Over here at the Perri-Casas household, we like to entertain. We love hosting and sharing food, wine, music/dancing, and just a plain ole good time with family and friends. When the parties are small; but a handful of folks, the preparation is easy, breezy. But when the guest list gets bigger, so does everything else. Including the ideas for hosting a successful event. Top of list; effortless decor and easy, crowd-friendly dishes. Hearty, simple to prepare, allergy-friendly, and most of all, delicious. Foods that hit all the right notes.
Just this past weekend we hosted a pig roast. On our guest list were a handful of vegetarians and vegans.
Yeah, you read that right. We invited vegans to a pig roast. According to my husband, that's completely kosher because the pig only ate vegetables thus making it vegetarian/vegan! Oh, my Taurus husband can justify anything!
We structured the party to be about mingling, not about a formal sit down meal. One main reason for this is that our patio, though large, really cannot comfortably seat more than 24. Plus this style of entertaining helps with flow of both food and people, as guests go to the buffet table to partake of various treats then bump into different guests to chat with.
Organization is essential with a party this size. So I ALWAYS make a list. I am famous for making lists both in my professional life and home life. Make fun all you want but this is key to staying organized and not accidentally missing things. Just ask JuanCarlos who forgot some items in the basement fridge. (He said I left one item off my list: Remind JC to make his own list.)
The day before I also place out all the platters I want to use with notes of which dish will go where. This helps for two reasons. First; one less thing to think or worry about the day of. Two, if a guest wants to help serving up dishes, this identification system tells them what they should use. Takes all the guess work out of the equation.
As far as what to serve, my game plan was to make sure we had a wide variety of food options for everyone. 30 guests were expected. The best way to keep it manageable was to make some dishes from scratch and mix it up with some prepared items. Here was my thinking. Note the ones with (*) are the ones I just had to put on a plate!
Cheese Platters with Jams, Grapes, Cucumbers, Radishes *
Breads/Gluten free crackers *
Assortment of Tapenade & Olives *
Roasted Chick Peas * (these were store bought but here is the link to my version which I prefer)
Pickled Mushrooms *
Marinated Artichoke Hearts *
Crostini platter with Fresh Ricotta, roasted garlic mash, Roasted Tomatoes, Mushroom 'Bolognese'
All these can be plated well ahead of time and placed out as guests arrive. These are perfect starter offerings to let them mingle and jingle amongst themselves with a drink.
Since a whole roasted pig takes hours upon hours upon hours to make, there needs to be food in between the appetizers and the main course. This is what I call the intermezzo eating portion of the festivities. I know, you are thinking; more food before the meal, that is hog wild nuts. But believe it or not, people come to our home ready to eat. So we make sure they are well fed. Plus it's cool because we like to experiment on them!
Grilled meats served with bread & chimichurri sauce
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Once the roasted pig was ready, the main portion of the meal was served. All the above items were easy to get onto the table since I prepped them earlier. The tomatoes were sliced and assembled on a platter in the morning and refrigerated. So was the bean salad. I boiled the potatoes the day before, cooled them down on a sheet tray and in the fridge they went. Right before serving, I popped them in the oven just to warm them enough to absorb the basil/garlic dressing I made the day before. The salmon was roasted earlier in the day then served at room temperature. And that is how you get a bunch of big platters out without being taken out on a stretcher yourself.
Gluten free chocolate cake with coconut cream/fruit
Black bottom cupcakes (Mom made these, YEAH for me)
Fresh Fruit Platter *
Goat cheese & blue cheese & honey & figs *
In my opinion, desserts should be just like the meal, offering a mix of items to your guests. That is why I like offering baked sweets along with a cheese plate and fresh fruit.
But wait, the details aren't done yet. Food is the key component, but let's not forget the 2D's. Drinks and Decor.
Drink wise; we mostly focus on having wine but usually have a few other drink options such as Vermut, Scotch, Gin and Vodka. We always have plenty of sparkling water, too.
Decor; an informal outdoor gathering requires nothing more than cohesion. So let me briefly run down how I handled the tables and flowers. Can you say wing it! (Was that brief enough?)
Normally I have a visual theme planned out but this time it was indeed a last minute pull together. Evidence that you can create something from nothing on the fly. I didn't have time to get flowers from my favorite place Dahlia NYC so I took my scissors and went hunting in my backyard and a nearby park. I cut hydrangeas from our big tree and some other flowers to help fill out the vases for big bursts of florals.
Also, while I was raking the yard I notice there was an abundance of pine cones and thought I could use those somehow.
Using the flowers I cut from the park plus the extra leaves from the hydrangeas, I laid them across the stone wall then nestled the pine cones on top to create a fall festive row of flora.
Tablecloths. I didn't even bother to iron. It was an informal outdoor gathering, so I was ok with that. I went with a blue and cream theme because I knew I had a variety of coverings that could work in tandem. When you have several tables, do not fret over everything being matchy matchy. Coordination is the name of the game. Just make it all look visually cohesive. I used different patterns all within the same color scheme layering cobalt blue placemats to tie the tables together.
There was plenty of food, good wine, dancing music and joyful guests. The perfect party mix. I think a good time was had by all. I hope some of these tips can help you throw your next gathering with ease and less stress so you, too, can enjoy along with your guests.
CHEERS to all!