A Backyard Party How To

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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.  

 My sis, Alyssa and cousin Therese  (photo credit: Dori Eckert)

My sis, Alyssa and cousin Therese  (photo credit: Dori Eckert)

 George contemplating fire with my brother in law Peter

George contemplating fire with my brother in law Peter

 My dear friend Jackie catching up with my nephew, John

My dear friend Jackie catching up with my nephew, John

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!

Appetizers
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.

 Abundant cheese platters with jams and grapes, cucumbers and radishes.

Abundant cheese platters with jams and grapes, cucumbers and radishes.

 Ready made items ready to go.

Ready made items ready to go.

 Roasted tomatoes, garlic, mushroom bolognese, ricotta, crostini.

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, mushroom bolognese, ricotta, crostini.

 
 JuanCarlos at his beloved grilling station.

JuanCarlos at his beloved grilling station.

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!

Intermezzo
Grilled meats served with bread & chimichurri sauce
Grilled sausage
Grilled Corn on the Cob

 Farm fresh corn roasted on the grill. (Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

Farm fresh corn roasted on the grill. (Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

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Main
Potatoes with Basil/Garlic oil
3 Bean Salad
Tomato Salad
Roasted Salmon Platter
Puerco Asado

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.

 3 Bean Salad is easy when you prep everything ahead of time so right before the party all you need to do is combine the ingredients.

3 Bean Salad is easy when you prep everything ahead of time so right before the party all you need to do is combine the ingredients.

 Chick peas, cannellini & black beans, yellow pepper, red onion, English cucumber, scallions and hearts of palm.

Chick peas, cannellini & black beans, yellow pepper, red onion, English cucumber, scallions and hearts of palm.

 Tossed with a simple lemon/lime mint viniagrette

Tossed with a simple lemon/lime mint viniagrette

 Oven roasted Wild Caught Salmon with cucumber slices, capers, radishes and homemade 'tartar sauce' of sour cream, greek yogurt, shallots, dill.

Oven roasted Wild Caught Salmon with cucumber slices, capers, radishes and homemade 'tartar sauce' of sour cream, greek yogurt, shallots, dill.

 The whole hog, roasted to perfection.

The whole hog, roasted to perfection.

 Fall off the bone tender chunks of pork.

Fall off the bone tender chunks of pork.

Desserts
Gluten free chocolate cake with coconut cream/fruit
Black bottom cupcakes (Mom made these, YEAH for me)
Apple Tart
Fresh Fruit Platter * 
Goat cheese & blue cheese & honey & figs * 
Turron *

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. 

 Since it was getting chilly outdoors, we moved inside for dessert.  A few choices giving some variety to make everyone happy.

Since it was getting chilly outdoors, we moved inside for dessert.  A few choices giving some variety to make everyone happy.

 
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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.  

 I arranged one large vase for the food table and smaller ones to place on all the other tables, bringing the look together.

I arranged one large vase for the food table and smaller ones to place on all the other tables, bringing the look together.

Also, while I was raking the yard I notice there was an abundance of pine cones and thought I could use those somehow.  

 Hunter gatherer.  

Hunter gatherer.  

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.

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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.

 My sister, Alyssa

My sister, Alyssa

 Grill masters tossing success

Grill masters tossing success

 Aleida and my mother in law Dora tearing it up to salsa music.(Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

Aleida and my mother in law Dora tearing it up to salsa music.(Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

 My sister in law Dori

My sister in law Dori

 My always helpful, cheerful parents.

My always helpful, cheerful parents.

 JC with our dearest friends, Angelica and Marcos

JC with our dearest friends, Angelica and Marcos

CHEERS to all!