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Set A Festive Halloween Table

Halloween is the perfect opportunity to indulge your inner child by hosting a party.

But as The Early Show's party planner extraordinaire, Colin Cowie, demonstrates, it can be a very adult dinner party - with a few extra touches for Halloween.


Cobweb your chandelier to add that necessary Halloween element to it. You can also have torches and possibly even a portraits for the wall that have eyes that move when you pull a string.

You can also put a black light near the front door or window.


  • Flowers - You can always use flowers like orange and black Gerber daisies (they can be dyed).
  • Fruits and vegetables - Accessible and not-that-expensive fruits and vegetables can be combined in a colorful centerpiece. A suggestion is putting Japanese eggplants, oranges and tangerines together in a large bowl.
  • Candy - Use traditional Halloween candy, like candy corns, and put them in a big bowl with colored water, and then put floating votives in the water, as well, for an original centerpiece.
  • Dry Ice - Don't shy away from using "expected" elements, if you use them in a special way. You could even go so far as to add dry ice to the candles, so that you have that rising from the centerpieces for an added Halloween touch.


Buffet-Style: For this party, Cowie suggests a buffet-style dinner, rather than a formal sit-down-and-be-served dinner.

Cowie likes the idea of making a great statement by using one long table instead of several smaller tables. He uses a long, rectangular table with the buffet set up on one end. This helps the host achieve Cowie's mantra of "being glued to the table, not chained to the stove." If all the food is already out on the table, you don't have to keep getting up to bring things out for your guests. So on that one end will be the food as well as the bar.

Linens - The table will have a black crushed-velvet tablecloth (possibly nestled with tulle for that added spooky effect) with an orange satin runner and napkins. This is so easy to do because you can go to a fabric store and buy fabric for the tablecloth and runner and napkins and not have to spend a fortune on the table decorations.


Cowie recommends serving a spicy pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds on top in a cauldron, to give that Halloween feel, and black bowls. His salad has fried noodles on it to make it look like smoke. The entree consists of pieces of grilled salmon with a Japanese eggplant next to it lower on the plate, and then grilled scallions coming out from the sides of the eggplant. The effect he looks for is like a dish of spiders. And for dessert, he suggests, chocolate chip cookies with orange and black M&M's.

The following are his recipes.

Grilled Salmon with Pesto
Serves 10

Ten 6-ounce skinless salmon filets
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pesto Sauce
1 cup basil leaves packed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated imported Parmesan cheese


  1. In a food processor combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and oil. Process until pureed. Add the Parmesan and pulse to combine.
  2. Preheat the grill or barbecue. Brush the salmon all over with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill about 5 minutes per side.
  3. To serve paint salmon lightly with sauce. Place the remainder of the sauce in a bowl and serve on the side.

The basic idea is to grill the salmon and place it in the center of the large tray in the shape of the body of a large spider.

Make the salmon portions smaller, They can be 4oz portions. Then grilled some Japanese eggplants. They should be cut into lengths and grilled. Use them to garnish. Finally, make about 2-dozen grilled whole scallions that will be used to make the legs of the spider. Salmon should be prepared to feed about 16 people.


Basically, get some mixed greens, some orange segments, some toasted pine nuts and some of the deep fried rice noodles to make nests to surround the salad with.

Spicy Pumpkin soup

3 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups water
3 chicken bullion cubes
1 (15 ounce) can of cooked pumpkin
1 cup half-and-half
Sour cream (to taste)


  1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.
  2. Stir in curry powder, salt, coriander and crushed red pepper; cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add water and bouillon; bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes to develop flavors.
  5. Stir in pumpkin and half-and-half; cook for 5 minutes or until heated through.
  6. Transfer mixture to food processor or blender (in batches, if necessary); cover. Blend until creamy.
  7. Serve warm or reheat to desired temperature. Garnish with dollop of sour cream and chives.

Note: Soup may be prepared a day in advance. Cool to room temperature after adding pumpkin and half-and-half. Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, blend, then reheat to serving temperature, but do not boil.

Chocolate Chip cookies

1 Cups butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 Cups brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 Eggs
12oz Chocolate Chips
1tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Flour
1.5 Cups Chopped Nuts
2 Cups Blended Oatmeal [Blend till like flour in the Cuisinart]


  1. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract. Mix in the flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  2. Finally add the chocolate chips and the nuts.
  3. Roll into small balls and bake on cookie sheets in a pre-heated oven for 10-13 minutes at 375. Do not let the tops of the cookies get brown or they will dry out. Loosen the cookies and allow to cook on a baking rack.

Black Cat Cocktail

1 oz Coconut Rum
3/4 oz Blue Curacao
1/2 oz Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
1/2 oz Grenadine
Cranberry Juice

In shaker, fill with ice and add ingredients. Shake and place in tall glass and garnish.

Cowie also likes to use ice cubes that light up in the Halloween drink he serves.

Online resources:

  • The Terence Conran Shop - (212) 755-9079
  • LiteCubes
  • Party Rental LTD
  • Sha d' Lei, (212)431-5745 or on the Web at