Archive for September, 2010

Centerpiece Flower Arrangements That are Inexpensive

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Centerpiece flower arrangements don’t necessarily have to be expensive to add decor or some whimsy to your event.  Here are some party tips to make inexpensive flower arrangements.

  1. Use flowers that are in season for your centerpiece flower arrangements.
  2. Combine fun items such as feathers, beads and ribbons to create inexpensive flower arrangements.
  3. Other decor party tips include using candles of different heights, colors, shapes and widths.

You can use the same centerpiece flower arrangements for different events.  Take the above pictured flower design for example.  Just by simply using red roses and feathers for inexpensive flower arrangements for a cocktail party can also be used for a Mardi Gras event or a Valentine’s Day party as well.

For other cost-save party tips, check out Budget Bash.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Breakfast Muffins as a Party Favor Idea

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I was recently at Gramercy Tavern restaurant and at the end of the dinner, they gave each one of us guest favors which were breakfast muffins.  I thought that this is such a great party favor idea you can do for your next event.

Muffins are easy to make, you can wrap them individually and your guests will love this party favor idea in that they won’t have to worry about next morning’s breakfast.  In fact for these guest favors, you can add a piece of fruit to the mix as well.

In Budget Bash, I discuss and provide references for other guest favors.  One party favor idea which I love to do and you can personalize to your party theme is an individual cookie.   For a Hot Havana Nights themed party, we provided the guests with cookies shaped liked palm trees and placed brown sugar (which was the sand)  in the bag as well.

Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Cooking Lasagna with NCIS LA Star Peter Cambor

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Ever since I met the NCIS LA star Peter Cambor, he has been talking about how great his duck lasagna is.  Finally, after hearing about it for a year, I told him I couldn’t stand the talk anymore.  The only way for me to verify if this duck lasagna was worth the talk was if he was cooking lasagna for myself and my fiancee.  Well, all I can say is, the duck lasagna was worth the wait.

Making lasagna, more specifically duck lasagna, is not easy.  It’s a nine-hour process and that is if you are an expert duck lasagna chef as Peter Cambor is.  For our special dinner, the NCIS LA star worked two days cooking lasagna.  And the crazy thing is, after all the work you still throw out the duck!

First and foremost, the lasagna noodles that Peter made by hand were incredible.  When thinking about cooking lasagna, duck lasagna is probably one of the hardest lasagnas to make.  Not only did he make the lightest, tastiest noodles I have ever eaten but also in the process of making lasagna it took Peter a full day just to cook down the duck.   The essence of the duck is what the recipe calls for including a few other ingredients such as onions, carrots and cheese.

Not being a fan of lasagna, and of course would never even give a thought to making lasagna, all I can say is my initial portion size was more than six ounces and then I ate a second and third serving.  Of course, I am on a diet so I had to stop after my third helping but to be honest, I just couldn’t get enough!

Besides cooking lasagna, the NCIS LA star served two great bottles of red wine and wonderful cheeses as an appetizer, including a truffle cheese that I also couldn’t get enough of.   Caesar salad was courtesy of me (the recipe can be found on page 90 in Budget Bash) and dessert, well let’s just say it was Whole Foods who was the hired pastry chef.

As I mention in my book, Budget Bash – Simply Fabulous Events on a Budget, you don’t always have to make everything from scratch, and sometimes it is best to know when to supplement your dinner party with store-bought food items.  Of course, our meal was casual and I brought them over in the box, but if you make a beautiful presentation, most times guests will be so impressed that you just don’t have to fess up where everything comes from.

Another fun and unexpected part of the dinner party hosted by Peter Cambor was the hors d’ouevres that were served outside in the garden around an open fire.  What a lovely way to start an evening and catch up with what is going on in everyone’s life.  In fact, if you have an outdoor fire pit, then a great party theme you can use can be, From the Garden to the Table.  You can work this dinner two ways, either grill everything (fire) or serve a vegetarian meal (garden).

The new season of NCIS LA starts Tuesday, September 21st with a two-hour episode (although I don’t think cooking lasagna, more specifically, duck lasagna will be featured).  However, I hope you picked up on a few ideas and if you ever get the desire to cook duck lasagna, just be sure like the actor Peter Cambor you commit fully with the nine-hour process! Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Desserts at Two New York City Restaurants

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Last weekend we were in New York City and dined at two New City restaurants, Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe.  The desserts were outstanding at both restaurants and I thought I would quickly share them with you.

The one thing I like about New York City restaurants is their creativity with food.  Mixing flavors and textures and thinking outside the box in terms of different food items.  There were four of us at Gramercy Tavern so of course we had to have four different desserts.  In addition, after dessert and coffee they brought out a plate of petit fours.

I ate the Chocolate Almond Tart with Coffee Ice Cream and Toffee Mousse.  Loved the textures and the rich flavors.  The presentation was beautiful as well.  Gramercy Tavern is known for their desserts and this one did not disappoint me at all.

Other desserts that were enjoyed at the table of one of the most famous New York City restaurants were the trio of ice creams and sorbets and pictured below, the Peanut Butter Semifreddo with a Chocolate Macaroon.

The fourth dessert served was the Plum Cheesecake with the Butter Pecan Cookie. 

The petit fours were outstanding at Gramercy Tavern.  There were mini-chocolate tarts and vanilla macaroons as well as these delicious mouth-watering chocolate nut truffles.  Of course, I was completely full but I just couldn’t leave them on the plate to go to waste.  Too bad I am trying to diet or I would have asked for a doggie bag.

On Sunday night we dined at Union Square Cafe for dinner which is another one of the many New York City restaurants that has been around for years.  Again the desserts were fabulous and each one of us had something different.  I ordered the USC’s Banana Tart, Macadamia Brittle and Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream.

and my fiancee ordered the Roasted Peach Shortcake with Mascarpone Mousse.

Our guest Todd ordered the Flourless Lemon Cake with Greenmarket Berries and Maoscato d’Asti Zabaglione.  It was so delicious that he had to ask the waiter to ensure it was flourless!

Of course, none of us left anything on our plates either night.  What I enjoyed about the desserts from these two New York City restaurants were that they were creations of art in terms of presentation, style and texture.  In fact, they could have been meals themselves.

I hope you enjoyed the dessert pictures  and hopefully, if you are in New York, will consider stopping by either restaurant for if at least anything, dessert and coffee.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Making Challah for the Jewish New Year

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I decided to make challah for the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and thought I would share the process.  What I couldn’t believe was how easy it is to make this egg bread and that you shouldn’t be intimidated when considering making bread from scratch.

I divided up the process by going to the market yesterday for the ingredients.  To make challah for the Jewish New Year, you need the following ingredients:

  1. Flour
  2. Yeast
  3. Water
  4. Sugar
  5. Salt
  6. Eggs
  7. Vegetable Oil

Here is the recipe for egg bread.  I got this from Marlene Sorosky’s Fast & Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays.

  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 4/ cup vegetable oil
  • Poppy or sesame seeds, for topping

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and warm water and set aside for 5 minutes or until foamy.

Mix in a bowl the flour, salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until frothy and add to the flour mixture plus the yeast mixture, boiling and cold water and oil and mix for about 5 minutes either by hand or with a mixer and dough hook.  I mixed the dough until there were no lumps.

I then kneaded the dough by hand on a marble pastry board for about 15 minutes using plenty of flour to prevent sticking and to make the dough very elastic.

Then oil a large glass bowl and place the dough in the bowl and be sure to coat the dough with the oil.  Place a damp cloth over the dough and allow to rise at room temperature or in a warm heated place (90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 90 minutes.  (I warmed my oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then turned it off and placed the dough inside the oven.)

Allow the dough to double and then take out and divide into three equal portions and braid.  Or just make a loaf and create a circle to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Let the finished dough loaf sit out at room temperature for another 45 minutes and brush on an egg wash and sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds if desired.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

One of the points I like to emphasize in Budget Bash is to make it simple and not stress out about preparing for a party.  I made the challah the day before the Jewish New Year and will serve it at dinner on Rosh Hashanah day.  (To compliment your table setting, look at pages 65 to 67 in Budget Bash for easy yet impressive napkin folds).

I hope you found this recipe for egg bread (challah) easy and fun to make for the Jewish New Year.  I know I did.  Happy Rosh Hashanah and until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Catering and Events and Working on the Set of NCIS LA

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I thought I would steer away a bit from the usual articles and discuss my experience as a party event planner working on the set of NCIS LA.  Believe it or not, but many of the concepts of catering and events apply to the TV production world as well.

NCIS LA is in their second season and already they are back in production.  Like catering and events there are strict call times, various locations and of course lots of great food.  The closest counterpart to a party event planner on the set is the 1st AD.  The 1st AD is the person who keeps the production on schedule while filming, sets the itinerary and tells the crew what shot to set up next.  It is important for budget reasons that they continually keep a strict timetable so that little if any overtime (and hence increase of costs) occur.

Similar to other special events, the catering on the set of NCIS LA is great and we are well fed all day.  As with other catering and events I have been involved with, the food served on the set caters to all tastes.   There is a great breakfast buffet that encompasses all diets, vegetarian, gluten-free and then a mid-morning meal as well.   Breakfasts are hot with various egg dishes, pancakes, oatmeal, fresh fruit, cereal, pastries, breakfast potatoes, etc. and then the afternoon meal maybe Thai, Mexican or Continental.  Of course, there is a candy station (deadly), fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts, chips, the list is endless.  All I can say is, there is food available all day and I must say, to stay away from all the delicious temptations is a real discipline.

Being a party event planner on a major Hollywood sound stage is also a lot of fun.  For once, I am not the one organizing!  I get to relax a bit in that arena but it is still work.  The average work day is 13 hours with an hour taken out for lunch.  At the lunch break, I usually go to the commissary for more food and recently saw Jane Lynch (the cheerleading coach from Glee). 

My job on the set is to play background or as some may say an extra.  I have been a member of SAG for 17 years so at least I am putting my membership to work.  Basically, we walk behind the main actors in the scene to make the office appear as a real working environment.  In fact, I am in a couple of scenes and hope to make the final cut!  You’ll just have to tune in when the season starts to find out. 

Well, as they say in Hollywood, that’s a wrap.  I hope you enjoyed getting a party event planner perspective on the set of NCIS LA.  Like catering and events, the days are long but it is a fun group of people to work with and you don’t leave hungry!  Until next time remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!