My friend Joan celebrated her 50th birthday over the weekend, and we all threw a big party for her. As is her style, she made the party about all of us and not just about her, with a toast to us all as remarkable friends in her life. Some mutual friends, Steve and Sallie, decided she shouldn't have to host the thing herself, so they opened up their house to the mob, and I pitched in with some of the food and a few chairs. Two of our nieces and the husband of one of them happened to be visiting from out of town that same evening, and they joined us for a fun evening.
Joan chose the menu—appetizers, filet mignon on the grill, potatoes, asparagus, plenty of wine and beer. My job was to provide the vegetables and the appetizer, and I chose to make an antipasti platter. Because we were to be 27 people in all, I made two.
I think I've only done this once before, but it appealed to me because there is no cooking, and you can buy all the elements ahead of time. The trick is to make it all come together and look visually appealing and therefore appetizing. The appetite starts with the eyes, I think.
I went to a few different stores and gathered these things—two kinds of salami, marinated mushrooms, an assortment of olives, goat cheese with herbs, goat cheese with honey, thinly sliced cucumbers, flatbread-style crackers, fresh mozzarella with grape tomatoes.
This was my inspiration:
It didn't occur to me to take a camera along to get a shot of the finished platters, but I thought my version was appealing to the eyes, and my theory proved correct when we had few leftovers at the end of the evening. I brought home some olives and goat cheese, but I don't mind that a bit—the cheese with honey is amazing, and I'll happily munch on that the rest of the week.
It just goes to show you can make people happy without doing a lot of heavy cooking. They really just want to be together and laugh and toast to a good friend's milestone, and having something good to eat is just a bonus.