I always embrace my Italian roots, serving antipasti meat and cheese plate with tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, and bread for appetizers. Even if the occasion calls for something else (Cinco De Mayo parties, Christmas, or Fourth of July) I always throw in a little Italian influence!
Start with what the people are expecting, then add something special. For my July 4th party, I served corn on the cob (an American favorite and key element to July 4th) and added unique spin: a side of clarified chipotle butter.
Paper plates and plastic cutlery are fine, but when it comes to presentation you should opt for something better. Instead of a typical shrimp ring served on ugly black plastic, put together your own shrimp cocktail platter. Find a large, shallow serving tray, fill it with ice, toss fresh shrimp and sliced lemon on top. Then, use a decorative ramekin to hold store-bought or freshly-made cocktail sauce.
Spend a few extra bucks investing in the best version of your favorite foods. For my July 4th party, I purchased hot dogs from Esposito’s: a New York staple when it comes to butcher shops. In addition, I served home-made kettle chips from a nearby mom and pop shop. If you spend 70% of your efforts on quality products, you’ll spend less time in the kitchen and more time schmoozing with guests.