Come and Get It: Tummy-Tempting Ideas for Your Party

How do you serve hordes of hungry guests AND earn rave reviews with minimal effort? Try these chef-tested ideas.

Backyard entertaining usually means cooking outside. Hamburgers and hot dogs grilled over open flames never lose their appeal – but you might want to try something different. In general, it’s best to avoid asking guests to bring their own grillables (unless they have special dietary requirements) because then you aren’t sharing food and the dinner takes on a more competitive feel. (“Gee, your steak looks better than my chicken.”)

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  • Buffet, All the Way! – For a large group that includes kids, a buffet table is often the easiest solution for everything except the grillables.


  • Pot Luck – For a large crowd, pot luck is a fun and inexpensive alternative. You can provide the main course and ask guests to bring appetizers, side dishes or dessert. Don’t be afraid to give your guests an assignment – they’ll feel like a valuable part of the party and you won’t end up with nine bowls of potato salad.

  • Kebob Party – Invite guests to create their own shish kebob. Provide long skewers and a variety of meats, seafood, veggies and sauces. For larger parties, you might want to rent or borrow an extra grill so there’s no waiting. Kabobs are also a favorite with kids. If they don’t want to make their own, you can offer finger foods on a stick – dull-ended skewers with hot dog pieces or chicken and fruit kabobs with several dipping sauces.

  • Cold Fare – If it’s too hot to fire up the grill, consider serving a make-ahead salad or noodle dish that can be served at room temperature. The best food is the freshest food, so visit your local farmers’ market and buy what looks good. A simple salad of just-picked greens with homemade dressing will pass muster with even your most gourmet guest. For do-it-yourself garden appeal, fill a clean wheelbarrow with ice and place bowls of salad fixings in it. Even children will go for the homemade salad bar.

  • Kids’ Menu – Carrot sticks, corn on the cob and toasted marshmallows round out the kids’ menu.

  • Drinks – Stock an ice-filled plastic laundry basket with bottles of cold drinks and pitchers of ice tea.