So if you read our previous post, you know everything you ever wanted to know about dyed doilies, paper lanterns, and use-what-you’ve-got centerpieces. The thing you didn’t get a peak at: the main attraction for our many out of town (even out of state!) guests–the food!
We’ve had quite a few barbecue/hamburger/hotdog outdoor parties lately, and we needed a change since many of the same people would be coming to the same place at the same time as they had just a month or so before. So for my daughter’s birthday party, we decided to tackle serving a summery soup and salad to the multitude, and keeping the party inside with the exception of a bit of overflow seating.
We went a bit crazy with our theme, (albeit a rather loose theme: lemons with a yellow, blue and green color scheme) and even chose food that fit. A lot of recipes were tested. Some outstanding contenders just didn’t make the cut (sorry lovely gourmet Lemon-Blueberry layer cake. Au revoir neat Pioneer Woman salad). Here’s what did make it:
(click for recipes)
Logistics of serving soup and salad at a party
Tip #1: Pick a space and “prettify” it
Let’s face it. A kitchen isn’t the prettiest place for a buffet line at a birthday party. But if you’re not having an outdoor party, and you actually need to sit people at your dining table, your options narrow down pretty fast.
If you need to serve from your kitchen, here is a pretty idea:
These ruffled crepe streamers would also look pretty under kitchen cabinets:
As nice as these options are, we really needed to use the kitchen as a food prep workspace, not a showcase. So we eeked out space in the entryway, using a console table with an expanding top as our primary buffet space, an antique washstand at the base of the stairs for dessert, a card table tucked by the front door for water and punch, and coolers with other drinks on the porch.
Tip #2 : Traffic flow is everything
Wherever you put your self-serve line, if you have a small, narrow space, you’ve got to do anything you can to help with traffic flow. If you can keep your different serving areas even slightly separated, it will significantly reduce your guests’ blood pressure.
In our case, we had the guests start at the soup side of the table and continue in a straight line towards the drinks. We made the soup accessible only from the side of our console table, and the salad only from the front. Guests that needed to grab yeast rolls and utensils stepped around the corner to the other end of the table, before continuing onto the card table by the door where the punch and water servers were located, or to the coolers with more drink options just outside. Between these small efforts and guests exercising general southern hospitality, everyone got their food surprisingly quickly and easily.
Tip #3: Get creative and use what you’ve got to save space and keep food hot (or cold)
We had to fit seventeen different foods on our console table–plus plates, bowls, napkins, and utensils.
It took some creativity, but we made everything fit, through the use of some unique (ok, odd) serving pieces. We used a flour canister to serve our soup. It was tall and narrow enough to keep a large quantity of soup hot, and didn’t require all the room that a traditional soup tureen and lid would need. I had a bowl of soup 30 minutes after it was added to the canister, and it was still wonderfully warm.
We also needed something tall and relatively narrow to hold the utensils (you can’t see it, in these pictures, but a giant pan of yeast rolls took up all the room on that side of the table), so we recruited the bottom of a facial tissue dispenser basket. Finally, without a vinegar cruet (or three), we turned to two large creamers and a gravy boat to serve our three salad dressings.
We had some more traditional serving pieces too, like the two B. Smith tiered bowl sets (from Bed, Bath and Beyond). These affordable servers kept the food in easy reach–even for kids, and add a bit of height for a much prettier table-scape. My mom and I each own one of the the tiered sets above (aww, they’re friends!) as well as several other B. Smith serveware pieces. Though most of the B. Smith pieces aren’t as space-saving as these stacked bowl sets, we love the vertical element and the way they dress up even simple foods.
Other than posting the recipes, I’ll also have one more quick post to tell you about the gorgeous eco-friendly, compostable plates (made from crushed leaves!), bowls (made from sugarcane–and dressed up with a potato stamp) cups, and utensils we used.