We LOVE Company!
My parents were the first in both their families to move to the suburbs. Everyone else stayed in Staten Island, or Brooklyn, or the Bronx. This meant we were one of the only families in our very large family of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins to have a big backyard. Most of our families lived in apartments and only had a small terrace.
So, that made our house the Entertaining house. And I loved it! I remember all my cousins coming over and hanging out in the basement, eating great food, playing board games, running around outside and having so much fun.
And my parents went ALL out for backyard BBQ's. I mean they must've spent a fortune in food! They always played the best music, and everyone was always happy. I never saw someone not smiling or laughing or dancing or not having a good time.
I give all my hostess credit to my parents. I loved the way they entertained and once we moved out of our townhouse which had a minuscule backyard and moved into our Big House with a nice sized back yard I knew I wanted to have company! Let me share some fun BBQ tips and tricks to a successful day of hosting the Best BBQ.
Be A Gracious Host
1. Set a time for your guests to arrive but be flexible if they arrive late. Especially couples with kids who may have sports, or be caught in traffic, or just have a rough time of it being on time with little ones.
2. Be sure to clean all the rooms of your home so that when company comes over and someone needs to take a nap in one of the bedrooms (small kids) or a mom needs to nurse a newborn you have a clean and neat space for them. I will never forgive myself for the time I had a BBQ and I offered my room for the mom to nurse and later I saw I had laundry all over my bed! I was so hung up on the food and the outside that I forgot the details.
3. Ask in advance if their are any allergies in the families that will be attending your BBQ. In this day and age with peanut allergies, gluten-free, and milk allergies it is so important to plan your meal ahead of time and be prepared with dishes that everyone can eat. There's nothing worse than seeing a guest of yours not eating because there's nothing they can have. Remember to try to have a dish with no meat and no dairy for vegetarians. I always try to have a pasta salad or a fruit salad because usually everyone can have those dishes!
4. If people offer to bring something say YES! I used to always say, "Just bring yourselves!" because I didn't want to put anyone out. And yet, I am the person who hates arriving empty handed! So if your guests happen to ask what they can bring be honest and give them a side dish, a dessert, drinks, or a salad they can make. People like to bring something because they know all the work it takes to host. So, don't be afraid to accept their offer!
Plan in Advance
1. John and I always count the number of guests we are having and we make/buy more food than we need. Have you ever been to a house where there was just enough food or not enough food? It is uncomfortable for both the hostess and the guests. I really try to have lots of side dishes because as the hostess my number one concern is to fill my guests stomachs! I want them to eat to their hearts content and not feel like they can't have seconds.
2. We love to have back round music playing. It creates a great mood for lively conversation and it just feels good to have good calm music in the background. We love jazz music or norah jones, or corrine bailey ray.
3. Remember to have appetizers, a meal, and a dessert planned. Guests like to eat! Eating is so much fun with friends. If you want to focus on the meal then have your guests bring appetizer or dessert options. If you like to bake then have your guests bring appetizers and a side dish. Some great appetizers are cheese and crackers, (my mom used to make the best deviled eggs with paprika) chips and salsa, tomatoes and mozzarella, veggie platter, cheese and grapes or once I made these small meatballs with a raspberry glaze that everyone loved (I found the recipe in Real Simple magazine). Appetizers are a great asset because as you are grilling and getting things situated your guests can still be happily munching away.
4. Have plenty of drink options, and ask your guests in advance if they are ok with you serving any type of alcohol. Some people get very offended if alcohol is present and in that case it's best not to have it out. If none of your guests mind then it is a non issue. I love to have lemon water, iced tea, lemonade, sangria, sodas, etc. I let John handle the beer and guy drinks. And always have lots of water bottles around! After dinner is over I like to put on a pot of coffee and ask if anyone wants coffee or tea with dessert.
Having a great BBQ is not only about the food and the drinks and music it is also about the conversations! Keep topics light and really take time to LISTEN to your guests, this is a great time to get to know the people you invited. Ask them questions about themselves and really really LISTEN. John is so much better at this than me. Sometimes I get so hung up on the neatness and quality of the food and keeping all the kids happy that I forget to engage with my guests. But the times that I do this is absolutely my favorite part. We are people people and so having company over and getting to know them better really fill my social love tank up!
Enjoy all your BBQ's this summer! I can't wait to host one in a few weeks!!!