HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Summer Birthday Party for 40 Guests

Hello Fellow Foodies!

My husband turns 60 this September so I am planning on surprising him with a party in August. We have a large yard with multiple vegetable gardens, raspberry bushes and fruit trees. We even have hens for fresh eggs. We haven't had our family and friends over for eons and I thought it would be a great time to serve up our home grown delights. Please provide feedback regarding the menu below, which I'm considering.


Shrimp Cocktail

Main Course

Eggplant Parmesan
Garden Veggie Frittatas (cut into squares)
Teriyaki Grilled Chicken Sticks
Quinoa Tossed with Garden Veggies and Olive Oil
Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese


Fresh Raspberry Pie
Chocolate Cake
Homemade Cookies (TBD)

In another thread, someone suggested serving the gazpacho from a pitcher in shooter glasses. Does this sound like a good idea?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Menu looks great! Very ambitious! I like that!

    Since we're in berry season (depending on where you live), what about a triple berry trifle? It's very easy to make, gorgeous looking, keeps well, and can be made to serve plenty.

    Here's a picture of one:

    2 Replies
    1. re: 1POINT21GW

      Oh my!!! That trifle looks incredible! I've never made one but now I'm wondering, why not!?!?! We do have blueberries earlier in the summer. I can freeze some to use in August with the raspberries and make a Double Berry Trifle. I wonder if I can add peaches and paw paws? Great idea! Thanks so much : )

      I like the idea of the Trifle instead of the Raspberry Pie. It will be easier to make and serve and it is a visual delight. How far in advance can I make it and do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share? TIA

      Also, I almost forgot . . . I'd serve zucchini bread with the main meal. And I have a beautiful glass beverage server with spout that I'll serve homemade lemonade in. I'll also have wine and beer but I'd like to offer another refreshing pretty drink that can be either virgin or with alcohol. Not sure what to do about wine glasses? Do I use real wine glasses or go with plastic?

      1. re: judydel

        We love this on a hot summer's day (and really anytime), it is so refreshing.

        Barefoot Contessa’s Herbal Iced Tea

        4 Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea bags
        4 Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea bags
        4 cups boiling water
        4 cups pure apple juice
        Steep the 8 tea bags in 4 cups of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Combine the tea with the apple juice and refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice.

    2. The Trifle is an awesome idea. If you want to go on the light side, I've made them with store bought, Angel Food Cake, berries and custard layers, with whipped cream on the top. Very easy and well received.

      I think I would go with plastic, being outside. Also the gazpacho would look great in little short plastic old fashioned glasses. Add a sprig of fresh cilantro on each to freshen them up. The shot glasses are a little too small IMO. It may just be me, I love Gazpacho! lol Have a great time, try to do as much as possible ahead, so you can enjoy yourself also.

      1. I think your menu sounds great the way it is and I love the idea of gazpacho in shooter glasses. I love trifle in the summer and think it's pretty but you already have cake so I'd stick with the pie, if you can. And, while trifle is pretty before serving. it ends up muddled as time goes on. What will you have in the panzanella?

        Another drink you could do is a white wine sangria--refreshing in the summer. As a non-alcoholic drink, I like plain water that has had cucumber, lemon/lime, mint added to it a few hours earlier.

        1. I forgot to mention the additional drink.....since you seem to have an abundance of raspberries, how about a homemade raspberry tea. Quenches the thirst and would be great for all ages.

          1. Thanks for the feedback thus far!

            Chowser I've actually never made or had panzanella! I heard about it on here and then looked up recipes and photos. It looks/sounds so good . . . and easy. And in August we'll still have plenty of tomatoes. What's your favorite rendition? I figure I have plenty of time to fiddle with different variations. I like the idea of artichoke hearts, olives, roasted peppers, basil, and of course tomatoes and fine, stale italian bread from our local artisan bread bakery.

            Othervoice since it's my husband's birthday party I thought having his favorite cake (chocolate) would be a good idea. My kids make a killer chocolate layer cake from scratch so I could delegate that job to them. The trifle, although it has cake layers, seems like a totally different dessert, no? And I've been reading I can make it a couple of days in advance, unlike the fresh raspberry pies. The other problem with the raspberry pies is that they are messy to serve, lol. The trifle may look messy after awhile, but I think scooping is easier than slicing a fresh berry pie and getting it onto your plate. Maybe others can weigh in on this. Another thought would be to have chocolate cake layers in the trifle, nix the raspberry pie and just have a variety of good cookies with the trifle? Geesh I'm getting hungry now, lol.

            5 Replies
            1. re: judydel

              Your variation of panzanella sounds great. I like that you'll have an abundance of vegetables (throughout the whole meal even). I like using marinated bocconcini and get a huge tub from Costco. Then, I use that marinated olive oil for the base of the panzanella. It's my quick and easy short cut for it.

              I'd stick with the chocolate cake as is because it's his favorite and it's his birthday. You can't go wrong with either the trifle or the pie so if the trifle is easier, go with that. No one will mind. I think you'd be fine with just chocolate cake and cookies. If you have raspberries, make a raspberry sauce/fresh raspberries on the side for the cake. Add whipped cream on the side and you have a deconstructed trifle. After all the other good food it sounds like you're having, I think guests will be full by then!

              1. re: judydel

                I think you'll be completely fine with chocolate cake and the raspberry pie or trifle as the two would be so different from one another and, besides, they're both good and most everyone, if not everyone, will love them so I wouldn't be so concerned with "rules" as I would simply serving what your husband and everyone else likes to eat.

                Concerning the recipe for the trifle I would use angel food cake (store-bought will work just fine) and, of course, blueberries and strawberries. For the "white" portion you could use any practically combination of cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and/or whipped cream. Additionally, you can make the "white" portion as sweet or unsweet as you'd like. Even though this dish can be considered a dessert, it is so "light" that it could even be served before the entrees.

                As far as scooping out the trifle versus slicing and serving the pie, I don't see any advantage over either as both will look their best before they're cut into and served. I think people will overlook the potential messiness since they had seen the pie or trifle before it was attacked in all it's glory, not to mention people understand that food doesn't stay perfect looking once it's being served in bulk or buffet style.

                Concerning how long the trifle will keep, it will keep for hours, if not days, depending on the ripeness of the fruits you use and how you make your filling between the layers. I will mention, though, that if you're planning on picking or buying the berries now and freezing them until you're ready to use them, they will weep and mess up your pretty presentation. I would only use freshly picked or purchased berries in the trifle, especially if you're planning on making it more than a day in advance.

                1. re: judydel

                  I created a trifle with chocolate mousse, chocolate chip pound cake, fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Garnish the top with chocolate curls or strawberries. Since your husband likes chocolate, this may be a nice compromise. The chocolate mousse makes it really, really decadent!

                2. Othervoice . . . Raspberry Iced Tea!!! Another fantastic idea and great way to showcase our raspberries! How pretty it will look to have 2 beverage servers . . . one with lemonade and the other raspberry iced tea : ) Thank you!

                  1. Your menu looks delightful, but the shrimp cocktail doesn't seem to fit into the "backyard" theme, unless you're on the water! Those eggs from the hen house sound amazing, so I'd maybe throw some deviled eggs in there.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: katecm

                      Katecm I was thinking of deviled eggs but the frittata squares are also made with lots of eggs, so that may be redundant. I wasn't realizing I was going with a theme, lol. But I guess you're right, everything but the shrimp goes with a homegrown theme. I was just thinking the chilled shrimp would be welcome on a summer day beside the gazpacho and panzanella . . . and shrimp cocktail is easy to pull off. I'm going with foods that I can make in advance for the most part or are easy to throw together. Would you all agree that my menu seems easy to pull off, or am I dreaming?

                      I thought I'd make the zucchini bread and eggplant parmesan well in advance and then freeze them since I have experience with them freezing well. The cookies I can make a week in advance and refrigerate. I can roast the beets several days in advance and then arrange them with goat cheese and pistachios the day of. I can make the gazpacho a couple of days in advance as well as the trifle. I'll put the chicken in teriyaki marinade and make the quinoa salad the night before. I'll make the frittata the morning of the party. I can buy the shrimp already cooked and shelled. As I said earlier, the kids will make the chocolate cake. It seems so easy now, but I'm sure I'll be a nervous wreak the day of the party because I really never entertain. My husband and I love to cook homegrown from scratch meals but for some reason we haven't really entertained groups over the years . . . just our immediate family and maybe a guest or two. Now I'm wondering why not, lol.

                      1. re: judydel

                        I think the shrimp would go ever well (I can't think of a time when shrimp cocktail ever doesn't go over well!). You have it all very well planned. You could also precook the vegetables for the frittata so all you have to do is cook it up that morning--quick and easy. And, served at room temp so all you have to do is plate. It's always hectic the morning of but you seem organized enough to have it flow well. Good luck!

                        1. re: chowser

                          Well, what if instead of a traditional shrimp cocktail you served it with a peach salsa? Then it would definitely fit in a bit better with the theme.

                          1. re: katecm

                            I like that!! Now hopefully our peaches will be still producing in August : )

                            1. re: judydel

                              my first thought was you have 4 dishes here with red tomato as a component. the fruit salsa with the shrimp would be great. you could also do it as a ceviche.

                              what about green gazpacho? i use white grape juice instead of stock and mint instead of cilantro.


                              or white, with a drizzle of basil oil?


                              the shooter glasses are super cute, but keeping the soup cold then becomes an issue. it's much easier to submerge a bowl into ice and let people ladle the stuff into small cups. you can buy plastic footed "glasses" that work well for this. if you tray the tiny shooters they will be warm in minutes.

                              i think the eggplant parm is heavy compared to the rest of the meal. what about roasted pureed eggplant on top of puff pastry with whipped feta on top? this is fine room temp.

                              your husband is a lucky man! have fun.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                The heavyness of the eggplant is a good point. Judy, would you consider a grilled eggplant rull-up? Season and grill your eggplant slices. Sprinkle with some mozzarella (you can also do things like roasted red peppers or basil here), roll up and place in a baking dish. Top it with a really fresh tomato sauce - which will be awesome if your have good tomatoes. Then bake. it's light and summery, it will freeze fine, and the roll-ups make it easy for people to get individual servings.

                    2. I think the gazpacho in shooter glasses is always fun. Just seems festive. I find that when I'm doing a big crowd in the summer, salmon on the grill is always a bit hit. I try to serve it with a few different sauces to make it interesting....mango salsa, cucumber dill sauce, mustard sauce. All go well with an Asian marinade.....

                      1. Keep the shrimp cocktail! It is always popular, and the only seafood on your menu.

                        Second the idea of 'lightening up' the eggplant dish. You can also grill eggplant ahead, and layer in a springform pan with parmesan and a fresh tomato sauce, and a little torn basil. stack up to the top, and freeze. Warm up in the oven, and remove the sides of the pan, and voila - beautiful eggplant cake! Serve extra tomato sauce on the side.

                        Like the idea of white or green gazpacho for a change; a white one with some ground almond in it would be very interesting. YOu can keep shooter glasses cold by getting a big rimmed sheet pan, fill with ice, and set the shooters on that so they stay icy.

                        Like the trifle idea; peaches and raspberries would be a great contrast to chocolate cake.

                        Sounds like a great party!