Ever see those backyard party pics in your favorite magazines and wonder how you can throw such a perfect assembly of coiffed snacks and beverages? I have the perfect solution. Here is my coveted collection of tips and secrets that will get you there in a snap.
We have a great little yard and impromptu get-togethers seem to be a regular occurrence. After work, after a game, Friday night cards and Sunday afternoon chit chat with the neighbors happens often and is almost always last minute. I used to find myself running out to a corner gourmet shop for cheese and some accompaniments that always cost me a fortune but then I decided to pre-stock my pantry with a couple of go-to items that would make last minute entertaining easy and awesome. What a great concept!
Here’s my first secret – I start by perusing the gourmet section at my local HomeSense. Yup, I’m a foodie and am still surprised at the amount of impressive products I can find there. It’s always jammed with an assortment of unique, high end items perfect to stock up on and perfect to use in a pinch. The bonus is always the price, a fraction of what I would normally pay at a local gourmet outlet. I needed a couple of staples, perfect to build on with whatever I might have in the fridge at the time. Here’s some tips to choose your basics, those items you always want to have on hand:
1. Choose some staple starches. crackers, chips, crisps, anything you can use like a cracker or a flatbread that can be stored. Pick something with a twist; here I chose polenta crisps and corn shortbread.
2. Choose some spreads. Jams, chutneys, pestos, tapenades, etc go a long way. They pair well with your crackers and can be combined with cheeses, fruits and vegetables to create unique bites.
3. Try to choose items that touch different taste buds. Sweet, something salty, and something spicy are a great base for your spreads. These can be combined together or with other items to create multiple combos which is what you are aiming for in your spread.
4. Aim for different textures. Crunchy, soft, spreadable, breakable. These all contribute to making your combos interesting.
5. Grab some interesting beverage flavors to jazz things up. I always have a couple of interesting sparkled waters on hand. These can be mixed with alcohol or just some fruit. I had some blueberries on hand and mixed in some wild thyme flowers for an added twist.
Here I opted for an artichoke pesto, sweet nutty popcorn, an olive tapenade and a spicy sour giardineria to make up my mix. Now you can throw in some items you may have on hand. Cheese, fruit, nuts or breads all work well. You can also throw in a salad or some crunchy vegetables to round things out. The options are limitless but this combo will give you a good basis.
Next you need to be prepared for an easy, impressive presentation. It is shocking how awesome things look when they are out of the package and presented in an array of matching plates or serving pieces. Here are a couple of my killer tips:
1. Think about colour and symmetry. White plates. I have been using a series of white plates for almost everything as of late, they are easy to find and always look good. I have a series of small white snack sized ones. They save on waste as people generally keep their plate instead of opting for a series of napkins and paper pieces that always end up getting left around. And they look good. I bought these little square guys at HomeSense last year and use them for apps, snacks and desserts. Plus they stack and store easily and I can fit a ton of them in the dishwasher. I think I paid about 30 dollars for 16. A steal!
2. Colour – it always looks great to incorporate a splash of colour. Here I found these amazing trays from Colin and Justin at HomeSense and they are a perfect and inexpensive way to add a contemporary feel and splash of colour to whatever I am serving. Flowers, napkins, and accessories will do the trick too, but these trays are a perfect addition to my ready-to-go outdoor entertaining tool kit.
3. Find your space – I have this outdoor furniture piece that coincidentally I also found at HomeSense last year ( I really can’t resist a good bargain). This is a small piece that lives in my yard that can hold flowers or lanterns but also acts as a sideboard for a buffet or in this case, snacks and beverages. My trays and plates are pre-picked so they perfectly fit here. You can use a portion of your patio table or a series of side tables too, just have press designated space so you can pre-prepare your set up.
4. Design your space – now that I know I am using my sideboard, I have a set-up prepared that allows for drinks, food and utensils. I’ve got everything covered.
Thats it! Now your ready for a party that looks good at the drop of a hat. You could use this as a blueprint for drinks and snacks or an appetizer station. Add a main course on the BBQ and some wine and you have a full outdoor dinner party. Awesome!
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