I was perched on the couch the other morning, catching up on food blogs and sipping a mocha when all of a sudden the urge for a warm, toasted baguette smothered with melted chocolate and a drizzle of fruity olive oil hit me. Sometimes good ideas strike at the oddest of times. This early morning craving for chocolate and bread inspired my most recent party idea: a gathering where everyone builds their own dessert!
These delicious desires are a fairly regular occurrence for me, and every now and then I allow them to linger. My naughty thoughts turned from bittersweet chocolate and crusty baguettes to the thousands of other sweet and savory flavor possibilities. And thus, the build-your-own dessert crostini bar was born.
To help turn my "sweet dreams" into a reality, I sought the help of my future sister-in-law Caroline — owner of Marguerite's, an upscale Atlanta home accessories boutique — to bring my vision to life. She opened up her gorgeous offerings for the taking (okay, borrowing), but either way, talk about a kid in a candy shop! With her creative assistance, we crafted a hands-on crostini station that was substantial enough to be featured front-and-center at a cocktail party yet subdued enough to cap off a more formal seated affair.
Caroline and I have very different entertaining styles, so it was interesting to see what happened when we mixed our very distinct tastes. As it turns out, my penchant for neutrals combined with her love of color is an ideal formula for tabletop success. After lots of mixing and matching, moving and shifting (talk about a mess!) we finally crafted our perfect party.
We pulled stacks of lovely linens and exquisite serving pieces that fit our inspiration board (so fun to create one for a party like this!) and my favorite color scheme—gold and ivory towels paired with swoon-worthy white and gray Vietri Lastra stoneware. The table, predictably, began to fill itself with "vibrant" shades of cream and beige and tan.
Caroline, bless-her-heart, saved me from own boring myself. She whipped out a giant bunch of lilac-hued tulips from her bag—both a color and flower that had never before entered into my neutral stratosphere—and began dropping the individual stems into delicate champagne flutes. We didn't need a ton, Just a handful of the "vases" scattered about were enough to transform the table from blah to beautiful! (And a good reminder that your glassware has another use.)
As for the crostini bar itself, it couldn't be easier! When I chose my ingredients, I emphasized sweet over savory and included a variety of tastes, textures, and colors to keep it interesting. The goal of the dessert station was to please different palates in an effortless and exciting way, but also to encourage folks to mix and mingle. Two birds, one stone. I guess I'd call that a smashing success!
P.S. All of the different combinations we sampled were delicious, but I'm partial to homemade hazelnut butter swirled with melted chocolate on brioche toasts, or to sliced brie with fresh apricot preserves on rosemary crackers.
DIY Sweet & Savory Crostini Bar
Serves a crowd
Assorted breads such as crostini, baguettes, croissants, and scones
Assorted crackers such as rosemary crisps and brioche toasts
Crumbled goat cheese
Good-quality dark chocolate, melted
Fruit preserves, such as apricot or fig jam
Homemade nut butter, such as hazelnut or Marcona almond
Whipped mascarpone or ricotta
Extra-virgin olive oil
Chocolate covered espresso beans
Maldon salt or fleur de sel
Arrange breads (toasted in advance, if desired) and crackers in various baskets and serving platters. Transfer toppings and condiments to small bowls, each with its own spoon or spreaders.
Suggest various combinations to your guests, like:
- Apricot jam on Brie, topped with pistachios
- Melted chocolate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt
- Whipped ricotta, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pomegranate arils
- Crumbled goat cheese with olive oil and honey, topped with an espresso bean
- Whipped mascarpone with fig jam and pomegranate arils
For drinks, offer freshly brewed espresso or French-pressed coffee, Prosecco, and dessert wines such as Port or Sauternes.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)