ISSUE 42  |  Dark Shadows

Step-by-Step: A Halloween Party for Grownups

October 25, 2014 4:00 PM

BY Meredith Swinehart

I love Halloween and all its kitsch (but not at my house). So this year I decided to throw a grownup dinner party–with a touch of black, of course–and a foraged floral arrangement. 

Most of the decorations came from my closets or the great outdoors (I returned home with an armload of persimmons, twigs, and berries). I had no one to sew a homemade costume for–but a harlequin’s tablecloth? That’s a different story: I cut rough triangles of black fabric–32 in all–and sewed like a madwoman. 

As for the food–the most important part–I couldn’t wait to try the recipes we asked you last month to send. It was hard to pick winners to feature for this Dinner Party Project menu. In the end, I made four courses for a party of six, featuring garden-to-table dishes that complemented each other (see below for the winners).

Here are step-by-step instructions for recreating our Grownup Halloween Dinner Party:

Photography by Meredith Swinehart except where noted.

The Table 

Above: I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on this tablescape–ideally, I wanted to spend nothing–but I wanted the table to remind guests that we were celebrating Halloween. So I foraged for fruits and flora and used materials on hand, including a painter’s drop cloth and some black cotton voile, to sew the tablecloth.

The weekend before the party, I spent some time outside the city, tromping around in Marin County, and collected persimmons, orange pyracantha berries, and spooky-looking dead branches for my table.

Above: For the tablecloth, I used a canvas painter’s drop cloth and black cotton voile, both of which I had in my linen closet. I cut an equilateral triangle from a piece of cardboard, and used it as a guide to cut 32 rough triangles of voile. I cut quickly, both to keep the project moving and to achieve the rough look I was after. I sewed the triangles to the drop cloth using my machine, then sewed freehand stripes down the length of the cloth. 

Above: I already had some black candles, but if you don’t, a box of 12 12-Inch Black Taper Candles is $21 from Amazon.

Above: My one purchase for the decor: I sprung for taper candleholders from the plumbing department. I used 3/4-inch Copper Pressure Cups, which were heavy enough to make my black taper candles stay put; $3.88 each at The Home Depot.

The Recipes

Above: Congratulations to the winners of our recipe contest! The winning recipes belong to (clockwise, from top left) Laetitia Phelps of Sonoma, who sent us her Chocolate-Orange Pecan Pie; Fenella in Ontario, for her Prawns with Tomatoes; Betina Simmons of Seattle, for Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette, and Martha Buckwalter-Davis, in Ireland, who sent us her Roasted Squash Lasagne.

Here’s what the winners say about their dishes:

  • Betina adapted a Food52 radicchio salad recipe; she adds lovage. “It has a strong parsley/celery flavor and the green adds a pretty contrast to the red radicchio,” she said.
  • Fenella grew up in Scotland and now owns a farm in Ontario. Her Prawns With Tomatoes (full recipe in the comments section of this post) “can be made in one dish, in the oven, at any time of the year.” 
  • Martha adapted Roasted Squash Lasagne from an Epicurious recipe, adding roasted mushrooms. She says: “This dish makes every pan in your kitchen dirty…but it’s still worth it!” (Later today we’ll publish a post about my experience preparing it.)
  • Laetitia, originally from Bordeaux, France, knows pastry. For her Chocolate-Orange Pecan Pie recipe, see the comments section in our previous post. “You may choose to make a little chocolate sauce on the side rather than using bits of it in the pie,” she says. “But more important, because I am from France I like pairing this pie with a nice glass of Cognac, in good company with family and friends. (And no, you don’t have to be French to enjoy a good Cognac!)”

Above: My two omnipresent black cats were a natural part of the decor. (This is their holiday, after all.)  

Get started planning your next dinner party. See: