Some people are natural party hosts.
I am not one of them.
Or at least, I have not achieved a level of mastery or ease in this process.
I work hard to plan every detail so I don’t stress the day of the party. This means I am always looking for easier ways to host, especially when it comes to meal planning.
One day I’ll learn to relax. Well, maybe…
Earlier this month we hosted a large brunch held in honor of a bride and groom on the day after their wedding. Here was the good part: technically I wasn’t hosting the party and it wasn’t at my house, but I played a role.
The brunch went well, and the bride and groom had a great time (as far as I could tell).
On a side note, I don’t believe that the perfect food and the perfect presentation make a party. It’s the people. It’s the host(s) bringing these people together. It’s the feeling of camaraderie that each guest leaves with. To me, that’s the mark of a truly successful party.
But these guests needed to eat.
During the party, I learned a couple beginner lessons about meal planning for larger groups, and here are my top two takeaways:
- Serve food that is low-maintenance. Cut it once and serve, or throw it in a crockpot and let it cook.
- Outsource. If you don’t have time or the inclination to bake or make it, purchase the food from somewhere that excels in it. Or ask a friend to bring their specialty.
Following these principles, more or less, this was the menu:
1. Croissants. Some with chocolate. Some without. All very yummy. My friends picked these up from a local bakery that morning. We cut the pastries up into more manageable pieces so that guests wouldn’t get overwhelmed by their size.
2. Bagels and Cream Cheese. Get your bagels fresh as well as your cream cheese. Find fun flavors. Just cut and serve.
3. Fruit Salad. My favorite is a variety of berries plus mint and honey. I’ll share this recipe in a future post. I usually keep half of the salad in the fridge so that there is fresh fruit for the stragglers. We also cut up melons.
4. Bundt cake. I am not sure what was in it, but my friend’s mother can bake a cake! I snacked on it all day.
5. Egg, Ham and Spinach Breakfast Casserole. Not all egg dishes can stand the test of a five-hour brunch, but this one worked well! The Greek yogurt preserved its moistness and the crockpot kept it warm. The initial prep took a little time but then you can forget about it. We doubled the recipe, and added a least another half hour to the cooking time. Here is the recipe we used.
We left these foods out for guests as they came, chatted with the newlyweds, and left. I only had to remember to put the fresh fruit out at the half-way mark.
And as it happens, we had one dish that didn’t work quite as well. There’s always one in the bunch.
Bacon. I admit the bacon was hugely popular. We would pull one batch out of the oven and it was gone in minutes. We served Uncured Apple-Smoked Bacon from Trader Joe’s and we threw it in the oven to make for a more simple preparation. But we had to cook batch after batch, which took time and attention. Although it was popular, I would omit this for the next brunch for a large number of people or over a long duration of time. It’s not worth the effort to keep it going the entire party.
When serving for large numbers, it’s always simpler to serve things that don’t need attention. Either outsource your food or serve food that is low maintenance. Also, serve food that you know will work.
Otherwise, you will miss the party.