If you’re looking to host a casual get-together, think beyond the dinner table and consider a grazing party. The idea of setting up multiple food stations with a wide variety of options might seem overwhelming, but with a little know-how and pre-planning, you’ll be on your way to hosting the most talked about party of the season. 

To Graze or Not to Graze

Start by determining if a grazing party is the right format for your get together. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a more casual atmosphere. It also works well for larger groups (15-20 adults is ideal) because it requires less seating, and if your guests don’t all know each other, the flow of the grazing format offers a built-in opportunity for guests to mingle and get acquainted.

Party tip: let us do the work and purchase a complete Grazing Party menu through Wegmans Catering

Plan Your Meal

Even though you aren’t serving a formal sit-down meal, you want to think of each station as a course. The benefit of the grazing format is that the majority of the dishes can be made ahead of time or purchased pre-assembled from Wegmans, allowing you to enjoy the party too.

Party tip: Plan on 3-5 appetizers per guest per hour.

Depending on your space and the number of guests, you’ll want to plan between three to five stations:

Start with the Wegmans Grilled Veggie tray and Crudité Platter for a no-fuss ‘salad’ course. Or, make your own crudité display with a variety of cleaned and cut vegetables, your favorite dip, and small clear cups. Put a dollop of dip in the bottom of each cup, add your veggies, and you have a beautiful display bursting with color. 

Make a statement with an elegant display of sushi and seafood. The Sushi Celebration tray from Wegmans Catering offers a mix of cooked, raw, and vegetable sushi, and you can’t go wrong with the Organic Fresh Cooked Shrimp Tray.

Party tip: Fill the lids with ice and place the trays on top to keep the food chilled throughout the evening.

Create a station with a selection of hot appetizers. Ready-to-Cook Meat & Seafood Appetizers and Frozen Signature Appetizers cook in minutes with no-prep and no clean up.

Party tip: Serve Ready-to-Cook Mini Crab Cakes topped with remoulade sauce, pre-assembled on tasting spoons. 

Make this station interactive with build-your-own tenderloin and honey-brined turkey sliders. It’s fun for the guests and means less prep for you.

For a grand cheese and charcuterie display, start by laying a piece of Kraft Paper across a large table. Feature a selection of three cheeses and three varieties of charcuterie. For cheeses, we recommend one hard cheese, one soft cheese and one blue cheese for variety. Sprinkle bowls or trays of olives, dried fruits, spreads, baguettes and crostini throughout the display.

Party tip: build this display one hour before the party starts so the cheese is at room temperature when guests arrive. Wegmans Favorites Cheese tray is a great option if you want it prepared for you, or for inspiration when building your own.

Set Up Your Stations

When deciding on a location for each station, remember that you want to keep people moving around.

·       Pairing each station with a beer, wine, or cocktail eliminates the need for a separate bar. Party tip: plan approximately 3 beverage servings per guest.

·       Use 6-inch high-end disposable plates and plastic silverware. Party tip: Plan one plate per person, per station.

·       Create simple food signs to label each item.

During and After the Party

One of the biggest benefits of hosting a grazing party is that much of the meal prep can be done ahead of time or purchased ready to go. But that doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook during the party. Be sure to refresh and tidy the stations every half-hour or as needed.

It’s also in your best interest to prepare for clean up before the party starts. Don’t be afraid to strategically place small trash cans near each station to minimize the amount of bussing you’ll have to do throughout the party. Setting up one final station in the garage with an open tote for trash and one for recycling makes cleaning up as you go a breeze, not to mention invisible to your guests.

Nicole Diehl is a corporate event planner for Wegmans Food Markets

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