The Party Life

When I owned and operated Carole’s Catering, our slogan was “Be a guest at your own party,” and we made this very easy because we did everything. Pre-party planning was the hard part for the client as many decisions were required. I worked with clients to plan the menu, arrange rentals and determine staffing.

During this time, I would learn the background story on the event and get to know the client; this would help me to know exactly what would be most important in making the event as enjoyable for the host as it would be for the guests. The night of the party, our staff would set up the tables and place settings, prepare and serve the food, thoroughly cleanup and have the rentals stacked and ready for pick up. We would leave the house just as we
found it. 

With the right planning and the right menu, you can feel like a guest at your party without hiring a caterer. Set up a serve-yourself bar. Choose a menu with appetizer and main course dishes that can be made ahead of time. A buffet works best, of course. Put out all the dishes out you plan to use and wrap your silverware in napkins and arrange them in a basket on the buffet table.

Cold hors d’oeuvres such as a crudités, a cheese and fruit tray, shrimp with cocktail sauce and chips and dips can be set out for guests to enjoy at the start of the evening. Entrees such as barbecued chicken or ribs can be grilled the day before, refrigerated and then brought to room temperature two hours before you plan to reheat in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes. 

A pasta salad with grilled vegetables or potato salad and cole slaw can all be made two days ahead; in fact, my potato salad tastes best if it sits for 48 hours. A leafy green salad would round out this menu nicely. Wash and dry the lettuce and have everything ready in the morning and just toss with dressing before you sit down. An alternative would be a cold entree such as poached salmon with dill sauce. If this intimidates you, your fish store would likely poach it and dress it for you. 

A chicken salad or beef salad (recipe below) are delicious options and perfect for summer. 
For dessert, I suggest berry shortcakes and allow guests to make their own. Prepare a dish of berries with a sprinkling of sugar, an ample bowl of fresh whipped cream and a basket of homemade biscuits. 

There are many young people looking for work during the summer months. Hiring someone to help set up, clear away plates and dishes and clean up will make your party really enjoyable for you. The main thing is to enjoy yourself; your guests will love you for it.

by Carole O'Shaughnessy