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Patriotic Soup

If there's one thing I love to do, it's match the food to the occasion. While you could certainly make a berry flag cake for Memorial Day, that's a bit literal for my taste. A more subtle way to inject some holiday color into your menu would be pureeing the berries and serving them as a cold soup.

Blueberry Soup is a unique crowd pleaser...here's an easy recipe. It's great as a sweet appetizer, a palette cleanser, or dessert. If you want to play with color a bit more, garnish with sliced strawberries.


Blackhawks Viewing Party


Today's post features a real Second City Soiree...a Blackhawks viewing party!  Cheer the Hawks through the Western Conference Finals and onto the Stanley Cup!



Serve classic Chicago bar food. Deep dish, Vienna dogs, wings, and such are all a perfect match. If you want to get into the spirit of things, try the nachos shown above. I used red and blue chips, as the blue is dark enough to pass for black. In the middle is a cream cheese spread topped with bell pepper slices arranged in the shape of the Hawks' tomahawk logo. You could also use jalapenos or tomatoes.



Drink local! Offer Chicago microbrews like Metropolitain or Two Brothers.

As far as I'm concerned, it's not a party without a signature cocktail. I searched for one that uses dark and red liqueurs and...huh. Couldn't find one. Maybe I didn't look hard enough, but rather than doing more research, I made one up. My husband says it should be called "The UC" as in Ultimate Cocktail (or United Center, home of the Hawks).

1 pt Kahlua, 1 pt Godiva Liqueur, 1/2 pt Creme de Cacao. Shake and pour. Add a splash of maraschino cherry juice and garnish with a cherry.  Mmm...sweet like a Blackhawks victory!



My friend Kevin suggested a five minute penalty for anyone who spills their drink, but I think a few teeth might get knocked out trying to enforce it (which would then make the party more authentic, so maybe it IS a good idea). He then went on to suggest a contest to see who could eat wings while wearing hockey gloves.  Oh, Kevin!

Luckily our friend Heather had a less violent/messy suggestion: "Pin the Beard on the Blackhawk", which gives a nod to the Hawks' Beard-a-Thon.  Print out these files to recreate the bearded Chief you see above:

Chief Blackhawk.  I recommended printing it out on heavy paper.

The beard. Put a little bit of poster putty on the back to stick to the Chief.

Other things to do:

Quiz each other with some Blackhawks Trivia

Start a quote board for the announcers ("He shoots...he SCORES!")

Decorate your space with Hawks Memorabilia!


Let's hear some more ideas.  What are you planning for your viewing parties?



Ice cream cone cake

From Epicurious.com comes this cute cake.  Wouldn't it make a great birthday cake?  I think it would look great with colored frosting, coordinated to match the party's theme.

If you decide to make it, be sure to read the reviews on Epicurious...there seem to be some differing opinions on the recipe's buttercream frosting.



Italian Strawberry Vodka Shake

You know how some people have a green thumb? Well, I have a black thumb. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's killing plants, which is why this year's experiment with a veggie container garden is a big risk. Will they thrive, or will their little leaves shrivel in the heat and wind of my rooftop?

So far, things are going well. Yesterday while I was watering (I remembered to water - that's half the battle!) I noticed that I finally had ONE strawberry. It was small but brilliantly red...not like those pale, bloated strawberries at the store. It looked perfect, with not a single blemish or mushy spot. I popped it in my mouth. WOW. I am strawberry - hear me roar. How can so much taste be in such a small package? If this keeps up, it's going to be a strawberry summer.

Speaking of strawberries and summer, check out what I found on Foodgawker. It's from a blog called Rossi di Serra which I'm sure is an interesting read, but since it's in Italian, the best I can do is run it through Google's translator.

Wouldn't this make a delicious passed dessert appetizer?

Strawberry Vodka Shake (original here)
Makes 6-8 servings

1oz vodka (maybe even chocolate vodka?)
2/3 c strawberry ice cream
6-8 small strawberries to decorate

Blend the vodka and ice cream with a handheld blender.  Pour into small glasses, decorate with strawberries, and serve immediately.


Reader Mailbag: How to get guests to mingle

It seems that whenever I write a "Basics of Entertaining" post, some really great questions pop up in the comments.  Thanks!  I love questions!  The only bad thing is that they often get missed by everyone and chances are if one person has asked this question, then someone else has, too.  I've decided to start featuring some of my faves.

Daniella asks:
What is the best way to mingle different groups at a party?

The answer:
As the host, you are the social glue that brings everyone together and as such, it's your responsibility to introduce people with similar interests and tastes.  If your space is not too big and your music is not too loud, it's easy to get people to talk and mingle.  It's your job to know a little something about all your guests (that includes guests-of-guests...spend a few minutes talking to them), and then play matchmaker.  If your college friend Kathy just got back from Japan and you know that your coworker Steve will be going next month, introduce them!  Are Mike and John both in IT consulting?  Hook them up!  Are Pat and Chris both single and like to camp?  You know what to do....

Now, there is protocol on how to properly introduce people, but when you're in a casual situation, generally it's enough to say "Kathy, this is Steve" at which point they'll shake and introduce themselves and then you say "Kathy just got back from three weeks in Japan".  Hopefully Steve will say "Oh, I'm going over there next month!" and they'll take it from there.  You can hang out for another minute, and then excuse yourself.  Soon Kathy and Steve's friends will join their conversation and before you know it, your coworkers and your college friends are chatting.  Possibly even about you.

The above advice works for people of normal social extroversion.  If someone is painfully shy, you might have to stick around for a few minutes and facilitate conversation.  Once they're doing more talking than you, excuse yourself.  It's important for the host to keep circulating and not stick with one group for too long.


Got an entertaining or party-planning question?  Let's hear it!  You can leave it in the comments below or email me.

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