By J. Allen Shults

This is a terrific time of the year to throw a cocktail party. Especially during award season. This party is so fun when your watching the Emmys or Oscars. I have put together a very impressive, but easy to prepare menu.

This menu selects several wines pared with some of my favorite appetizers, and sweet treat. This bite size menu can give your partygoers the ability to mingle. Visit your local gourmet grocery store. Pick up some imported cheeses and artisan breads for a cheese platter.

I would recommend aged cheddar, french brie, smoked gouda, roquefort blue cheese, and munster.  Sourdough Baguettes will be just perfect for this dinner. Also fresh fruit is imperative, select some berries, kiwi, cherries, figs, and grapes. Purchase some wildflower honey and some yogurt. Combine them to create a wildflower honey yogurt dip.

This one of my favorite appetizers inspired by Jeannie. She opened my eyes up to the love of olives and the love for great food. Simplistic this recipe seems.  But it’s just that. Simple but elegant!

Herbed Olive Salad

2 pounds of Nicoise, Kalamata, and Green Olives
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped parsley
2 tsp fresh minced thyme
Red Onion diced
5 roasted garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine pitted Olives, parsley, thyme in a mixing bowl. Smash the garlic into a paste combine with the olive oil and lemon juice. Wisk into a dressing. Pour over the olives and mix. I wouldn’t recommend adding any salt until the end. Season to taste. Pair this appetizer with a San Angelo Pinot Grigio 2004.

Roasted Pepper Hummus

1 (18/20) oz canned Garbanzo beans
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 roasted red pepper diced and seeded
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine the beans, juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper in a food processor and pulse to combine. Making a smooth delicious dip. Drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. Adjust the seasoning with some hot sauce. Serve with Baked pita chips. This also makes a great dip for a vegetable crudités. Pair this appetizer with a Cabernet Sauvignon

Baked Artichoke Dip

2 (8) oz cans artichokes hearts
2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients pour into a baking dish. Mix to combine ingredients very well. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve this with some tortillas.  Pair this appetizer with a Chardonnay of your choice

Guacamole Salad

3 Large ripe Haas avocados
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
2 tablespoons of finely chopped basil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
Ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons of Olive oil
3 tablespoons of sour cream
1/4 cup of diced tomatoes (seeded)
1/4 cup of finely diced red onion

Split your avocados in half working around the seed. Run a spoon underneath the skin and removed the meat of the fruit. Place in a mixing bowl. Squeeze the lemon on the avocado so it will not turn brown. With a fork mash the avocado into a chucky paste. Fold in the rest of the ingredients. And season with the salt and pepper. This can be made in advance. When storing this place plastic wrap right on top of the guacamole. Don’t use foil. Foil can turn the dip brown.

Herbed Tomato Crostini

3 cups seeded diced tomato
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tblsp chopped basil
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tblsp champagne vinegar

Combine the ingredients and toss well. Cut a baguette into slices 1/2 inch slices and toast until golden brown. Top the sliced baguette with the tomato mixture and shaved parmesan cheese. Pair this appetizer with a Merlot.

Spicy Skirt Steak

2 skirt steaks about 2 1/2 lbs
6 tblsp chopped rosemary
6 tblsp chopped thyme
8 chopped garlic cloves
1/2 cup worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a Ziploc bag and marinate this overnight. The day of the party bring a cast iron skillet to temperature on medium high. When the pan is very hot, sear the steak on each side. Remove from the skillet and put on a baking pan. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Take a platter and put down a bed of lettuces or greens. Slice the steak against the grain. And arrange on the platter. Crumble some of the roquefort blue cheese. Serve with some unbaked pita bread. This way your guests can make little sandwiches. Also serve with horseradish sauce or hot sauce. Pair this appetizer with a California Cabernet.

Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Using electric mixer, beat butter, oil, sugar and powdered sugar  well blended. Mix in egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt over and mix in. Cover mixture and chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets. Roll 1 tablespoon dough into ball. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing balls evenly on sheets. Dip flat-bottomed glass into water to moisten, then dip into sugar and press dough to 1/4-inch-thick round. Repeat with remaining dough balls, dipping bottom of glass into sugar before pressing each. Bake cookies until light brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.


1/2  cup strawberries
1/2  cup blackberries
1/2  cup blueberries
1 large orange peeled and sectioned
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
3 cups of a good red wine (cabernet or merlot) 
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of Grand Marnier
1/2 cup of sparkling water

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, and heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour in a pitcher. Put all the fruit in the pitcher and slightly smash with a wooden spoon. Pour all the ingredients in the pitcher, with the exception of the sparkling water. This should be poured in right before serving.  Bring some non alcoholic beverages too. Iced Tea is the house wine of the south. I hope you enjoy this simple to prepare menu during your next cocktail party.

For recipes and menu planning tips or party ideas, email Jeffrey at 

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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