HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


I call it a graduation garden party, kids call it a kegger...

Two of our adult children are graduating college this spring, one with a bachelor's the other with an associate's... soon to be 27 and 23 yr. old. We are having a party at the house Saturday for the both of them. I'm in charge of the food, husband is doing the grilling, sister-in-law is tending bar. I really have no idea how many are coming, but have 96 plates. 16 gallon keg.
We asked what they wanted to eat, and they want burgers and hot dogs. For my daughter and some others, I made vegetarian (not vegan) burgers. I've pre-cooked them, have them in the freezer, will put on a foil grill pan on the grill to heat through. We have a grill dedicated to just that. One type of burger is made with red lentils and a bunch of odds and ends, including ginger, soy, lemongrass, chili. Those will be basted with "Hawaiian" sauce (from a jar, mango, papaya, passion fruit. daughter has spent some time in Hawaii and those flavors). The other batch of veggie burger is a brown and wild rice blend with sharp cheddar cheese, Montreal grill/steak seasoning.
We'll pick up some beef and beef hot dogs, haven't quite decided which route to go there. I know the kids wouldn't mind cheap dogs, but, I just can't go there. We have options for the beef, ranging from supermarket (which here is fine), and a couple of butchers to choose from. I took the day off tomorrow, so will probably figure that out then.
I'm making a big pot of vegetarian baked beans (molasses based), and I'll make cupcakes for dessert. I think kids will get chips, have someone bringing salad, another bringing veggies and hummus... I want to keep it simple. I have a variety of sandwich spreads in squeeze bottles, (catsup, mustards, mayos, relishes, etc), and will do some sliced onions, tomatoes, pickles. Will have butter lettuce to use as wraps for the red lentil burgers.
Waters... variety of some soft drinks.
hmmmmmmm......... am I missing anything? (other than my mind?)
People are bringing instruments, jamming around the fire pit, plus the kids play a game with pvc pipe, balancing a beer bottle, and a frisbee... there will probably be a hula hoop or two as well...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: nemo

      Yes, was thinking of fruit, maybe some cut melon, strawberries, pineapple? .... cupcakes for dessert.

    2. If you have a bunch of vegetarians (which it sounds like you might from the food list), might want to pick up some veggie dogs? Since you'll have all the trimmings for the meat dogs already, grabbing a pack of those and letting people throw them on the veggie grill wouldn't be much extra work for another veggie option.

      1 Reply
      1. re: antimony

        Good idea. I thought about a vegan option, and some vegan dogs might work.

      2. congratulations! i think you have plenty going on. just wanted to add remember some n/a beverage options. there may be some designated drivers or abstainers in the crowd.

        plus one on some fruit.

        1. Yes, plenty of water, juices. Special gifts for the designated drivers are nice....our college used to do homemade chocolate chip cookies. Make sure the twentysomethings there designate drivers if they're drinking, or have them stay over. I'm in Massachusetts, and liability laws are scary...not to be a schnook with the comment. I'm sure you and your kids have already thought of that. :-)

          1. Yep, waters, ice tea, soft drinks, and DD's. We have a tipsy limo service in town, I think the driver will be by during the evening. I talked to my daughter on her way out to her last final this morning about liability, sober drivers, kids sleeping in the yard.... we have some small tents, sleeping bags, that type of stuff. back yard.
            and we've told the neighbors, invited them. We aren't going to supply hard liquor. Maybe I'll get some sober badges or something, a gift for DD's is a great idea.

            1. Watermelon on the rind
              Fruit kabobs. Easy to eat, no plate or utensils. Pineapple kabobs are great on the grill.

              Pasta salad or orzo salad.
              Serve in small plastic cups with a fork in each. A good side dish and when it's already portioned out, no tipsy people attempting to serve themselves.

              1. Since you'll have plenty of beer, and want something other than cheap hot dogs, what about getting some brats and cooking them in beer ahead of time. Then finish them on the grill. Classic and delicious, fits the theme, and means that grilling only entails heating them.

                Then, for all of the meat/"meat" options, put out a toppings bar with the usual suspects along with cool salsas, BBQ sauces, etc.

                1 Reply
                1. re: katecm

                  I've done the brats thing before, and they don't really appreciate the extra steps. They like a smoked product. Maybe a variety of dogs, brats. sausages... personally, I love beer brats, but they like regular hot dogs.
                  I've also picked up some deli-sliced banana peppers, and pickled jalapenos. Will pick up some sliced cheese for the burgers.

                2. I did pick up a head of cabbage, might do a light slaw... easy, and it goes nicely on brats/hot dogs.

                  1. It sounds like you have enough food...

                    You're having a kegger with only one keg? I would think you'll need another keg.
                    Non-food - you need some jammin' tunes.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: dave_c

                      No, a 16 gallon keg is enough. (that's my garden party taking over, I don't want a drunkfest) They will probably be bringing their own "shots", sis-in-law is also bringing tequila.
                      Tunes.... we'll be jamming tunes around the firepit. We are all musicians, and son and daughter perform. Son's band is doing a 2nd CD this summer. Acoustic night of guitars, ukelele, mandolins, fiddles, and probably shakey eggs. ha!

                      1. re: wyogal

                        All muscians! Very cool! Wish I had the time and patience to pick up an instrument. Right now I just stick with eating and drinking. :-)

                        BTW... Congratulations on the graduations!

                        1. re: dave_c

                          It's what we do for a living, husband is a music teacher and played in bar bands for decades. I played in symphonies for decades, used to be a public school music teacher, now do enrichment (music) in the schools, teach privately. Husband and I used to gig as a duo, but we just don't want to haul the gear anymore. ha! let the kids have at it! We play a wide variety of stuff. Pink Floyd to Irish Trad to Guns and Roses (ha!) to Old time, western, jazz standards, rock.... It should be a good jam.

                          1. re: wyogal

                            since you mentioned a fire pit ... perhaps the fixings for so'mores. Even big kids still like to roast marshmallows.
                            We usually have sliced watermelon at our outdoor parties. Our crowd doesn't seem to go much for salads but cookies are always a hit. Cupcakes are probably even better.

                            We collected keys to be on the safe side. The guests were told to plan on staying the night if they drank anything. It worked out fine.

                              1. re: dfrostnh

                                i forgot about s'mores... may have to get some of that stuff...

                      2. Chips and dips. Always good to have ready-to-eat food out for people to snakc on as the burgers are being cooked.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Dcfoodblog

                          Good idea. Chips, guac & salsa are always a hit around here!

                        2. Since you have a lot of veg I'd choose a non-processed vegan option in liue of the the veggie dog.

                          And some fruit.

                          Went to a miserable party over the weekend with NO WATER.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JudiAU

                            I think I'll have my daughter go with to the grocery store, she can pick the vegan option...
                            and fruit.....
                            I'll be picking up lots of waters, too!

                          2. Now, should I go 1/3 lb or 1/4 lb burgers?

                            4 Replies
                              1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                gawd, I hope not. That is so disgusting. Hope they prosecute.

                              2. re: wyogal

                                Make the burgers smaller. You have a lot of food, and guests can always pick up a second burger. I'd hate to see half eaten burgers get tossed.

                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                  No one tossed any half-eaten burgers!

                              3. It was a success! We only went through 10 pounds, 30 burgers; 28 hot dogs. Had coleslaw, a large slowcooker of beans (my special... many kinds, yes from a can), and seasoned/molasses type. Someone brought a large pasta salad (pepperoni, tortellini, peppers, olives), another friend brought raw veggies and dip. I had a large bow of watermelon wedges and strawberries. A bowl of cut pineapple. Some chips, salsa, and daughter made a fruity salsa. We had several types of lettuce (I had some in the fridge anyway), includeing large, soft butter lettuce leaves. A tray of liced onions and tomatoes. And condiments galore.
                                Two kinds of veggie (not vegan) burgers: brown/wild rice/cheddar, and a red lentil with soy, ginger, lemongrass and a bunch of other spices, then glazed with a "Hawaiian" sauce.
                                They drained the keg shortly after dark, had a fire in the fire pit, got stuff cleaned up at midnight. Then a couple of friends came back to the house with some other friends of mine that had a gig that evening. We had some coals left, so started up another fire, and drank a bottle of wine, or two. Got to bed around 2am.
                                We had lots of music throughout the evening.
                                We had a food tent by the back door, and a bar & grill tent in the back yard.
                                Everyone had designated drivers, and I was sure to tell everyone that they were welcome to spend the night, I got extra breakfast stuff just in case! But it worked out. A large group went out dancing.
                                So, it went well, everyone loved the food. The veggie burgers were a great hit, and the burgers were perfect. Huge, thick, but perfect.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: wyogal

                                  Oh! My downtown DC backyard is humbled by that gorgeous picture. Sounds perfect!

                                  1. re: wyogal

                                    Sounds fabulous, thanks so much for the report. That is some fantastic view you have from your backyard, I think it might have even distracted me from the food.

                                    1. re: GretchenS

                                      Thanks! Here's another pic from today...