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Great party food in SF or beyond: help me shop!

Jill D | Dec 5, 200210:59 AM

Hi Chowhounders -

Every year, we host a small (25-30 people) drinks-dinner-dessert party the Saturday before Christmas, and this year, though our kitchen is 6 weeks out of use (and counting!) due to a total gutting and renovation, we're plowing ahead and doing the party anyway.

Here's where I need help. I need suggestions: where to procure food. Usually, I buy half the food and cook the rest. Culinarily gifted friends contribute as well. My aim: for people to have a great time and to leave saying, "That was the best party food I have had all year." And they do. It's cocktail party format, not sit down, so I try to avoid large items, really sloppy items (dips excepted).

In the past we've had: Arzimendi pizza cut into cocktail sized pieces, poached salmon from Bryans, trays of Vietnamese rice rolls, antipasto trays (nice good ones), roast pork loin, tons of homemade dips and starters, lots of different homemade cookies, all kinds of things. Homemade decadently-made mac and cheese has been a huge hit. We've done sushi in years past, also popular.

We did a candy spread with Enstrom's Toffee, Michael Recheiutti (spelling help needed there) chocolate and other similar goodies last year. I usually do a fancy dried fruit and nut tray with that Greek cheese the name of which is eluding me on top of which you drizzle honey.

So: this year, I can't cook at all. My kitchen is nearing completion, and I will likely be able to serve on my own dishes and heat things up and wash, but the lead time will be short, so I can't make anything myself. But I can shop!

So: if you were doing a party featuring high-quality eclectic food, preferably mostly locally procured, that could be arranged and heated up if need be, what would you get? Looking for something substantial like a generous antipasto tray or the mac and cheese along with lots of other items. Where to get really great prepared food? I live in and would prefer to shop in San Francisco though I'll journey elsewhere, especially to the East Bay or south for the right things.

Based on recent suggestions here and elsewhere, I will be visiting Haigs, Yum on Market Street, obviously the farmers markets. I'll be getting 6-8 cheeses from Say Cheese on Cole. I want food that's good, not stratospherically expensive, though I'll spend a few bucks for quality for sure, and really excellent. I want food that people devour and love. No cut corners.

Suggestions? I know it's broad but if you were on such a mission, where would you go shopping? Thanks for any suggestions!

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