The Raves: Top vote-getters were the black olive and thyme and the smoked salmon, crème fraîche, and salmon roe. "It's comfort food, but all glammed up," said senior copy editor Susanne Ruppert.
The How-tos: Mash up a batch of potatoes—or, better yet, hire a cook or a caterer to do it. Get recipes from any cookbook, or try the recipes we used. Lay in a supply of tiny throwaway spoons for tasting.
The Variation: A sushi feast. If you've never made your own maki, Sushi Made Easy by Nobuko Tsuda will help your party get rolling.
The Raves: "I think I'm on another plane of existence," said associate editor Catherine Gundersen.
The How-tos: Set aside a quiet room or corner lit by rows of fat candles. Find a licensed Thai practitioner from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTAMassage.org). You might want to do a trial run!
The Variations: For a sole-stirring affair, treat each guest to reflexology—a treatment in which the practitioner applies pressure to reflex points on the hands and feet in order to relax other parts of the body. A good source for therapists is www.Reflexology-USA.org. Or, throw an all-natural spa party: WomanHT.com has recipes for delectable facials (bananas and honey) and hair masks (heavy on the avocado).
The Raves: "This is the most sybaritic and haute couture thing I've ever done," said beauty director Valerie Monroe, while she blended notes of green jasmine, Sicilian lemon and bergamot. "It's my own unique scent—I call it Eau de Val."
The How-tos: Help guests follow their noses—find inspiration and scent recipes at PioneerThinking.com.
The Raves: "Ice cream, sprinkles and whipped cream—what could be more festive?" asked art director Suzanne Noli, scraping the bottom of the dish with her spoon.
The How-tos: Load up on the fixings, heat up the fudge, and invite guests to dig in. (Forget having dinner first—this is the main event.) Or, you can get a sundae party package (choice of three sizes) from BedfordFarmsIceCream.com.
The Variation: A cookie party could be as much fun as the sundaes, and cozier if it's cold where you are. You and your guests will mix up basic dough, then decorate like crazy and bake.
The Raves: "I've always liked Cabernet," said Kori Scott, editorial business coordinator and office manager, "and it's nice to know that you can drink it with any food. No more anxiety about which wine goes with what."
The How-tos: Progress from lighter vintages to drier, heavier ones so your palate doesn't get overwhelmed. Between wines, rinse your mouth (and your glass) and eat unsalted crackers. For more ideas, go to www.Wine-Tasting-Party.com.
The Variation: Another kind of buzz can be had from a chocolate tasting.