Entertaining guru Amos Gott shares some tips for pulling together an easy summer party, right from the aisles of the grocery store..
Story Original story from StyleBlueprint / styleblueprint.com / memphis.styleblueprint.com
Food & Entertaining | August 2013
Summer entertaining is all about casual and comfort—nothing too complicated, nothing too fussy. Whether having friends over to enjoy the pool, sit on the patio or relax inside in the air conditioning, here are some easy shopping and entertaining tips to create a lazy, hazy and easy outdoor summer party.
Every grocery store has a few items that you can take from freezer to oven to table. Here are some tips for navigating the typical supermarket to come up with items that will be effortless but will wow guests. Start with an appetizer that could actually even be a main course on a larger scale. Southern comfort food is huge right now. There’s nothing more relaxing than the tastes we grew up with or the flavors we associate with family. So a tray of mini-chicken and waffles would not only be satisfying, but a conversation starter, as well. Purchase a box or two of the Eggo Minis along with a bag of frozen chicken tenders or boneless buffalo wings. Follow directions to bake, then top the mini waffle with a piece of the tender and spear with a skewer. Have a little syrup on the side or drizzle a little over the platter. The result: mini-chicken and waffles!
Wow your guests with an impressive beverage. Whether alcoholic or not, all you need is your favorite punch recipe (today we made Watermelon Margaritas), a large watermelon, a spigot you can order from Amazon.com, and a few kitchen tools to complete your Watermelon Keg. Typically, the main time consumer of any party is the entree and one of the easiest ways to cook it is on the grill. The grocery meat department typically has beef and chicken kebobs already skewered and waiting for purchase. Just crank up the grill and throw them on, rotating a few times. It couldn’t be easier!
For an easy salad, try a Very Berry Delicious Summer Salad. Toss together 8 cups mixed salad greens, 2 cups fresh blueberries, 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese, and 1/4 cup chopped and toasted walnuts or pecans. Drizzle with the desired amount of bottled vinaigrette (such as Newman’s Own Light Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette). Remember not to add the oil until the last minute, as you don’t want to serve overly wilted/wet greens. Serve out of a large bowl, or individually in bowls or thin rocks glass (aka Old Fashioned) tumblers.
You’ll be amazed at what you can find in the freezer section at the grocery store—a check plus in the “keep your party easy” department. And who doesn’t love sweet potato fries? The waffle cut variety is my favorite. (The ones we use are the Alexia brand from Publix.) Serve them directly on a platter, or even put them in cute chevron bags from Buchanan Ink on a tray for individual servings. Grill up some Texas Toast (or let’s call it Tennessee Toast) while you’re grilling the kebabs and you’ll have an easy, satisfying meal that will wow your guests—not just because of the menu, but because they were able to enjoy your company outside of the kitchen.
And we can’t forget about dessert. To complete the meal with a special touch, purchase or whip up some cupcakes. Here, I’ve used strawberry cupcakes from Dulce Desserts. Into a shallow drinking glass or canning jar, like the Weck ones pictured below, spoon two tablespoons of strawberry jam into the bottom of each jar and place the cupcake on top, sans paper wrapper. The presentation will make an easy dessert look unique, as well as keep the bugs away from the sweet treats until it’s time to eat. For the kids, or even the young at heart, purchase Dove ice cream sandwiches and roll the edges in colorful sprinkles. They’ll love having their own special treat.Finish up the table with items around the home. Arrange silverware in glasses next to plates and bright napkins at the start of the buffet. Next, line up the buffet with easy delicacies. For this party, the salad is placed in a beaded pewter bowl, the bags of waffle fries on another pewter tray, and the kabobs on a ceramic platter, ending with the Tennessee Toast on a rattan charger. To round out your table, decorate it with candles and a few fun artifacts to keep it interesting. Flowers, fern fronds, ivy and herbs from the garden, grocery or local flowers arranged in colored glass vases make the table pop with color.
For a beverage station, place the Watermelon Keg on the edge so guests can pour from the spigot into brightly colored glasses. Don’t forget the ice, along with other beverages that are being served. For this party, acrylic wine goblets from Obelisk are used for the wine and a rustic beer carrier from Ash Blue complete the table.Entertaining for large groups is fun. However, there’s nothing like a casual, easy party where the focus is on a few friends; the food comes easy, but still impresses; and the décor is simple but still striking.