Hoping for an Unharried Harry'd Halloween
The trick of October is for the monster mishmash of kids'-soccer watching, family apple-picking and pumpkin-patch prowling to lead up to a calm, cool finale: Halloween. For months my three boys, ages nine, seven and three, have plotted their costumes: a Harry Potter Quidditch player, a wizard — not Harry! — and a superhero dinosaur (whatever that is). My plans for what to serve while we carve pumpkins is less set in stone.
Inspiration for last-minute Halloween party treats, Harry Potter-style, came during a quick trip to Florida this week. After all, little wizards need food and drink for fruitful spells. At Hog's Head, a pub at Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, executive chef Steven Jayson told me Butterbeer, a drink the characters in J.K. Rowling's now-classic series loved, is a favorite among the park's Potter fans. Count my kids as part of that crew — after riding the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster, not before. "Butterbeer is nonalcoholic and is served either cold or frozen; both versions are frothy and reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch," he said. Sweet. He's right about the taste given the thousands of drinks they pour daily, but I'd include cream soda in my description too; with each sip I tried to pull apart the components, knowing I'd want to stir up some at home.
"Many have tried to concoct Butterbeer, but you can only find the official Butterbeer recipe here in Hogsmeade," Jayson said. "We keep that recipe locked up and secret." Boo! He is understandably protective — the recipe, along with the restaurant menus, took him and a team months to perfect. "Everything had to be true to the fiction, so we referenced all of the Harry Potter books and scoured to find the mentions of some of the favorite foods and drinks." The result? My kids were transported to a magical place even before Halloween arrived. You can order some of the food and drinks online (chocolate frogs or pumpkin juice, anyone?), but I summoned my wizardly powers to conjure a mini menu from the Wizarding World of Food Network to recreate some of the fun.
First up: Aunt Sandy's Magic Butterbeer. The kids in Sandra Lee's family love when Aunt Sandy makes her version of Butterbeer. She serves this microwave-and-blender-made-concoction warm and includes cream soda, butterscotch topping and, you'd never guess it, condensed milk.
A fan on our sister site, Food.com, riffed on the Pumpkin Juice at Universal, which includes pumpkin puree, apple juice, apricot nectar and spice. We tried the real deal at the park and it was delicious, an even more autumnal set of flavors than apple cider that somehow managed to please the kiddos and grownups alike.
In addition to snagging food ideas right from the pages of Harry Potter, you can use places and faces from the books and movies to set a scene. Take, for instance, Duff's Deathly Hallows Creation. Perhaps if you don't have a soccer game to watch or pumpkins to pick you can spend Halloween weekend tricking out a cake to look like the massive Hogwarts castle the Ace of Cakes whipped up.
Take some creative license; there were plenty of Halloween-appropriate creepers and crawlers throughout the series. Food Network Kitchens' Spider Web Fritters might be a fun element on my menu. Think of them as simply serpentine funnel cakes with Halloween flair and a maple and cinnamon-spiced kiss.
For my part, the notion of a potion like Butterbeer beats the monstrous-seeming idea of staging a Quidditch match for my boys. Along with the drinks and spiders, I might take a note from Food Network Magazine and use store-bought breadstick dough to make Broomsticks and Wands. With such whimsical drinks and eats, everybody wins.
Deb Puchalla is editorial director of FoodNetwork.com and CookingChannelTV.com. Stupefy!