A relaxed party using these party food ideas can be arranged in a short time by planning a menu based on repeatable dishes from some of your favorite restaurants. Dishes that are supposed to be served cold are also obvious choices. The host personalizes these items with fresh additions of her own. This approach allows everyone the luxury of spontaneous entertaining. One idea is to prepare simple quadrilles and a salad, chop up some garnishes, and get out all the colorful plates and linens. Use a rustic enamelware Dutch oven to serve any soup and multicolored bowls for everything else. This meal can be on the table in 20 minutes.
Here are some examples of how to order, prepare, and garnish menus based on popular cuisines. No matter what restaurant you order from, give some consideration to the serving dishes you will need ahead of time. Generally to-go food packaging is strictly functional so you will need to transfer the food. Serving a purchased pizza on a rustic maple cutting board surrounded by fresh basil will turn a good delivered pizza into a colorful and exciting dinner.
Here are some examples of how to make a purchased dish feel homemade:
-Arrange an antipasto on a slab of marble.
-Try filling a soup tureen with Thai curried coconut shrimp soup.
-Packing a pâté into a terra-cotta pot lined with fresh green leaves.
-Stacked pizza and calzone onto a turn-of-the-century Iraq.
-Serve tamales from your Chinese bamboo steamer.
Order your favorite sauce for pasta(cook the pasta at home), any casserole-type dish such as lasagna or manicotti, calzone, soups, an antipasto platter, tiramisu, and cannoli
Garnish using bunches of fresh green herbs like basil, oregano, or chives, rosemary branches, and bay laurel.
Make whole roast garlic with herbs or fresh mozzarella with pesto salad.
Buy Italian wines, Italian beer, or Proseco.
Order saucy, moist specialties like enchiladas or chicken in mole sauce, grilled dishes like soft chicken tacos and carne asada. Tamales of every kind are endlessly forgiving, as is any soup. The refried beans, salsas, and seasoned rice that generally accompany entrées are very manageable side dishes. Avoid fried items like hard-shell tacos, taquitos, chile rellenos, and chimichangas; fried foods just never reheat well.
Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs, whole jalapeno chiles, red pepper rings, dried chili pods, avocado or citrus leaves, and hibiscus blossoms.
Make hearts of Romain with toasted pumpkin seeds, fruit bowl with a splash of triple sec, traditional margaritas, and guacamole.
Buy Mexican beer, tortilla chips, tortillas, salsa, and tropical sorbets.
There is a reason why Chinese restaurants have such strong association in our minds with take-out food. Many of their traditional dishes travel well. If there is a restaurant with a good dim sum selection near you, an assortment of 6 to 7 can make an elegant supper, with a soup for starters. They will no doubt provide sauces, but freshen everything up with the addition of a spicy vinegar dipping sauce.
Order Mu shu dishes, dim sum, dumplings, Peking duck with all the accompaniment’s, any soup, any non-fried noodles dish, and/or steamed rice.
Garnish with cilantro, parsley, snow peas, shredded bok choy cabbage, flower blossoms, ginger branches, anything gold, or orchids.
Make melon, orange, and lychee skewers with mint.
Buy Chinese beer, Chinese rice wine, oolong key, green tea ginger ice cream, lychee nuts, and chopsticks.
To really pull off a great relaxed party, you will need to make some lists. For dressed up take-out it is a short list. But if you want to make your party more elegant, there are several lists involved. Once you have decided on a menu, right out all of the elements for each dish, including all the sauces, garnishes, and accompaniments involved. From this master list you will then compile sub-lists such as these:
Master shopping list:
This list must include every item you need to purchase to prepare your menu. This includes both food and nonfood items, such as parchment paper, ramekins, paper towels, trashbags, skewers, or sterno.
A master list of every food item that must be ordered in advance, such as a birthday cake, a boned leg of lamb, shucked oysters, and any item you’re buying from a restaurant or gourmet shop.
A master list addressing all the kitchen operations, such as grate carrots, shred cabbage, or make coleslaw dressing. This list should be organized by days. Group the tasks that can be done a week ahead, two days ahead, or the day before. Every caterer organizes kitchen time with preparation lists. It helps you to plan your time and also insures that you do not forget a minor but key ingredient like the sauce for the lamb or the dressing for the salad.