Monday, October 27, 2008

Spook Fest - Halloween Party (for adults)

HALLOWEEN! Oh, Halloween. My favorite holiday. -sad sigh- Here in Australia, they don’t do much in the way of Halloween celebrations, and I feel very lucky that my friend Jackie lives in one of the few neighborhoods in Adelaide that scares the crap out of the trick-or-treaters and feeds them enough candy to fulfill their energy requirements until Easter.

It didn’t really make sense to have a Halloween party this year. I have four friends in Adelaide. One moved back to Chicago. One moved back to Peru. The other is in Melbourne. The other is Jackie. Even if they were all here I don’t think a party for five people would justify the weeks of decorating, menu planning, and cooking that have gone into my Halloween spook fests of years past. So, I thought I would celebrate Halloween vicariously – through myself! – by sharing the menu and decorations from my 2007 fright night party with you. Hopefully it will give you some terrrrrrrrrifying ideas.

I start decorating for a Halloween party weeks in advance. The arts and crafts are half the fun! Fake spider webs, plastic spiders on tables, and lots of candles are definitely necessary. But stretch it further and be creative. Martha Stewart is THE authority in my opinion on Halloween decorations and food ideas, so check out her website for some ideas. Last year I downloaded templates of mice silhouettes from her site that I traced onto black poster board, cut out, and taped along the baseboard of my apartment. You can find the silhouettes here. One even made it into the kitchen and was about to raid my fridge! I also looked for other types of silhouettes online and found a scary photo of a hangman and drew it onto a large sheet of black posterboard.
I kind of went crazy with the silhouettes. Poster board is cheap but you have to be willing to spend hours cutting mice… and hangmen… and bats (which I hung from the ceiling with fishing wire)… and haunted houses…
Vases of dead flowers decorated the living room and I found really creepy black and white photos online that I printed and slotted into my picture frames to replace the photos that are usually there. You can do a google search for antique photos, which can look really creepy, or photos of “ghosts,” or even paintings like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”

I rented some old black and white horror movies and played them on the TV (without the sound) throughout the night.
The bathroom is the most fun to decorate! I hid speakers on a shelf and played creepy sounds. I duct taped the light switch in the “off” position and lit the room with only one candle. I sprayed fake blood in the bathtub and placed a “bloody” knife on the floor. I scrawled “Help Me” on the mirror with red lipstick. And I didn’t take a photo – I musta been too scared!

If you’ve been reading my blog or know me at all, you’ll know that my favorite part of any party is planning a menu, cooking the food, and eating it. So my menu was insane last year! Here’s what it consisted of:

Witches’ fingers
Yummy Mummy
Spiders' Nest
Evil Dead Vegetable and Fruit Platter
(spirit pairing: bloody black currant punch)

Impaled Vampire Chicken with Blood Braise and Roasted Entrails
Dead pasta
Mashed Boo-tatoes
(spirit pairings: murky merlot and touch of brimstone)

Shrunken Heads

Creepy Cookies by Betsy
The Witches’ Fingers are cheddar crackers shaped liked fingers, with almond slivers dipped in red food coloring for the fingernails. There’s a recipe for them here (not the recipe I used so don’t put a spell on me if it’s bad). The Yummy Mummy is basically a ton of soft cheeses mixed together, shaped like a mummy, wrapped in strips of phyllo, and baked. The Food Network has a recipe here but again, I only took inspiration from this recipe but modified it to my liking so don’t be mad at me if RR lets you down!

To make a Spider’s Nest, wrap a round of brie with puff pastry and draw a spider web on the top with a sharp paring knife before baking, then place plastic spiders on top of and around the nest before serving.

My Evil Dead platter consisted of ONLY black and orange foods – orange slices, orange pepper strips, baby carrots, slices of orange cheddar cheese, Doritos, black concord grapes and black licorice.

The star of the main course was a pair of impaled roast chickens. Again, I took the idea from Emeril and modified it – his recipe is here. I coiled sausages around the base of the impaled chickens to resemble entrails and separately roasted beets and fortified their juices with red wine to make a sauce for the Mashed Boo-tatoes. The effect is all in the delivery – I screamed and stabbed the chicken repeatedly as I brought it to the table.
On the side was squid-ink pasta in an orange-bell pepper sauce (again, black and orange).

And finally I made Shrunken Heads by coring apples, stuffing them with dried fruits, oatmeal, graham crackers, OJ and spices, and carving faces into the skin, then baking them until the faces shriveled and withered and looked plain ole SPOOKY. And my friend Betsy (aka Dorothy from Oz) brought Creepy (sugar) Cookies that we decorated with fun icings and sugar shapes.

Drinks on offer were red wine, and black and orange juices used for cocktail mixers (we had black currant, black cherry, orange and apricot juices). Sparkling apple juice was used to lighten the drinks.

My brother-in-law has alerted me to some extremely creepy recipes that would fit well into this menu and that I plan to make in future years. Blood clot and brain cupcakes are awesomely nasty. And the Rice Krispies sushi found here looks like it's wrapped in a human tongue.

We also had a number of activities and games – I don’t care how old you are, everyone loves games! The night started before guests arrived. I emailed them a disclaimer that they had to sign and bring with them in order to gain admission to my spook fest. The waiver started out like this…

Please read this form carefully and be aware that by attending the Sánchez/ Potter Spook Fest 2007, you will be waiving your rights and/or the rights of your date/ companion to all claims for injuries you or your date/companion might sustain arising out of the evening and you will be required to indemnify, hold harmless and defend the Sánchez/ Potter residence for any claims arising out of participation in said Spook Fest.

… and went on for a full page before asking guests to sign in blood and produce upon arrival at the Spook Fest.

Everyone loves a gift, so I provided mini bottles of liquor in mini pumpkin baskets for guests to take home.
When guests arrived, I immediately pinned a note card on each of their backs with the name of a super creepy person (real or fake). Guests then had to ask each other questions in order to find out who was on their card. These can be easy (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.) or more difficult, or even themed (authors of scary books, directors of scary movies, etc.).

We also played Witch-ionary and told scary tales.

Oh!!!!!! I wish I could invite George Washington, a penguin, Dorothy and Toto, a Red Sox player, and a lounge singer over for a party on Friday. I miss Halloween. I hope this inspired you to have your own spook fest on Friday!Muuuaaaahhhhhhhh haaa hhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Friday, October 24, 2008

Promos, Podcasts, and Packing on the Pounds

I know, I know, it’s been awhile. But I have excuses – I promise! Last week I completed my final week of classes and am now moving into the dissertation phase of my MA Gastronomy degree. More on that later but just so you know, much of my research will consist of eating large quantities of succulent meat in Argentine restaurants in Australia and Europe. What a pain, I know, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Apart from finishing classes, I’m excited to announce my media debuts!

I was chosen to represent Le Cordon Bleu as the face of the MA Gastronomy program here in South Australia for a short promo video that is set to air in certain parts of Asia. I’d never been involved in a taping of any sort, so it was a lot of fun. I got to hang out at the Adelaide Central Market and chat about what I enjoy about living in South Australia. I talked too fast. I was a bit incoherent. I sounded kinda dumb. But it was all good fun.

Tom the producer asked me a series of questions at the market.

And he had to approach me and tell me to stop being such a diva a number of times. I was letting the fame get to my head and needed to be put in my place.

For the most part it went swimmingly…

And I especially enjoyed the bits where they asked me to “pretend” to look at the cheeses and smell the veggies.

Awkward! But fun.

This week was the red carpet premiere of the film, which was shown alongside a series of other promo films organized by AusTrade. Phil and I got fancy for the occasion and took advantage of the open bar before the showing.

I therefore giggled a little louder than was acceptable when I was up on the big screen! My 43 seconds of fame! I might be recognized on the street in certain parts of Asia!

Well the final point is that it was a lot of fun and a lot of embarrassment to see myself on the big screen. And my greatest wish at this moment is that the technology in Australia would vastly improve in the next five minutes so that I could post the final video on YouTube and we could all have a laugh together (at my expense). But, alas, that will not happen in the foreseeable future and so you, my friend, must wait until I return to the States in the spring in order for me to post the video and share on viCARIous.

However, a project of mine that you CAN participate in is my friend Leena Trivedi-Grenier’s podcast, Chicken ‘n Waffles. Leena completed the MA Gastronomy this year and we became good friends during my first and her last few months here in Adelaide. You might remember her from my posting on our awesome trip to McLaren Vale. But sadly our relationship, which had its foundation in weaknesses for bacon, dumplings, brownies, America, forays to wine country, other miscellaneous travel, and chicken pate with damper (all the items on my checklist before I decide if I’m gonna be friends with someone) was cut short when she moved back to Chicago earlier this year. You can imagine my excitement when she asked me about a month ago if I would be a regular guest host on her new podcast, Chicken ‘n Waffles! I quickly said, “Of course!” then promptly went to Wiki and looked up what the heck a podcast was. You see, I thought these sorts of things – blogs, podcasts, Facebook, iPods – were for the kids but I let me just tell you that I am a certified Facebook junkie and am now a happy participant in the blogosphere AND the podcast-o-sphere!

So if you don’t know what a podcast is, Wiki it, or just visit Chicken ‘n Waffles at and listen to Leena and me chat about the delights of a quadruple meat-stacked cheeseburger and its perceived contribution to the rising obesity of the Australian public, a musical fridge and what it means for our dwindling time spent in the kitchen, and the newish buzzword flexitarianism and whether it makes sense. Or not.

In regards to the Quad Burger from Burger King that Leena and I speak about on Chicken ‘n Waffles. I had every intention of eating one of these bad boys for the sake of gastronomic enrichment. I walked into BK (or, Hungry Jacks as it’s known here in Adelaide) with determination but, after pondering the six dollar price tag and inevitable nastiness of the sandwich, I just couldn’t do it. You see, I’m a poor college student on a budget and all I could think about were the six bags of veggies I could get in the market and the six healthy meals that could be made for the same price as one nasty burger that I surely would not be able to finish. For those of you who haven’t listened to the segment, the Quad Burger has over 1,000 calories and almost 70 grams of fat, and is of course an American invention that has been exported to Down Under. On some level I was expecting a tidy four-patty burger like the ones in the commercials advertising the Quad Burger:

But after visiting Hungry Jacks and looking at the paper-wrapped grease balls the patrons were eating, it dawned on me that what I would really be getting for my 6 bucks was:

Nine News helpfully dissected one of these monsters. WARNING: do NOT scroll down if you haven’t had your dinner yet.


Not that I’m against burgers AT ALL. I was recently caught red-handed in a conspicuous act of bacon and egg-topped cheeseburger consumption at the Greedy Goose Burger Bar in seaside Glenelg:

Accompanied by an oversized basket of fries (meant to be shared by all at the table but downed by just one, yours truly).

And I also put together some proper American monster burgers topped with bacon for a BBQ at my buddy Jackie’s home last weekend. Everyone ate them without a bun, with knife and fork. ??! EEEeeeerrrrrrr, wrong, sorry Aussie and Indian friends, carbs are essential to the burger-eating experience.

So there’s your proof.

For our next podcast which will be aired on November 3 I am undergoing an interesting eating experiment that I can only reveal is WAY healthier! I plan to co-host the show about once a month but Leena has a whole slew of other super interesting guest hosts lined up from all over the USA and the world who will also make sure-to-be-amazing contributions. Make sure you check it out!