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Food for the adults at kid's birthday party

So my daughter will be two at the end of October. My wife has already begun obsessing over themes, favors, guest list, etc of the birthday party. Me not so much... with one exception.. the food.

We live in Rhode Island so fall will be in full swing. The party will likely be at a Gymboree or similar facililty a twenty minute drive from our house. I am told they crank the AC. I am not sure if chafing dishses/sterno etc. will be possible. Probably somewhere around 40 adults.

Goals are delicious food that will hold up given the above conditions and be a cut above the typical pizza strips, cold cuts, pasta in red sauce options.

My thoughts so far. Some kind of dip with veggies, pita chips etc. A crostini with a peppered steak and horseradish cream. Some kind of chicken wings. Something vegetarian.

Thoughts, ideas suggestions?

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  1. what time is the party? we just did our two year olds birthday, food for the adults was a very nice brunch, while the kids had mac and cheese. a big success all around.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ddelicious

      It will start in the mid to late afternoon. Sometime around 3:00

      1. re: Frobisher

        so its not a meal time for the adults. or even the kids. totally agree people won't really have a chance to eat anyway. don't stress about the food, make sure there are enough drinks and stuff. never been to a gymboree where there is even a place for the adults to sit. these parties are not about the food.

    2. You menu sounds good so far. What about doing two or three types of dip with a giant platter of crackers, pita chips, and veggies? If you're having older kids, they may enjoy it as well. A bean based dip and a veggie based dip could both be served at room temp.

      For a vegetarian dish, I have a great millet and butternut squash casserole recipe. It's very fall-ish and it's vegan. I can post the recipe if you'd like.

      I know you mentioned no cold cuts, but what about mini sandwiches? You could do a variety- with meat and vegetarian. Grilled veggies and provolone, turkey and cucumber, steak with peppers and onion.... Can be served room temp and brought to the place in a cooler.

      1. while good food for adults sounds nice, the reality is that adults at a 2-year-old b-day party just don't get to eat. they are chasing the 2-year-olds. i have yet to eat at one of the parties that my son attends--not for lack of food, but for lack of ability to stop and eat. i'd stick with good pizza and a veggie platter. no one is going to get an opportunity to savor anything more sophisticated at all.

        6 Replies
        1. re: LizR

          I totally agree with you and have been there, done that, TWICE!! But that being said, a good hostess needs to have some food for the adults, regardless.

          Never even knew a Gymboree would let you bring in food, let alone catering equipment! If it's hot, and the party's at 3, I would stick with cool finger apps. Mini sandwiches are fine, but I doubt the parents are expecting you to feed them a lunch/dinner, anyway. Also, how long is the party? Two y.o.'s have very short attention spans and tolerances, and the timing may interfere with many nap schedules!! I would keep it to 1 1/2 hours, TOPS, and probably just serve cupcakes, and maybe some small sammies for the adults. PS - are there even going to be places for them to sit and use a fork to eat a salad?? Most gymborees I've seen & been to don't even have chairs!

          1. re: Phurstluv

            + 1 on the cupcakes, and maybe...maybe some sammiches.

            The total focus needs to be on your daughter....She'll be Two only once....Don't miss it!!

            Have Fun!!!

            1. re: Phurstluv

              I agree. NO ONE is expected you to provide food for the grownups besides whatever you're having for the kids, if that. At this age parents are supervision only, not guests! Don't sweat it!

              All the parties I've ever been at places like that just offer some standard pizza and juice option or something like that. Never seen home-brought food.

              1. re: DGresh

                Maybe its a regional a thing but food for the adults is common place at (the far too many) toddler birthday parties I have gone to.

                In any event, I don't feel a burden or an obligation to provide the food, I love to cook and entertain. I look foward to the planning and organization and most of all the actually cooking that goes along with holidays, birthdays etc.

                This place does not provide any food or drink for kids or adults. But they do provide a crucial element supervision and activities for the kids in the form of two paid "instructors", thereby allowing adults to converse and eat, at least a little.

                1. re: Frobisher

                  I know, most preschool parties we've been to always have food for the adults, b/c they stay with their kids, and socialize with the other parents and that's fine. But most of the time, it's at a home, not a gymboree type place.

                  Again, check with the place to make sure you are allowed to bring in food, drinks, equipment, etc. And I still stand by my rec to keep it simple, if you really want to "Entertain" these families with wonderful food, you may have to move the party to your home, or even a popular park, which they do a lot here in LA, and just cart in the salads, sandwiches, pizza, whatever. If you do it at a park, again, check with your local park dept to see if they have any restrictions, and know that the party won't end up being "private". But that's okay, I'm sure the 2 yo's won't mind a bit!!

            2. re: LizR

              i agree stick with simple things that can be eaten in one bite, since that's often all the time a parent has to grab before grabbing at the kidlet...
              bagel bites... i.e. mini bagel pizza
              stuffed dates - if you want to go that fancy
              stuffed mushrooms
              stuffed tomatoes
              mini quesadita bites - cut a standard size quesadilla into bite size portions
              devilled eggs
              ...hope that helps... happy birthday!

            3. A nice roasted vegetable salad with roasted chicken would be great. Make ahead and serve at room temp. a dip with pita chips sounds great. Keep it simple and easy to eat. I agree you may not have a lot of people eating if they are busy watching their kids.

              1. hummus, pita bread/chips
                chicken or lamb meatballs w/ tzatziki

                1. If you want to do nice and make a nice impression but still make it so folks will be able to grab and go as they are chasing their 2-year old kids around, maybe a really fancy cheese platter (full spread) with nice bread slices, beautiful fruits (grapes look really pretty spread around the platter) - cut and ready, maybe some fancy sliced meats, some nice nuts (you can spice them or something), etc. I agree with the other comments that a full spread isn't going to be touched. Enjoy!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: burbankfoodie

                    That's actually what we did last year when we had the party at our house. We had cheese, charcuterie, mushroom pate and assorted fixings for the adults and did a corresponding kid's version (string cheese, american cheese, goldfish, ritz crackers etc). It was a big hit. No leftovers on either side.

                    1. re: burbankfoodie

                      just putting on my mom hat, i wouldn't serve any nuts since some kids may be allergic. i also wouldn't put anything like whole grapes within reach of two year olds running around as it is a well known choking hazard. otherwise i think the platter idea is a good one.

                    2. Go simple. Assorted pre-made deli-style sandwiches on a beautiful platter, a salad with grilled chicken, a fruit salad, even sliced Lavash rolled sandwiches. My Canadian customers often serve pretty little finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off on all different breads, and I'll be that would also make a nice tray. Your pita idea is a good one. It is an odd hour, so don't be surprised if and when most of the parents "just pick". I would be very surprised if Gymboree allowed you to set up chafing dishes with sternos. Major hazard with little ones running around and a fire hazard too. Go simple and enjoy the party. That is most important.

                      If you want to go hot, aim for things that can be kept warm in a slow cooker. Barbecue pork? Chili?

                      Try to pick food that you can bring home for leftovers or give away easily.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: RGC1982

                        I thought about pulled pork, but was concerned about the mess factor and I agree that sterno etc probably won't be and option. That and the hour was leading me towards hor d'oeurve type options that could be eaten without a knife and fork.

                      2. How about a salmon dip/spread? you could serve it in endive leaves or celery, or just crackers.
                        8 oz cream cheese
                        1/2 C. sour cream
                        4 oz smocked salmon
                        1 tsp lemon zest
                        1 tsp lemon juice
                        2 tsp chopped chives
                        S. & P.

                        Ina Garten has a great recipe for rosemary roasted cashews @ food network; they are delicious!!!

                        1. Pasta Salad. I have been doing kids parties whether it is my own (whom is going to be 3) or my friends kids before I was even preggo it was a big hit. The dressing is italian so if there is a mess...it's almost clear. You take multi colored spiral noodles I make 16oz for about 10 people so double as you need. Cook noodles as directed...rinse under cold water set aside. finley chop1/2 purple onion (people eat around it but I have made it without and people def like it in just not to eat it..weird i know) Dice rather large 1 green pepper, 1 yellow pepper, 1 cucumber, and cherry tomatoes sliced. ( this is per 16oz of noodles so just add as needed) Add to the noodles. Toss. Add your favoriate italian dressing just so its lightly flavored and doesnt stick together. Then sprinkle in Celery seed (comes in the seaoning aisle.) make sure its in the pasta not on top it will look freckled haha. Then if you want it to be the main dish go to the cold section iat your grocers and pick up Tyson or Oscar M. Southwestern seaonsed chicken in a pouch (its not spicy) 1 pkg per 16 oz . Toss into pasta, break the pieces that are big up) frigerate till you leave but can sit out for a good 5 hrs and be fine it still tastes good warm too! When you set it out make sure you have the dressing next to the bowl so they can add how much They like becausde everyone is different!

                          1. Thanks for all the suggestions. Right now I am leaning towards a tapas-y kind of menu. Would certainly welcome any additional thoughts or comments.

                            Swish Chard Tart
                            Spanish Tortilla with a Golden Crust and Romesco Sauce
                            Marinated Feta Cheese with Lemon and Shallot
                            Pepper-Crusted Steak with Horseradish Cream on Grilled Garlic Crostini
                            Lamb Meatballs with Lemon-Cumin Yogurt
                            Hummus and Roasted Eggplant Dip with Pita Chips and Crudites

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Frobisher

                              I don't suppose Gymboree allows wine to go with all this lovely food? LOL!

                              Don't know how the crostini will hold up with 20 min. travel time (plus time to serve) as I am reminded of some soggy bruschetta I recently had at a restaurant. Also, not sure if feta cheese is a crowd pleaser, it is with me :) Hope your guests appreciate your efforts!

                              1. re: ceekskat

                                Maybe we can sneak some in a soda bottle ala high school.

                                I was planning on transporting the crostini parts seperately and assembling once we got there to avoid the sogginess factor.

                                Thanks for the feta thoughts, I may rethink that one.

                                1. re: Frobisher

                                  Are you setting up tables at this Gymboree? I mean, like a work table, not tables to sit at. Just wondering how you're going to be assembling food at this place with only walls and soft mats all around!

                              2. re: Frobisher

                                While your menu sounds nice and certainly above the standard kids birthday party fare, you might want to think about this (I am speaking from experience since I have a daughter turning 5 in 2 weeks and a son that just turned 3 last month)...

                                These gym places are generally factories when it comes to birthday parties. Not that it's a bad thing, it's just that they get you in, you have the party and they get you out, all within 90 minutes. People often show up late. The party is called for 11, people are still strolling in at 11:15. Rude, yes, but true. So the party starts a little late. They keep the kids occupied for 45 minutes or so, but with 2 year olds, their attention span is similar to that of fleas, so the parents often have to pay close attention to what is going on. 2 year olds are often hanging onto their parents too, not every 2 year old is eager to participate from the beginning.

                                Then about an hour into the party, it's time for food. They give the pizza to the kids, then they bring out the cake and everyone leaves rather quickly since many kids get cranky at this point.

                                My point is this....there will not be much time for people to really enjoy your food and certainly there won't be time for people to really hang around for a leisurely lunch. Generally on weekends, these places have parties all day long, so there is no time for any given party to linger.

                                We just had my son's 3rd birthday party at a gym facility. We had to bring all the food, paper goods, knife to cut the cake, matches, etc. We were allowed into the party area 15 minutes prior to the party to set up. When the 90 minute mark was approaching, we were hurried out since they had to clean up and re-group for the next party. We opted for chicken fingers for the kids and I brought in platters of various sandwiches (wraps) for the adults (many of them are my friends). Plus cake and a fruit platter. Basically, they came, the kids played, everyone ate, they left. Everyone was happy.

                                While your intentions are great, IMHO, the only way to execute a plan such as yours is to have the party at home.

                                1. re: valerie

                                  I totally agree with you and have had similar experiences with my two boys, now 8 & 6. You are right on the money!! I would have it at home, if I went through the trouble of that nice spread, and really wanted people to linger and enjoy the food.

                                  Plus, you can serve wine or cocktails, if you like! But, there is the clean up afterward! Maybe save the nice party spread you're planning for an adult party this fall - that way you're not cleaning ground in hummus & romesco sauce out of your carpet!!

                              3. Just wanted to thank everybody for their suggestions and comments. We had the party on Saturday and the menu was a big hit. I only ended bringing home a few pieces of feta and some left over veggies/hummus (I guess the guests correctly identified them as the filler they were).

                                Would also highly recommend Gymboree (or at least the one in Seekonk, MA) as a venue for toddler parties. All the kids seemed to have a great time; no crying, fighting or injuries. The staff did a great job of mixing up free play with some organized activities and of course time for food and cake.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Frobisher

                                  Glad it well. Thanks for reporting back.