Entertaining 101: The Open House
Merry morning my friends. At least I am hoping your morning is merry, I look like Halloween this morning or some extra from True Blood as after our lovely gathering of family Saturday (the topic of this post) we got our share of the freezing rain storm, leaving us powerless 1 hour after everyone left and bailing a losing battle of water in our basement. We are thankful as it could have been much worse and after 15 hours of switching cords on the generator from our sump pump, refrigerator, freezers etc we are still cleaning up a bit of a swampy basement. Cripes I say! What not to do when entertaining.... make guest flip their own chair over a lake of water lol! Thank goodness I had most of this post ready to go or it would have been excuses from me to you.
So if you missed my inital tips on ENTERTAINING check it out here
Open Houses can run a little different as there is a general staggered feel to guest arrival. There is no set dinner time so people have the leisure of coming when is comfortable for them and leaving as such.
all still apply the same as with a large group. When setting up furniture for an open house keep in mind more people will be standing as there is generally more people attending.
Set up your table ahead of time
you have already planned your menu. you know what others are bringing if they have offered and you have accepted. we use our dining room table for an open house for the food setup. all the chairs are removed to allow people to easily walk around the table and it is in close proximity to the kitchen for me removing things from the oven and unloading the fridge.
mix and match hor d'oeuvres plates and napkins are setup for all night nibbling
i set out the plates, stands i plan to use for each dish during the day and figure out where they are going on the table. while this seems neurotic it saves me a lot of headaches at night when i am cooking, answering the door, making drinks, talking and laughing
slap on a couple sticky notes so that if anyone is being your night wingman/woman they can easily set food out and not wonder where they should put things
no one wants to think about all of the cleaning up at the end of the night but having a couple of trash areas set out will help guests help you by throwing out their napkins, cans and keep the pileup off of your counters. i used a crate with a clear trash bag under the table and a big crock in our kitchen got a bag. at the end of the night they are just lifted out, no muss no fuss.
as it is an open house and people will be coming and going, it is important to stagger your hot food and have enough selection so people can find something they like but not too much that you throw all your hardwork in the garbage can with those napkins.
finding old silverware chafing pieces can keep some food hot (keep in mind they need a regular dish inside if they are old plated as many can contain lead), making use of that warming drawer you use to store your pots, or an army of crockpots.
fruit trays and antipasto platters are always sure bets. lots of sliced breads, meats and cheeses, tapenades can be found readily in stores taking away some of your prep work.
we clean out our fridge the morning of the party and move everyday food items into our garage fridge so the kitchen fridge has lots of room. i go down the food list and group all the items that go together in pyrex pans. the cheeses are sliced, sitting with the meats, the jars of antipasto, goat cheese logs and grapes. i pull out the pyrex pan when ready and everything hops onto the platter ready for presentation. you won't be hunting for that goat cheese you know you bought but can't remember if it went in the other fridge.
split hot food into groups. make 1 batch early and make 1 batch about 1.5 hours in so there is always warm food coming out but less effort. if something needs to be watched when broiling, SET THE TIMER. you will get distracted and it will burn. people will never let you forget it. burning fire buns or parmesan crisps are hard to live down. trust me!
these lovely parmesan crusted goat cheese balls were delicious. i found the recipe here
we continued with our trusty bar setup as again it keeps the flow out of the kitchen.
consider serving a festive punch. drink dispensers are available pretty well everywhere housewares are sold. make it non-alcoholic that way the DD's can join the fun and everyone else can add their poison whether it be wine to make sangria or rum for a rum punch caribbean style
make lots of ice. when you think you have enough, make more. we have an ice machine (the grey box on the stool) that runs non-stop for 3 days prior to any large event. if you entertain a lot and don't have a fridge ice maker one of these machines can be a life saver and no one has to run to the store to get more.
Light your candles,have a blast and enjoy your company!
If you missed the rest of the Entertaining 101 series, there are a lot more great tips to be found here.
Have a fantastic day everyone,
and if I don't talk to you before then
a stroll thru life