September 27, 2012
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Yom kippur is over: Sink your teeth into a foodie-themed fete

for The Brooklyn Paper

A brief history of food:

400,000 BC: Man discovers fire.

1313 BC: Jews fleeing Egypt discover that unleavened bread is a delicious on-the-go snack.

1775: Marie-Antoinette says “Let them eat cake!”

1859: Oscar Meyer is born in Württemberg, Germany.

1963: President Kennedy declares: “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a doughnut.”)

1994: The George Foreman Grill is invented.

Early 2000s: The Food Network starts airing dubbed versions of the popular Japanese competition show “Iron Chef,” introducing Americans to ingredients such as truffles, sea urchin, and umeboshi — thus the modern “foodie” is born.

In the past decade, Americans have fallen deeply in love with food, not in a “let’s gorge Viking-style” kind of way, but in an intellectual manner where food fans are inspired by flavorful and creative combinations of ingredients like heirloom tomatoes, grass-fed beef, and organic dried fruit. Some of these culinary fanatics have become so familiar and opinionated about food, they’ve even developed a sport-like obsession, fine-tuning their DVR schedule to record competition shows like “Top Chef,” “Cupcake Wars,” “Around the World in 80 Plates,” “Chopped,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” and “The Next Iron Chef” just to get their daily fine food fix.

And if your child casually mentioned names like “Tom Colicchio,“ “Bobby Flay,” “Ina Garten,” “Antony Bourdain,” “Cat Cora,” and “Mario Batelli” when you asked him whom he wanted to invite to his upcoming bar mitzvah, it may be wise to plan a foodie-themed celebration.

Here are five sure-fire ways to throw the ultimate palate-pleasing party:

1) Choose one type of cuisine

The idea of food is very broad, so it’s important to specify which type of cuisine you’d like to incorporate. Love desserts? Then maybe welcoming cake pops, ice cream machines, chocolate fountains, and cotton candy makers into your party is the best option. According to Kristina Fisher, director of special events at the Institute of Culinary Education, French, Italian, and Chinese cuisine are the most popular options. The more specific you are, the easier it’ll be to incorporate your theme. Thinking about comfort food? Opt for chocolate-dipped Twinkies. Love Asian cuisine? Try ice cream-filled sushi.

2) Use food to decorate

Yes, food should always be eaten, but transforming the edible into a beautifully crafted decoration won’t be forgotten. Jennifer Kraft, owner of Kraft Events, considers food for all aspects of a party’s décor.

“Take something unexpected and have some sort of surprise element,” Kraft says. She recently planned a “chic fashion food” party where models strutted down a runway donning cotton candy as headpieces, which were also placed atop every table as centerpieces and were made available for hungry guests to indulge on.

3) Customize everything

It’s important to have a clear theme in mind, but avoid being married to it. If your theme is based on “Chopped,” for example, play with the color scheme and try to create a similar but original logo. From the furniture to the linen on tabletops, Kraft suggests using initials, color-coding, color blocking, and customizable graphics to have the party revolve around you, and not your theme. The goal is for the theme to be recognizable, but not overbearing. Looking for something over-the-top? Take your party outside and welcome a food truck. Guests will rush to get in line and will love the extra touch.

4) Encourage competition

Any food-themed bar mitzvah should come fully equipped with a series of fun, easy-to-follow games, which revolve around food.

“The most important elements of food competitions are creativity, teamwork, and ingredients,” Fisher says. “Ultimately, people come to cook and have fun.”

Split your guests into three or four groups and have them create about six different menu items together. Start off with simple dishes like pizza and hot dogs, and then move on to anything requiring more finesse, such as cupcakes and whoopie pies. Who can chow down marshmallows the fastest and what’s the most original (and delicious) icing flavor created? Three is the ideal number of games you should schedule, with each appealing to both adults and children. Your guests’ dishes are meant to be devoured, but make sure a professional staff is cooking up the main entree while guests munch on their own creations.

5) Remember tradition

Food and games may make your bar mitzvah the most memorable of the year, but forgetting to incorporate Jewish rituals will do the same for all of the wrong reasons. Schedule a time for celebrating the Torah and the honoree’s newly found adulthood, and make sure guests are able to personally congratulate the bar or bat mitzvah boy or girl. If kitchen dance floors are a bit too much, stick with the usual round table and have the staff present dinner to your guests at mealtime.

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