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Graduation Party- OH MY!

I'm not sure where this post belongs but here goes.

Next Saturday, June 14, I'll be hosting a college graduation party for my 26yo daughter. She lives in Washington State and I in California.

For the previous few days my hubby and I will be hosting family from out of town in an old B and B turned VRBO rental, 13 people in all. The party (day after graduation) will be between 30 and 50 people.

I tend to be obsessive about these things. I've thrown a few large parties and cooked every single thing, including making the ice cream. We rented a house a few years ago at Thanksgiving, in the same area, and drove with all my cooking supplies; pots, food processor- I'm guessing you get the picture.
Needless to say that's not going to happen this time around. I'd like to spend time with the family who've come so far.

We've rented this house before and the kitchen is small and not very workable. That said, there's little in the way of catering or decent food in Olympia.

I can pick up food in Seattle on my way down on Wednesday or send someone back Saturday morning (the party begins at 6 PM). There are both Trader Joe's and Costco in town. I'm thinking there must be something I can do with relative ease. The house description says there's a bbq grill.

My son (who'll be in town from Colorado) used to live here and cooked his way through college at an upscale restaurant so I have good prep help but the kitchen is too small for many people.

Do we "cook"? "Prepare"? Purchase? I'm completely lost!
Any ideas would be very, very much appreciated!!

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  1. you aren't the first parent this has happened to... in wanting to be a good hostess, do not forget yourself and your family. It is a celebration, not a cooking pagaent: talk to the chef/son and coordinate some SIMPLE food. TJ's has plenty of baguettes, cherry tomatoes, olives and celery to go with their wide variety of dipping "things" (from bean dip to cream cheese). Get a big slab 'o something at costco, dry rub it, and cook it. salads with 2 choices of bottled dressing. buy a dessert. lemonade and mineral waters from TJs.. done. keep it simple and enjoy your family FIRST!! and congratulations!

    3 Replies
    1. re: rmarisco

      Thanks, Marisco! This is exactly the encouragement I need. Somehow it's hard to see straight when you're a little OCD about food.

      If anyone has specific "TJ's makes great whatever" for this, I'd greatly appreciate it!

      My son may be out of the picture to some degree (although I assume he'll still be there). I just learned his girlfriend's aunt is dying and they're headed out of town this afternoon. The last thing he needs is pressure about this.

      1. re: Oakland Barb

        Check out your home TJ's, see what looks good, and then call the Olympia TJs to see if they can get it / save it for you.

        I'm with the others....to enjoy this, your tasks need to be limited to getting and putting out the food with paper plates, etc. This will rapidly get even more overwhelming than it seems now, so try to simplify as much as you can, even more than you think you need to simplify.

        Maybe you could also post on the northwest board to find out some good caterers.

        This is a family reunion and a graduation party....and you need to participate as the family member and proud mom!

        hope it goes well for you, and congratulations.

        1. re: Oakland Barb

          I likeTrader Joe's triple hummus. It's a combo of traditional, roasted red pepper, and a spicy cilantro. These are layered one on top in the same container, but I think they sell the same selections in a bigger tray that's divided. I also like the pineapple salsa and the corn salsa. My friend loves the cowboy one, which I think is like the corn salsa, but with beans. The sweet potato tortilla chips are good with both the hummus and salsas.
          They also have some kind of fresh-baked sea salt brownie which is nice because it's small squares. The frozen lemon bar squares are nice, too. They only need to sit out of the freezer for a short time, no prep needed.
          Enjoy the graduation!

      2. another suggestion would be during the few days before, you could low and slow either some boneless skinless chix thighs or pork shoulder (or both), shred it up and make pulled pork/chicken that you could keep warm on the grill, grab a few dozen rolls at Costco, a tub of coleslaw and you are done. that above would all be "party by Costco" as far as TJ goes, maybe a big platter of nice cheeses and crackers or dips and chips. I think all of their frozen apps are great, but often only come in small quantities and that would require a lot of oven space to heat up. I think at Costco you can also get cut up veggie and fruit trays with a dip in the middle.

        1. Are you talking about only the party? or about food for the the party plus for the people staying in the house? either way, there's NO WAY you can cook, maintain your sanity AND enjoy the event.

          For up to 60 people, I'd rely on Costco more than on TJs - Costco has larger packaging and it'll be easier. LOVE momoftwo's pre-cooking some barbecued chicken and or pork and getting decent rolls at Costco.

          add in coleslaw, maybe pasta or potato salad, fruit and cheese, store-bought cookies, and some other dessert [cake? pie? cupcakes/ brownies?].

          for the people staying, pick up a couple of roasted costco chickens, packaged salad greens, good bread, salad dressing, a couple dozen eggs, and view it as a start. and put them to work!!!!

          With this many people, be sure you have enough serving pieces on hand, even if you drag them from home. plastic utensils and cups are fine, but if you don't have anything large enough to serve the food, it could get ugly

          1. I just want to mention refrigerator space. With pre-party stuff, and food for 30 to 50, cold space will be at a premium. If you have several ice chests, they may be your best friends. The shredded pork and chicken are great ideas...I'd even suggest buying a bunch of Costco's rotisserie chickens and shredding them to save yourself cooking time. Plus, shredded meats up a lot less refrigerator space.

            1. There's a Dickey's BBQ in Olympia, WA. They do cater. You could do the apps and have them to dinner.
              Maybe check around with some of the locals to get their opinion on the food at Dickey's.