The Solstmas Party … in a Powerpoint slide

Our friend Sharona the Shutterbug, unofficial photographer of all our Liberty Lounge parties …

Sharona, wearing the finery she *almost* won in the Solstmas gift exchange

recently sent me a flock of photos she took at our 14-hour-long Solstmas open house a few weeks ago. I plan to post many of them here in the next week or so, but in the meantime, I just wanted to give you a glimpse into the mind of the Cocktail Host.

Our friend Michael and the Cocktail Host, who seems to be having some sort of epiphany. Photo by Sharona Gottlieb.

While I was running around on Christmas morning decorating ice rings for the punch bowl and figuring out what glassware we should use for the keg of home-brewed pumpkin porter our friend Matthew was bringing …

Matthew and his home-brewed pumpkin porter. Photo by Sharona Gottlieb.

… Dave decided that we needed a diagram of where all the various drinks were, so he wouldn’t have to “keep explaining to everyone where the wine glasses are.” (Click on it to see it in its full glory.) After an hour of fiddling around with his computer (while I stewed about how he wasn’t doing something useful, damnit!), he came up with this 3D graphic, which we posted in a few different places in the house. I’m not sure anyone noticed them without being prompted (at which point we could have just told them where the wine glasses were), but once they saw it they were pretty impressed.

Dave's Powerpoint diagram for Solstmas

At the time he was working on it, I confess I would have rather he were reorganizing the living room or helping me clean the kitchen. But I also think it shows how he’s the yin to my yang, the Abbott to my Costello, the peanut butter to my jelly, the wax to my wane, the mad to my sane (but who is who in this case?).

Without me, our parties would be less obsessively planned, with less homemade food and fewer fancy cocktails. Without him, however, we wouldn’t have synced wireless streaming audio in every room, firewood schlepped and stacked, and “stadium lighting” brightly illuminating the ping-pong table in the backyard at midnight. And there would certainly be no Powerpoint slides, of that I am sure.

It might be easier to plan a party with someone who has priorities similar to my own, but the I suspect the parties would also be a lot less fun.

The Cocktail Hostess and Host. Photo by Sharona Gottlieb. Silly Mrs. Claus apron courtesy of my mom.



Cheesus Christ!

When I put together the menu for my Solstmas celebration, I had a creeping suspicion there was too much cheese on the menu.

If you’re like me, you might say “Impossible!” But let’s take a hard look it. Of course, I started with a bountiful cheese plate, with Point Reyes Blue, a cranberry-studded Wensleydale, a cute little bloomy-rind soft cow’s milk cheese (whose name escapes me), and of course a big wheel of Brie. Two, if you count the one that never made it out of the fridge.

The Solstmas cheese platter

In addition to that I served several sliced cheeses, like Cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss, and Muenster along with the Niman Ranch ham.

And for some reason I bought a big log of goat cheese … for reasons that escape me at the moment, other than my profound love of coagulated milk products.

Then, a few days before the Solstmas party, I was given 6 pounds of cream cheese that were left over from another event I attended. Despite my avowed love of bagels and cream cheese, I need another way to use that much cheese, so enter the pumpkin cheesecake and a heaping bowl of dip made from cream cheese, sundried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives.

But here’s where I really went off the rails. For the last few years I’ve made a cheddar-ale soup for the Solstmas party. You see, I own a crockpot, which makes soup one of the few hot dishes I can serve at an all-day buffet that sits on the table for almost 10 hours. And since I prefer to make a vegetarian soup, for those who don’t eat ham, cheese soup just seems the most festive, Christmasy option available to me.

Now, all of this wouldn’t have been so bad if so many of the guests hadn’t brought cheese dishes as well. There was macaroni and cheese, and a big plate of various goat cheeses and crackers, and another small cheesecake as well.

Suffice it to say, I have a ridonkulous quantity of cheese left over from the party. Like, several pounds of cheese. This is perhaps a tenth of the surplus fromage.

And this is after days of eating cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. Cheddar-ale soup for lunch. Brie and crackers for dinner. And cheesecake for dinner. Ugh. Last night I made the Cocktail Host pick us up some Chinese takeout for dinner, because I just couldn’t face the prospect of consuming any more lactose.

For tomorrow night, I’ve engineered a dish using leftover goat cheese, Wensleydale, and Parmesan, along with some remnants of bread, ham, eggs, and vegetables to make a strata. But otherwise, help! What is a cheese-loving girl to do when she just can’t stand it any more?

Solstmas 2010

Matthew and Sharona

This week we had our sixth annual Solstmas party, and by my count there were around 70 guests slurping up Champagne and chowing down on bread pudding all day long. As usual, I failed to take many pictures, but luckily a few of my guests snapped some shots along the way.

Though my own offerings of food and drinks were nothing special, the real highlight was the cocktails made my Mr. Manhattan, who came up with this delightful menu.


Photo by Sharona Gottlieb

He kept himself busy for hours …


Photo by Jennifer Lieberman

… making crazily great cocktails for the guests. In addition to Mr. Manhattan’s cocktails there was Scott’s delicious (and positively deadly) eggnog …

as well as my own Campari punch and (nonacoholic) Flora Pomadoras

Is it any wonder that some folks had to double-fist their drinking to keep up?


Photo by Sharona Gottlieb

Many thanks to ever adorable Sharona  and the beautiful Jennifer L. for use of their photos!

Sharona and Jennifer

… and the hostess was stirring …

It’s 6:30 a.m. on Christmas morning, and I can’t sleep. I’m all atwitter, of course, because in less than 8 hours the hordes will descend upon our house for our annual Solstmas open house, possibly the largest event I’ll host all year. And although I can’t say there are exactly visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, there are at least visions of cheddar-ale soup, and glazed ham, and a carefully constructed ice ring for my punch, which I hope I can unmold without it falling apart. It’s the calm before the storm, and I really enjoyed watching the sun rise over San Francisco from my kitchen, where I had already assembled various pitchers and serving platters in preparation for the party.

The calm before the storm

Twas the night before Christmas …

… and I’m 15 hours away from one of the biggest parties I throw every year, an all-day open house where 50 to 80 friends and family members arrive for a full day of drinking champagne, eating a ginormous ham, and consuming ridiculous quantities of pumpkin pie.

Solstmas Party 2008. Photo by Sharona Gottlieb.


And yet, despite the fact that I’ve spent the last month shopping for Campari, combing through the thrift stores for more flatware, and making baroque “to do” lists (both for myself and to delegate to my husband), I haven’t written a peep about it on my blog.

In the last week or so I’ve been wondering why this is. At first I decided that I’ve simply been busy. Whenever I have a few free moments after a full day of work, I’m more likely to spend my evenings looking at recipes for cheddar-ale soup or dithering about what kind of punch to make than to sit in front of my computer and write. But in the last day I’ve thought of a few more reasons.

The first is that despite the fact this is the biggest party I throw I almost every year—actually, because it’s the biggest party I throw—I don’t try a lot of new things. I bake a ham. I put out a bountiful cheese platter. I make a bowl of punch. There is a such a crazy onslaught of guests (we invite practically everyone we know, and plenty of people we don’t know), that in large part I just have to stock up, batten down the hatches, and hope everyone has a good time. I don’t have the time to fiddle with delicate puff pastry or beautifully garnish canapes—the stuff that seems to me more worthy of blogging about. What is there to say about the fact I bought seven packages of crackers or five loaves of focaccia?

The second is that food prep on such a large scale isn’t very photogenic. Taking pictures of food prep requires a fair amount of time, and pretty meticulous approach to assembling dishes. But when I’m preparing for an event on this scale, my kitchen is in a constant state of chaos as I try to simultaneously make a quadruple batch of candied nuts, wash all my glassware, and fold the laundered kitchen towels.

Food at Solstmas 2009. Photo by Sharona Gottlieb.

At any rate, it’s given me a new appreciation for bloggers who write about their parties, and food and cocktail bloggers in general. And if I didn’t manage any posts on my party planning, maybe … just maybe … I’ll remember to pick up my camera tomorrow and document some of the fun. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Remembrance of Solstmas’s past

I got a delightful surprise in my email inbox today. Our dear friend Sharona Gottlieb, a talented photographer who attends most of the parties we throw here at Liberty Lounge (as we like to call our house), often sends us photos she has taken at our events. This time she outdid herself and made a video from footage that she shot at out last Solstmas party (our annual Christmas Day open house). It was a great way to remember a party that I enjoyed a lot, and a good reminder of why the CocktailHost and I love to have all of our favorite people over here.

Until I figure out how to upload video to my blog, you can check it out on YouTube. Thanks, Sharona!