Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ultimate Hostess Contest

Are you the Ultimate Host?

Recently, I found a contest on the Sterling Vineyards Facebook site to see if I could host a party for six, with my flare of creativity on a $75 budget. Although California is not eligible to play, I still wanted to give it a whirl.

Those of you that know me, are aware that I love hosting a fun party. I think my super cool Favorite Things Party or my Summer Fun 1st Birthday for the mini was a dead giveaway right there. So clearly, you know this was right up my alley!

You can check the contest out HERE and enter the next 3 challenges that are coming up! (Only for non-California residents)

As for the hosting on a budget, this is what I would have entered with my photos below. It was a lot of fun getting to use my creativity skills!

The Décor:

After much deliberation, I chose a brown, gold, and green palette, consistent with the colors of the upcoming fall season. My first stop when planning a party is my own home, trying my best to piece together anything I already have around the house – after all, when sticking to a budget, you can’t beat $0! I was able to dig up two old table cloths that fit with the theme, as well as a set of napkin rings, and with a budget of only $75, I borrowed the dishware from a friend (in exchange for an invitation to the event, of course). Finally, I salvaged a wine barrel planter from the back yard that had been sitting unused for months.

With that as a starting point, it was off to the dollar store, where I picked up the votive candles, gold ribbon, and the leaves in the napkin rings. The brown napkins were a bit pricey at $4.99 from TJ Maxx, but I really like the touch of class that a cloth napkin brings to a dinner party. The best two scores of the day – the great find on the frame at a yard sale for 50 cents, and the pinecones from my neighbors’ yard, for free! The brown flag-style food labels were a fun creation cut straight from an old paper grocery bag that I had in the cupboard.

The Cuisine:

Rather than focus on a single main dish, I decided to host this meal tapas-style, with an array of mouth watering hors d’oeuvres, including a variety of grapes and olives, which not only added to the décor, but they made wonderful munchies throughout the course of the evening.

We started with prosciutto wrapped figs with black pepper and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. This appetizer was absolutely stunning when paired with the Sterling Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay!

From there, we moved on to a wonderful brie with organic fig preserves, topped with chopped almonds. Served with crackers, this one brought in a number of compliments.
Our family recipe bruschetta, a star at just about every family gathering, didn’t last long. Featuring a fresh-baked sourdough baguette, the home-grown tomatoes and basil marinate in balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for just the right amount of time for the flavors to truly blend.

The final stop before dessert was the beef tenderloin and red potato skewers, grilled with olive oil and an array of fresh herbs.

Finally, I topped it all off with the surprisingly simple to make, and absolutely delicious chocolate-covered strawberries, with fresh organic berries straight from the backyard garden.

Bellies were happy and full by the end of the night – we truly enjoyed the bounty of the harvest!

The Entertainment:

The true fun of this evening was great conversation with friends and family. That said, I was even able to throw in a little entertainment for free, since there is always an ample supply of corks around the house, remnants from many wonderful evenings with friends. During the course of the night, we played a fun game called Corks. This game requires about 100 corks to be placed in a bag. Use a red or black marker and draw a star on the bottom of one of the corks. Stick it in the bag of corks and shake it up. Have party guests select one cork each, continuously handing around until a guest picks the cork with the red or black star. The player who selects the cork with the star receives a backrub from the host! The bag went around the group about 4 times until we got a winner. It was a ton of fun!

I already have another contest in the pipe.  I can't wait for this one. Holiday contests are the best!!

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