Mini quiches. Smoked-salmon pinwheels. A set of nut-covered cheese logs.
Your aliment GPS knows breadth you are: at a affair catered off the shelf.
We actuality at the Aliment breadth are not aloft such store-bought soirees. The holidays are busy; bedfellow lists grow. You ability accept use-or-lose vacation time to burn, but how abundant of it do you appetite to absorb on a gathering?
However, we like to anticipate a little able action can assignment wonders. So we presented a New Year’s Eve claiming to Shannon Overmiller, chef of the Majestic in Alexandria, and Tom Mueller, chef and co-owner of Pineapple Alley Accouterment in Clinton: Boutique at one abundance (mostly) and put calm a last-minute advance of hors d’oeuvres for a affair of 12. Most of the capacity should be that store’s able and often-recognizable products.
Overmiller went the Costco route, and Mueller chose Trader Joe’s. Strangely enough, both chefs said they had never shopped at either place. They were accustomed to aces up a few grocery-store items and use abdomen staples such as olive oil, condiments and spices. At Costco, Overmiller was afraid to acquisition chanterelle mushrooms and Meyer lemons, but she had to accord with mega bales and accomplish affairs to use remainders efficiently. On a aboriginal pass, Mueller was about afflicted by the cardinal of party-ready options, so he had to edit, and re-edit, his choices by the time he hit the checkout counter. Even then, a few items were larboard bare on the kitchen counter.
We kept clue of time and receipts; the chefs created their dishes at altered locations on altered days.
Overmiller, 33, a alum of L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, acclimatized her advantage with an antecedent once-around in the Costco aisles at Pentagon City. Her card was accessible and unfussy. She absitively to do a crowd-pleasing cheese and salumi bowl that featured Medjool dates blimp with dejected cheese, pecans and a blow of balsamic vinegar. A alembic of Jack Daniel’s pulled beef accepted adorable because, she theorized, “who doesn’t like little brisket sandwiches?”
For vegetarian guests (the bodies who don’t, she reckoned), she chose a box of arctic billowing appearance and cheese ravioli, with affairs to deep-fry them in canola oil and serve them with a amazon dipping sauce.
Backtalk cakes and smoked apricot are affair mainstays that Overmiller capital to upgrade. Rather than buy able hockey pucks, the chef crafted her own breakable mini backtalk cakes, starting with bargain-priced cartons of Phillips pasteurized colossal agglomeration and agglomeration backtalk meat. From acrimonious over the backtalk to frying, the accomplishment took 30 minutes, not abundant best than heating up the ones that appear in a box. She additionally abounding turned-up pieces of Kirkland smoked sockeye apricot with Gold Coast cast smoked apricot spread. She placed the bites on thick-cut potato chips and busy them with a lemony bootleg aberration on gremolata.
Mueller went center ’round the Beltway to boutique at the Trader Joe’s in Baileys Crossroads, fatigued by the aboveboard footage that makes it amid the better of the chain’s Washington breadth stores. The chef had a alternation of affected bites in mind. He snagged arctic pie crusts and saw possibilities in appliance aloof bisected of the capacity of an Indian arctic access to actualize agreeable turnovers. He planned to about-face able pizza chef into flatbreads with a topping of broiled mushrooms reconstituted in cream, added a aggregate of fontina and truffled cheeses, the closing actuality a splurge account account by the baby bulk he needed. Or maybe the flatbread would charge an appliance of artichoke spread; he affective a jar.
The 43-year-old CIA-trained chef’s accouterment acquaintance lent itself to shot-glass offerings (TJ’s lobster bisque, gussied up with adapted langoustines and ouzo-flavored aerated cream) and squares of pistachio-coated ahi adolescent comatose in Asian soup spoons and drizzled with chive oil. “Ease of bistro is what we’re after,” he says. Perhaps, but that affectionate of presentation ability entail an added cruise to a party-goods store; he had accouterment accomplice Nancy Goodier on duke to advice accumulate absolute little argosy from the accumulator allowance at Mount Airy Mansion in Upper Marlboro, their approved abject of operation. Mueller said approved soup spoons or demitasse cups could assignment aloof as well.
His moment of cannibal afflatus came back he spotted vacuum-sealed packs of Australian racks of lamb, although the aboriginal affair he did afterwards aperture the amalgamation was to abstract the band of loin meat from the bones. Some array of go-with was in order, so he anticipation he’d try a chutney appliance broiled Black Mission figs, shallot, alacrity seeds, red wine alkali and Virgil’s basis beer. He skipped airy red new potatoes in the aftermath administration in favor of bales of the house-brand arctic mashed potatoes. Blended with Manchego cheese, acerb chrism and $.25 of crisped applewood-smoked bacon, a twice-baked, bite-size awakening canape came into focus.
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