a basket nearby to scoop up the seafood salad.

Variations would be to use sour cream or yogurt instead of creme fraiche and finely chopped black olives and finely chopped carrots instead of caviar.

Sutton Place also has a black bean dip that could be put in a small hollowed-out pumpkin. Serve with another pumpkin filled with salsa and surround both with tortilla chips.

If you'd like to offer a "Harvest Cornucopia," look for a basket or twig horn-of-plenty-shaped container at a flower shop or craft store; otherwise, a nice basket lined with black or orange napkins will work fine. What you put in the cornucopia depends on what you can find in the market; Mr. Edwards' suggestions for readily available and not expensive items include red seedless grapes, Cheddar cheese, goat cheese, Muenster or havarti cheese, figs (in season now) and strawberries. Cut the cheeses into bite-sized pieces and provide toothpicks for guests to spear what they want.

Here are two more of Mr. Edwards' recipes for seasonal treats. Both are elegant, but go a long way because they are so rich.

Caviar pie Serves 20-25

3 eggs, hard-boiled

1/2 cup sour cream

2 scallions, green parts included

3/8 cup sour cream

3/8 cup cream cheese

1 jar black lumpfish caviar

1 jar red lumpfish caviar

Chopped scallions (for garnish, optional)

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