Put the pots and pans away, a “grazing party” is designed to replace a traditionally served meal, allowing your guests to “graze” their way through the evening’s festivities. The best part? With a little prep work, all your effort happens before the guests arrive, so you can concentrate on enjoying everyone’s company instead of tending to cooking and serving while the party’s happening.
The key to successful grazing is all in the quality of the small bites. What’s fun is experiencing a variety of tastes, so have small plates and cocktail napkins on hand. Arrange food stations with plenty of space for guests to serve themselves and have room to mingle, returning to the food routinely for refills.
Whether you call it tapas or appetizers or small plates, build your menu with contrasts — from creamy to crunchy textures, sweet to savory flavors, hot and cold temperatures, and so on. Anchor your offerings with a bountiful charcuterie and cheese board that will be as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the stomach.
Pick two to three items from each of the following categories and arrange on a large wooden board or chilled piece of slate or marble.
Sure, go with some all-purpose crowd pleasers like sharp cheddar. But then branch out and pick ones with with contrasting qualities: firm, soft, or crumbly; goat or sheep’s milk; aged vs. freshly made; and so on. Tread lightly on the flavored cheeses, you want their natural taste to shine, and you’re including other things on the board (see below) for people to pair them with and create their own flavor combinations. Plan for approximately 3 ounces per person.
From prosciutto to pepperoni, pick a range that goes from thin to thicker cuts and pile high around cheese.
Choose some of your favorite nuts for snacking: cashews, almonds, walnuts, all make great choices.
Dried cranberries and apricots, fresh figs, melon, strawberries, dates.
Drizzles and Spreads
Honey, greek yogurt, jams, mustards, hummus.
Choose a few styles of crackers (one simple plain butter cracker and one sesame for instance), along with a fresh-baked crusty baguette or sliced, toasted pumpernickel. Arrange in a basket next to the board.
Olives, stuffed grape leaves, marinated artichokes, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber. Places these in small serving bowls around the rest.
Finely chopped garnishes like basil leaves or thin sliced red onion can help people build their own perfect bite.
Here are just a few ideas and suggestions to get your creativity flowing. Remember, the food is the star of your event, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time on the décor, just have plenty of serving plates and utensils on hand. All you have to do is keep an eye on restocking the stations as needed.
Meatballs, spanakopita (mini spinach pies), stuffed mushrooms, pot stickers, crab cakes, sushi rolls, and similar one-bite dishes can be made the day ahead and reheated (or served chilled) just before. Short on time? Any of these can be bought pre-made, ready to reheat.
Choose a few bottles of red wine and a few white or rosé for pairing based on guest’s tastes and offer flavored sparkling water for designated drivers. Plan on having at least one bottle for every two people invited.
Don’t Forget Dessert
Cake pops, brownie bites, lemon bar squares, cookies, or similar. Think of any sweet treats that are finger friendly.
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