Whether you are having a small 10 person shindig or a large 80 person rager, you’ll be wanting to include some viddles for your guests. Maybe it’s themed food from Pinterest or catered or just chips and dip. Is it potluck? Everyone brings a dessert? There’s no real wrong answer here. You’re the boss of the party.
One thing I always had to tell myself is that you can’t please everyone, but I sure as hell am going to try. Isn’t it always something about a host or hostess trying to impress every last person? Maybe it’s just me. You may have vegetarians or vegans, gluten free eaters or those who only eat before 8pm. If you try checking off all those boxes, you better have a big budget and a large table to put all the food on. Do your best but from experience, you’re not going to get everyone to eat and you or your guests shouldn’t expect that.
My first buffet was weak. Barely enough food and it wasn’t worth the money I shelled out. I never ask people to bring things, but always ENCOURAGE them to show off their Food Network skills if they want to. Some bring covered dishes or prepackaged food and some bring more booze or beer. Some bring nothing and that’s ok. I would have your oven on warm just in case someone needs to reheat something. Anything more and your kitchen turns into a sauna and guests get uncomfortable.
After the first year I pooled friends and found out what was some things they would like to see. It was actually a fun experiment. Some traded useful suggestions and then some had questionable ideas that make me worry about their eating habits. In any case, a big suggestion was the obvious finger foods. Easy bite size things with variety. The second year of Boos & Booze I made a “menu” of sorts and bought the things while keeping in budget….for the most part.
Homerun! All the food was a success, and it lasted through the night. However, if you’re like me and always talking to everyone and making sure they are having a good time, you forget to eat yourself. Bad choices especially if you are drinking too.
TIP: Before the party take some tupperware and make a “morning after” meal with the buffet food and store it away so you have a meal the next morning or after everyone leaves. You’ll thank yourself when you’re hungry and there isn’t any food left.
You’ve read this far as I wax on about my previous buffet trials. So what are my go to buffet bonanza options? First I would raid the frozen food departments at BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club. Grab appetizers from them. There is usually a great variety (mac and cheese fitters, meatballs, mozzarella sticks, mini tacos, etc) and you can buy them a few months before, spread out the budget a bit and they typically have a good shelf life. Obviously if you don’t have the freezer space this may not be ideal.
Buying food should be like booze and drinks. Spread out the buying if the shelf life allows it.
Finally, I spread the rest of the money out to local restaurants. I always ask if I can order early and pay a deposit. Some do and some don’t. You’ll have to do a little homework. Some options I used:
- General Tso’s and Orange Chicken platters from my favorite Chinese place
- Pork lumpia and veggies lumpia from a local Filipino restaurant made by a woman named Susan
- Spanakopita from the best family owned Greek place in town
- Wings and buffalo chicken dip from the hottest wing joint
- Chicken strips or bites from a hole in the wall bar. They do platters! Who knew?!
- Queso and chips from the addictive neighborhood Mexican place. LIQUID CHEESE!
- Fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets. Support those local farmers!
Once I had all the makings of a killer buffet, I had to use the best resource for keeping things warm throughout the night. Borrowing crockpots from friends, grabbing some sterno burners and disposable buffet warmers have worked out best. They are cheap and burn out over the course of the night. Just need to add water to the pans every so often to prevent burning.
In the end, you know your guests and it’s your party. Make sure it’s food you want to eat too. You did all the work here! Your friends and family are there to have a good time, dress up, and connect. Whatever you offer up can only make the night better….unless it’s a ranch fountain…that’s messy.