Celebrate the vote with an election party

By The
Sunday, November 2, 2008


This year’s hotly contested presidential race has garnered lots of interest — from debated issues, outrageous comedy skits and fashion commentary.

Anytime the political parties come together for a night of passionate discourse, we’re inspired to throw a political party of our own.

Tuesday is the perfect night to celebrate all things election. Invite the gang over to follow the returns and have a little fun along the way.

We’ve pulled together appropriate snacks, drinks and activities to keep the evening humming along nicely.

Here’s the plan: Map it

Use a map to track the candidates’ state-by-state progress in accumulating electoral college votes. Mark the states in red or blue as they’re called or simply circle those that went for your preferred candidate. You can download an outline map of all 50 states on the Internet at www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/index.html and selecting the United States of America from the pulldown menu of locations.

What are the odds?

A little friendly betting heightens the excitement. Ask your guests for their predictions on the following questions. Award prizes to the winners.

• What color will the wives will be wearing while they wait for the results? Will the candidates opt for full-press business suits, shirts and ties or take off their ties and jackets and roll up their sleeves?

• What time will the losing candidate will make his concession speech?

• What will the “point spread” be for the electoral college count when the loser concedes?

• How long will it be from the end of the concession speech until the first pundit begins speculating on the 2012 election?

• Which state’s results will decide the race?

Party decor

• Wouldn’t it be great to have the candidates attend your election night party? You can at least pretend they’re there with life-sized Barack Obama and John McCain cardboard look-a-likes. One benefit over hosting the real candidates — you won’t have to listen to them argue about the issues all evening. Just stand them in opposite
corners of the room for effect, or put them together for photo ops for your guests. $24.99 at Papermart.

• The color scheme has to include red, white, and blue. These Old Glory-inspired plates ($3.49), cups
($3.49) and napkins ($3.69) from Giant Eagle set the scene nicely, along with a red, white and blue serving tray ($2.99) from Papermart.

• Other napkins are more pointed left or right with the Republican and Democratic signifiers. $4.99 a pack at Papermart.

• Dress your cheese plate and cocktails with patriotic flair with miniature pinwheels ($1.99 for a package of 10) — all the hot air should keep them spinning — and tiny flags toothpicks ($1.99 for pack of 40). Both from Giant Eagle.

• Traditional-looking skimmer hats made of Styrofoam rather than straw can be worn by revelers. These offer a political take with elephants or donkeys. $1.69 at Papermart.

• For the more flamboyant, recommend over-size felt Uncle Sam Hats with an elephant or donkey. $28.99 each at Halloween Express.

• For party favors, we love these plush elephant and donkey Pez dispensers. $2.99 each at Kmart.

Party menu

You’re likely to work up an appetite while following election coverage and rooting for your favorite
candidate. Sure, you could opt for the obvious by making available an evenly balanced menu of red foods and blue foods. Or you could opt for purple foods in anticipation of a post-election coming together.

But why not celebrate the candidate’s differences with a buffet of foods that celebrate the geographical
areas they have been representing as Senators.

Republican candidate Sen. John McCain lives in Phoenix, Ariz., so offer a selection of Southwestern

• A sampler of salsas in two or three levels of spiciness plus both bowls of blue and yellow corn

• Use your favorite recipe to make a batch of chili. Set out condiments for personalizing it –
grated cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, chopped green peppers, jalapeno peppers, onions, mashed or refried pinto beans, taco shells, corn tortillas, blue corn chips and plenty of salsa.

• Purchase and heat up some pre-made tamales or enchiladas.

• Ice up a cooler full of Arizona Iced Tea

• The Joy Cone company has two U.S. plants, one in nearby Hermitage, Mercer County, and a second in
Flagstaff, Arizona. Fill the cones with scoops of Baskin-Robbins’s Straight Talk Crunch (white chocolate ice cream swirled with caramel ribbon, chocolate pieces, candy red states and crunchy mixed nuts)

Democratic candidate Sen. Barak Obama lives in Chicago, which also has an abundance of local food

• Cracker Jack, which the public first tasted at the first Chicago World’s Fair — also called the World
Columbia Exposition — in 1893.

• Chicago-style hot dogs. Cook up some all-beef hot dogs and assemble the items that make it an official
Chicago-style hot dog — poppyseed buns, dishes of chopped onion, pickle relish, yellow mustard, tomato wedges, pickle spears, celery salt and tiny spicy sport peppers.

• Purchase and heat up one or more pre-made Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas.

Eli’s Cheesecake is a Chicago favorite. You can order one online, buy a locally made stand-in or make your own.

• Baskin-Robbins also offers an ice cream flavor for Obama supporters — Whirl of Change (peanut-nougat ice cream whirled with chunks of chocolate-covered peanut brittle and a caramel ribbon).

Must-see TV

The first rule for an election party is to fill the room with lots of TV sets so you can guarantee
coverage on all networks.

But during those sluggish times, switch to one of these presidential flicks available on video and

“The Candidate”:
(1972 ) Robert Redford is a candidate run by his campaign rather than the other way around. The film pivots on his growing self-awareness of the cynical nature of the political process. Director Michael Ritchie and screenwriter Jeremy
Larner both worked in actual political campaigns and impart realism to the story.

“Dave”: (1993)
Kevin Klein plays a nobody who happens to be a dead ringer for the president, a chief executive who just happened to fall into a coma. The powers that be dragoon Klein into taking the president’s place. Of course, he’ll take orders
from a behind-the-scenes cabal, led by Frank Langella. Sigourney Weaver is the wife who can’t figure out why her husband has suddenly become attentive and considerate.

“Wag the Dog”:
(1997) When a sex scandal threatens the re-election chances of a sitting president, he turns to a Hollywood producer, played by Dustin Hoffman and a spin doctor, played by Robert De Niro. Their solution: launch a fake war to distract
the American public.

(1998): A financially ruined liberal senator, played by Warren Beatty, takes out a contract on his own life so his insurance will provide for his family. While he’s waiting for the inevitable, and with nothing to lose, he begins talking in
hip-hop riffs and profane urban vernacular that sparks an unlikely political comeback.

“Primary Colors”:
(1998) John Travolta is terrific as governor Jack Stanton, a barely fictionalized Bill Clinton. Based on the book by Joe Klein about Clinton’s 1992 campaign, the film captures both what’s inspiring and maddening about Clinton -
er – Stanton. A born politician, he’s also a philanderer. The all-star cast includes Emma Thompson in the “Hillary” role.

Pin the …

Get extra use out of your stand-up candidates by playing Pin the Flag Pin on the Candidate.

Affix tape to the little toothpick flags, blindfold the player, spin and send toward the

The person who tapes the flag closest to the lapel wins.

Drinking cues

You might try a variation on the classic drinking game called “Hi, Bob!” where friend gather to watch
re-runs of “The Bob Newhart Show.” Whenever a character on the sitcom says “Hi Bob,” the group takes a drink.

This time around,
however, your guests take a sip whenever a newscaster, pundit or other talking head utters one of these cues or cliches. Pick the ones you want to play with.

By the way, at the end of the night, conduct your own exit poll and make sure your guests are sober enough
to drive home to whatever new America awaits us all.

• “The only poll that matters is the one tonight”

• “The middle class”

• “Election cycle”

• “Early voting”

• “Spread the wealth around”

• “Bridge to nowhere”

• “Key precincts have not yet reported”

• “This race is too close to call.”

• “His message resonated with voters”

• “The voters have spoken”

• “They elected him, but they’re also sending him a message”

• “Key endorsement”

Ballot bennies

It’s a privilege and a right to vote, but sometimes there are benefits to casting a ballot.

• Eat ‘n Park restaurants continue a long-standing tradition of offering a free cup of coffee to every
customer who shows up Tuesday with a voting stub or “I Voted” sticker. The offer is good at all Eat ‘n Park locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

• For something sweet with that coffee, Krispy Kreme will give out one star-shaped donut with red,
white and blue sprinkles to patrons wearing “I Voted” stickers on Election Day. Krispy Kreme has stores in Cranberry and Washington.

• And, if the election has you tied up in knots, Pratique Yoga in Lawrenceville has the solution: Bring in a
valid the election week of the election for a free yoga class. Practique Yoga is located at 4027 Butler St. Details: 412-728-2625, .

Specialty cocktails

McCormick & Schmick’s
Seafood Restaurants — Downtown at Piatt Place and at the SouthSide Works — is celebrating the end of election season with these speciality cocktails throughTuesday. Shake them up for your party.

Love on the Ba-racks

• 3/4 ounce lemon juice

• 1/4 ounce orange juice

• 3/4 ounce simple syrup

• 1/2 ounce Blue Curacao

• 1/4 ounce peach schnapps

• 1/4 ounce Malibu Rum

• Sprite

• Cherry, for garnish

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Fill it with ice. Shake it several times. Strain the drink into glass filled with fresh ice. Top the drink with a splash of Sprite. Garnish with a cherry.

McCain Maverick-tini

• 3/4 ounce raspberry puree

• 3/4 ounce lemon juice

• 1/4 ounce simple syrup

• 3/4 ounce Stoli Raspberry Vodka

• 3/4 ounce Chambord

• Long lemon twist, for garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Fill it with ice. Shake it several times. Strain the drink into
martini glass and garnish with a long lemon twist.

Election Day sweets

In the early days of this country, polling places were sparsely located. Colonists would need to travel
far and wide to cast ballots in local and national elections. To keep up voters’ strength, women of hosting towns would serve Election Day Cakes to those going to the polls.

“The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink” reports that Election Day Cake is a yeast-raised
fruitcake of New England, first mentioned by Amelia Simmons in her “American Cookery” book as early as 1796. Other records showed such cakes being baked to celebrate Election Day as early as 1771 in Connecticut, and the tradition spread
throughout the Midwest and West in the 19th century.

The original version is something of a cross between bread and a cake, more like a less-dense English
fruitcake or plum cake.

Chef-Instructor Alison McLoughlin of The Culinary Institute of America charged her students to create
their own delicious version of this classic recipe just in time for the 2008 election. It features dried blueberries, cranberries, and golden raisins.

Election Day Cake

• 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided

• 1/2 cup water

• 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, including cranberries, golden raisins, and blueberries

• 1/2 cup American whisky

• 1/2 cup warm water

• 1/2 cup milk

• 1 package (3/4 ounce) rapid-rise yeast

• 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, sifted

• Vegetable cooking spray, for coating the pan

• All-purpose flour, for coating the pan

• 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• 1/2 teaspoon ground clove

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened

• 3 eggs

• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Combine 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar with the water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high
heat until the sugar is dissolved completely. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the dried fruit in a large bowl. Add the sugar mixture and whisky; stir and set aside.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the warm water and milk.

Mix the yeast into 1 cup of whole-wheat flour and combine it with the milk mixture. Sprinkle the
remaining whole-wheat flour on top. Set aside to allow the yeast to ferment until the yeast breaks through the surface of the flour, for about 30 minutes.

Lightly spray and flour an 8-inch tube pan.

Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and set aside.

Drain the fruit mixture; reserve the syrup for later use on the cake and in a glaze.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the remaining 1 cup of
granulated sugar until it’s light in texture. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the sponge (flour and yeast mixture); mix until fully combined.
Add the remaining sifted dry ingredients. The batter will be stiff. Stir in the drained fruit.

Place the batter in the pan, cover, and set in a warm area to allow the cake to rise, approximately 1
1/2 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze: In a medium-size bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons
of the syrup reserved from the drained fruit. Stir until smooth, and set aside.

After the batter has risen, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cake for 45 to 60 minutes, or
until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and transfer it to a wire rack
to cool. When cool, lightly brush the cake with the reserved syrup, and top with the glaze.

Makes: one 10-inch cake.

Presidential trivia

• 1. Who was the first president to be born in a hospital?

• 2. What president was a schoolteacher before entering politics?

• 3 .Who was the only president to receive an Emmy Award?

• 4. What president’s Secret Service nickname was “Rawhide”?

• 5. Which president harbored an ambition to conduct a symphony orchestra?

• 6. Which president was elected by the margin of one electoral vote?

• 7. Which president received every electoral college vote but one?

• 8. Who was the only president sworn into office by his father?

• 9. Which president regularly took morning swims in the nude in the Potomac River?

• 10. Who was the first president born as a U.S. citizen?

• 11. How many presidents survived assassination attempts while in office?

• 12. The first president to see a baseball game was …


1. Jimmy Carter

2. Lyndon B. Johnson

3 .Dwight D. Eisenhower (in 1956, the Governor’s Award, for his use and encouragement of television)

4. Ronald Reagan

5. Richard Nixon

6. Rutherford B. Hayes, 1876

7. James Monroe, 1820

8. Calvin Coolidge, 1923

9. John Quincy Adams

10. Martin Van Buren, born in 1782

11. Six — Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan

12. Benjamin Harrison, 1892