My goal as a caterer is for my clients to feel like guests at their own party. However, you don’t need to hire a professional to throw a great party without undue stress or weeks of preparation. My top 5 tips for a party that your guests will never forget:
- Plan your menu around what’s in-season, for best-pricing and freshness. Buffets (versus plated or tray-passed service) are typically the easiest option – just remember to offer “buffet-friendly” menu items that don’t don’t over-cook or dry-out easily (i.e., if served warm in a chafing dish), or that need a lot of maintenance or re-freshing (i.e., complex hors d’oeuvres). Bone-in/skin-on chicken thighs are a perfect entree option as they maintain moisture far better than a boneless chicken breast, for example. Tri-Tip is also an excellent buffet entree choice.
- “Theme” parties are extra-festive and fun (i.e., Beach BBQ, Southern BBQ, Hawaiian Luau, Mexican Fiesta, etc), and can be weaved through the menu, cocktails, decor, music and attire. Pair it with something completely unexpected, like a Piñata containing plastic leis for a Hawaiian theme.
- Embrace foods that you can prepare in advance and that serve well at room temperature, or taste better a day or two after they are prepared.
- If you want to keep it really casual and simple, and don’t have enough tables or chairs, you can spread quilts on the ground and let everyone gather picnic-style. Rentals can also be surprisingly inexpensive, and you can save $40-$75 on delivery fees (depending on your delivery distance) by transporting the items yourself.
- Serve a refreshing, specialty cocktail. If watermelon is in abundance, try a Watermelon & Mint Cooler (recipe below):
Watermelon & Mint Cooler (make by the pitcher for ease) Ingredients: 12 cups seedless watermelon cubes; 1/2 cup fresh lime juice; 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves; 2/3 cup cachaca, rum or vodka (optional). Directions: In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon, lime juice and mint leaves until smooth. Transfer the mixture to 2 large pitchers. Cover and refrigerate until ready for use. Divide the liquor, if using, between the pitchers. Top with ice and enjoy.