WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- This is the time of year for the kind of parties we generally only experience these days sitting in a darkened movie house with a bucket of popcorn on our knees.
Noel Coward wrote about them: "I've been to a marvelous party/I must say the fun was intense./ We all had to do/ What the people we knew/ Would be doing a hundred years hence."
Bette Davis is there, draped across a chaise longue in something elegantly louche, gesturing laconically with a long cigarette holder. Clark Gable lounges against a fluted column with a Martini glass, looking always on the point of leaving in black velvet-collared coat and white silk scarf. The whole event takes place in a stark contrast of blinding light and long shadows.
So much more stylish than the raucous bottle party bashes we go in for these days, it seems a shame not to revive them. And they are not the kind of trouble they appear. You simply have to work a little in advance - but not very much - to produce the style.
First pick something chic to drink. Martinis are the immediate thought, but you have to make them pretty much individually. Vodka set into a block of ice that guests can help themselves to is far less trouble and full of panache.
Slide a bottle of vodka into an empty juice carton. Fill the carton with water and, with the help of a chopstick, gently push down into it several flower heads, or holly or ivy leaves and berries. Then freeze upright. Once solid, peel off the carton and set the bottle out, on a dish to catch the drips, with a folded napkin close by for pouring.
Champagne Framboise looks beautiful and makes a change from Kir Royale, the blackcurrant version: Pour 1 tbs of Framboise Liqueur into a flute and top up with fizz - it doesn't have to be a pricey one.
Keep the food elegant but simple. There's no fun in throwing a party you can't enjoy yourself. Allow for eight bites per person.
Boil small unpeeled red potatoes till cooked, in well-salted water. Cool, shave a thin slice off one end of each so they can stand, then scoop out a hollow with a teaspoon. Fill with sour cream and a dollop of lumpfish roe (or, better, of course, caviar) or a curl of smoked salmon on top. Serve at room temperature.
Well ahead of time, slice and toast baguette bread. In a bowl, roughly chop fresh tomatoes you have blanched in boiling water for a minute to remove their skins, deseeded, and tossed with a good grating of black pepper, salt, torn basil leaves, and olive oil. Add spoonfuls to the bread crostini just before serving so the toast doesn't get soggy.
Boil tiny quails' eggs, peel and pass with a bowl of celery salt for dipping. Or -- for a touch of wit! -- make tiny devilled eggs. Halve them longways, remove their yolks and mix with mayonnaise, salt and a little curry powder and spoon back in.
Cut the tops off cherry tomatoes, scoop out their seeds and fill the hollow with guacamole. Break off the corner triangles of Dorito chips and just before serving, stick them into the guacamole to make tiny tomato sailing boats.
Chinese supermarkets sell plastic flat bottomed soup spoons. Follow the super-chefs' lead and pass them on a tray, filled with a mouthful of hot butternut soup or chowder.
Marinate cubes of chicken breast in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and a generous amount of Herbes de Provence. Spread out in a grill pan lined with aluminum foil and broil under a high heat till browning at the edges. Serve warm with toothpicks and a bowl of lemony mayonnaise to dip.
For a swellegant, elegant finish, mix equal amounts of softened butter and flour with twice the amount of hard cheese, mound into teaspoons onto a greased and floured baking tray, squash a little with the back of the spoon and bake for 5 minutes at 400F till gold, cool and serve. Test one first. If it doesn't stick together, add a little more flour.
Tell your friends to dress the part. Bette and Clark will never leave.