CATERING – WHERE DO YOU EVEN START
Catering for your party can be quite daunting, if you don’t know where to start. It really is quite easy though if you approach it step by step.
My biggest problem here is that I always always over-cater and then send everyone home with left overs. I don’t know if that’s embarrassing or not, I’m still undecided 🙂
I’m not going to touch on the cake because that’s up to you. Choose something your child will love and look at in amazement. If you are struggling with ideas, Pinterest is a mine field – just search the theme of the party.
HOW YOUR VENUE AFFECTS YOUR CATERING
There may be no need to delve into the murky waters of catering if you are having a party at a venue that provides all-inclusive packages. Many party venues won’t allow you to bring your own food in, these type of venues require that you choose and pay for their catering plans. By now you should have chosen your venue so you know which category you fall into.
If you haven’t decided on a venue, I can help, just go go back to Step 2: How to Choose a Venue.
This post will probably not be applicable to you if you have a venue that provides catering. Just come back next week for the post on “Pre Purchasing”.
You may however have chosen a venue where the catering is not included. If this is the case, stick with me, I will talk you through it.
There are two aspects to catering: food and drink, I’ll deal with drinks first as this is the easier of the two.
The type of drinks you provide will be dependent on the season the birthday party is in and the time at which you hold it. If you’re not sure of the time at which to hold you party go back to Step 1. In this step you’ll make all the basic decisions that helps you structure your party.
Regardless of the season which your party is in, what time you hold the party or where it is, you should really make sure that there is water available for your guests. We generally hold our parties in public parks or playgrounds where water is not necessarily available. I make sure were always have bottle water for the adults and for the children.
Even if you have your party in the dead of winter in an indoor play centre please make sure you have water on hand. Kids run around non-stop whereby getting themselves completely dehydrated.
You can have jugs of water but the problem with jugs of water is you need to remember cups, possibly even straws. Don’t forget that you will also need to have a source for refills if you run out.
In some countries its a big “no-no” serving soda drinks at parties on the basis that you are exposing kids to too much sugar but we always have a few cokes or sprites for the adults of the group.
Juice / Ice tea
Fruit juice is a firm favourite are as sodas but it can get so complicated with the hundreds of different options available.
The other thing is you often get left with half drunk 2L bottles and who in the world has space in their fridge for that? In order to prevent this I provide juice boxes or little juices. The juices that aren’t drunk at the party can then be used as part of your party packs or for your kids as treats.
Decide if you want alcohol, some parents may expect it while other venues may not let you serve it.
I have found that even if your party is scheduled in the morning, there is a chance that people will still want alcohol. What you buy is up to you but if you start buying alcohol you may land up having to provide wine, beer and ciders which added to all the others becomes a lot to pay for.
Champagne and Prosecco are huge hits especially with morning summer parties.
Your guests may want a hot beverage if:
- You have the party at home.
- The party is early in the morning.
- Your party is held during winter.
Hot drinks are not a problem if your party is at home. You have two solutions to providing the hot drinks. Option 1 is to point one of the family members or close friends on kettle duty and keep the kettle boiling. Option 2 is prior to the party keep boiling the kettle and keep it in thermos flasks.
At one of the parties we attended last year, there was a flask outside with coffee sachets, sugar, milk and tea. You could serve yourself and best of all, there were take away cups provided. This whole set up made for such a great experience. I felt like I was going out for coffee.
In this section of the guide I am going to give you some ideas as to what savoury food and sweet treats you can cater. Don’t try cater all the options provided below otherwise you will have too much food.
Food is a time issue – the time of day you have the party will determine what foods you provide but there are a few staples I always go to.
Here are my lists which you can name and tag according to the theme. You will see me having done this in the pictures of my kids’ parties.
The savoury options
- Cheese muffins (I’ve got a great simple recipe which I could blog if anyone wanted it)
- Veggie platter. I cut up a whole bunch of vegetables and then put them on a platter with dips. My favourites at the moment are carrots, cucumber, baby tomatoes, corns and capsicums.
- Cheese board. These are so beautiful, its just not possible to do it in the heat. What makes a cheese board look beautiful is adding some grapes, crackers and honey.
- Chips or pretzels served with dip.
- Meatballs with dipping sauce.
- Little sausages.
- Sausages rolls.
- Beef, pickle and mustard crostinis
- Quiches or Frittatas. You can either get little mini ones or a big one which you can into slices. The problem with having a big one is that you need to remember to put out plates and potentially knives and forks.
- Pin wheels.
- Mini- pizzas
- Croissants. You can serve croissants plain or with cheese (or cheese and ham) cut in half for easier eating.
- Savoury tarts – a really easy option if you use store bought puff pastry (great recipe at http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/18583/prosciutto+tomato+and+ricotta+tart)
- Trail mix with nuts and seeds.
I have intentionally left off sweets and lollies so you think I’m a great super healthy mom 🙂 I’m not.
I always provide some form of sweets or lollies but as my kids grow up and become more interested in sweets I am going to start including them in the party bags as opposed to on the serving table.
In providing sweet goodies remember that you will most likely be also serving cake. If you are going to hand out cake to guests as Thank You gifts then include and extra sweet but if you’ll be cutting and serving cake maybe have one less sweet item on your menu.
The sweeter things
- Fruit platter. You can use any fruit that is in season but remember some are more preferred over others. My sure fire winners are strawberries, blueberries, melon and grapes. I cut up all the fruit but in years to come I will have bigger chunks or whole fruits available for the kids. The other option is also fruit skewers which always look really good.
- Mini meringues. You can even colour them they colour of the party – it works really well.
- Cupcakes. These of course are always themed, always 🙂 You need to decide wether you need cupcakes as you will most likely be having cake too.
- Biscuits (this is age dependent for babies Maries are great and for youngsters tiny teddies are a hit).
- Scones with strawberries (or strawberry jam) and cream.
- Shooter glasses with milk in and tiny cookies placed on top.
- Raisins or cranberries.
- Custard tarts.
- Jelly. You can serve up jelly in cut oranges for a really cute display.
Remember to try eat something yourself at your party 🙂
Check out the following posts in the Ultimate Party Planning Guide Series: