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Party Planning Starts EARLY: San Diego- How Did You Do IT?

Many friends asked me how we were able to make so much food in quantity for Friday night's Kick-off Party at the San Diego GTG. I took a look back on how the process unfolded.

I can only speak to my own schedule, (and Brad's) but you know that Shannon, Jane, Ken, Marcia and David all had their own list of do-ahead tasks for the weekend.

Of course, we began last April with planning, choosing venues and themes. Registration began in May, 2009, and we discussed things like entertainment, food, wine and goodie bags in Private Message threads on Slow Talk. We had a total of three LIVE planning meetings, one at my house, and two in San Diego.

It wasn't until January 2010 that I did anything other than "think or type".


I confirmed the menu, made sample centerpieces for Friday and Saturday, and made wine tags for Saturday.

Of course, we wanted to keep all costs down, so I came up with the idea of my three big vases filled with chili peppers and flowers. Shannon found 48 votives at a garage sale, so I recovered them in red and green ribbon. I made samples to show the planning committee.



For Friday, I covered paint cans I had with old world map papers, and thought an herb garden would work with the Italian theme.



I made wine tags out of office supplies and stainless steel earrings and beads.


One month ahead:

It was February, and time to start cooking! One morning I made 336 meatballs to freeze.


Over two days (I only had one of these nifty mini tart pans that make 12 at a time.) I made 216 (18 batches) of mini tart shells to freeze for the sausage-cheese tarts.


I made up a recipe for gruyere-sage bread, and made some sample loaves. We ate one, I gave away two, then I made three more to freeze.


Finally, it was March, and the week before the Gathering!

I made two batches of taralli, as these stay fresh for a month:


I made 9 flatbread rounds, stored in a ziplock:


Cracker day: I made parmesan-paprika crackers and thyme crackers.



Week of the Gathering:


I made "no-knead" bread dough to bring raw to San Diego.


I finished bubble wrapping 18 platters to take to San Diego. I also packed up 10 cookie sheets, bowls, cheese cutters, silver serving utensils, candles, vases, garnishing tools, 4 mini-muffin tins, plastic cups, Italian flags, toothpicks, and everything else I needed to bring (tiara and sombrero, maybe some clothes to wear...)


I planted the herb gardens.


I made the dough to chill, and made the filling for the pizza rustica.
I made veggie dip for the vegetable basket.
I made artichoke dip to bake in San Diego.
I cooked 6 lbs. of sausage and Brad grated huge bags of cheese for the sausage tarts.
I made "pot of gold" cupcakes for a staff meeting/training at my house tomorrow! (this had nothing to do with San Diego).

Wednesday: OMG we were leaving tomorrow! I was so excited, I could have thrown up!

At 6:00 am I frosted cupcakes for my staff meeting.

By 7:00, I was rolling out the dough for the pizza rustica. After decorating top, it made it in the oven before 9:00. My staff arrived for the training from 9-2. I tortured them with the scents from my kitchen as it baked for over an hour. Let them eat cupcakes!


I had clients from 2:00 until 5:00, then decorated the cheeses for the cheese platters with a wine aspic.


Then I made a HUGE bowl of shrimp filling for the shrimp wonton cups.

Needed a break, had NO room for anything but party food in the fridge, so we went out to dinner.

At 9:30, Brad loaded the car and trunk with everything EXCEPT food. It all fit!


WHOO HOO! Going to San Diego!

At 6:30, Brad loaded the car with food. I kept giving him more, stuff, but it all fit in the ice chest, or back seat.


By 9:15, we were unloading everything into Jane's kitchen and fridge, and soon we were making three triple batches of Nutella panna cotta.

We took a lunch break, then made 310 wonton cups and fruit dip.


We bought all the fruits, veggies and garnishing foods, and left Jane's house at 4pm. We checked in to our hotel, and made it to the airport by 4:40 to pick up Terry and Sheri. I definitely was ready for a glass of wine and a latte! I needed both!


After caffinating at 6:00 in Little Italy, we did another grocery store run and were baking bread at Jane's by 8:30. Brad spent hours cutting fruits and veggies. and then bread, while I made food garnishes (penguins and palm trees), sausage filling, and prepared the brie with fig jam.

Somehow, with help from a few friends, all the platters and chafing dishes of food made it to the buffet tables by 6:30. It was good to sit down. We had a GREAT time at the party!

In retrospect, it was not stressful at all to MAKE the food. I think what was hard, was doing it in another's kitchen, getting it all there, and having one fridge. I am used to double ovens, and two fridges. Jane's beautiful new fridge (which I covet...) was filled with panna cotta, cheeses and burrata! Everything else went in the ice chest, but that meant no large platters could be done ahead. When I host a party at home, everything is done by 1:00 and ready in my garage fridge, so I can take a nap before the party!

I also want to say, that while this sounds like a lot, SHANNON also prepared food for Friday night, as well as doing a million other things for the Gathering! I also had a fabulous sous chef!

Comments (5)

Wow! Palma, such dedication.

Palma- I'm ready for a glass of wine then a nice long nap just from reading about all of the work you put into this. You did an amazing job and it was a wonderful evening. By the way, I loved your penguins, and the flowers in wine aspic made those cheeses exquisite.

Barb Cabot:

I wish I had just one little finger tip of your talent and organization. You are a master at all of this. You make it look like it is effortless and even after explaining all of this which I think is an incredible amount of work you say it was not stressful. The food, the presentation (I agree with Cindy's comments on those beautiful flowers on the cheese..gorgeous)the tastes OMG it was awesome. Everytime I think of just one of those dishes I want to be there again that night eating everything. Thank you again for all the work that you, Brad and everyone of the planning committee put into making this event exceptional. Amazing the amount of love and time and effort you put into this event.Ever so greatful.


OMG this is amazing! What a feat. I am in awe at your organizing skills and of course your cooking skills!

What a schedule! And only YOU could pull it off!

Congrats on a job well done!

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