Today, entertaining guru Amos Gott joins us to share some tips for pulling together an easy summer party, right from the aisles of the grocery store. We had great fun with our photographer Ashley Hylbert setting up this shoot today at the home of Terry and Mike Patton. Enjoy!
Summer entertaining is all about casual and comfort. Nothing too complicated. Nothing too fussy. Whether having friends over to enjoy the pool, sit on the patio, or relax inside in the air conditioning, here are some easy shopping and entertaining tips to create a lazy, hazy and easy summer party.
Every grocery store has a few items that you can take from freezer to oven to table. Trader Joe’s has the best selections, but unfortunately not every town is blessed with one. So I’m going to help you navigate the typical supermarket to come up with items that will be effortless but will wow your guests.
Let’s start with an appetizer that could actually even be your main course on a larger scale. Southern comfort food is huge right now. There’s nothing more relaxing than the tastes we grew up with or flavors we associate with family. So a tray of mini-chicken and waffles would not only be satisfying, but a conversation starter as well.
Simply purchase a box or two of the Eggo Minis along with a bag of frozen chicken tenders or boneless buffalo wings. Follow directions to bake, then top the mini waffle with a piece of the tender and spear with a skewer. Have a little syrup on the side or drizzle a little over the platter and you’re done! Mini-Chicken and Waffles!
And of course we need to wow your guests with an impressive beverage. Whether alcoholic or not, all you need is your favorite punch recipe (today we made Watermelon Margaritas), a large watermelon, a spigot you can order from Amazon.com, and a few kitchen tools to complete your Watermelon Keg!
Typically the main time-consumer of any party is the entree. And one of the easiest ways to cook is on the grill. The meat department of your grocery typically has beef and chicken kebobs already skewered and waiting for purchase. Just crank up the grill and throw them on, rotating a few times. Couldn’t be easier!
For an easy salad, toss together a Very Berry Delicious Summer Salad. Toss together 8 cups mixed salad greens, 2 cups fresh blueberries, 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese, and1/4 cup chopped and toasted walnuts or pecans. Drizzle with a desired amount of bottled vinaigrette (such as Newman’s Own Light Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette) and you’re done! Remember not to add the oil until the last minute, as you don’t want to serve overly wilted/wet greens. You can serve out of a large bowl, or individually in bowls or thin rocks glass (aka Old Fashioned) tumblers.
Sometimes I’m amazed at what you can find in the freezer section at the grocery store–a check plus in the “keep your party easy” department! And who doesn’t love sweet potato fries? The waffle cut variety are my favorite. (The ones we used today are the Alexia brand from Publix.) Serve them directly on a platter, or even put them in cute chevron bags from Buchanan Ink on a tray for individual servings.
Grill up some Texas Toast (or let’s call it Tennessee Toast) while you’re grilling the kebabs and you’ll have an easy, satisfying meal that will wow your guests–not just because of the menu, but because they were able to enjoy your company outside of the kitchen!
And we can’t forget about dessert! To complete the meal with a special touch, purchase or whip up some cupcakes. Here, I’ve used strawberry cupcakes from Dulce Desserts. Into a shallow drinking glass or canning jar, like the Weck ones pictured below, spoon 2 tablespoons strawberry jam into the bottom of each jar and place the cupcake on top, sans paper wrapper. The presentation will make an easy dessert look unique, as well as keep the bugs away from the sweet treats until it’s time to eat!
For the kids, or even the young at heart, purchase Dove ice cream sandwiches and roll the edges in colorful sprinkles. They’ll love having their own special treat!
Finish up your table with items you have at home. Arrange your silverware in glasses next to your plates and bright napkins at the start of the buffet.
And then line up the buffet with your easy delicacies. I placed the salad in a beaded pewter bowl, the bags of waffle fries on another pewter tray, and the kabobs on a ceramic platter, ending with the Tennessee Toast on a rattan charger.
To round out your table, decorate it with candles and a few fun artifacts to keep it interesting. Flowers, fern fronds, ivy and herbs from your garden, grocery or local florist arranged in colored glass vases make your table pop with color.
And for your beverage station, place the Watermelon Keg on the edge so guests can pour from the spigot into brightly colored glasses. Don’t forget the ice, along with other beverages you’d like to serve. Here I added acrylic wine goblets from Obelisk for the wine, and a rustic beer carrier from Ash Blue to complete the table.
Being a professional event planner, I do love entertaining large. However, there’s nothing like a casual, easy party where the focus is on a few friends, where the food comes easy, but still impresses, and the décor is simple, but still striking.
Thank you Amos! Now, we have no excuses for NOT entertaining this summer!
Amos designs and produces events and weddings throughout the Southeast. For more information, visit his website: www.amosevents.com.
Thanks also to Ashley Hylbert for the wonderful photographs, as well as French King Fine Properties and the Patton Family for providing the lovely backdrop for our shoot. For more information on this Nashville home, which is currently for sale, visit the French King Website: www.frenchking.com.