Fun summer memories always include a great 4th of July party, BBQ, picnic, family and friends get together. The party starts somewhere in the afternoon, bring a dish, remember those swim trunks and will there be fireworks later? Planning the 4th celebration is right up there with Halloween and Thanksgiving for me. Just the color scheme makes you feel happy: red, white, and blue! A good party, like everything else, is all in the planning, so lets create the moment!
How many people are you inviting? Is it just the immediate family or 150 of your closet friends? Determine your location. We need to plan home and garden decorating, tablescaping, the menu, beverages, games, music, and provide for what not, which we will define later on in the blog.
Decor: Do as little or as much as you wish. You could start with a fresh bowl of red apples and use it as a centerpiece on the buffet or dining table. Flags are easy to acquire and store. Hang the large ones over existing artwork. Display metal stars on bookcases. Use your chandelier as an armature to display a flag banner garland. These are 4th of July finials in a set of three: unique, timeless, large enough to make a grand statement. There are so many options, be silly, be stylist, but be consistent with your lane. Choose one style of decor, for example: antique/ tea stained, then make sure you run this throughout your 4th decor items right down to your tablescaping.
Tablescaping: Tablescaping is one step you cannot skip, discount or forget about, because this is where everyone gathers and has the meal, even if it’s a buffet. Tablescaping is the most important element next to the menu. If you have decided what your decor will be you already have your ‘lane’, or style for what the tablecloth, napkins with be. Do you have a great set of flatware made of bamboo, caning, wood or Bakelite to spark the whimsy and set the moment? Use it! How about those red serving pieces? Vietri Red Lastra makes the richest depth of red dishes and serve ware perfect for the 4th of July table. Maybe use the antique blue willow salad plates on top. How about a bandanna napkins? What will you use for a napkin ring or do you need napkin rings? Plan it now and make sure you take a photo of it BEFORE everyone arrives and archive it in your 4th July album for future reference.
Suggestion: Set your 4th table or buffet table between one to three days before, depending on the size party and amount of cooking you are doing. This way you have one less thing to do and it might give you more ideas, like adding sparkles, table talk games, or guest table swag gift(s)
Menu: Your menu will consist of snacks, appetizers, main dish, side dishes, dessert(s). Plan for about one pound of food per adult and 1/2 per child. If the party spans from mid afternoon until night plan five to eight appetizers* per person, per hour until dinner. Always make more than you think. It is always better to have too much than too little. You do not want to be known as the host(ess) of the three bean wrapped in a carrot ribbon cusine with a planned swing through at a Mickey D’s on route home.
Suggestion: If you are cooking, do not try a recipe the day of the party. Always try it out to make adjustments prior to the party, otherwise your guests are your guinea pigs. Don’t feel bad. I have learned this lesson the hard way.
Snacks: defined as items you pour into a bowl, dish, or basket, and thats as far as it goes for the preparation. These are as necessary at a 4th party as sparklers. Don’t forget the chips, make sure there is a dip or two and make sure you have calculated the correct amount: approximately at four to six appetizers* per person and about the same four to six will graze the snacks. At our house, there are never enough Fritos Scoops, ever.
Beverages: Did you know 4th of July is America’s number one beer drinking holiday? To make sure you have enough libation for the celebration duration calculate one alcoholic beverage per guest per hour, two non alcoholic beverages for the first hour, and an additional drink for every hour there after. Have a large vessel, such as a cooler or large tin tub filled with ice and bottled beverages, for the taking. Get the beverage choices sorted a week prior and your home bar with the mixed drink options all set up with the garnishes(garnish server can be made and fridged a few days prior), olives, limes, lemons, cherries in a lovely serving dish like the Juliska Berry and Thread Triple Server for a sparkling presentation.
Appetizers: Defined as prepared dips, canapés, and charcuterie: not chips, nuts, or olives etc.. at least three and up to as many you want to make or assign to a guest(s) to bring. Everybody loves the appetizers. Just a small morsel packed with flavor and fun in a little package. I love to plan the appetizers. For me, I could just have these and call the party a success!
Side Dishes: These recipes are the supporting actors to your main dish, however if they are lacking in flavor they will drag down the whole meal. I always plan for at least three. Examples: A green salad or broccoli salad, always either potato or macaroni salad or both, perhaps a watermelon salad, baked beans, grilled corn on the cob and don’t forget the mac and cheese. At a 4th picnic, the salad is not a stand alone dish. This is by design a casual, laid back affair, so salads can be greens, potatoes, pasta or whatever you want it to be.
Main Dish(es): For most, the main event protein course, which is always the host’s responsibility, even if we have guest participation. Whether you are serving hot dogs and hamburgers, a vegetarian main, chicken, or the best ribs you will ever cook….I have included the my fall off the bone rib recipe I have cooked for years, which my children now expect at the end. Perhaps you want to grill a great swordfish, you know your audience, roll with it and once again be consistent throughout your menu choices, so the rest of the menu plan melds with the main course.
Condiments: No it’s not a course, but baby, a sauce can make or break a meal-particularly if you have those that like spice. For those who like it hot, try the Pain is Good Habanero, Harissa, or Gochuiang Hot Sauce. Try them in your BBQ sauce to ignite the bang in the bite. They are scorchers! Make sure you have the right toppings for your guests to embellish your dynamite menu and make it their own.
Dessert: At this point, your guests should be full and a little tired. Brownies, cookies, bars, and pies are a nice assortment to have at the end of the celebration. Also have a bowl of wrapped chocolates to pass or have on the buffet, just in case someone wants a little something sweet, but doesn’t want or can’t commit to a slice, square or cookies.
Music: Start assembling your playlist now. If you belong to a subscription music streaming service you can just search for an existing one or assemble the music according to your preference whether its, John Philips Sousa, Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry or John Denver. There is always the delegating option to the audiophile in your clan- be inclusive!
Games: This can be yards games like corn hole, limbo, pool toys to poker, guess the amount of apples used in the apple pie or those red apples in the bowl used as your centerpiece. Games keep things lively and adds a necessary dimension to the interactions. Depending on the size of your get together, if its a good size group have several games options available or going at the same time. Who doesn’t like more fun?
What Not: Defined simply as the little details to blow your shindig over the top: such as bubbles, crayons, glow sticks, water balloons for the kids and some of the adults. Side betting on which adults will participate in the bubbles, crayons and water balloons can be another game, just saying! Try sparklers by the dinner plate, crazy patriotic glasses, hats, or some of those fireworks to end the evening. Silly always gets, at the very least, a smile to full out belly laughs. Suggestion: Use the What Not to make those Instagram pics epic! What Not is what blows the moment sky high and sets the memory for future recall…”Hey, do you remember the 4th of July….”
Have fun and create the moment that makes the memory! Moss & Ivy
Mom’s 4th of July Ribs
Slow, Low and Long..8 hours long plus 2-3 days macerating, makes the most delicious, fall off the bone ribs, you will ever have. Take the time and earn those culinary Stars and Stripes, its so worth it!