Saturday, April 19, 2014

It Ain't A Party

If you go to a party, you expect certain things. You expect there to be drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. You expect music, usually of the recorded variety, but occasionally a live performer. You expect other people, some you might know, others you're meeting for the first time. And best of all (at least for me) you expect something to eat.

Maybe it's because you don't have to do anything other than pick it up and put it in your mouth, party food always tastes good. Unless it's your party and you get bogged down in the preparation (and even then you can ask others to bring stuff), it's as much a reason to go as the people or the occasion. Strike that; it is THE reason to attend. Doesn't matter if it's a bowl of nuts or a piece of sushi, a mini cupcake or a piece of chicken on a toothpick. All that is required is the ability to juggle a napkin, a small plate and a half filled glass, while simultaneously stuffing something in your mouth. It's a true walk-and-chew mini-quiche at the same time moment.

As to the food itself, it almost doesn't matter. At one I went to recently there was everything from apple turnovers to pizza to some kind of individual-serving-in-a-plastic-cup of a broccoli salad in a vinaigrette, surprisingly tasty in spite of its presentation. Another more high-end gathering included a full raw bar, artisanal breads and dips, and sliced-to-order fillet of beef. Still another included these little chicken things, as well as some kind of round, breaded, fried... well, actually, I'm not sure what was inside, but it was mighty tasty. The bottom line is that I didn't starve at any of them.

For while I may have to force myself out of my comfort zone so as not stand in one place and instead, circulate to chat and meet people, I have no similar reticence with the victuals. I start at one end of the room, and plot a circuitous course to the other. Along the way I take a bite or two of everything and anything. And if the food is being passed, I use what little trigonometry I remember to calculate the intersection point between myself and the moving wait staff, the better to snag the stuff hot out of oven. Hockey great Wayne Gretsky famously said he didn't skate to where the puck was, but to where it would be. I do the same, just with mini-eggrolls.

That being said, while you might fault me for not being discriminating in my consumption, I do have favorites. I love cheeses, and would happily spend the entire party trying one after the other from those big mirrored platters accented with grapes and dried apricots. A good iced seafood spread is hard to tear yourself away from, whether it includes sushi, shrimp, clams or oysters. And if there's an assortment of desserts, rest assured that I will try every one, even if it means I take just one bite of Key Lime pie, then put it discretely on a waiter's passing tray, only to repeat the same with a serving of the apple spice cake.  

But there is one thing that turns my knees to utter jelly when it makes an appearance. Yes, I enjoy spinach balls, have learned to like pâté and can appreciate a sprinkling of caviar as a garnish.  But if I see them put out a plate of pigs-in-blankets, well, you better clear a path.

I know that individually it's not much. Just a little hot dog, an object of dubious pedigree at best. A piece of dough, puff pastry if you're lucky, but the biscuit variety in a pinch. And spicy mustard, sometimes designer with seeds in it, though Gulden's brown is actually best. But together? Together it's heaven. It's peanut butter and jelly, it's french fries and ketchup, it's popcorn and butter. It's something that just, well, works.

Let me be clear: if you're inviting me over for any reason I'm happy to come. I'll happily eat your savory cheese truffles with chives. And I'll be sure to try those crispy zucchini blossoms. And no doubt those prosciutto, mozzarella and basil roll-ups you got from that little deli sound delicious. But you ain't got pigs in blankets? Well, I'm not so sure you can really call it a party.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves to eat. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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