Photos: Elissa WiehnHalloween is often dismissed as a children's holiday, but it gives adults a Vegas-like license to be someone -- or something -- else for one magical evening. "Halloween is my absolute favorite time to entertain. It really stirs the imagination," says Douglas Little, a self-described modern alchemist and purveyor of curious goods at D.L. & Co., a home furnishings line available at Barneys New York. "It is a delightful opportunity to live out fantasies and connect to your inner child." But, for Little, instant-messaging some friends to come over, throwing some plastic pumpkins about, and offering pizza and dime-store candy doesn't quite cut it.
Because of its association with the magical and mysterious, Little believes that Halloween, above any other holiday, allows hosts to "take chances and entertain on a theatrical scale." Never fear, though, hosting a creative Halloween party needn't be a chore; in fact, it can be quite a treat. Here are some of Little's tricks for throwing a truly bewitching get-together -- a lavish Witches' Sabbath party, directed down to each devilish detail. If you follow even just a few of these tips, Little says, "You will certainly give your guests something to cackle about for their flight home!"
The devil is in the details," Douglas Little is fond of saying, and never was an aphorism more apropos than for a Halloween party. The secret to throwing a successful party is to "begin with a strong concept and develop it out from there," says Little. "For me, a fête like this must be filled with clever details, elements of surprise, and bottomless glasses of charm and wit." To pull this off successfully, research and planning is essential.
An Inviting Event
Design an original invitation to set the tone of your event. Little once sent a full-sized gnarled broomstick tied with a black-wax-sealed black envelope scented with his signature Thorn Apple fragrance. "I could not be reliant on all guests having the proper mode of transportation," he says. You could also send mini brooms, pumpkins, or skeletons along with your invite, or choose a more modern mode of invitation from www.evite.com or other Web party-planning centers.
A Sumptuous Setting
Carry your theme through to your decorations, says Little. Start by embellishing your home's exterior. For instance, place swags of black fabric, like silk taffeta, over the front door, tied in the corners with black satin-wired ribbons (available at craft stores). Or, create a wreath for the door. Little recommends going to your local flower district and getting thorny rose branches (minus the roses), sprays of dyed black millet, artichoke leaves, thistle, and Spanish moss, braiding them all together, and securing with an enormous black bow. A fast alternative is to buy a twig wreath from www.e-wreath.com and spray it black.
Witches' Sabbath Party
Be sure your decorations engage all the senses inside your home, as well, says Little. Place groupings of tall black taper candles around and use them as the main light source. To create a smoky atmosphere, use water vaporizers to emit a constant low-creeping fog. Create creepy tableaux with decaying old books, skulls, crystal balls, and apothecary bottles filled with water and green food coloring. Drape black fabric over the serving table and place dark-hued flowers such as Chocolate Cosmos, burgundy calla lilies, black dahlias or tulips, or black magic roses in gothic or Victorian planters.
Set the hors d'oeuvres up on different levels of plates using cake risers purchased at a baking supply store. Paint them black and place them on a black tablecloth, which makes the plates look as if they are floating. Use small slips of tea-stained parchment paper to label your ghoulish treats. Finally, just as your guests are arriving, put Bach on quietly in the background, suggests Little.
Devilishly Delicious Delights
View slideshowLet your menu takes its cues from the setting, as well. Little likes to serve Huevos del Diablo, Eye of Newt, and blackened rattlesnake, which are easy to prepare in advance so you can concentrate on hosting. To make the most diabolical deviled eggs, prepare the filling as Little likes it: "hot as heck." If you wish to give your egg whites a hideous patina, Little suggests boiling them as usual, then lightly cracking the shells (don't peel) and soaking them in a cold bath of strong black tea such as Lapsang souchong. The tea will seep through the cracks and dye the egg. Eye of Newt is simply black caviar: "Even the most discerning of witches will never know the difference," says Little. For a heartier treat, Little prefers blackened rattlesnake. Available at exoticmeats.com, rattlesnake tastes similar to, yes, chicken and can be prepared in much the same way. But if you or your guests are squeamish, substitute blackened chicken or fish.
Stock your bar with equally spooky beverages. Little's signature drink for such a party is a Black Vodka Martini, featuring Blavodka brand vodka. (You can also use black food coloring, but it will stain your guests' lips.) Prepare this coven-pleaser to your liking, garnishing with a jalapeño-stuffed black olive. Another concoction from Little's cauldron is a Thorn-Apple Martini. Use vanilla vodka in place of regular when making an apple martini, drizzle the edge of the glasses with soft caramel topping, and garnish with a caramel candy. Red wine is also a must -- the deeper and darker the better. Use your computer to print drink labels such as Death Wine, Scorpion's Venom, Touch of Brimstone, or Death's Kiss.
And what's Halloween without the sweets? Little sets out bowls of black M&Ms and licorice swirls throughout his home. However, his pièce de résistance is "Wool of Bat and Tongue of Frog." The bat's wool is a 151-proof-rum-soaked piece of cotton candy that has been set aflame and the frog's tongue is a broiled, blackened banana. Little accompanies this hideous delight with a scoop of dulce de leche ice cream and serves it on one of his silver silk-screened skull plates. For the faint of heart, Little likes Teuscher Halloween chocolates.
By Jolène M. Bouchon
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