By GreenLeaf editorial staff
GreenLeaf recently sat down with GreenStars Deli Manager Allyn Rosenbaum and Marketing Manager Joe Romano to find out just how to throw a party like a natural.
GreenLeaf: Ok, Im having a party. Who do I invite?
Allyn Rosenbaum: I always just invite all the different people in my life, most people in a festive mood will find someone to relate to. If your going to have kids over, try to have more than one, one kid gets bored. It is also a good idea to have something for kids to do, we recently had a baby shower with older kids invited. We set them up in another area with pumpkin carving and a willing adult to help. Everyone had a great time. Holiday cookie decorating is a great kid activity and you can do everything in advance.
GL: I know a lot of people. How many of them should I invite?
Joe Romano: If you have to ask, dont invite more than 8even that will stress an inexperienced host. Also, it depends on the type of dinner you want to have, it can be large and formal or small and intimate.
GL: What kind of mix really works?
JR: This is the toughest question, generally if you subject your friends to an uncomfortable family experience, probably neither group will thank you for it. If on the other hand, your relatives can behave, then your friends and your family both get a new perspective on you.
GL: But wait, how many people are we talking about?
AR: How big is your house? Try not to have more people than will comfortably fit. Think about how people will eat. Are you going to all sit down together? If so do you have tables and chairs? It is good to remember that if you are having a buffet, some people will still need to sit. Try not to fill up all the table space with food.
GL: What about invitations?
AR: If your party is a big deal, and you want everyone to come, you should send out save the date cards, call, or email folks to let them know the day of the event about 60 days in advance. Invitations should follow a month later.
JR: The more formal your party is, the more advance notice you need to give your guests. However, if you find out your neighbor is spending the day alone, you could invite him/her the day before.
GL: This is the part when I start freaking out. How can I prepare for this thing?
AR: Do every thing you can in advance. I try to have everything but the final food heating done before guests arrive, and I try to leave a half hour to get myself ready.
GL: Ok, so Im talking to a couple of experts, what should I serve?
AR: Choose a menu that you can do in your sleep, a party is not the time to try anything new. Enough goes wrong while cooking for a crowd so choose food that you love to make. If you do want to try new things, test them out on your family first. Even the simplest recipes have tricks, and the best way to learn them is to make it more than once. After selecting a menu, set a time-line. Try to pick some dishes you can make a day or two in advance, and some that can be prepared the morning of. Remember, if you get a lot of cooking done in advance, and have if ready to be reheated, you can have all the pots and pans cleaned and put away. Another option is to supplement your homemade dishes with sides and platters from our Deli department. Nothing starts a party off better than a Grilled Quesadilla platter with lime sour cream.
GL: What about hors doeuvres?
AR: Hors doeuvres should be out before the guests arrive, if you have refills for any of your items, let a couple of people know where they are so they can fill them. To save time and stress you can order appetizer trays from the GreenStar deli.
GL: My kitchen is tiny. How can I make this work?
JR: The best thing you can do if you have a small kitchen is try to stay out of it on the day of the party. That means lots of dishes you can prepare mostly in advance, Soups, side dishes, hors doeuvres, and especially desserts can be prepared the day or days before. Make sure to have lots of nibbles and drinks in another room, so people wont be coming into the kitchen for those items. Another solution is to go potluck. You can assign a plate to every guest and have them all bring them on the day. Tell every one to arrive with the food hot and ready to go.
GL: So the moment is upon me. Guests are arriving. Things still need finishing. What do I do?
AR: Greet them, take coats, get them a drink, and point them to the food. I try to get a family member to do this job, so I can concentrate on putting the finishing touches on the food. The rest can be done while guests are around, carving, dressing salads, serving dessert. Try to spend some time with guests. Isnt that why you have a party?
GL: How much should I make per person? What about kids? How much do they eat?
AR: I always make way too much food. I hate to run out and I like to send food home with people. If you are using a recipe, it will tell you how many it feeds. If not, picture the plate you are using and how much will fit on it. If you can get some idea of how much of each item fits on the plate, then you just multiply by the number of guests. Kids will eat less, but some adults eat more, just count kids as an adult unless you are having a ton of kids. If you plan on leftovers, also plan on what you are putting them in. At GreenStar we have a number of non-plastic containers for sale in the Wellness department that will keep your leftover food safe and fresh.
GL: Do I need a fully stocked bar? What about non-drinkers and kids?
AR: I always ask people to bring beverages, this is one less thing to think about. If you are doing beverages yourself, try to keep it simple, a couple of kinds of wine, local fresh pressed cider from Little Tree (this years cider is the best Ive had in years). If you choose to serve the hard stuff-try to keep it to two or three kinds of liquor and mixers. Set the bar up in an area that doesnt get easily congested, put all the glassware and ice right in that area. Dont forget the kids, they love cider and juice, and they also need cups that wont break.
GL: As a novice entertainer, my biggest challenge is remaining calm. Help me.
AR: One word: lists. Have a list of all the things you need to do and organize it by time, start with a few days out and work down to the half hour before. Ask for help. If you are behind, and the guests are arriving, ask for help. People love to help, give them tasks that will be helpful to you without you needing to supervise.
Also, a list of when food goes in and comes out of the oven is very helpful to make sure you can fit it all in. Salads can be made ahead and stored in bags in the refrigerator to be poured in bowls and dressed at the last minute. Potatoes and other root vegetables can be prepped and sit in a pot of water on the stove for hours, just turn them on when its time. Most meats needs to rest before carving, you can use that time to reheat sides or put pies in the oven.
GL: How can I say a blessing at the meal without offending my atheist and pagan friends?
JR: Unless you or someone else will be uncomfortable, you can always be thankful for the food, friendship, and family.
GL: I want my guests to feel comfortable. How can I keep them happy?
JR: People usually ask, what can I do? unless you really need help, take the opportunity to tell them to put their feet up and enjoy the holiday. Remind them that they are your guest and you want them to relax and enjoy.
GL: How do I handle the age-old offer, Let me help you with those dishes?
JR: One of two ways. Have a group of people pitch in and do them while the others play games or relax. The other choice is to say, No, you are my guests and I wont allow it. If they still insist, tell them No. And to be fair, I wont do dishes when I come to your house. This little joke usually works and also gets you out of doing dishes at their house.
GL: Okay, say everything went really well,its getting late and there are just a few people left that show no indication the the party is coming to an end. What do I do?
JR: Ask if people want a pot of coffee or small glasses of juice for the road. You can also ask people if they want you to pack up anything for them to go.
GL: Great! Any final tips?
JR: Dont forget your smile. People are looking to you to have a good time, so if something burns or a guest has said or done something to upset you, remember your duty as host to provide an enjoyable evening to your guests.
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It's not too early to start grilling — try some local pork, or meatless Gardein products. We've got all the fixin's.
It's never too early to start grilling! Try local, heritage-breed, pasture-raised, and 100-percent organic-grain-fed pork products from Hog Wild Farm for great barbecue fare! Throw those pork chops or hot dogs on your grill and fire it up with Woodstock all-natural hardwood lump charcoal. Try some Silver Hill hot-dog buns or Udi's gluten-free options. Woodstock supplies the grillin' fixin's: organic mustard and ketchup (part of our low-cost BASICS program!), and organic pickles and relish. You can also create a vegetarian barbecue from the exciting array of Gardein meatless products in the freezer. Be sure to try the new black bean burger. Round out your meal with a crisp, cold, regionally brewed Narragansett lager — the Pabst Blue Ribbon of New England and the perfect complement to springtime grilling! Not local enough for you? How about a bottle of Utica Club, the Pabst of upstate NY? Another easy sipping lager on hand here at the Co-op!