The problem with hosting an Oscars viewing party is that the bar is set impossibly high. How does a mere mortal offer food and drink on par with all that conspicuous glamour and celebrity?
Actually, it's pretty easy. Start by reminding yourself that minus the loaned jewelry, gowns and professional primping, most celebrities don't look or live all that differently than the rest of us. Or at least we can tell ourselves that. Plus, setting out an Oscars-worthy spread isn't all that hard, particularly if you keep it simple.
Here's what you do. Head to the grocer and grab a bunch of carbs — baguettes, fancy crackers, maybe a couple rustic loaves of sourdough. Now head to the dairy case and get a few logs of soft goat cheese and a couple tubs of ricotta cheese. We've got five deliciously easy ideas for dressing those cheeses. All you have to do is assemble and set them out.
But do make sure you follow the advice to let the cheese come to room temperature first. Most foods — and particularly cheeses — taste better closer to room temperature.
And since you'll need to toast the victors, we've also assembled five easy ways to turn basic sparkling wine into classy cocktails.
10 THINGS TO SERVE FOR AN OSCARS VIEWING PARTY
Jazz up a tub of ricotta or a log of soft goat cheese using one of the following five topping ideas, then serve with crackers, toasted baguette slices, pita chips or crudite. Start with 1 cup of ricotta or a 4-ounce log of soft goat cheese (chevre). Spoon or arrange the cheese on a platter and let it come to room temperature. Top with one of the following:
— Herbs: Drizzle the cheese with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Top with 3 tablespoons of any combination of the following chopped or torn fresh herbs — basil, tarragon, thyme, chives or parsley. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
— Sesame-garlic honey: In a small skillet, combine 3 cloves minced garlic and 3 tablespoons honey with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, then drizzle over the cheese. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
— Fig and almond: Heat 1/4 cup fig preserves with 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur until just warm. Spoon over the cheese, then sprinkle with toasted chopped almonds.
— Olive: Top with 1/4 cup finely chopped green olives, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, the grated zest of 1 orange, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic glaze.
— Prosciutto-pear: Peel and dice a pear. Cook the diced pear with 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet until just tender. Spoon over the cheese. Cook 2 slices of prosciutto in the same skillet until crisp. Break into shards and sprinkle over the pears. Season with black pepper.
You can't have an Oscars viewing party without a bit of sparkling wine. So here are five ideas for taking basic bubbles and making them Oscar-worthy.
— Mojito: Lightly muddle a strip of lime zest and 2 fresh mint leaves in the bottom of a glass with 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Add 1/2 tablespoon lime juice, then top with sparkling wine.
— Crushed: Add an orange twist, 2 lightly crushed raspberries and 1/2 ounce orange liqueur to a glass of sparkling wine.
— Ruby: Gently stir in 1/2 ounce red grapefruit juice and 1/2 ounce pomegranate juice.
— Rhubarb: Add 1 ounce Rhubarb Tea liqueur and a couple shakes of rhubarb bitters to a glass of sparkling wine.
— Honey-bourbon: Stir together 1/2 tablespoon honey with 1 ounce bourbon until completely dissolved. Add 1/2 tablespoon Aperol and an orange twist. Top with sparkling wine.