Summer Entertaining Essentials
If you are planning to do some entertaining this summer, make sure you have a basic “toolkit” of summer entertaining essentials. It will make your life so much easier and your entertaining efforts so much simpler.
Ice and Beverages – I can’t stress this enough, but make sure you have plenty of ice and beverages on hand. When you think you’ve purchased all you need, buy a little bit more. You’ll be glad you did. In addition to whatever fun summer beverages you are serving, make sure to have an ample supply of ice water available. Encourage guests to stay hydrated. If you are into interesting party drinks, keep some tasty sugars on hand to rim the glasses.
Chairs – Again, when you think you have all you need, set out a few more. There is nothing worse than being at a party and not being able to sit down to chat or eat. Create groupings or set them around a fire ring, but just make sure you have enough.
Trash Cans – If you put them out, people will use them. One easy way to clean up after a party is to have a trash station set up. Have a trash can and another container for recyclables (lined with trash bags, of course), provide a pan or basket to collect dirty utensils and have a tray or container to hold used plates and glassware. Your guests will gladly throw away their trash and pile in their plates and forks if you give them an easy way to do it.
Shade – If you are entertaining outdoors, check out what shade is available at the time you have designated for your party a few days before the event. Is there adequate shade for everyone? Do you need to get a few lawn umbrellas or maybe put up a tent? If your yard is lacking in shade think about how you can create some. If you are on a tight budget but have the willingness to get creative, something as simple as a sheet tacked to corners of the house and some stakes in the yard can create temporary shade.
Barbecue Grill – Make sure if you are barbecuing that the grill is in a safe place. Do not reuse plates or utensils that touched raw meat.
Napkins, Towels and Hand-Wipes – Between drippy hamburgers and juicy watermelon, summer entertaining seems to call for more napkins. Have plenty available. You may want to also have paper towels on a stand set out or a container of hand-wipes. A great place for the paper towels and hand-wipes is near your trash station.
Keep Food at the Right Temperature – Never let food sit out more than an hour or so, especially in hot temps. Keep cold foods cool by nestling serving bowls into bowls or pans filled with ice. If you don’t want guests to see the ice pans, put a drape over them before setting in bowls. This not only keeps food cool, but also creates a nice element of visual interest on your buffet table. Keep hot foods hot by bringing out a hot plate, using a crock pot or warming bricks and laying them under the warm dishes. My own rule of thumb after a party is “if in doubt, throw it out.” Don’t try to save food, especially containing things like mayo, if it has set out too long.
Condiments are Important – Have a variety of condiments including everything from ketchup to pickles and keep them well-stocked. And for goodness sakes, buy mayo not salad dressing. Your guests will definitely thank you!
The Extras – If you do a lot of outdoor entertaining, have a basket that contains bug spray, hats, fans and sunscreen and set it out where guests can easily find what they need.
Quick Tip – Use lemon wedges, maraschino cherries, peach slices and mint to garnish drinks.