Harry Potter has one. So did Hecate, goddess of the underworld. With that kind of pedigree, it's time the owl got some of the spotlight. So forget about ghosts and goblins-this year, throw an owl-themed Halloween party with all-ages appeal.
Before trick-or-treaters head into the night, invite parents and kids over for a casual buffet that's perfect for the season. Offer spinach salad laced with ribbons of raw pumpkin and a bruschetta bar with a trio of savory toppings on crisp toasts. There's hot cider for all (grown-ups can spike the brew with pumpkin- and spice-infused vodka). Set out a platter of owl-shaped cookies with candy-corn beaks. And send guests home with owl goodie bags to start the night on just the right hoot.
Most of this menu can be prepared in advance. The bruschetta bar serves 12; you'll probably have leftover toppings.
• 4 days ahead (or up to 3 months before Halloween): Start infusing the vodka.
• 2 days before the party: Make the cookies.
• 1 day in advance: Prepare toppings for the bruschetta bar.
• 4 hours before guests arrive: Slice and toast baguettes.
• 1 hour before guests arrive: Set out refrigerated mushroom pâté and sweet onions and peppers (keep chicken-cress salad refrigerated until ready to serve), and prepare spinach and pumpkin salad. Start cider; as it's heating, plate cookies and set out toasted baguettes.
Arrange sweet onions and peppers, chicken-cress salad, and mushroom pâté (recipes follow), plus bowls of peanut butter, whipped cream cheese, and jam, on buffet alongside toasted baguette slices (you'll need about 3 baguettes).