If there's one thing I'm known for among my friends, aside from my fondness for cheese and wine, it's throwing a really great Game of Thrones themed party -- and I'm here to share my expertise with anyone wanting to throw an amazing premiere party on April 25.
My Game of Thrones parties started with the purchase of the Game of Thrones Official Companion Cookbook -- recommended for anyone wanting to throw the best themed parties -- a cookbook that's just chock full of delicious food straight out of George R. R. Martin's books. Honestly, I cook stuff from this book even when I'm not catering to the theme.
I threw my first Thrones themed party in 2012 -- which catered for 20 people and took two weeks of planning, multiple trips to source rare ingredients and almost two solid days of cooking to pull off. While I've toned it back since then for the sake of my sanity, I've honed the art of the perfect Game of Thrones party over the years.
I mean, obviously it's going to be Game Of Thrones themed, but within that I've always found that it's much easier to pull together all the below elements of the party with a single theme in mind. Choose a character, a location or even an event, and theme all your food, decorations or games around them.
One of my parties was themed 'Across The Narrow Sea', where everything was exotic and brightly-coloured, the food was spicy and we all lounged on the floor on piles of cushions for a many-course feast. I also held 'Dinner At The Wall,' with furs scattered liberally on every surface and the food being thick and hearty fare. My most general theme was the 'Feast Of The Seven Kingdoms' party before that, where everything included some element representing each kingdom, while dinner included a dish to represent each kingdom.
You could also throw a Red Wedding, or move it outside for a Purple Wedding. Perhaps you could even go all the way with Game of Throne's notorious habit of killing people off and simply theme everything after the series' most beloved deceased characters.
Once you have your theme down, let your guests know about it so they can start planning their costumes accordingly, and you can start planning your next step:
Unless you live in an actual castle, it can be hard to 'de-modernise' your house for a party themed after Medieval-esque Westeros. Luckily, there are a couple of easy shortcuts for you to get the mood of your premiere party down pat.
First off, you'll want to raid your local op shop for anything you can get your hands on with a look that fits your theme. Wooden bowls, plates and even wood-handled cutlery are great to add a bit of rustic charm (I still have to hunt down the perfect set of wooden plates myself) but also look out for earth and stoneware. Embossed metal dishes for serving also look great on a dinner spread with a big hunk of roast meat on top.
Pick up some fancy crystal goblets for drinking if you want to channel that King's Landing vibe, or for further north look out for tankards and drinking horns (or tankards made from drinking horns). While you probably won't find the latter in op shops, you can pick them up cheap in Australia from Medieval Fight Club. MFC also carry some gorgeous, though pricey medieval dinnerware and cutlery.
Drapery And Knick-Knacks
Aside from your table setting, furs or silks look great draped across (and conveniently hiding) anything that's a little too modern in your house. Drapery adds depth and interest to empty walls or hung above doorways -- even try draping lush fabric around your TV to set the mood for your screening. To finish off the look, scour your house (or the op shop if you're not very knick-knacky) for small statues and feature pieces, wooden carvings or even just mysterious wooden boxes.
Your best bet to easily create the right atmosphere, even in the most modern houses, are candles. Invest in a pile of pillar candles and sprinkle them around your entertaining areas -- just make sure nothing is a direct fire hazard, or likely to be knocked by guests who might be in cumbersome costumes. While tealights aren't strictly period-appropriate, they're also quick and cheap to sprinkle along the tops of cabinets and generally anywhere that needs a bit of atmosphere.
Once you've bought and collected everything you need to make the general atmosphere feel right, it's time to add the tiny touches that make it Westeros. Cut sigils out in felt and glue them to shaped pieces of fabric for house sigils you can hang around your house -- make one for each of the major houses, pick just one or even make up your own!
The odd sword or two can't go astray for such a martial setting and, for the crowning touch, pick up an Iron Throne wall decal to embellish your 'porcelain throne'. It'll be sure to get a giggle from your guests when they find it.
Although by and large this isn't something under your control -- you can only ask people to come dressed up, whether they go along with it is up to them in the end -- you can always lead by example. While many of my friends are cosplayers and already have the perfect costumes on hand, it isn't hard to come up with a simple and easy costume from the Game of Thrones universe.
Dothraki costumes are a mix of leather and coarse fabric like burlap, and can be thrown together in a day or two. Handmaiden dresses like the one worn by Shae are a very simple bit of sewing. You can even add a bit of humour to the party -- one year I had a Melisandre complete with knife-wielding shadow-baby, while this year's effort had one of my friends showing up as the Wall itself (with a tiny dead Jon Snow).
If your friends are anything like mine, the food will be what keeps them talking about your premiere party for years to come. The books that Game of Thrones are based on are heavy with descriptions of amazing food, and the show depicts quite a bit of mouth-watering fare as well. While throwing a feast to rival Joffrey's 77-course wedding may be a bit too much effort for most, it's still worthwhile to put some thought into what you're serving.
A feast like this is a great opportunity to introduce your friends -- and yourself -- to some exciting fare that is few and far between in modern cuisine. For these parties I've cooked quails, whole rabbits, wild boar, Dothraki blood pies and even the infamous honey-spiced locusts that some book readers may remember from A Dance With Dragons. Spectacle is almost as important as taste, though with the amount of butter that tends to go into these recipes it's not hard to make them taste good either.
Now, if you're currently wondering what the hell to cook for a Game of Thrones themed feast, let me introduce you to the Inn At The Crossroads. This gorgeous food blog is almost entirely themed after Game of Thrones -- the name coming from a location in Westeros -- and features hundreds of recipes from Westeros and even Essos, inspired by the books but also drawing from authentic medieval recipes. While there are still a wealth of recipes hosted on the site, the best of them have been pulled out for the Official Game of Thrones Cookbook, a recommended buy for anyone who loves either Game of Thrones or food.
The number one recipe I would recommend for any Game of Thrones premiere party is, thankfully, still accessible on the website: Bread and Salt. This concept is immediately recognisable to any Game of Thrones fan, and there's no better way to greet your guests than with bread and salt -- delicious, fluffy, warm, fresh-from-the-oven bread. The best thing about this recipe is that, unlike most bread, it's quite forgiving and easy to make. It's full of sugar and eggs, so will turn out nice and fluffy even if you aren't an expert baker. Despite its simplicity, this bread will have your guests thinking you're a master baker.
As the weather turns chilly towards the late April premiere, your feast should include plenty of roast meat (though plan carefully if you're inviting vegetarians) and hearty, warm meals. For my party I chose two 'hero' meals: one of my favourites from the cookbook, a beef and bacon pie, and a plate full of apple-stuffed quail. If you're hosting more people, however, you might want to provide more mains. If you have the cookbook then have a browse through and bookmark the most interesting-looking meals, if not then simply do the same with the online recipes.
These were accompanied by some easy sides -- in this case a huge pot of caramelised whole onions in gravy and some roasted beets in butter, along with an easy, rustic salad thrown together from a base of baby spinach leaves. These kinds of sides are the best way to make sure everyone is going to have enough to eat. Other baked vegetables -- potatoes, sweet potatoes or pumpkin -- also make for good sides that go nicely with the meat-heavy mains of Game of Thrones.
Aside from your bread and salt from above, think about making or buying a more savoury loaf to go with dinner -- Inn At The Crossroads has an amazing recipe for a dense black beer bread that is delicious when loaded with butter and sopping up excess gravy. For my party I provided a delicious garlic sourdough made by Sydney artisan baker, Rosemary And Salt.
Drinks are a little easier -- beer and wine are Game of Thrones accurate without any modification aside from perhaps decanting. If you want to put a little more effort in for something more out of the ordinary, try making a mulled wine or mulled cider.
Fun And Games
What would Game of Thrones be without the game? Until you start the premiere screening you'll need to do something to keep your guests entertained, and setting up a couple of games in theme will both help maintain the party atmosphere -- and help your guests get more into the theme. Here are two that I've used for Game of Thrones themed parties. If you've come up with any yourself, tell us about them in the comments below!
AKA, the poison game (don't worry, it's not only for women and eunuchs). This game doesn't really have a start and a finish -- instead, you invite your guests to try and poison each other throughout the night. Now there are a number of ways to both set this game up and to play it.
For the actual 'poison' I used stickers -- stick one on the bottom of a plate, bowl or cup and whoever eats or drinks from it without checking first is poisoned. I've also heard of putting beads in people's cups, but that always seemed a bit dangerous to me. Along the same lines, you can instead break up bits of rock candy for 'poison' that is less likely to actually choke your guests to death -- though it may disappear in warm mulled wine.
If you really want your pseudo-poison to have another layer of realism, you could even find some kind of spicy or otherwise strongly flavoured liquid or substance for your guests to 'poison' each other with. If not straight-up chilli, an extra-strong mint like a Fisherman's Friend may give the desired effect.
As far as rules go, there are a couple of ways to play it. If you don't want to get too caught up in policing who has killed who then you can frame it as a straight drinking game -- anyone who gets poisoned, drinks. If they detect the poison before drinking, they get to call someone out for poisoning them -- if they're right, that person drinks.
Otherwise, you can simply frame the game as one of survival. If you get poisoned, you're out of the game. The last person (or people) left standing win. Think about supplying a prize for the winner if you choose this option.
You could even frame it similarly to the 'Mafia' party game, whereby one or multiple guests are designated as assassins, and the rest of the party have to find out who they are before they're poisoned.
Choosing The New Khal
This one harkens back all the way to Season 1, but what better time to dig it up than when Daenerys's plotline looks to be bringing Dothraki back into style again. This isn't a game of its own, per se, but a way to frame existing games in a more Thronesy way. For example, we played 2D fencing game Nidhogg on the big screen, picked for its sword combat and two-person duel style. The winner picks up a bell to thread into their luscious Dothraki mane.
The player with the most bells wins -- easy, right? Again, it's a good game to be able to offer a small prize for. This game can be played around pretty much any game of a similar format, whether it's a video game, a board game or even Game of Thrones trivia.