Invitations are your party's first impression. Emails are fine, but take the time to make a pretty online invitation and personally address each email (no mass emails). Send invitations at least 3 weeks in advance and reminders 1 week before.
This menu can be prepared in advance and cooked just before your guests arrive. Plus they can be nibbled on throughout the evening. Use the fresh, high quality ingredients. Serves 6.
1. Sausage & Goat Cheese Canapes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F / 180 C. Remove casing from 2 Italian sausages, mash meat with 3 oz. goat cheese. Spread on 1/4" thick baguette slices and bake for 15 minutes (or until sausage is thoroughly cooked).
2. Bacon Swaddled Dates: Preheat oven to 350F/ 180C. Remove pits from 12 dates and wrap a 1/2 slice of good quality bacon around middle, secure with a toothpick. Place on aluminum lined baking sheet (with sides to catch grease) and bake for 20 minutes, turn and bake for another 10 min or until bacon is crispy.
3. Bruschetta: Halve 6 plum tomatoes and gently squeeze seeds out. Chop and toss with salt and pepper. Use a sliced garlic clove to rub 12 slices of 1/4" thick baquette, drizzle with olive oil, and toast both sides. Top with tomatoes and garnish with sliced basil.
4. Spicy Nuts: Toast 2 cups of unsalted mixed nuts in skillet, stirring frequently until fragrant and just brown, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons each butter and water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 cup of brown sugar until glaze forms. Remove from heat and spread on baking sheet to cool. Serve in a pretty bowl.
Signature cocktails are the way to go, since there is only a single drink, you can enjoy your party and not have to worry about playing bartender all evening. Since it is apple season, this Happy Apple is perfect.
In a pitcher mix 2.5 cups of fresh apple cider, 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice, 1 cup of gold rum with lots of ice. Fill an old-fashioned with ice and pour in mixture, garnish with lemon peel. Serves 6.
If it's cool enough, a roaring fire is the best accessory. If not, light scentless white candles for casual elegance. Everyone does look better in candle light. A few of these feather centerpieces (RIP Domino Magazine) instead of flowers are festive and unexpected. Dress up plain white serving trays for the food with a few fall leaves.
Most importantly a happy, relaxed host has the best parties.
**This post originally appeared on the now defunct Design Refuge**