Hosting a Bonfire Block Party Part 2

There’s no reason an outdoor party can’t be elegant and charming even when you are entertaining an entire neighborhood.  Nor should something as simple and casual as a block party cause you undue stress or heartache to put together.  The recipes you choose should be easy and quick to cook (both for your sake and so you can utilise many different helpers), but you can add a certain flair in your presentation to make your bonfire a pleasant, vibrant occasion.

Keep it simple and warm

For a fall bonfire party, you will want extra warming comfort food, which means lots of root vegetables, sweet starches, hearty servings and full red or spicy white wines (for the adult guests).  When many hosts think of fall events, they envision lots of prep time, a lot of slow roasting and endless baking.  Don’t let Thanksgiving ideas dictate your entire fall party season!  While these labours of love certainly have a cherished place in my own and many people’s hearts, something as simple and impromptu as a bonfire party should be easy and fun to host.  You can still get all of the fall flavors we all love without lengthy kitchen times.  Instead of a long simmering beef stew, for example, try beef kebabs with root vegetables.  This will give you an excuse to use the grill and greatly cut down on clean up.  Especially if you use wooden or (better yet) rosemary skewers to add flavor and that can be tossed into the bonfire rather than washed like metal ones.  Kebab recipes can be found for almost any meat and vegetable combination and are quick to prepare.  If you choose to use softer meats for your kebab you can use your rosemary skewers as is.  However, if you decide to use a tougher meat like beef you will have to strip all but the end of the skewer’s leaves in order to slide the beef on.  Chunk up squash, potato and onion in large pieces and alternate them on the skewer (you can add mushrooms or even wrap with bacon if you like).  Lay the skewers in a large glass casserole dish and marinate with a vinaigrette of your choice (a favorite for this time of year is 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste).  Doing this after threading the meat and veggies lets you easily turn them to coat and saves you from really messy hands.  Do this in the morning and turn the skewers every half hour or so until dinner time.  Throw them on the grill and you are done! 

Stylish desserts borrowed from a hot night spot

Many years ago, when I was in college, my friends and I haunted an upscale coffeehouse that doubled as a bar.  The place was called XandOs and it was just off the Dupont Circle exit in Washington, DC.  To survive in a culturally exciting, progressive and artistic neighborhood such as Dupont Circle was, a restaurant had to be stylish, comfortable and serve memorable food.  Though I have no idea what XandOs may be like these days, when my friends and I frequented the place, it did all of these things.  You may wonder why I’m writing about a coffee bar when the post is meant to be about a bonfire party.  The reason I mention XandOs is because of all the items they served, their most popular (and my favorite) item was their s’mores.  Don’t let the simplicity of this trick you into believing it was more than it was.  XandOs didn’t serve gourmet graham crackers or imported chocolate, it was a standard s’more, good old American chocolate, plain grocery store crackers and an average marshmallow.  It was the way XandOs presented their s’mores that made it special.  The dish came out on a pu pu platter with a lit sterno in the middle.  Each small tray held a different component, marshmallow, chocolate or graham cracker, with the graham crackers and chocolate cut to the correct size.  You were each given a skewer and you could toast your own s’mores right there while you were having your cocktail.  So if an upscale D.C. coffee house can make an impression with something as simple as s’mores, who’s to say you can’t?  Instead of pu pu platters, tapas trays, dip platters or a selection of graduated bowls arranged on a table can have the same effect.  Unwrap and precut the crackers and chocolate so your guests don’t have to fumble with irregular pieces or sticky chocolate wrappers and can get to the good stuff.  Having lit sternos with a bonfire nearby may seem redundant, but for small children especially, approaching a large fire, even when it’s been reduced to coals can be dangerous.  With small sterno pots an adult can easily supervise your young guests.  If you’d like to get fancy with your ingredients, try adding coconut shavings (or coconut coated marshmallows), thin orange slices or thin mints rather than chocolate squares.  I guarantee, your guests will love this simple treat and appreciate having all the muss and fuss taken out of it.

tray

Use a tapas tray like this (we got it from theshopperslink.com) to make a fresh, stylish version of s'mores

We’d love to hear some of your favorite casual party recipes.  If you’ve got one you’d like to share, leave us a note here or email us at dk.gould@live.com.  We’ll be happy to share it here at the garden gala!

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