It’s almost summer, which means it’s time for impromptu pool parties, evenings on the patio with friends and casual gatherings at the lake or beach. But just because it’s laid-back and last-minute doesn’t mean it can’t also be a stress-free and stylish soiree. And who better to dish on hosting a swank party with ease than Birmingham’s curators of style. We reached out to three local tastemakers to get their tricks of the trade when it comes to gracefully hosting a casual cocktail party.
So whether your house is guest-ready or not, having a few crowd-pleasing — and addictively delicious — appetizers in your pocket will not only give you a chance to fluff the pillows and powder your nose, but it will also leave them wanting more. And trust us, with these easy, delicious appetizers, you’ll need to prepare recipe cards as party favors!
3 Easy Crowd-Pleasing Appetizers
Richard Tubb, owner of Richard Tubb Interiors
Walk into Richard Tubb Interiors’ showroom at Pepper Place — a display of understated elegance and chic style — and you’ll trust this tastemaker’s advice. Richard calls these his Yummy Peppers. They are super easy to make and he’s never seen any leftovers when he serves this delicious appetizer.
“The ingredients can be kept in the refrigerator for surprise visitors. They are easy to make and serve, and you can even pass them around cold,” says Richard. “People who don’t even like goat cheese like these. They will come back for more.”
- 1 (14-ounce) jar mild, whole, sweet piquante peppers, drained
- Plain goat cheese (Richard suggests La Bonne Vie Original Goat Cheese. The wrapping is soft and easy to squeeze into drained peppers.)
- Squeeze or spoon some of the goat cheese into each drained pepper.
- Plate and serve.
White Cheddar Pimento Cheese & Stuffed Pickled Okra
Mary Catherine Folmar, founder of Cotton + Quill
“I love offering this dish for small events and gatherings, because — let’s be honest — in the South, who doesn’t love homemade pimento cheese and, even better, pickled okra? They are both practically food staples,” says Mary Catherine Folmar, whose zest for vibrant, creative dishes is rivaled only by her bright, colorful, hand-drawn textile designs. Her new brick-and-mortar location in Crestline is a visual feast of fabrics, stationery, wallpaper and more, in designs that evoke Old Hollywood glamour, the Art Deco era, chintz and chinoiserie, modern design and an array of fresh, breezy, tropical patterns that recall aspects of the Amalfi Coast to the Florida Panhandle.
Needless to say, Mary Catherine’s adventurous spirit and attention to detail come across in her favorite recipes as well. “The secret to nice pimento cheese texture is to grate the cheese by hand, half on the large holes of a box grater and half on the small holes,” she says. “Choose an aged, sharp cheddar cheese for extra bite. And chopped chives and Dijon mustard add a piquant punch in place of grated onion. Enjoy!”
- 1 (12-ounce) block aged, sharp, white cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimento, drained and rinsed
- 1/3 cup fresh chives, thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pickled okra, optional (Mary Catherine recommends Wickles Wicked Okra.)
- Crackers for serving
- Grate half of the cheese using the large holes of a box grater.
- Grate the remaining cheese using the small holes of a box grater.
- Stir together the mayonnaise and the next 6 ingredients in a bowl.
- Stir in the grated cheese until well blended. Let stand 15 minutes.
- If desired, split pickled okra lengthwise, and stuff the okra halves with the pimento cheese mixture.
- Serve immediately with crackers or pickled okra, or cover and chill up to 3 days.
Dora Sarris Cothren, co-owner of Theadora Abbeyluxe
“I always make caprese skewers when I have company over. It’s great as a starter or a side, and the best part is that I can make them a day ahead,” says Dora Sarris Cothren of her go-to party appetizer. “I can also draft my kids to help when I am in a pinch!” And if Dora’s carefully curated selection of women’s clothing, jewelry, handbags and shoes at Theadora Abbeyluxe are any indication of her tastes, then we know that these caprese skewers are divine as well!
“They are especially wonderful in the summer. They are pretty, light and tasty, and all ages love them,” she says. “I serve them with a nice chilled glass of rosé.”
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- Fresh basil leaves
- Mozzarella balls (Dora recommends using the Costco mozzarella balls, because they are marinated in olive oil and herbs.)
- 25 (4-inch) bamboo skewers
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Balsamic vinegar, optional
- Thread a tomato half, basil leaf and mozzarella ball onto each skewer.
- Arrange the skewers on a serving plate, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Lightly drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if desired.
Now, bookmark this page for your next impromptu party and prepare for beaucoup compliments on your addictive appetizers!