Planning a party is one thing, but what happens when the unexpected guest arrives? Some may be agitated by the unannounced visitor, but I view it as a welcome surprise – well assuming I like the person of course. The unexpected guest can come in different forms: the impromptu kid’s play-date, a flight cancellation that leaves a friend in need of a place to stay for the night or my husband’s softball team stopping over after a game. This post will concentrate on the unexpected pop in from a friend or neighbor – I’ll tackle the others in subsequent posts. While etiquette rules state it is rude to stop over unannounced, I understand there are exceptions to every rule and sometimes it’s just fun to break the rules – it’s life. And when ‘life’ happens, I want to be prepared.
Starting with the simple of the simple, the bare necessities for instant entertaining are: a couple bottles of wine, some lemonade mix, a box of crackers, a couple small bricks of different cheese and a few votive candles. Put the cheese on a cutting board with a couple of cheese knives. No need to waste time cutting up the cheese. Do just a few rustic cuts with the cheese knives and serve on a cutting board with some crackers and a votive candle. Voila! You are the unexpected hostess with the mostess. Add some fresh berries on the plate, a handful of grapes or a cut up apple and you are hostess extraordinaire.
Uncork the wine or pour the lemonade and 5 minutes after your surprise visitor, you are relaxing and catching up with a delicious spread that looks completely planned. If you have a lemon on hand it can serve as a garnish to the lemonade or water. Personally, I love fresh squeezed lemonade! But if you stop over unannounced the reason for the visit or the time with your guests is far more important that pulling out the juicer and creating a simple syrup. I think of this as my instant party emergency kit.
Now it’s time for the bomb shelter! I try to keep the majority of these items on hand. We end up eating the perishable items and I simply replace at the next grocery shop. The stash starts with the items I already listed. Then I add:
- A bottle of champagne
- A box of any type of noodles
- A jar of tomato and Alfredo sauce
- A loaf of bread dough – I generally prefer French bread for it’s versatility
- Cookie dough
- A jar of black olives
- A jar of artichoke hearts
- A pack of paper plates and napkins
Champagne is nice to have on hand for the unexpected celebration – an engagement, a promotion, a pop in from a best girlfriend or a surprise kid free night with your hubby. The noodles, sauce, bread and wine are an instant dinner party. The two sauces offer some variety; tomato, Alfredo or mix the two for a creamy tomato sauce. The bread dough is multi use as well. For one, who doesn’t love fresh warm bread? The warm bread with butter or honey is a satisfying appetizer or the perfect late night snack.
Sweet and salty have always been a power combination, so if you have it on hand, serve some honey with the cheese plate we discussed. The sweet honey and the salty cheese are the perfect flavor collaboration. The smell of fresh baked cookies can make your house feel like home to anyone and is your insta-dessert. The black olives and artichoke hearts can be an instant relish tray! Or if your unannounced visitor calls a few minutes before their arrival: mix a cup of chopped artichoke hearts with 1/2 a cup of mayo and top with some shredded cheese (parmigiana is great if you have it)and warm up in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve with some crackers…YUM! The toothbrush is in case your unexpected guest is staying the night and it’s always nice to have a set of paper products on hand. Your unannounced visitor may stop over when the dishwasher is crammed full.
If you are a gardener, oh the possibilities! The constant, well it could be seasonal depending on where you live, supply of fresh veggies and herbs can be astounding. My ideal garden combination to have on hand would be lettuce, baby tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, onion, avocado, garlic, basil, mint, thyme and rosemary…oh yeah, and a lemon tree. It’s always good to have a stretch plan! I’m starting my first vegetable garden this year. I’ll keep you posted!