If you're like me, you probably love a good 4th of July party. Summer fun, barbecue and fireworks. What's not to love? I also love to entertain, but it seems to get more challenging every year. Busy schedules, kids, work, who has time? And it gets expensive, too!
Entertaining at home should be simple, fun, easy and affordable. If you throw any of these out of the mix it does not make for a good time. Stressed out hostesses are not attractive and it makes your guests feel uncomfortable. Ultimately, if you're not having a good time, neither is anyone else. The key is to just keep it simple. But, I am here to show you how to keep it stylish and affordable, too.
Nothing says 4th of July like a good barbecue. Go pick up some burgers, hot dogs and chicken and get that grill fired up! We know you have a sophisticated palette and you like foie gras and mushroom and chèvre soufflés. I do, too. Sorry, folks, not here and not now. Relax and have a hot dog!
Food is what your guests will look for when they get to your house. It's also the number one thing people gossip about after a party. Snarky yes, but true indeed. Feed them well and feed them amply. You should buy two of each per person of whatever you're serving as the main course. (i.e. two hotdogs, two burgers). Make sure you have a vegetarian option as well like black bean burgers or portobello mushrooms that make an excellent substitute for a meat burger.
This relatively new thing of all these people with dietary restrictions is annoying and quite frankly, a little rude. I'm sorry you're allergic to everything on the planet. It must really suck for you. I just don't have the time to dart all over the New York area looking for something organic and peanut/soy/beef/dairy/gluten free so you can eat something at my 4th of July Barbecue. Eat before you arrive or see you at Christmas!
For side dishes, serve potato salad, pasta salad, tossed salad, some dips like hummus spinach dip and maybe a simple mozzarella and tomato salad. Hit up a Costco or BJ's and get it all prepared. Delicious and simple.
For dessert, get some cherry cheesecake or cherry pie, maybe some red velvet cupcakes, blueberries and vanilla ice cream. Done. I also adore things that are individually sized. No serving, no plates and less clean up! Plus, it suits the needs of the growing number of calorie counters. Oh yeah, and no baking required.
One thing I do often is pay someone to man the grill. Think of someone you know, offer them $100 to flip burgers all day, drink for free and have a good time. Trust me, this is the best tip I can give you. If you're busy grilling all day, you can't enjoy yourself and mingle. This is worth every penny.
If you live near a Trader Joe's, go buy some of their house red wine. A case will set you back a whopping $36.00. Then, go buy a big bottle of vodka, mix with strawberry daiquiri mix and make a big ol' batch of punch. Garnish with blueberries and you've got yourself a holiday cocktail! For a non alcoholic version, just buy cranberry juice and add some fruit. Very festive and cute. Get a bunch of different soft drinks and water and serve them from a galvanized steel tub you can buy at Lowe's for $15, about half of what you might pay anywhere else.
Recently, I saw Home Depot had basic picnic tables for under $50.00. You can buy one or two, cover them with some red checkered picnic table cloths. I love picnic tables at parties because it makes people sit together instead of standing around holding a plate of food and not mingling. Plain white plates look simple and chic and not tacky. Once you add typical "July 4th" paper goods, it looks so cheesy. Stick to white. Plain is always more chic.
Don't use plastic cutlery. They're aesthetically awful and the knives are useless anyway. Go to Ikea and but two sets of inexpensive cutlery and use that. Wrap them in plain white cloth napkins with a little red ribbon. Reusable, way cooler and in the end, cheaper!
If you must have a centerpiece, again go simple. Some pretty white flowers, daisies or anything you are able to pick yourself always looks nice. Don't go crazy here. Your guests are drinking daiquiris and scarfing down burgers, they don't really care about your centerpiece. It's a barbecue. I promise you this is true.
I would definitely add an American flag somewhere, keeping with the spirit of the holiday. It is, after all, the most American of celebrations. Wave that flag proudly!
When possible, buy prepared foods. Oftentimes, it's less expensive.
If people ask what they can bring, suggest something you need. Maybe you feel like you're short on appetizers? Suggest that. If you know someone who lives near a fab bakery, ask them to bring some nice bread. People will always want to bring you something. If you don't ask, you'll usually get a bottle of wine. More often than not, something you probably wouldn't have bought yourself.
Overstock. Nobody wants to run out of food or drink at their party. Panic is not a good look for anyone.
Know your crowd. If you're having a bunch of burly guys over, go heavy on the meat. Are kids coming? You'll need more sweets. If your barbecue guests are mostly waifish models, buy extra liquor. I'm just saying.
Purchasing reusable items like cutlery and dish ware is much cooler than Dixie plates and flimsy plastic forks. Trust me here, please.
Turn the music on and pump up the volume. It's a party, make it feel like one.
When you answer the door, greet your guests with a drink. it will instantly relax them and make them have a better time. Walking into a party is always a little uncomfortable for everyone, even the most secure social butterflies.
Simple is always stylish.
Happy Birthday America! And God bless you!