An Easy Outdoor Party

Invite your friends to a casual get-together, distinguished by the great food!

By FamilyTime


Summer is in full bloom. What better time than right now to have a casual party?

Call the neighbors and other friends and plan a good old-fashioned cocktail party! If you have a deck, patio, or porch, all the better. Chances are good the weather will cooperate and the party can spill outdoors.

When a Cocktail Party Is Not One
We use the term “cocktail party” loosely here to mean a relatively large gathering of adults who may or may not indulge in actual cocktails. But they will want something to drink and plenty to eat!

This party is not a dinner party, but instead is an early evening event where your guests will mingle to catch up with each other and eat finger foods from a buffet table or from passed trays. Chances are most folks will get plenty to eat, but others may take advantage of the evening to plan dinner out after the party with a group of friends — an excellent way to keep the festivities going once you have set the mood.

The Food
Because the weather is warm, plan on an array of cold hors d’oeuvres from dips to patés. Keep them simple and choose those you can make a day ahead of time. Think about dips and spreads that include olive, smoked fish, vegetables, and cheese.

Plan on at least one rather elegant dip or spread, such as one made with sun-dried tomatoes, crabmeat, or salmon. Even these can be made the day before. Check the recipe for storage instructions.

Spiced nuts, which can be fiery, mild or even sweet, can be made several days before the party and stored at room temperature in an airtight container. They look tempting in small, colorful dishes.

A crudités platter is always popular. Guests love the raw vegetables and creamy dip. For the party-giver, the platter or basket filled to overflowing with colorful veggies is a dramatic addition to the buffet table.

While you should not prep the vegetables more than 24 hours in advance, the dip for the crudités can be made ahead of time. If the dip is thick, mound it in a hollowed-out cabbage or radicchio. Dips with thinner consistencies do well in hollowed-out bell peppers. Of course, you can always rely on a small bowl. 

Two or three hot hors d’oeuvres are plenty. Everyone loves cheese puffs, tiny onion tarts, clams oregano, and oven-fried shrimp.

Pastry crusts, cheese crackers, and puffs can be made well ahead of time and frozen. You can also buy pre-baked pastry cups that you can fill with a savory filling and heat. These are wonderful time savers.

Another idea, which is a little more work but always a smash, is to bake mini biscuits, flavored with anything from black pepper to shredded cheese, that are filled with ham or smoked turkey. The biscuits are best baked just before serving, even though this is not particularly convenient. 

Mix and Match
Gourmet shops, bakeries, small markets, and even large supermarkets are treasure troves for the creative host. Buy fancy olives, spreads, dips, breads, hard sausages, and cocktail mixes to supplement your homemade fare.

You may decide to purchase the balance of the food, but since you should figure on at least three of each hors d’oeuvre for each guest, this can be costly.

The more organized you are, the more fun you will have at your own party. And isn’t that the point? Party on!