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How to Throw an Award-Worthy Emmy Party -- at Your Own Home

"Food for Thought" host Claire Thomas shares her winning ideas on what to make, what games to play and what give as prizes.

Claire Thomas
Courtesy of Claire Thomas

Throwing an Emmy party this weekend? An at-home bash doesn’t need to be lavish, says the host of the TV series Food for Thought With Claire Thomas.

For starters, there is no need to waste a lot of time, energy and money on decorations, Thomas tells The Hollywood Reporter.

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"I'm not huge on theme parties looking like Halloween," she says. "Dust off your nice glassware, clean up your apartment, and put on some great music as your friends arrive. If you want to create a life-size cardboard cutout of the trophy, I won't stop you."

And there is one must at an Emmy party, it's Emmy ballots.

"If you're going to bother to have an awards show party, ballots and fun prizes are the most right-on-target thing you can do," says Thomas, a self-described "TV junkie" who's pulling for House of Cards and Veep wins during the Sept. 22 Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony.

And "extra points if you tell your friends to come dressed as Claire Underwood," Thomas adds, referring to Robin Wright's character in House of Cards. "I'm only half-kidding. That wardrobe blows my mind."

Here, Thomas shares several other ideas for how to make sure your guests enjoy themselves -- and are sent home fed, happy and looking forward to your next bash.

What to serve:

Thomas is a big fan of dry sparkling wine in that it makes a great pairing with savory TV snacks such as buttered popcorn, salty potato chips and pretzels. "It makes for a fun couch-potato, high-end/low-end thing in your appetizers," she says. Thomas suggests the NV Sommariva Prosecco, which has a price point under $15. She also says cavas works well.

For hosts and hostesses who are a little more detail-oriented, she says the menu can be themed around the nominated shows. For instance, serving Mad Men-inspired cocktails like old-fashioned martinis.

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She also notes the multiple D.C.-set shows nominated this year -- including House of Cards, Veep, Scandal and Homeland -- and suggests a fun play on the political term "pork barrel."

"You can serve bacon-wrapped dates filled with goat cheese," she says, noting that blue cheese, almonds and parmesan cheese also work well (pictured below; find her recipe here).

She also suggests serving blue rock-candy stirrers for end-of-the-evening coffee, in tribute to Breaking Bad, or microwaved miniature donuts a la 30 Rock's Liz Lemon (Tina Fey). Also in honor of Liz Lemon, Thomas says rosemary lemon squares with shortbread crust would make for another easy dessert (pictured below; find her recipe here).

"But you don't have to kill yourself trying to find an analogy for these shows," she says. "Just a tip of the hat is enough."

What to do:

In addition to distributing Emmy ballots, Thomas has several ideas for TV-themed games. One idea she offers is a twist on the typical trivia game: Visit IMDb.com to get memorable quotes from the nominated series (she suggest "I won" from Breaking Bad or "I love that woman like a shark loves blood" from House of Cards) and print them out on pieces of paper.

"Whoever matches the most gets a prize -- and everyone's judgment that they watch way to much TV," she quips.

She also suggests a twist on the game Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples, wherein the text on the cards is tweaked to feature TV shows or scenes from favorite series.

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Possible prizes can include a bottle of the aforementioned sparkling win or, if you really want to get creative: "You could do your own version of Veep's 'bitch bag' with a survival kit of your own making," she says, suggesting it could be stocked with items like Band-Aids, Advil, Chapstick, pens, notebooks and inexpensive gift cards to a favorite coffee shop. "Nothing costing more than $5-$10. Just a fun grab bag of stuff."

She adds that gift certificates to Netflix or iTunes also would go over well.

And, if you have some extra dough to spend and "want to blow everyone's mind, you could give cash for the amount of an HBO subscription," Thomas says. "It would basically make you a legend. Depending on the price bracket you're in, blood might be spilled, but it will definitely be worth it," she quips.

Overall, she says, just have fun with whatever party you end up throwing, Thomas advises.

"The Emmys and Golden Globes are a little more lighthearted than the Oscars," she says. "There is a lot more space for humor."

For more recipes and ideas, visit Thomas' food blog The Kitchy Kitchen.

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