Self-catered Anniversary Party
Last year my parents celebrated their 25th anniversary and I was planning on putting together a dinner at their house, but my grandfather died unexpectedly. I realize more and more the importance of bringing friends and family together to celebrate special moments in our lives and so I have rescheduled the celebration (now 26) for this year. I have cooked for crowds before, but this will be my largest party yet. I anticipate about 35-40 guests. I had considered going a heavy appetizer route, but in my experience that is far more work than actually providing a meal! I thought I'd take advantage of the summer grilling weather--my first thought is to grill some marinated chicken the day in advance and then slowly reheat it in the oven the day of. Maybe a tortellini pesto pasta salad? I also thought about grilling some summer squash, onions, and peppers while the grill is fired up and then also reheating the next day, though I realize this may be a large job for that number of people. Rolls and maybe a salad to round out the meal. I have yet to decide whether I'll make the dessert(s) or have that done.
I have a 4 burner grill, 2 large ovens and a warming drawer at my disposal. I would like to keep costs as in check as possible. My other advantage is that I have two sisters, read: sous chefs.
I am open to any suggestions to the menu or tips for how I should best go about this.
Have you talked to your parents about what they would like or is this to be a surprise? Is there a meal they shared when they were first together or any special food that they might want to have?
I think you're right about the appetizers being a lot of work.Are you going to have the party outdoors? I think the smell of the food grilling always adds to a party.
Yes, my parents will be in on it, though I'm trying to involve them minimally so they won't be too tempted to have to help.
Granting the weather is nice, yes we will be outside at my parents house. They have a lovely setup with a pool, everything rocked in, outdoor fireplace, multiple tables, swing, etc. However I don't want to absolutely rely on that because stranger things have happened than a June downpour!
Unfortunately my dad said they ate lots of steak back "in the old days." The only thing that was really memorable to them was the grooms cake was a cherry cheesecake.
I had also considered going the barbecue route and serving potato salad and slaw and beans, but that might be a tad more casual than I'd like. Especially considering they have those sorts of parties often during the summer so it wouldn't be too special. But it's still up for consideration.
The day before my cousins wedding, my uncle and aunt had family and friends over for a casual get together. They purchased premarinated carne asada meat to grill at the party, and laid out all the fixins - grilled veggies, guac, tomatoes, tortillas, salad, 7 layer dip, with Corona and margaritas. Even thou it was casual, the food was delicious and of course the family being together is the most important and fun part. Don't worry so much about serving "fancy" food because everyone loves bbq.
Maybe a Hawaiian theme party since you are outdoors with pool , etc. Appropriate leis for mom and dad or for all if budget allows. Foodwise: Teriyaki chick and beef (flank steak?) on the BBQ, macaroni salad and other assorted sides. Pre-made mai tais and beer.
I did a similar party for my parents' 75th birthdays last year, but I did stick with mainly appetizers, and did not have as big a crowd to deal with as you do.
A nice cold soup is a refreshing way to start a meal, and feels a bit festive. I served a Spicy Thai Cucumber-Avocado soup that went over tremendously, and was served from shot glasses so guests did not need silverware.
Before deciding on a menu, first decide on if you have the utensils, serving ware and glassware that you are going to need for a sit down, dinner type of meal. If not, and you don't want to rent things, then by going more casual, as in finger foods or bbq, will help you determine what to serve.
Hope that helps, and if you'd like to see the menu I did last August, just let me know.
We do a lot of very large parties (100 guests or more) and we always cook everything ourselves. We keep hors d'oevers to a minimum focusing on things that are cold or room temperature and that don't have to be passed. Crudite with an interesting dip, a cheese board and bowls with nuts are more than ample. An antipasto is also useful. For the main, when we have a smaller crowd like yours, we'll do a whole salmon roasted, and some sort of meat, like tenderloin, on the grill. Both of these can be cooked the morning of and served room temperature so can be cooked in advance. Served with something like a cold string bean salad and some sort of cold potato salad, you will be covering the meat eaters and the non meat eaters, as well as being able to enjoy the party yourself. Alternatively, you could grill up a bunch of chicken breasts (also good room temp) and serve those with a choice of toppings, almost like bruschetta. The idea is to keep the fussing during the party to a minimum. As far as cost goes, a whole tenderloin can be purchased relatively reasonably at Costco, and look around for a restaurant supply place like Restaurant Depot who will usually let you shop there once without a club card. Good luck!
Your grilled veggies can be made ahead, and even enhanced, by marinading them post-grill. Do them the day before, then toss them in a fresh, herby vinaigrette. Let them sit overnight and then serve at room temp. They'll be delightful and save you a lot of time on the day of.
Since you are going that route anyway, why not a Middle Eastern mezze? As appetizers you can have olives, tzatziki, hummus, baba banouj, crudites and pita cut into wedges. Then for your main, the pesto pasta salad, maybe an orzo salad with tomatoes, chopped red onions and peas, your grilled vegetables and proteins of grilled chicken marinated in lemon olive oil, oregano, and garlic, grilled lamb, or even do a kofta style kebabs with ground beef, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and garlic. Ground chuck should run to too much. Drinks can be lemonade, sparkling water, and prosecco. Dessert can be a sheet cake with a mascarpone frosting. Everything except for the grilled items can be made in advance and the grilled items can be prepped in advance so the only thing you have to do is stick them on the grill.