Easy Valentine's Get Together

I know not everyone is into Valentine's Day, but I've always loved it (and I only had a boyfriend on Valentine's Day once ever before getting married). Give me an excuse to A)give people I love gifts, and B) host parties, and I'm all in.

For those who aren't totally on the anti-Valentine's train, I thought it would be fun to put together an easy little party that's perfect for everyone from couples, to all your single to friends, to any combination in between.

Taking my cues from the ombre theme I've been using this year, I choose some food and drinks that fit into the palette and did a minor amount of quick decorating to go along with it.

A few quick, but slightly fancy snacks, displayed on simple platters (I mostly used my vintage Milk Glass collection) make an impression, without taking up a ton of time. My choices were:

Prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe slices
Watermelon wedges
Rustic bread with herb butter (recipe/how to make heart shaped butter below)
Cheese plate with heart shaped crackers

Of course, any easy to whip up snacks/appetizers that you fancy will work.

To make the butter you'll need:

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
6 large basil leaves, finely cut (preferably chiffonade aka in fine ribbons)
2 Tbsp. parmesan
2 tsp. minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Heart shaped ice tray (available at Michaels in the Valentine's Day stuff)

Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Using an offset spatula, fill each compartment of the ice tray, scraping the spatula across the top until even. Place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Butter pats will pop out easily once chilled.

For sweets, I put out those ombre sugar cookies I shared last week, and a candy assortment in matching colors (jelly beans and valentine M&M's, which we sorted by color). For a quick (and affordable) display I placed the candies in simple glass candle holders from Michaels and added a few vintage scoops for serving.

For a festive touch at the bar, choose a signature cocktail that takes it's cues from your chosen color palette. Add a non-alcoholic option in a coordinating color- which will be appreciated by those who don't imbibe. For our get together, I picked the Cherry Blossom (a drink I created last spring- recipe below) and a pretty blood orange soda.

To make the Cherry Blossom you'll need:

Luxardo (or other maraschino liqueur)
Sparkling water
Almond extract
Homemade cherry grenadine
Cocktail cherries

The cherry grenadine is quick and easy to make:

Homemade Cherry Grenadine (adapted from a Chow recipe for traditional Grenadine)

1 c. cherry juice (100% juice, unsweetened)
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 drops orange flower water

Heat cherry juice in saucepan until hot (not boiling)- small bubbles will form around the edge of the pan and steam will be rising. Remove from heat. Add sugar and stir until no longer cloudy. Add lemon juice and orange flower water. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to jar/bottle with tight fitting lid. Grenadine will keep for 1 month if refrigerated.

Make the grenadine the day before and you'll be ready to mix up the drink. In a tumbler (or a stemless wine glass) mix:

1 oz. Luxardo
3 Tbsp. cherry grenadine
1-2 drops of almond extract

Top with sparkling water and add ice. Garnish with cocktail cherry or a lemon wedge. For a true Cherry Blossom, skip the lemon wedge and top with a float of half 'n half. (Note- don't use milk instead of half 'n half- it curdles more easily and though it won't affect the taste of the drink, it doesn't look pretty. My apologies to our party guests who had to learn this with me the hard way).

If you want to let guests mix their own drinks, add the almond extract to some of the grenadine ahead of time and place in a small bottle (I even made a silly 'love potion' tag for mine).

To add another layer of Valentine's charm to these drinks I made some heart shaped iced cubes in those silicone ice trays. At our actual party (rather than the photo shoot version), I added some chopped up cocktail cherries before freezing so the cubes would be pink.

For a few final touches, I used washi tape to fancy up some glass jars for a straw container and some candle holders. Just pick a few colors/patterns of tape and go to town with whatever pattern suits you. Once the party is over you can just remove the tape and use the jars for something else.

To finish up the festivities, head outside with some heart sparklers- a fun and memorable end to the day. (Sadly, I forgot about this part at our actual party so the mister and I lit a few by ourselves later in the weekend- sorry friends)!

A few sources:

Striped straws- mine are from Oh Hello Friend's new brick and mortar shop, but if you're not in the LA area, check with your local party goods stores or boutiques that carry cute things or craft supplies. Sur la table also carries a small selection of straws. For online purchases- there are a multitude of shops on Etsy that carry straws in a variety of colors and patterns.

Heart sparklers- again, I purchased mine at Oh Hello Friend, but they are from Tops Malibu and come in two sizes.

Heart shaped crackers- Valley Lavosh brand, which are available at Kroger grocery stores and probably others as well- try calling to see if your local store carries them.