Party like a Barack star!
October 21, 2008 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Food that I can easily get into my election-night hotel party. Bonus-round: great games/amusements/cocktails for the party?

I've been tasked with putting together my (progressive) organization's election night party. Yay! Now I have to figure out how to get around the hotel's catering rules. Boo!

The set-up: we got two adjoining rooms in the same hotel that the state Democratic Party has their big election night party in. The idea is that many groups like ours have smaller parties, in addition to the big party, that people circulate through. So the goal is to make our party fun enough that people want to come and hang out for a bit.

The hotel does not allow outside catering, so I have to figure out a menu that will effectively fly under the hotel staff's radar. I've heard that it's ok to bring food into the hotel in boxes, just so that it's not blatant.

People will be coming to the party after a day of doorknocking or otherwise trying to get as many people to vote as possible. So the food has to be filling in addition to being unobtrusive.

Some suggestions I've gotten:
Cold sandwiches
Veggie trays

I'm also looking for:

- Blue cocktails, cause we're libruls.

- Games or other fun election-themed things. We'll have maps/charts up to track the electoral college, Senate races, House races, and our state races, but it would be fun to have something to DO with those. We will definitely have champagne if/when Barack passes 270 and our desired Senate/House candidates win - what else?

My budget is $800 for food and drink, we'll have probably between 30 and 100 people come through during the evening, most of whom will probably just be nibbling and having a few drinks. We will, however, probably be staying into the wee hours.

I have seen the other election themed party ideas, but I want more!
posted by lunasol to Society & Culture (5 answers total)
Here's a related Livejournal post that might help!
posted by Ostara at 3:25 PM on October 21, 2008

Best answer: Now I have to figure out how to get around the hotel's catering rules. Boo!

Hotels often take advantage of what I call a "loophole misconception" here: no, you couldn't use an outside caterer if you were using a caterer, often due to local liquor/food service/licensing/tax rules. And you certainly couldn't sell food in your room, for the same aforementioned rules.

But, while you are a paid guest at the hotel and entertaining in your own room, you are legally considered a tenant, and theoretically open to all the same rights and privileges that you would be if you were at home in your own rented apartment. So you could certainly provide food for guests in your own room (although it's worth saying: you then take on the liability if anyone gets food poisoning, or if a minor is served alcohol, etc.).

So, don't flaunt your outside food, but neither be too nervous; you're not breaking the law. They would rather you buy their $80 cheese tray, but I'd rather I was a billionaire with a private island too. Hotels are totally accustomed to private parties being held in their hospitality suites where the guests bring their own stuff in.

Keep in mind that you will have limited food prep options. The mini-fridge is mini, and there's no microwave, mini- or otherwise. So meatballs and/or Lil Smokies would be great because they can go in a crockpot -- as can chile con queso dip. If you use Velveeta as the base for your queso dip, it will last hours.

I might do cheese balls, with crackers -- instead of a cheese tray. A cheese tray can start to look a little... sweaty... after being out for a couple of hours. Veggies are great.

I might forgo a pre-made sandwich tray, as those usually come with mayonnaise or salad dressing on them, which isn't always pleasant after a few hours at room temperature. But you could do a big cold-cuts platter and provide rolls. Get plastic squeeze-bottles of mustard, mayo, etc. and keep them on ice in a bowl nearby. It's cheaper, the sandwich is fresher, and no one gets salmonella! win-win.

Can you get donkey-shaped cookies from a local bakery? Iced in blue, with a "2008" written on them? Or maybe a big white/white sheet cake that says "Election Night 2008" with various blue and red decor, or even "thank you volunteers" or the name of your org. (Just double-check the spelling when you place the order, or else you risk... this.)

The classic blue cocktail is a "Blue Hawaii" but the ingredients can be expensive, and the thing isn't easy to make. I recommend blue jello shots instead. They are cheap, and you can make dozens of them the day before -- then, once they've set, just store them in a cooler in ziploc bags. Stick little flag toothpicks in them and serve! (in addition to looking festive, the picks can be used to run around the inside wall of the shot cup to "loosen" the jello for easier gulping)

Are you interesting in punny/cutesy names for different food items?

I'm drawing a blank but I'm sure I can brainstorm some better stuff. I'll return if/when something else pops up...
posted by pineapple at 3:56 PM on October 21, 2008

If pineapple is right, I guess you don't need to worry so much about stealth, but I was going to suggest that you ask your deli/caterer to pack the sandwiches, etc., in small boxes/trays that could then be carried in an opaque bag (paper/plastic shopping bag or reusable cloth tote). That eliminates the blatancy of walking through the lobby with a two-foot wide, clear-domed cheese tray.

For food suggestions, beef or chicken satay sticks go over well at parties where people are hungry. Small samosas, empanadas, and other savory stuffed pastries also work as filling food that can be carried on a cocktail plate and eaten with one hand.
posted by Orinda at 4:29 PM on October 21, 2008

Easy and discreet: a taco/burrito bar. Cold ingrediants (chopped tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, olives, scallions, jalapenos, sour cream, etc.) can be "floated" in plastic tubs sitting in larger containers filled with ice. Hot ingrediants (seasoned cooked meat, refried beans, cheese if it's melted, etc.) can sit in crock pots. You can smuggle all of the food and equipment (including paper plates, napkins, etc.) in a few large rolling bags.

FWIW, hotels are used to delivery people bringing pizzas, chinese food, etc. to guests.
posted by carmicha at 4:31 PM on October 21, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips, and allaying my hotel fears. I love the idea of Blue Hawaiians, especially cause, well, it's Barack!
posted by lunasol at 10:28 AM on October 22, 2008

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