Putting together a summer buffet can be a snap with a little forward planning and a theme to build on. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive, but it should be colorful and fun! Here are a few basics to consider:
1) Choose foods that taste as good at room temperature as they do when they’re hot, so you don’t need to worry about keeping food hot.
2) Stay away from foods that are easily affected by the heat: avoid mayonnaise-based salads and dishes with cream-based sauces.
3) When arranging your buffet area, be creative: a kitchen counter, the top of a stove, or a chest of drawers can all serve as buffet space.
4) Be sure to allow room on the buffet for plates (first thing), and arrange the dishes so that guests can serve themselves easily. You’ll also need to remember serving utensils for each dish. I put the protein in the middle of the buffet, with the side dishes arranged around it, just because I like the way it looks. If space is limited, set up your dessert somewhere else, creating a separate station for guests to come back to after they’ve eaten, to serve themselves dessert.
5) Cutlery and napkins can be folded together and left near the plates on the buffet space so that guests can pick them up before they start through the line. If you have table seating for everyone, you can set the table as you normally would, and save guests the trouble of juggling their silver as they help themselves.
6) Be sure to think about the weather: try to keep guests out of the broiling sun while they eat; if you’re using paper products, be sure to keep them weighted down until they’re needed so you’re not chasing paper plates and napkins around the yard all afternoon. And have a rain plan if you’re planning on being outside. Think of it as a little fantasy: where would everyone sit if they were forced inside and the food was served out of pots on the stove? Sounds like fun already, and even if you do need to move inside unexpectedly, you’ll have an idea of how it would work, which makes the execution that much easier.
7) Ask for help. Most people are willing to help out to make a party happen, and they’ll often offer to do more than you’ve asked. It makes the prospect of putting together a party less daunting, and it’s fun to get the benefit of others’ creative ideas.
Isn’t that easy? Start a guest list in your head – that’s the first step – and enjoy!