How To Plan a Home Party Menu for 30 to 40 Guests

brie with caramelized onions :: provencal baguettes :: crudites :: kim Vallee

With Thanksgiving and the Holiday season coming soon, here are my advices on how to host a stress-free, stylish party.

We received 35 guests for my husband’s birthday party. As a bonus, I published my menu at the bottom of this post.

Nine Tips to Throw a Stress-Free Buffet Party At Home

  1. A buffet is easier to prepare and serve. Moreover, a party is more amusing when people can mingle across the room. 
  2. If you do not hire servers, you need to plan right and be well equipped in serving ware to pull it off. Do not be shy to ask for the random help of supportive guests. I got lucky that my mother assigned herself to the dishes. At the end of the night, I did not have a lot of after-party dishes to do.
  3. Ask help with cleaning the buffet table between services. If you do not own a silent butler or a crumb collector, use a clean folded fabric napkin and brushes to remove the crumbs onto a plate.
  4. Be kind to Earth and try to avoid disposable tableware. You can buy affordable tableware at discounted stores. Store them in boxes, ready to use whenever you throw a big bash. Buying standard tableware is cheaper than a few rental rounds.
  5. Unless you wish to get the funeral home look, do not crowd the space with chairs. It is not a sit-down meal. Assume that many guests will eat standing up and in rotation. I usually selected main course dishes that do not require a knife; or only a minimal use of knife.
  6. Plan a menu that can be eaten standing up with a plate and a fork. If you hire a caterer, ask for delivery 2 to 4 hours before the event to give you plenty of time to set up everything.
  7. Serve wines or pre-made cocktails. I often serve a pitcher of vodka and cranberry. On the drink station, simply place in sight the bottles or cocktail pitchers, the glasses, the ice bucket, and a corkscrew. Let the guests serve themselves.
  8. Assume that people will gather in the kitchen and next to the buffet table. Leave room for people to move around. Plan your space and food and drink stations accordingly.
  9. Whenever happens, keep smiling. You and your guests are there to have fun. If you forget to serve something, do not worry about it. Let it go and continue with the rest.

My Menu

I received compliments all night for the food. I used Chantilly’s, a tiny, local caterer that cooks food closer to home cooking.

Genovese Eggplant Tartes :: Chicken Cacciatore

I designed a 4-service meal. The first service lasted the cocktail hour. Then, I switch to the appetizers. It was followed by the main course. Last, it is the dessert.

I originally planned a green salad but I omitted to serve it as we already have plenty of food. For a casual buffet event with a main course, I typically forgo the cheese platter. I served more appetizers instead. I do it for a question of time. You see, my events typically start at 7:30-8:00 PM. By the time people finished the main course, it is often 11 PM.

Mises en bouche
  • Crudités (raw vegetables) with spinach dip
  • Roasted Red Pepper Hummus served with an Assortment of Flatbreads, Breads, and Biscuits
  • Capeletti Bites – Marinated Capeletti, Peppers, & Olives in a Basil Pesto Vinaigrette on Small Skewers
  • Provençal Baguettes served sliced – Baby Baguettes Stuffed with Chevre, Sundried Tomatoes, Black Olives, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Basil Chilled
  • Gingered Shrimp & Snowpeas – Steamed Shrimp Marinated in Fresh & Pickled Ginger with Snowpeas & Water Chestnuts on Small Skewers
  • Smoked Salmon Napoleons – Miniature Rectangles of Puff Pastry Layered with Smoked Salmon, Wasabi Cream Cheese & Marinated Cucumber
  • Brie and Caramelized Onion Phyllo Flower – Round of Brie Nestled in Phyllo topped with Caramelized Onions & Fresh Herbs. Served with biscuits and bread

The Provencal baguettes and the Brie and Caramelized Onion Phyllo Flower were eaten in a flash. Everyone was talking about these two dishes.

Main Courses
  • Genovese Eggplant Tartes – Roasted eggplant, fresh basil, onions, pesto, & light mozzarella in a cheesy herbed polenta crust
  • Chicken Cacciatore with Herbed Orzo – Chunks of skin off bone in chicken simmered with tomatoes, peppers, onions, celery, & mushrooms. I served the orzo cooked in rich chicken broth and fresh herbs cold as a salad.

A stew is the perfect dish for easy entertaining. I simply reheated the chicken cacciatore on the stovetop in two Dutch ovens. When the food was hot, I deposited one Dutch oven at a time on a portable heater sitting at the buffet table.


If you have the time and you cook well, plan a meal where you can prepare things in advance. The old fashioned recipes are hip again. Do not be afraid to serve comfort food. The most important thing is that the food tastes great. With the current economic climate, I predict that people will entertain more at home. What do you think?

+ Photography by Renee of En Direct des Iles for Kim Vallee.com – rights reserved

  • Sugar & Spice Event Design
    October 26, 2008 at 14:51

    Hey… this was a great tidbit! Im totally in love with your blog space!