How to Party Plan in a Pinch

With football season in full swing and the holidays upon us, entertaining just a few friends can easily turn into an “event.” Whether you are hosting four people or forty, it’s always nice to be prepared with a stocked pantry. Lightbox turned to Lauren Delp, founder of Silverlake Socialite, for tips on what to keep on hand so that you can have as much fun as your guests.

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What is the one staple you need for a game day party or holiday event?

Always have a good selection of nuts on hand--pistachios, pecans, Marcona almonds. People think that nuts are expensive but you can get great deals on high quality ones at discount grocery stores like Trader Joes and Costco. Nuts are great on cheese boards or on their own.  

You’re known for the meat and cheese boards you prepare. How can someone easily make one at home?

I am a big believer in buying things that keep in bulk. You don’t need a ton of items to make a great board. Have a couple of unopened boxes of crackers that your like--I personally love fig crackers and water crackers--and jars of anything pickled. Cornichons, which are inexpensive and people love, are something you can keep in your fridge or pantry. Also look for sales on olives. Right now I am loving green Castelvetrano ones.

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You mentioned buying things in bulk, but what about cheeses and meats?

There are actually types of cheeses and meats that keep really well. When you buy hard cheeses, buy them in big blocks. The cheese will keep longer even if you don’t eat it all at once. Just be sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. And if you buy cured meats unsliced, they keep for a very long time too. An uncut log of salami will keep for a very long time in the fridge.

What if all you have is a half-eaten wheel of brie in the fridge? How do you “upscale” a basic cheese?

Presentation. If it’s a soft cheese, put something on top like honey or a stack of berries. You can also make a balsamic glaze by reducing the vinegar in a pan and drizzling it over the cheese. A few sprigs of fresh rosemary on top of the cheese will also make it look elegant. Or, if all you have is a hard cheese like parmesan or cheddar, don’t cut it into squares or slice it. Break it up with a knife and it will look more elevated.

Any other food tips?

If you regularly buy fresh bread, buy extra loaves or baguettes to freeze. That way, when you do have a party, you can just pop the frozen bread in the oven and it tastes like it was just baked.

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What’s a common misconception people have about party planning?

That you have to spend a lot of time and money! You can elevate a cheese board or plate of food by garnishing it with a few fresh flowers you have in the house. Most people have holiday or sports themed decorations, so incorporate them into your spread. For instance, if you have mini-pumpkins leftover from Halloween, use them to fill in any gaps on a board for game day or Thanksgiving. Little touches like a sprig of holly berries, dried corn, or even dried fruit make a big impact. And if you do feel like shopping, the 99 cent store has plenty of great themed decorations that work with food.

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If there’s one thing people should remember about assembling a food for a party, what is it?

Start with basics--whatever you have on hand--and then be cognizant of colors. Whether it’s a board or a tablescape, make sure there’s color everywhere.