Entertaining Buffet Style
by Lydie Stassart, Tastemaker in Residence
I only plan for cocktails outdoors. Living in Minnesota there are too many variables to consider; the weather is unpredictable, the mosquitoes are always predictable, and it is difficult to have the perfect lighting. For all those reasons, I tend to keep my outdoor entertaining for more clement climates. If you still plan a garden or pool party, get your “bug-free” arsenal ready (foggers and citronella candles). Have some mosquito repellent handy for your guests and treat your outdoor space before your guests’ arrival. If your party extends to dusk, make sure to have the appropriate lighting and have a plan B in case of unexpected weather.
It is sometimes harder to plan a buffet than a sit-down dinner. An appetizing buffet should include a variety of seafood (jumbo shrimp, salmon, and sushi), as well as cold cuts (pâté, charcuterie, tenderloin). In addition, you will need vegetable terrines, grilled vegetables, salads (wild rice, pasta, or a basket of raw vegetables), a selection of cheeses and bite-sized desserts (mini éclairs, cream puffs, fruit salad, chocolate -dipped strawberries). You can, of course, adapt your buffet according to circumstances, place, and season. If you are from an area well known for its specialty products, go ahead and add them to the buffet. For example, at the residence of the Belgian Ambassador in Washington, a variety of Belgian beers was also served during the cocktail hour.
Make sure there is enough clearance around the buffet table for your guests to circulate without bumping into each other. Set plates, silverware, and napkins on one end of the buffet so that guests move efficiently around the table.
Have wines (red, white, and sparkling), soft drinks, and water available. In the summertime, beer is also popular. You can have a separate station for drinks only in a hallway, pantry, or library. This will allow for a better flow throughout the rooms.
For a large group, you can rent glasses. They are affordable, you do not have to clean them, and it will not be the end of the world if a few are chipped or broken.