Although summer does not end until the autumnal equinox (4:21 AM on September 23 this year), Labor Day is summer’s swan song, with families bidding adieu to beach cottages and kids dreading the start of school. Here a few tips for giving summer the send-off it deserves.
Create a manageable guest list. Rain may show up on party day, so be sure your indoor space can handle the number of guests in the event of foul weather.
Come up with a general menu concept that reflects the season. Grilling makes sense for a summer party. Just have a large umbrella ready in case of rain. Avoid refrigerator overload and choose some room temperature safe side dishes. Finally, if someone offers to bring something, take them up on it – beer, wine, ice, and cookies are all welcome additions.
Parties are not just about food. Have some activities available. No pool? A sprinkler, water balloons, and slip and slide are fun. Set up a net and put out badminton rackets or a volleyball. Frisbees and footballs are favorites of adults and kids. Additionally, consider putting up a tent so that guests can take a break in the shade.
Use the abundance of wonderfully flavored fresh produce when creating your menu.
- Upscale Meat and Potatoes
- Charcuterie-inspired appetizers such as prosciutto wrapped melon
- Grilled marinated flank steak
- Homemade potato salad (Make it fancier by using great seasonings)
- Fruit salad with an alcohol-based syrup (unless kids are attending)
- Sliced heirloom tomatoes with sea salt and balsamic vinegar
- Family Friendly Fun
- A salsa and chip bar
- Assorted shish-kabobs
- Rice salad
- Grilled garlic bread
- Homemade cookies and ice cream
- Sliced watermelon and s’mores
- On the Fly
- Potato chips, cheese curls, and pretzels
- Hot dogs and hamburgers
- Potato salad
- Sliced tomatoes
- Popsicles and ice cream sandwiches
Keep in mind you want to serve a balance of foods that appeal to a variety of palates without creating a slew of different dishes. Be sure you have a good selection of beverages on ice to go with dinner.
The Grand Plan
Spending a little time creating a schedule will make the day of the party that much more enjoyable not only for your guests but also for you.
One week before the party:
- Buy paper plates, napkins, and plastic cutlery
- Create (or purchase) decorations
- Buy chips, canned goods, ice cream, beverages, etc. that will keep in the pantry or freezer
- Get extra charcoal or gas tanks for the grill
- Beg, steal or borrow patio chairs
Two days before the party, look at your recipes. If it will keep for two days, make it ahead. Additionally, buy any perishables such as meats and vegetables. Then, get a good night’s sleep because the day before the party is the big prep day.
- Bake cakes, cookies, etc.
- Make cold salads such as potato salad, which tastes better after sitting in the fridge for a day
- Clean chairs and tables
- Organize plates and cutlery
- Prep foods, including marinating meats, chopping onions, celery, etc.
The morning of the party, put up your decorations and do any last minute cooking. Buy ice and put in in beverage bins along with cans and bottles. Assemble any fresh salads and have any meats ready to go onto the grill. You should be able to put up your feet and relax for a little bit, so that you are ready to party when your guests arrive later in the day. Just before guests arrive, set out appetizers, and let the party flow from there.