Ted shares his party tips with omg!Ted Allen first made a name for himself as the "food and wine guy" on Bravo's breakout hit "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," where he did his part to help transform a variety of ahem, somewhat unpolished heterosexual men, into entertaining dynamos who could whip up a romantic meal for their girlfriends or entertain a gaggle of co-workers with ease. These days, Ted's still as food-and-wine focused as ever with appearances on multiple Food Network shows including his gig serving as host of the cooking competition show "Chopped." With the holiday party season in full swing and New Year's Eve nearly upon us, omg! caught up with the 46-year-old gourmet guru to get his advice on hosting the perfect party … and, of course, being a great guest.
Ted's Tried-and True Cocktail Party Tips
Think small "I think people could stand to be reminded every once in a while is that there's a reason they call it finger food. If you're talking about a cocktail party, it needs to be edible with one hand.
Stick it on a stick "Skewers give you an opportunity to put something vertical on your buffet. Or even if you have someone passing hors d'oeuvres, you can put something on a nice 10 inch skewer and it's almost like a display stuffed into a jar of corn kernels. So it's visual, as well as functional and it makes it easy with dipping sauce.
Quick Bites to Whip Up
Fried ravioli "Fry them a couple of minutes in a little bit of oil in a skillet. They're crispy, they're round, they're really, really alluring. They make people want to eat. Serve something like that with a pesto sauce, certainly a classic marinara; even a Mexican salsa tastes great with ravioli. And I think it's just fun and festive looking."
Shrimp cooked just about any way "Put a few bite-sized shrimp on the end of a skewer with a little decorative piece of tarragon or basil or snow pea or something wrapped around it. And if you have a party guest that's misbehaving, you have a weapon ready."
Chex party mix "I was actually flabbergasted to discover that that their website has 70 recipes for different kinds of Chex party mix, all of which can be made in the microwave and are still just as crunchy and lovely as the stuff you used to have to bake for a long time. The original would be my favorite. It's wheat Chex, corn Chex, and rice Chex, little pretzel twists, some nuts, a little bit of butter, and some Worcestershire sauce baked on a sheet tray to melt the butter and make it all crispy. That's the sort of classic cocktail snack."
Cake pops "You buy a cake mix, bake the cake, crumble the cake up with your hands in a bowl, pour in a can of frosting, mix it up real well, and then just chill it in the freezer a little bit. And you can scoop that out with a miniature ice cream scoop and then you put that on a stick and dip it in some melted chocolate and it's really beautiful, with sprinkles on it, a little sea salt, or maybe even a little cayenne if you like mixing sweet and savory."
The Mistake Every Host Should Avoid
Getting too complicated "People who hardly ever cook at all, suddenly at the holidays, feel like it's their responsibility to not only cook dinner for large groups of people suddenly, but to serve things that are fussy or fancy or formal. And I don't think that's what anybody really wants, especially if you're not good at it."
What to Bring to Your Next Soiree … Other Than Wine
Not flowers "Flowers are obnoxious because someone has to put them in a vase. So how about getting people a vase? I like a vase about a foot tall and with an opening at the top that's about three inches. And you can fill that with three dozen tulips or two dozen roses and it actually functions. So it's thoughtful and the next time guests come to their house, they have a vase to put their flowers in."
But if You're Going to Bring Wine Anyway…
Find an expert "If you aren't knowledgeable about wine, what you need is somebody who is. And you find that person at a wine shop that has done you right before. It's helpful if you can say, 'Oh we're having roast duck and I want to have a Burgundy or Pinot Noir to go with it.' Or just go with a sure thing. You're never going to disappoint anybody with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. But if you want to be that cool guy who brings the small production Pinot from Botswana, I'm afraid it takes a little homework."