By Ashley Steel
Fall is officially here and whatever the reason for the season, we all find ourselves celebrating.
Whether you’re ringing in the fall with apple cider and pumpkin spice cupcakes at a bridal shower, you’re passing the wings and dip around the couch for football season or simply celebrating moving into your newly built home, food is at the core of all entertaining. And when it comes to food, there’s nothing more frustrating for a party host — or more awkward for a party guest — than sloppy, messy foods. (And now that you’ve moved into your new home, you want to keep it clean!)
This fall, celebrate in style with these easy-to-eat party foods. From casual to fancy, we’ll explore the world of mess-free morsels.
Keeping It Clean
“One of my favorite things,” says Stephanie Berge, a certified wedding planner for event planning service Memoreys by Morey’s Piers & Resorts in Wildwood, N.J., “is different options served on edible spoons and cones, crostini and baguettes.”
While this leaves a party host with limitless serving possibilities from spreads to sandwiches, bruschettas and ice creams, you can also vary toppings for further variety. The best part about using an edible base is that “there’s nothing in your hands when you’re finished eating them,” says Berge. Clean-up complete!
If messy items like chicken wings are a must-have at your party, try buffalo bites served on a toothpick instead, says Berge. Not only trendy, anything served on a toothpick or skewer or served in a small cup will enable guests to keep their hands and faces clean. However, she warns that toothpicks are the trickiest to clean up because they’re small and people often throw them on the ground.
Foods such as chips and dip and chocolates produce lots of crumbs and smears. To get around this, Berge suggests pre-spreading chips with dip but providing a finger-hold for guests. The same goes for items such as chocolate-dipped cookies or strawberries.
Variety and Dietary Restrictions
“Nowadays there are so many different types of allergies and requests for guests’ dietary restrictions that you can go mad trying to accommodate everyone,” says Berge. No matter what you’re serving, she recommends offering at least one vegetarian appetizer and entrée, and, if the opportunity is available, a gluten-free option as well.
If you’re having a sit-down meal with entrees such as beef and chicken, then make sure to offer seafood in the appetizers or vice versa, says Berge. Pastas are a great vegetarian option and meat-carving stations are great for buffet-style parties.
As a party host, you should provide whatever utensils are necessary. Toothpicks, skewers and cups may eliminate the need for the traditional knife, fork and spoon, but it never hurts to keep a small stash on hand.
In most cases, a small salad or dessert place will suffice for snacking, but consider your audience and how much they will be eating. For fancier parties, Berge recommends plastic china serving ware. Elegant, lightweight and durable, she says, “you’d be surprised, most guests can’t even tell the difference until they go to pick them up.”
Remember, even the best attempt at serving mess-free foods will generate some cleanup. Leaving stacks of napkins and trash bags or bins in a variety of easy-to-reach, convenient places will increase the likelihood of guests disposing of their own debris and will keep your new home looking new for years to come.