Retro Dinner Party Favorites That Are Still Crowd Pleasers
Having friends and family round for a dinner party isn’t always a frugal affair, but they also offer a great opportunity to get your old classmates or college friends back together. One benefit to giving your party a retro theme is that not only does it evoke nostalgia, or at the very least remind you of things your parents talked about, but vintage recipes are coincidentally affordable. There are of course some retro recipes that might split opinions (bacon wrapped figs, anyone?) but fond memories of these classic dishes will put smiles on faces and get everyone talking.
Rooting around in thrift stores the day before is enough to generate not only style ideas but also decoration. Having people over for a retro dinner party also instantly opens the door to the possibility of iconic cocktails, kitsch glassware and maybe even some fancy dress. Who knows which guest will turn up in a beehive or even indulge in a perm?
The Maraschino cherry can be added to most things to make it look a bit retro, none more so than the Manhattan cocktail. Orange liqueurs such as Cointreau always ring of the 70s, and the orange bitters in this make it an old classic. In fact, Don Draper in Mad Men was frequently holding a glass of Manhattan throughout the series set in the 60s. Line them up on a silver platter or shake them in front of your guests, it’s up to you how you present these sophisticated and sharp cocktails.
Classic cheese ball
If cheese balls make you think of Cheetos and all things Tango-coloured then think again. This dinner party staple is more versatile than you might think. With the main ingredients being mostly cream cheese and grated cheese – with a few store cupboard favorites thrown in for a little spice – they can be rolled into little balls, or one big monster show-off centerpiece. If you’re going for lots of little canape-style bites, then each ball can be rolled in a variety of coatings to form a crunchy or contrasting crust. Diced sundried tomatoes, chopped olives, crushed almonds and chives all make for an interesting coating, and it’s up to your guests to pick their favourites.
There’s something a little bit humble but also a little bit frilly about retro appetizers. So many use everyday ingredients and somehow give them a stylish flair. One of those recipes is deviled eggs, which scream the ‘70s’ but have recently been given a makeover and revival by popular celebrity chefs including Nigella Lawson. Tabasco and mustard and some extra virgin olive oil give them a familiar flavor and never fail to please. If the idea of deviled eggs is leaving you uncertain as to whether they’re maybe a little too retro, then there are plenty of modern takes on this classic appetizer.
Granted, the color of salmon in itself pretty retro, but salmon mousse, or salmon pate if you’re being modern about it, has managed to maintain some longevity in restaurants and homes alike.
A lot of these recipes use some thrifty store-cupboard favorites, and by all means use tinned salmon for a more intense flavor. But this one can get a little fancy once you start adding ingredients like smoked salmon, horseradish and dill. Pearl some cucumber, add some French sticks and you have a retro appetizer with a modern twist.
The words ‘Jell-O’ and ‘retro’ can for some bring back nightmarish visions of fruit salad suspended in lime-green jelly. But never fear, this desert classic still has some appetizing and sweet recipes in its arsenal. Butterscotch, strawberries and cream, and chocolate puddings all look sensationally vintage when poured into a traditional ice cream glasses and, of course, topped with a maraschino cherry. For creamier desserts such as chocolate or butterscotch, why not slide in some cookies or pecans, as pictured by Click Americana.
There’s always that discussion of when does something transition from vintage into retro – and perhaps these cocktails fall into the former category. Mint Juleps, although stylish in the 1930s, have maintained their popularity. In fact, they have since continued to be the traditional cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, and last year’s event saw them use 10,000 bottles of bourbon. If you’re really going to go the whole hog to make it the Great Gatsby of retro parties, putting the entire cost of your party on a first Premier credit card might help distribute the cost of the big order. A nice tall glass is a picturesque way to host tall mint stalks, but if you want to be authentic, serving them in a metal cup is just as pretty, with the condensation giving it that extra cool feel.
Amongst all the bold and bright retro deserts and snacks adorning your table, it’s always a good idea to have something a little more impressive, or at the very least, a little more sensible. This recipe is melt-in-the-mouth good, and whether you decide to use a cheap bottle of red or the cognac that some recipes call for, it will always have that fancy French feel. Buttered French stick is also a must with this for mopping up the leftover sauce. Bourguignon is as delicious as it is classy and is something that can sit in the oven while you piece together and mix all the cold appetizers and desserts.
Retro dinner party food will always cater to a wide variety of tastes, and that’s because to some extent we all grew up with it. Whether we saw cheese balls at birthday parties, our parents drinking Manhattans or a plate of Jell-O pudding, everything has a sensory nostalgia to it. Other store-bought favorites include cheese straws, shrimp cocktail and a simple bowl of olives also make for easy go-to snacks to put around on the table. Fancy dress isn’t essential but who doesn’t love a big pair of earrings and bigger hair to match?