Yesterday we had a baby shower for one of my dearest friends, Ariel (who coincidentally just started her own lifestyle blog, Dunne and Done). While I’ve cooked for crowds often, this was my first time catering an event. It could have been stressful, but it wasn’t. Here’s what I did to ensure things went smoothly.
1) Listen. If you’re a food-lover like me, it’s easy to get carried away and plan the menu of your dreams. I made an effort to really listen to what Ariel wanted and planned the menu accordingly.
2) Plan. I made the menu weeks in advance, creating a shopping list and schedule. If I could make something in advance (i.e. spiced nuts and sugar cookies), I did. I even got the cheese cut and cubed in advance. I spread the cooking out, got everything in bags, ready to go by the door, and on the morning of the party, we had a relaxing morning with our friends drinking tea, enjoying breakfast, and getting ready.
3) Finger food for the win! I had wanted to make some more elaborate dishes, heavier lunch-fare, but Ariel wanted simple and easy finger food. Her sense was right on. I actually think people ate more because it was easy to just graze and snack. She also didn’t want a lot of cooking going on in her house that morning (which amused me as a cook). But again, she was right. That morning was just assembly and plating. It would have been a lot more stressful if I’d had to manage stuff on the stove and in the oven.
4) Arrive early. Always get there early, leaving plenty of time to get in and get organized before other guests arrive. If you think you need an hour, give yourself two. Always better to have more time than less. We were ready to go about twenty minutes before guests arrived, leaving us just enough time to clear up, touch-up make up, and take a few photos.
5) Get help. I was skeptical that we would need help for a party with 35 guests, but I don’t know what we would have done without the gentleman that Ariel hired. He cleared away dishes, made sure plates and glasses were full at all times, and left the kitchen in good shape. That’s invaluable. And it allowed all the hosts of the shower to enjoy themselves, not worrying about cleaning and replenishing.
A surprise to Ariel, our friend Sian came all the way from England and was an extraordinary sous chef. Several girls arrived early to help and having those extra hands was so necessary . They assembled the fruit kebabs and tea sandwiches and arranged everything on the table.
The spread ended up looking fantastic: spiced nuts, fruit kebabs, tea sandwiches, sausages with three mustards, sugar cookies, and two types of scones–chocolate-peanut butter and blue cheese-golden raisin. And for me, no party is complete without a cheese board, which I decked out with Kerrygold. Ariel’s husband is Irish, so it made sense to go with Irish cheese, but everyone loved the Kerrygold cheese board. All afternoon people asking afternoon what it was and where they could buy it.
These were the lovely women and my dear friends who came together for Ariel and helped host one heck of a baby shower.
We didn’t play games or do any activities, but Ariel did open her presents. There was no shortage of “Oooohs!” and “Awwwws!” particularly when she opened a baby fedora hat. Congratulations, Ariel. We love you and can’t wait to meet your little one in just a few weeks!
I think the most popular thing on the table were the chocolate peanut butter scones, so I promised to share the recipe on the blog. Enjoy!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons frozen butter
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 large egg
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Grate ⅓ of the butter into the flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; toss. Repeating grating and tossing twice more. Add peanut butter and using fingertips, work it and the butter into flour a bit more. Add chocolate chips; toss to combine.
- Mix sour cream and egg with a fork until smooth. Using same fork, stir into dry ingredients until large dough clumps form. Use hands to press dough against the bowl into a ball. (There may not seem like enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together. If necessary, flick a little water into bowl bottom to get the last bits to adhere.) Place on a lightly floured work surface and pat into a 7½-inch circle, about ¾-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably silapat- or parchment-lined), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve—hot, warm, or at room temperature.