Dont get spooked about entertaining. Host a Halloween party filled with spectral delights! In this special feature, we cover everything from party themes to DIY table décor, delectable food recipes and wine recommendations, plus the perfect playlist. There's no doubt your guests will revel in this festive feast:
Invitation: "I always like when you get a three-dimensional object in the mail. People are expecting a print piece or a digital invitation," says David Stark, president and creative director of David Stark Design & Production. The classic vampire fangs that you wear in your mouth are inexpensive and can be bought online. Tie a small hang-tag to the fangs with the party information on it. Put them in an envelope and mail them—a surprise precursor to what guests can expect at the party.
Décor: Think in terms of black, white, and red—dark, moody colors. Fill your home with lanterns and candles. Rather than use typical white or cream-colored candles, this is an occasion to use black, deep burgundy, or ox-blood. With black construction paper that you can get at art or crafts stores, cut silhouettes of vampires and flying bats and mount them on your walls. Hide a portable iPod player at your front door and have a soundtrack of wolves howling at the moon play as guests ring your doorbell.
Tabletop: Use a white sheet as a tablecloth and splatter it with red paint to simulate blood drops. Bottle-shaped vases with small necks that can hold a taper can be filled with red liquid that looks like blood. Then put black candles into the vases; they make a great still life on the table. The vampire teeth also make perfect place-card holders. Scatter red crystals or red jewels on the table—they'll look like blood droplets and catch the light of the candles.
Entertainment: Get a bunch of old Edwardian-style costumes, have everyone dress up, and have a "designated photographer" take pictures and make prints. At the end of the evening, your friends will go home with fun photographs.
* Focus on doing fewer things, but doing those things well
* Use quality materials. Anything can be done well or in ways that are cheesy.
* Look in unexpected places for decorations: the dollar store, the hardware store, the supermarket. You don't have to go to the party store.
* Just have fun with it.
Invitations: If you're artistic (or have a friend that is), design an invitation that looks like a layout for paper dolls. Center the doll on the paper surrounded by different iconic outfits (with those little fold-over tabs) from well-known characters. For females, outfits could be Wonder Woman, Krystle Carrington, Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie, and more.
Décor: "I use post-its, of course to write notes, but often as a décor element as well," Stark says. Download pictures of your favorite television actors, paste them with a glue stick to Post-Its, and then put a grid with the pictures on the wall, bathroom vanity mirrors, and other places. This also works really well on lampshades.
Tabletop: Get two bookends to hold stacks of TV Guides that run down the length of your dining table. Have flowers in little water tubes coming out of various TV Guides, almost like they were bookmarks. On your TV, run DVDs of classic TV commercials from the 1970s. Have bowls of popcorn and candy for an ambiance that's one part movie theater, one part TV-watching orgy.
Entertainment: Have a TV trivia quiz game. Prizes could be boxed DVD sets of shows like Golden Girls, Gilligan's Island, I Love Lucy.
Invitation: Write details about your party on the case of an 80s mix music CD and mail it in a padded envelope.
Décor: On the walls, hang framed art pieces of hit albums covers of the time period, such as Olivia Newton John, Pat Benatar, Lionel Ritchie, and Duran Duran. The album covers can also be used as serving trays if you put them under glass in a picture frame. Even though a frame is supposed to hang on the wall, you can turn it into a tray for hors d'oeuvres.
Tabletop: Create a multi-level display of Rubik's Cubes—an icon of that time. Dress the tablecloth in a grid or checkerboard style. Use mini Rubik's Cubes to hold place cards. Mix in bright flowers that match the Rubik's Cube colors in colored square vases.
Entertainment: MTV music videos became huge in the 80s. Get a DVD of music videos from that time—a great accompaniment whether you're watching it or just hearing it. You could also play 1980s movies of that time period: Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Risky Business and Grease. Bring in vintage video games, such as Pac Man and Donkey Kong.
Food plays a big role at a Halloween bash, so pick and choose the treats and meals your guest will die for. And don't forget about that wine pairing!
"I want people to walk in, look at the food, get excited about it, and start talking to each other," says Beth Jackson Klosterboer, a chocolatier, event planner and author of Hungry Halloween—a spectral-occasion cookbook with step-by-step instructions and photos.
"Food is always the biggest ice breaker at my parties," she says. "I took techniques from chocolate-making and transformed them into general food recipes," she explains. Below, she shares recipes for main courses and "dead-serts." Recipes and photos excerpted from Hungry Halloween, by Beth Jackson Klosterboer:
Mummy Lasagna (click for recipe)
"You can turn anything into a Halloween recipe if you're creative enough with it," Klosterboer suggests. For this lasagna, you can use your own favorite recipe, and then just "costume" it for Halloween.
"I like to say, if you're going to imbibe spirits, it's nice if it's made by a good spirit too," says Ross Hallett, wine director of the new Spoonbar (in the equally new h2hotel in Healdsburg, California). His recommendation for this dish?
Occhipinti, 'SP68,' Nero d'avola/Frappato, Sicily, IGT 2009, 13% abv. Lithe, with no oak, it has a bright acidity and floral, almost mandarin blossom perfume. Complex notes of clove, allspice, and wild rose, with persistent mineral finish. Young female winemaker, Arianna Occhipinti, farms organically and biodynamically.
Louis Dressner Imports, $32
Twilight Quesadilla (click for recipe)
"This looks impressive but it's really simple to do," Klosterboer notes. The design uses a downloadable stencil—a technique she uses a few times in her book. Consider this more of an inspiration than an actual recipe. You can make your quesadillas any way you'd like. Klosterboer fills her hers with cheese and bite-size pieces of southwestern spiced cooked chicken.
Cartograph, Gewurztraminer, 'Floodgate Vineyard,' Russian River Valley, 2009. 13.8% abv. Dry gewurztraminer, with white pepper, elderflower and lychee notes—the dry palate and medium+ body, with toasted brown spice complexities are ample for dairy, fat, and spice—300 case production, first release for Cartograph Wines, based in Healdsburg. $25 retail. Self Distribution Cartograph Wines.
Creme Brulee P-EYE (click for recipe)
"This is one of the easiest recipes for anybody to create," Klosterboer advises. If you don't have the technique to pipe on the feet, leave the feet off. You can get creative with the decorations; for example, sticking on an M&M nose. If you don't have a pastry bag, you can buy ready-to-use frosting kits at the supermarket.
Hidalgo, PX, Sherry, Jerez, Spain. N.V.
Motor oil in color, with treacle and golden raisin aromas and flavors. Stoic and unmoving, with unctuous texture and richness. From the house of Hidalgo, with a long tradition of producing a wide range of sherry styles. Winebow Imports, $36 retail, .375mL.
Click for Penne & Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage and Chevre and Fall Stew recipes from Harvest Cookbook: Country Comfort by Monica Musetti-Carlin and Mary Elizabeth Roarke, published by Hatherleigh Press.
1.5 Tablespoons spiced pumpkin puree
1 oz Stoli Vanilla
0.5 oz Myers rum
0.5 oz Frangelico
0.5 oz simple syrup
0.5 oz cream (half and half works well)
Add all ingredients, shake very well and strain into a martini shell.
0.5 oz Pernod
1 oz St. Germain
0.5 oz white rum
0.5 oz white cranberry juice
0.5 oz lemon sour
Add all ingredients, shake and strain into a grenadine-rimmed martini shell. The cocktail will come out cloudy white for the most part, kind of like a ghost. Also, the grenadine will drip down the sides of the glass, which will give it a spooky look. For a more advanced twist, you can also add a 0.5 oz float of red wine on the cocktail, it will have a nice thin red layer of red on the surface of the white cocktail.
* For the buffet, it's important to have a few focal points but don't go overboard unless you have a lot of help. If you have too many items, you'll be exhausted by the time your party takes place.
* "We always do parties for adults closer to dinnertime because I want people to come and eat," advises Beth. "After all, you've cooked all this great food, and you want your guests to devour it."
* Have three or four really great dishes. The rest of the food can be standard. Purchase items at the store or make simple dishes.
-BETH JACKSON KLOSTERBOER
For music, a search on iTunes under "Halloween" unearths dozens of choices. But here, D.J. Dennis Elsas summons the spirit behind Halloween's greatest hits. The voice of rock 'n' roll radio for more than 30 years. He's nterviewed rock icons including Elton John, Mick Jagger, and John Lennon. Today, he broadcasts from New York City on 90.7 WFUV and nationally on SiriusXM Satellite Classic Vinyl (14 and 46).
Season of the Witch – Donovan
This 1967 hit is a go-to song when Halloween music comes to mind. "It was inspired by Dovovan's own drug bust," says DJ Dennis Elsas.
Welcome to My Nightmare – Alice Cooper
The original shock rocker journeys through a series of frightening dreams in the title track of his 1975 album.
This is Halloween – Marilyn Manson
The second-generation shock rocker performs his version of the Danny Elfman song that first appeared in Tim Burton’s film "The Nightmare before Christmas." It’s the story of Jack Skellington and his scheme to transform Halloween into Christmas.
Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett
"There’s actually nothing scary about this song, but it’s always fun to hear the 1962 classic with the Boris Karloff impression recorded at the height of the Twist dance craze," says D.J. Elsas.
Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
Another one that makes the list for smiles rather than fright. In 1978—long before the Twilight Saga—Warren gave us a “werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic's” with perfect hair.
Thriller – Michael Jackson
With a killer beat, Vincent Prince, and dancing Zombies, this is still the perfect halloween track.
Witchy Woman – the Eagles
How can you resist a woman with “raven hair and ruby lips” even if she’s been “sleeping in the devil’s bed”?
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Long before the reality shows, this was the world’s introduction to Ozzy Osbourne: church bells, thunder and lightening mark this gothic rock track.
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) – Scary Monsters – David Bowie
Great title, a good beat you can dance to and freaky production with that distinctive Bowie sound.
Dinner with Drac – Zacherle
"His distinctive vocal style and bizarre comedic flair propelled him and this 1958 novelty hit to Halloween heights. "We spent one Halloween together live on-the-air.," says D.J. Elsas.