Game of Thrones party menu (and games! and costumes!)
I recently had a Game of Thrones-themed party, and not only used it as an excuse to make all kinds of things from the Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook, but even found some enjoyable GoT-themed games to play. (Enjoyable unless, I suppose, you're a big House Greyjoy fan.)
I've been systematically trying all the Feast of Ice and Fire recipes for a while, and my first thought was just to make all of my favorites. But, putting the menu together, I realized that board games and soup don't mix. And unfortunately, judging by the cookbook, Westeros is a bit short on finger food.
When the guests arrived we passed around homemade bread and coarse salt. If any gluten-free types didn't take any, and thus weren't under the protection of our hospitality, I didn't notice.
I initially bought the cookbook for the medieval recipes - but I suspected that the mix of sweet and savory would be a bit too strange for some of the guests. (The pork pie, for example, includes ginger, honey, and dried fruit.) I tried to strike a balance so that even fussier eaters would be able to find something on the table they liked.
As a bonus, the beef-and-bacon filling could be made ahead of time in the crockpot. (In fact, it pretty much has to be; if you use the stew beef the cookbook calls for, it needs to cook for a long time to get tender. The amount of time needed to brown the crust won't begin to do the job.)
The chicken came from the Costco rotisserie; I'd thought of brushing it with a honey glaze (since "honeyed chicken" turns up on the Starks' dinner table in the books) but decided instead to mix the honey into the mustard and serve it on the side. The rosemary from the herb had come indoors for the winter, so I had fresh herbs to add to the homemade aioli1. We figured that anyone who didn't want pie as a main dish could fill up on chicken - there was plenty of homemade bread, after all - and it was also one fewer dish I had to cook myself.
The three-by-five cards on the table listed the names of the dishes and the regions they came from. (I'd thought of having one dish for each of the seven kingdoms and the Riverlands, then realized there's nothing in the Iron Islands worth eating.) The crystallized fruit - real figs, pears, pineapple, sweet potato, and melon preserved in sugar syrup - was labeled "Dorimare". I'll spare you a puzzled search through the Game of Thrones wikis; Dorimare is the setting of Hope Mirrlees's 1926 fantasy novel Lud-in-the-Mist, with its intoxicating fairy fruit - which, Mirrlees says, can indeed be candied. (The crystallized fruit is actually from Mexico by way of Saraga International Grocery.)
In addition to the hot spiced wine - the Southron, not the Northern, recipe - we had the old-fashioned Iced Green Minty Drink from the cookbook, a mix of green tea, mint, and honey, which we served hot rather than cold, and a bottle of Camelot Mead from Oliver Winery. (It's a sweet honey wine that even people who don't generally like wine will enjoy.)
The pretty glazed pie pan with crinkled edges was made by Jake's cousin, who runs Twice-Baked Pottery. It's oven-safe; we tested it the next weekend, when we wouldn't care so much if it broke and filled the oven with pie detritus. (Which, let us be clear, it did not do.)
Westeros might be short on appetizers, but oh, do they eat a lot of desserts. I narrowed our selection down to three. The medieval Arya tarts have a peppery fruit topping that's tasty but a little odd to modern palates, but less adventurous eaters could stick with the Elizabethan lemon tarts. (Although I'd made the Arya tarts before, I managed to forget that the dough-to-topping ratio in the recipe is way off; I only used half the topping and still made a huge number of tarts.)
If you don't want to pay silly money for candied walnuts to top the Arya tarts with, they're super easy to make.
Months before I'd even scheduled the party, I started freezing egg whites whenever I made a recipe that just called for yolks. Then, a few days in advance, I thawed them out, made meringue, and piped cream swan parts onto parchment paper. I ended up with NUMEROUS Tupperware containers full of crunchy little swan components. I realize that single blurry picture is all the evidence I had, but there were SO MANY swans. While I was wise to make extras - the pieces are a bit fragile - I may have overdone it a bit.
I'd considered assembling the swans using a little royal icing, or maybe white chocolate ganache, instead of the ice cream so they could done in advance. On the night of the party, though, they really were not all that much trouble to put together.
We even had a few guests in costume, including a complete hand-embroidered outfit that I believe had seen a few Renfaires, a Jon Snow in a black wig and cloak, and our cat Nekojii favoring us with a rare costumed appearance.
There's a Game of Thrones board game which I truthfully haven't enjoyed very much. I'm not sure the game is the problem; we've never had experienced players, and I'm convinced we've missed an important sentence in the rulebook. (Every game we tried ended in an easy victory for the Starks, and a player who got crippled in Round 1 had to sit politely through the game, unable to do anything but wait for the mercy blow. Since GoT is well-regarded among boardgamers, I assume the problem's with us, not it.)
Instead, we made our own Westeros-themed Telestrations cards. (Telestrations is a telephone-like game of drawing pictures and guessing what they're meant to be.) Ideas mutate as sketchbooks pass around the table - at the party, "The Pointy End" turned into "Just The Tip"2.
The Inn At the Crossroads, the blog where the Game of Thrones cookbok originated, also created a Game of Thrones version of Cards Against Humanity: Cards Against The Realm. (If you use them, you might do a quality control pass; some of the black cards call for verbs - "All men must _____" - but all the white cards are noun phrases.)
And of course there was Pin the Wiener on Theon Greyjoy, where guests applied - among other things - a kraken, Ramsay Snow's horn, a dachsund, a hot dog, and a flying phallos by Ursula Vernon to the Prince's injured dignity. (If you need your own photo of Balon Greyjoy's disapproving face, you can find one by Googling "Balon Greyjoy".)
Thanks to all who attended, and many of these recipes - and some of these games - will return in the future!
1. "Oh, that's an herb garden?" a guest said recently. "I thought it was a patch of weeds." (back to article)
2. Jesus, people (back to article)