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January 3, 2013

'Downton Abbey' returns Sunday

Celebrate in style with these tips on throwing a suitably swell viewing party.

By Avery Yale Kamila
Staff Writer

When the Crawley family throws a party, they rely on their retinue of butlers, cooks, valets and housemaids to handle the heavy lifting.

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Lady Edith and Sir Anthony Strallan (Laura Carmichael and Robert Bathurst)

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WHEN: 9 p.m. Sunday




Downton Abbey Season 3 Premiere Party & Dinner

MPBN holds a special event featuring a cocktail hour, 3-course dinner and screening of the first episode of season three.

WHEN: 6 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Frontier Cafe and Cinema, 14 Maine St., Brunswick

HOW MUCH: $50 or



WANT TO HOST your own "Downton Abbey" viewing party? Here are the menus of two Maine parties -- one held in December, another coming up on Sunday -- to give you an idea of what cuisine to serve.

CHRISTMAS AT DOWNTON, hosted by MPBN at the Portland Museum of Art on Dec. 11:

Artisanal cheeses with fresh and dried fruits, grapes, pomegranates, clementines and nuts

Housemade pates with cornichon, pickled vegetables, chutneys and mustards

Assorted breads and crackers

Cottage pies

Smoked chicken, Stilton and grape tartlets

Bangers en croute with english hot mustard

Cucumber cup canapes with smoked trout mousse

Cheddar ale bisque shooters with buttered mini brioche croutons

Crab canapes on rye toasts

Christmas punch


Sparkling wine

Sparkling water

Ginger ale

SEASON 3 PREMIERE PARTY, hosted this Sunday by the Frontier in Brunswick (

Cocktails: The Lady Crawley, Downton Fever and traditional mulled wassail

Red leaf, watercress, and English cucumber salad with a buttermilk dressing

Choice of roasted vegetable Napoleon with a creamy sage polenta or crispy duck breast with a blackberry sauce

Traditional English sherry trifle




2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce St. Germain elderflower Liqueur

Topped with prosecco and served in a martini glass


2 ounces bourbon

1 1/2 ounces barenjager

Lemon cloves

Topped with Earl Grey tea and served in a martini glass

- Source: Frontier, Brunswick


VIEW A "Downton Abbey"-inspired menu and recipes created by America's Test Kitchen, including shrimp cocktail, crown roast of pork, smashed minty peas, Parker House rolls and Tipsy Squire, at:

But you don't need a full staff to host a party with the aristocratic ambience of life at "Downton Abbey." All you need are some early 20th-century English nosh, costumes inspired by either the staff or the family, and a bit of formal flair.

The perfect time to host such a gathering would be at 9 p.m. Sunday, when season three of the critically acclaimed and wildly popular PBS series premieres locally on MPBN.

"It doesn't have to be expensive," said Sean Morin of Portland, who's attended "Downton Abbey"-themed parties at friends' homes. "It's not so much in the lavishness of the meal as it is in dressing up. Make sure everyone knows it's formal. The night is entirely about conversation."

Because conversation -- punctuated by stinging one-liners and dramatic revelations -- is what propels "Downton Abbey" forward.

If you haven't yet caught Downton fever, here's a quick primer: "Downton Abbey" is a costume drama set in the fictional British country estate of Downton Abbey during the reign of King George V, who is the grandfather of the United Kingdom's current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

The show follows the aristocratic Crawley family, headed by the Earl and Countess of Grantham, and their servants against the backdrop of historically important events, such as the sinking of the Titanic, the outbreak of the World War I and the Spanish influenza pandemic. The new season takes the characters into the Roaring '20s.

The excitement exuded by "Downton Abbey" fans in anticipation of Sunday's season premiere is easy to understand given the fact that this is the most-watched PBS "Masterpiece" series ever produced.

According to PBS, season two of "Downton Abbey" racked up more than 17 million viewers, with an additional 7 million viewers streaming it online. An average 7 million viewers tuned in to each individual episode.

While "Monday Night Football," the top-rated show in 2012 according to the Nielsen Co., averaged around 20 million viewers per game and "The Big Bang Theory," the most-watch scripted sitcom of 2012, pulled in about 16 million viewers per episode, the "Downton Abbey" viewership numbers are more than respectable for a period drama airing on public television.

And season two has been nominated for Golden Globes, including one for best television series -- drama.

So when it comes to having an excuse to party, "Downton Abbey" fans have them aplenty. 


In mid-December, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network hosted a "Downton Abbey" party for top donors at the Portland Museum of Art.

"I was really surprised by the level of interest and people getting into it and getting really dressed up," said Cory Morrissey, MPBN's director of marketing and public relations.

More than 170 people attended the party, and about 70 percent of them were in costume, Morrissey said. Costume choices ran the gamut from evening clothes and riding outfits to nurse attire.

Aurora Provisions catered the party, and its staff dressed in period costumes inspired by the Downton Abbey servants. Hors d'oeuvres included cottage pies, bangers en croute with English hot mustard, and cheddar ale bisque shooters with buttered mini brioche.

Of course, the big attraction of the party at the PMA was the chance to get a sneak preview of the third season's first episode.

"As soon as the show started, the entire audience erupted in applause and cheered like crazy," Morrissey said.

"And when (the episode) ended, they all stood up and were clapping like crazy. People were beyond excited."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Costumed guests enjoy a “Downton Abbey”-themed MPBN party in December.

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Downton Abbey Joss Barratt Photographer
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The unfortunate Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle)


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