We hosted a cocktail party this past weekend for some good friends who were visiting from out of town. It had the perfect mix of catching up with dear old friends, sitting outside on a fabulous fall night and not too much stress! I love to entertain outside when the weather is glorious. I truly think of my outdoor patio as another room in my house. When I am designing those spaces for myself or for clients I like for them to feel like the inside, with comfy seating (not just the foam boxes on metal frames) bespoke lighting and even curtains and tv’s.
I’m not really sure what I was thinking sandwiching in this grown up party in between two of my children’s birthdays which are 7 days apart…and we do birthdays BIG in our house so there is a lot involved between family parties, kids parties and all the special treats, more on that in another post. So as the reality of my crunching calendar became apparent, I opted for some really, and I mean really, easy cocktail fare and it turned out to be really yummy!
Spotify on, flowers arranged, children quiet (yes quietly playing legos and readying, the party gods were smiling on me) I even got to sit on my back patio to enjoy a cold beer in quiet before the guests arrived!
Here is what I served:

-Not Just a Cheese Board – my favorite cutting board laden with drunken goat cheese, melted brie with strawberry chutney, pistachio shortbreads and fried hominy (this, you have to try, it is addictive!) *see recipe below

-Fried Bread with Hot Lemon Ricotta Spread and Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes in Mustard Vinaigrette *see recipe below

-Pan Fried Corn Cakes with Pinto Bean Puree, Smokey Pulled Pork and Cilantro Vinaigrette *see recipe below


Not exactly what my cocktail parties look at but dreamy! I think I was born in the wrong decade…I would dress like that to run carpool if I could. -thefoodogatemyhomework.com


Fried Hominy – sprinkle with a little sea salt and cumin…you will pop it like popcorn!


Simple and elegant bar set up. -potterybarn.com


I never have tall arrangements on dining tables, you can’t see the person across from you (!) but, they are perfect for the bar! -Veranda.com


I love to have a signature cocktail at my parties — although I am more of a beer girl myself, I think it is a festive touch. Maple Burbon Smash seems perfect for the fall -williamsonoma.com


I might try these at my next cocktail party:


This is definitely happening at my next warm weather affair! -luxecrush.com

So many good ideas…mini cups of fries!!!?? -theberry.com


Fried ravioli is always a big cocktail party hit. These from foodandsome.com look amazing!


Devine looking stuffed mushrooms!! -thegirlwhoateeverything.com



Fried Hominy
2 cans white hominy
1 cup white flour
2 cups cornmeal
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 tsp cumin
-Drain two cans of homey in a colander
-In a separate bowl mix together 1 cup of flour, 2 cups of cornmeal and 3 table spoons of corn starch and a big pinch of salt
-Add the drained hominy to the flour mixture and toss to coat
-Heat up olive oil in a cast iron skillet so it stands about 1”thick
-Once it is good and hot, but not smoking, add in the hominy
Moving it around with a metal spoon so it doesn’t stick, fry for about 4 minutes
Transfer to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and approximately 1 teaspoon of cumin
I like to serve this in either a short mason jar or silver candy bowl depending on your party! This addictive treat will be welcome at a black tie affair or a pig pickn’!

Melted Brie with Strawberry Chutney

4 oz Strawberry Jam
6-8 fresh sage leaves
1 TBS balsamic glaze
Small round of Brie

-Chop sage leaves and mix together with strawberry jam and balsamic glaze
-Put brie in baking dish (I use a mini cast iron skillet), but if you don’t have a baking dish the right size, fashion a holder out of aluminum foil and put it on a baking sheet
-Spread jam mixture over top of cheese and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and gooey

Fried Bread with Hot Lemon Ricotta Spread and Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes in Mustard Vinaigrette

1 loaf ciabatta bread
12 oz ricotta cheese (whole or part skim)
1 cups grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
Zest of one lemon – for ricotta
3 tsp chopped Thyme
Cherry Tomatoes (I prefer the heirloom ones that are multi colored)
1/4-1/2 cut of Basil leaves
1 cup Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 teaspoons honey
Zest of 1 lemon – for dressing

For the bread
-Cut ciabatta bread to about 1” thick
-Heat olive oil, about 1/4” in skillet and add bread, cut side down, once it starts to warm up
-Cook bread until it gets golden brown, about 45 seconds, and flip. Once flipped sprinkle a dash of salt to get absorbed by that glistening oil

For the ricotta
-Mix ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, lemon zest and thyme together with a dash of salt and put in a small baking dish that you can serve from (I have a very small cast iron skillet that I love for this)
-Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes

For the tomatoes
-Slice cherry tomatoes lengthwise and put them in a bowl
-Chop basil and add to tomatoes
-In a mason jar, or something you can shake to get a good mix, add olive oil, dijon mustard, lemon zest, honey and salt. Give a few good shakes
-Mix three or four heaping spoonfuls of dressing over tomato and basil mixture – go ahead and add the dressing even if you are making ahead, it will allow the flavors marry.

To serve, place bread, warm ricotta baking dish and bowl of tomatoes on a platter or cutting board for guests to assemble their own.

Pan Fried Corn Cakes with Pinto Bean Puree, Smokey Pulled Pork and Cilantro Vinaigrette

1 cup unbleached white flour
2 cups corn meal
1 can creamed corn
1/2 can of seltzer water
1 Tbs sugar
2 heaping tsp salt

2 bunch cilantro
3/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 heaping tsp salt
Zest of 2 limes

1 small onion, sliced
2 8 oz cans pinto beans
1 can beer (I prefer a pale ale like Sierra Nevada)
4 strips bacon

Pulled pork from the best bbq outlet around — if you are in the Chapel Hill area, I use Nana Taco, I know its not authentic NC BBQ but it is perfection for this dish.

For the corn cakes: Mix together all ingredients in a bowl, should be thick, not runny. If you need to thicken, add cornmeal a tablespoon at a time. Heat 1” of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Once oil is hot enough so batter will sizzle but the oil is not smoking, use an ice cream scooper to scoop batter into oil. Once in the oil pat it down a bit so the cake is a little flat. Fry 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from oil and put on cooling rack or paper towels.

For Cilantro dressing: Soak cilantro in a bowl of water for about 5 minutes to get all the grit off the leaves, not much worse that a salad dressing with dirt in it:) In a blender add cilantro, leaving 6-7 sprigs aside to chop for garish, along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend till smooth.

For the Beans: Im not going to lie, in a pinch I have used the bean from Chipotle for this…I do think homemade are better though if you have the time! Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add sliced onions and salt, cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add beer and cook until liquid reduces to half, about another 4-5 minutes. Finely chopped cooked bacon and add to the beans. With an immersion blender blend beans till they are still chunky, not smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, mash beans with a fork or potato masher.

For assembly: Spread heaping spoonful of pureed beans on corn cake, top with yummy pulled pork (heat the pork up in the microwave to get its juices flowing again), garnish with chopped cilantro.

I put these little towers of porky yumminess on a cutting board with a bowl of the cilantro dressing for guests to drizzle as they desire.