Entertaining At Home
The Valentine Engagement Party
February, 2008 - Issue #40
Hundreds of couples became engaged over the holidays and now it's time to share the good news with the rest of the world. What could be more romantic than a Valentine-themed engagement party?

Engagement Party Q & A
by Nanette Marotta
Who should host your engagement party?
Traditionally the engagement party was hosted by the bride's parents, but along with other evolving changes in social etiquette, the rules for the engagement party are no longer so hard and fast. These days anyone can host the engagement party.
What kind of event should it be?
This depends on your budget and the bride and groom-to-be's personal style. Since the engagement party custom was actually designed to help bring the two families together, you should consider their styles, too. An afternoon cocktail party with light hors d'oeuvres is always a safe bet.
Where should you host your engagement party?
Many engagement parties are held in family homes while others are held in restaurants. Some parties are held at creative locations like the beach, on a boat, at an art museum or a vineyard. Remember that if you're hosting a large engagement party at your home, make sure you can handle the parking problems. You don't want guests arriving at your door sweaty from a long walk. Consider hiring a valet service for the day.
Who should be invited to your engagement party?
Work with the couple on the guest list as it is ultimately their celebration. You'll definitely want to invite the two families so they can get to know each other better. All of the guests invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding. Sometimes, though, the wedding will be a small family-only affair and the engagement party will be a big bash. In that case, let those guests invited to the engagement party only know so there won't be any surprises later. Typically, guests who would have to travel in for the party are not invited, as you will already be asking them to travel in order to attend the wedding. (The exception to this rule would be the parents of the bride or groom).
Should you expect gifts and register for them?
Gifts are not mandatory or traditionally given at engagement parties, but there is a lot of confusion surrounding engagement gift-giving. If the couple is game for gifts, it is a good idea to have registered for a few things before sending out invitations. Also, since not everyone will bring a gift, don't make the gifts a central part of the party. Put them aside and open them after the guests have left.

Nanette Marotta is a professional wedding planner and the owner of Affairs 2 Remember 269-1235.

Note to the Newly Engaged on Valentine's Day
by Lori Parkinson
Don't sit back and wonder if your partner is going to do something special for the big night. Now that you've dedicated your lives to each other, plan to alternate responsibilities as to who plans the event for the Valentine's holiday. This gives each of you something to look forward to and the opportunity to plan on treating your significant other to a special night.

Lori Parkinson is a party planner and owner of The Big Chill 209-1810.

"Be My Valentine" Engagement Cocktail Party Menu

Combine 2 A cups currant vodka,
1 A cups champagne, A cup raspberry schnapps and A cup lime juice in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and strain into prepared glasses. Garnish with thin lime rounds or edible rose and geranium petals.

Cucumber Sandwiches
A cup mayonnaise
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp minced fresh dill
1 tsp minced fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
24 slices seven-grain bread, crusts removed, quartered lengthwise
1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, dill, basil, salt and pepper; spread on bread slices. Fill with sliced cucumbers. Top with bread slice.

Smoked Salmon Bites
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp minced fresh dill
1 tbsp minced scallion
12 sliced party-size pumpernickel bread
A lb. thinly sliced smoked salmon
capers for garnish
Combine cream cheese, dill and scallion. Spread mixture on bread; top with salmon and garnish with capers.

Asparagus-Proscuitto Rolls
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Dijjon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
18 slices proscuitto
1 log (5 oz.) goat cheese
36 6-inch stalks of asparagus, blanched
Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Slice proscuitto in half lengthwise; spread each slice with goat cheese and roll around asparagus. Drizzle with dressing.

Crab Salad Canapes
3 cups lump crabmeat, cleaned and rinsed
1 cup seeded, diced tomato
A cup minced carrot
A cup minced celery
1 can (4 oz.) sliced black olives, drained
A cup mayonnaise
Tabasco sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste
12 slices white bread, crusts removed, toasted and quartered in triangles.
In a medium bowl, combine first six ingredients. Season with Tabasco, salt and pepper. Divide crabmeat salad over bread.

Warm Chocolate Brownie Cake
1A cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
A teaspoon baking powder
A teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups walnuts
1A cups packed brown sugar
A cup cocoa powder
3 cups water
Whipped cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an oversized, 12-cup muffin tin. In a large bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a mixer with a whip attachment, cream the butter. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the eggs and vanilla, blending well. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low just until incorporated. Scoop into muffin tins and spread to cover the bottom.

Sauce: Whisk together the ingredients. Pour over and divide among the brownie batter-filled muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until set. Serve at room temperature topped with whipped cream.

Miyake is a professional bridal consultant and owner of Simply Marvelous Weddings and Events 818-224-6534.

Made with Love
by Denise Kane
There's nothing sweeter than gifting that special someone with their favorite finely-crafted dessert. Every year I see hundreds of lovers young and old pour over our menu. In my experience, the top Valentine treats are sinful Baby Boston Cupcakes, Chocolate Truffle Baby Cheesecakes and Famous Stuffed Strawberries filled with cheesecake, brownies or cookie dough. However, you can't go wrong with Creme Brule. It's sweet, rich and terrific. Gather some key ingredients and wrap them up for the happy couple; include the recipe on an artfully-designed card. With a little luck, you'll help establish a delicious tradition they'll celebrate with for decades to come.

Creme Brule with a Hint of Chocolate
1A cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
9 large egg yolks
A cup plus 6 teaspoons sugar
2 cups mixed berries
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon chocolate liqueur (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place cream in heavy medium saucepan.

Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Whisk yolks and one-half-cup sugar in medium metal bowl to blend. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water). Whisk vigorously until yolk mixture is pale yellow and hot to touch, about three minutes. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture; discard vanilla bean.

Divide cream mixture among six three-quarter-cup souffle dishes or custard cups. Arrange dishes in 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of dishes. Bake custards until almost set in center and light golden on top, about 35 minutes. Remove custards from water; refrigerate overnight.

Preheat broiler. Sprinkle one teaspoon sugar atop each custard. Place dishes
on small baking sheet. Broil until sugar just starts to caramelize, rotating
sheet for even browning, about two minutes. Refrigerate custards until
topping hardens, at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

Meanwhile, toss berries, brown sugar, and chocolate liqueur, if desired,
in large bowl. Spoon berry mixture atop custards and serve immediately.

Denise Kane is the owner of Babe's Dessert Bar 510-7954 or 254-4770.

Top Engagement Gifts
by Nanette Ferrara
"The Big Book of Brides" - A beautifully-illustrated hardcover book filled with heartwarming stories and inspiring quotes. It's a real keepsake the bride can refer to while making her wedding plans.
Collection of Serveware - Perfect for get-togethers with another couple or future in-laws. Make sure the serveware has a neutral palate to fit in with any decor.
Flower Vase - It's amazing how many hostesses do not have a single vase when presented with a bouquet of flowers. It's also a good reminder for the groom to continue to send flowers on special occasions.
Great Cookbook - Nothing beats a good-quality reference to help couples start cooking meals together. Add in some gourmet food provisions like Stonewall Kitchen or Barefoot Contessa to get the creative juices going.

Nanette Ferrara is the co-owner of McKenna & Greene 296-0935.

Music: The Often-forgotten Detail
by Alice Goetschel
Music is an important element of any celebration. A Valentine engagement party calls for an abundance of love songs. I asked Jack Lillian, a respected DJ, for some suggestions.
• "Love Will Keep Us Alive" by The Eagles
• "Love is in the Air" by Tom Jones
• "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer
• "Power of Love" by Celine Dion
You could prepare CDs of instrumental love songs or hire a live DJ if there is space for dancing. Be sure to include a variety of genres and eras to satisfy the tastes of all of your guests.

Alice Goetschel is a professional wedding planner and the owner of Memorable Occasions 270-9448.
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