The food served at a party should entertain guests with mouthwatering sensory and visual details, as well as satisfy hunger.
"Show guests what you're cooking with action stations," says Richard Buchsbaum, vice president of food and beverage operations at the Audubon Nature Institute, which includes the zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, the Insectarium and the Audubon Golf Course. "People like to go up and see something happening."
Being social is the whole point of parties and receptions, so small, savory dishes and little bites work best, such as stuffed mushrooms with truffled creamed spinach or soups in 2- to 3-ounce shot glasses, he says.
Veggie or fruit gazpacho is an easy dish that is popular this summer, Buchsbaum says, and seafood is always a big hit. Buchsbaum recommends crab cakes with tasty sauces or shrimp and grits. Elegant cheese displays with charcuterie are making a comeback, especially when they are assembled using products from local sources.
"Ask yourself, how well can you embellish the tray?" Buchsbaum says. "Fresh greenery and herbs blend beautifully together."
Also trending for parties are small plate dessert tables, which allow guests to easily pick up their choice.
When it comes to beverages, Buchsbaum says you can save money by providing guests with a full-service bar and a choice of good wines instead of having specialty drink stations.
"You don't want just your standard Chardonnay," Buchsbaum says.
Accommodating people with allergies and special diets can be challenging, but Buchsbaum says the solution is to create a balanced menu so everyone can find something they can eat. It's important to provide these guests with options such as a salad bar and lots of fruit, he says. You also can sidestep dietary problems by placing cards showing all the ingredients next to each dish. Placing the cards in silver frames adds elegance to the information.