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Room Temp Party Food

I am planning an outdoor shower and I am looking for some snack ideas that I don't have to worry about keeping hot or cold without any food safety issues (for about 4 hours.)

Specifically I would like a few different tea sandwich ideas, and then maybe something like a trail mix/chips/popcorn that still looks special and is delicious. Everything will be plated/packaged in individual portion sizes.

Any ideas would be appreciated!

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  1. What kind of outdoor temperatures are you expecting? 4 hours of hot weather will kill just about anything, especially bread for the tea sandwiches.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ROCKLES

      sharing in the weather question here. with 90+ degrees like we have had lately in new england i wouldn't try keeping any real food outside. chips/pretzels, ok, but any produce or protein is too perishable. bread will start to stale in no time. it also makes most normal people feel wilted and unhungry.

      btw, i serve plenty of room temp at parties, so am not a food safety nutzo, but in this weather would err on the side of caution.

      are you someplace south of the equator where the temps are more humane right now?

      btw, i serve plenty of room temp food at parties, so am not a food safety nutzo, but in this weather would err waaaaaaaaaaaaay on the side of caution.

    2. If you've got really hot weather then four hours is going to result in pretty nasty food, even if safety isn't an issue (wilted vegetables, for example). For that, I'd stick with things like nut mixes, or fruit that can be peeled right before eating. Chips and pretzels would work in a dry climate, but not so much if it's really humid.

      I would do a test. Put a slice of cheddar cheese, a piece of lettuce, a slice of cucumber, a piece of bread, and some cured meat (like summer sausage) on a plate. Let it sit at the temperature your are expecting for about five hours. If your cheese or meat are melting or weeping, the lettuce or cucumber is limp, or the bread is soggy or dry, then I think you're out of luck.

      If the food still looks and tastes okay, then I might do sandwiches with a fairly sturdy bread (like rye), with mustard, a cheese like cheddar that's not too soft, and lettuce and/or thinly sliced cucumbers. I think that will hold up better than things like butter, cream cheese, or soft white bread.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

        wilted or shriveled food is not a reliable indication of food safety. you can't see bacteria developing and it happens rapidly in sun and hot weather. at temps around 90 degrees, like we have had here in new england, even food handled in the strictest and safest ways is no longer good to consume after being out less than an hour.

      2. I catered a store opening not long ago (in central TX where it's almost always hot and often humid) where the food had to sit out for 6 hours. I made two savory shortbreads - one with lemon zest and fresh thyme, the other with stilton, rolled of poppy seeds. I also made a ton of roasted pecans, some with sea salt only and the rest were curried. I also made a bunch of quick-pickled french green beans. My goal was to make things that could sit out for hours without risk of spoiling and would accompany alcohol. It all got eaten.

        3 Replies
        1. re: agoodbite

          Nuts sound like a great idea to me. You could also do candied. I'd use a recipe that has you bring the sugar to hard crack, I think this will help make sure the sugar doesn't melt off in the sun. And I think you could store them in the freezer prior to the event.

          1. re: jvanderh

            frozen candied nuts will start to condensate almost instantly.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Like, droplets of water on the surface of the nuts? Does that make them mushy?

        2. It will be next Saturday in NH.. Not sure what the weather has been like there lately, but I am thinking hot! right now I am thinking I will just put everything on small plates so I have to replenish it quickly enough that it wont go bad. I am thinking of making:

          Cheese straws
          BLTs on cracked pepper biscuits
          Truffled popcorn
          Fruit kabobs
          Rice Krispy treat pops

          I would still like to make 2 more types of finger sandwiches preferable without meat if anyone has any suggestions?

          13 Replies
          1. re: sarahelan

            in the South for finger sandwiches we do cucumber, tomato,egg salad,olive-nut-cream cheese, pimento cheese, or chicken salad. We also do pinwheels that hold up to the heat nicely.
            We also put ice under our platters too...to keep everything nice and cool. Of course we usually set the food up indoors or an inset porch.

            1. re: sarahelan

              I don't know how those Rice Krispie treats will hold up. I was at my daughter's kindergarten end of year party in 80 degree heat and the Rice Krispie squares some other Moms brought were melting in the sun. If you can I'd set the food out in a covered area - even if it means renting/purchasing (there should be end of season sales nowadays) something like this: http://www.target.com/Outdoor-Patio-T...

              1. re: sarahelan

                Can you just go to Bed Bath and Beyond or a similar store and get a few of those trays with the ice receptacles underneath? For anything with meat or cheese, that's what I'd do. You don't have to use that much ice and you can certainly improvise by stacking two plates with ice in between them if you don't want to buy a gimmicky product. It has been very hot in New Hampshire lately. My son was up at camp on Newfound Lake last week and it was in the 90s every day.

                1. re: Isolda

                  i was going to suggest cooled trays as well...

                  maybe mini blue corn blinis with guacamole and crema

                  or crab rolls - http://www.thedailymeal.com/asian-cra...

                  popcorn is another alternative to nuts/crackers
                  or different flavors of roasted chickpeas -- i've done a melange of spicy to herby, and people always seem surprised that they like them... go figure.

                  have fun, and stay cool!

                  1. re: Emme

                    What are blue corn blinis? That sounds amazing!

                    1. re: sarahelan

                      make blinis using blue cornmeal :) i can dredge up a recipe i have somewhere if you like...

                  2. re: Isolda

                    I would, but I have a really specific idea of how i want the food to look, and those don't really work :-(

                    1. re: sarahelan

                      sorry, but why do you want to spend the entire party running back and forth replenishing tiny plates?

                      is it possible for you to set up food indoors instead and have people carry plates outside?

                      1. re: sarahelan

                        Yeah, I agree they're ugly, but it's a trade-off. I agree with hotoynoodle that running back and forth doesn't sound all that fun, but if you don't mind it, this does sound like a good solution if you don't want to use the cooling trays.

                    2. re: sarahelan

                      Bruschetta would be good. Pimiento cheese sandwiches?

                      1. re: sarahelan

                        If you're thinking of doing cupcakes, I'd try a mousseline buttercream as it's one of the more heat-stable ones. As much as I hate to use crisco in baked goods, it may be a good option for heat resistance in a frosting if you know how to make it work.

                        1. re: sarahelan

                          have a garden full of zucchini now? take the flowers, stuff with a mix of feta, basil, pinenuts run through the food processor for a beautiful presentation. Take the zuccinis and make a nice nut bread with them, top with a flavored cream cheese.

                          1. re: sarahelan

                            the rice krispie treats and most frostings for cupcakes will melt outside in any kind of hot weather. cookies would have more staying power, and a nice assortment can be very pretty if plated well.

                            for the fruit, why not hollow out a watermelon, submerge it in ice, and keep the kabobs in that?

                            black bread with cream cheese, golden raisins, walnut and watercress will hold well, as would tapenade and goat cheese. it's usually the protein in a picnic meal that spells trouble for food poisoning, so think veggie.

                            the ice packs under platters can be wrapped in linen, btw, so not visible, and will definitely improve your safety net.

                          2. Having spent years as a caterer, both as chef, planner and company owner - I have had to deal with this issue a lot - making food that can stand up to hot weather, and still be good looking and SAFE for your guests... I must say, it is imperative that your 'wish' for a certain style can never get in the way of the food safety of your guests, so choose wisely. It would be a shame to sicken one or more of your guests - especially when you obviuosly are working hard to put on a lovely event!
                            That said - unless you can manage refridgeration (the ice tray idea is great) - NO SEAFOOD, Period.
                            a great 'tea-style' sandwich that you can make several variations on that stands up well without wilting or drying out too quickly is to hollow out a slim baguette, fill with any of several fillings, then put the halves back together, pressing down to adhere, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for just a while - say- up to a couple hours - to set (you don't want the bread to get tough or soggy). to serve, slice in thin rounds and perhaps 'tile' the slices either on a tray or in individually served, however many slices you want pp on each plate.

                            Fillings that hold up well - and are pretty safe are mix say 1/3 goat cheese with 2/3 cream cheese and add mix in's - sundried tomato/basil, olives/shredded cheddar/horseradish, pumkin seed/finely chopped dried apricot, chopped roasted red peppers/olive tapenade are some ideas.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: gingershelley

                              well said....no will remember you specific "style" but they sure will remember getting sick

                            2. Perhaps instead of cupcakes (they are kind of predictable, these days) what about miniature cream puffs with buttercream moussline piped inside? Nothing to get all shiny, goey looking on the surface, and very 'ladylike"! :)

                              1. a couple suggestions from experience catering outdoor events/weddings:

                                have double/triple the platters you will set out. have one platter out and 1 or 2 refrigerated. every hour or hour and a half, depending on type of food and ambient temp, switch out the platters. let the ambient platter chill before replenishing and garnishing to go back out. note that this requires 1) at least one person to pay almost constant attention to the food. if it is you, you will be primarily a buffet attendant and not a host. consider hiring or delegating this job to someone else. 2) ample refrigeration. with advance planning you can rent a hot/cold box from a party rental company, or a 50+ gallon cooler works in a pinch. for either of these options, use dry ice and keep food level/flat and elevated.

                                regardless of how they look, cheeses and cut vegetables like cucumbers and salad greens are actually considered potentially hazardous at high temps after a few hours. 4 hours, for virtually any prepared food that would normally be refrigerated, is definitely danger zone, where people can become very ill. consider putting out a large platter to start, then discarding the uneaten leftovers and setting out a fresh (refrigerated) platter. this will also work as a variation of the plan above, if you will have no help, but it is obviously potentially wasteful. however it can work nicely if you manage to gauge food quantities well, and some amount of waste is much, much better than getting people sick!

                                note that large chilled bowls of dense foods like fruit salads will keep the food cooler, smallish platters with breads/sandwiches/airy foods & a lot of surface area will reach ambient temp very quickly. use thick and heavy ceramic/glass bowls and platters if possible. use common sense-- set the food table in a shaded area, if possible under a tent or gazebo.

                                here is a thread on tea sandwiches:

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: soupkitten

                                  food that has been outside in 80-90 degree heat, not chilled, is unsafe to continue serving after an hour. it might be wasteful, but it needs to be tossed. the worst case of food poisoning i ever had was from a july cook-out at our boss' home. the entire office got sick from the bad food handling.