Wednesday, September 9, 2009

a labor day lunch

over the holiday weekend, mitchell's mother and brother were in town and staying with us so we hosted a labor day lunch at our house. it was a good way to get everyone together and served as a nice official end to summer. my goal was to do it economically, but also to make it delicious and special feeling. and oh yeah, relaxed and stress-free too.

against my greener instincts, i gave in to paper goods rather than my standard dishes and glasses. i always resist it because it feels like a waste of materials and money, but also because i have so many sets of dishes from my bridal registry that i feel like, when else will i use them? but for ease and because it was an outdoor afternoon party, i succumbed. and it confirmed for me what i had started to suspect - that used in the right circumstances, when they don't work against the look and feel of the event, they are one hell of a tool. and they actually can contribute to the relaxed feel.

i was very happy with the bare by solo products i got at target - light kraft color plates - a definite indication of their green-ness, but also pretty and natural looking --perfect with the green and yellow color scheme i had decided on. at $2.50 for 15 plates, they were a great deal, considering what decorative paper plates can cost (usually around $3 for 8, often more). i also found small yellow paper plates for appetizers and salad (regrettably not bare) that were $1 for 10 (target bins which i always love for good finds) and used plain white plastic silverware bundled in green napkins and tied with yellow raffia.

now that i've found the bare products which are recyclable/renewable/sustainable, i don't know that i would ever choose other paper products. i would just use the basic plates and cups (very pretty, as you can see) and add color with cocktail napkins and appetizer plates, as i did this time. seems like a good compromise for those times when you need the ease of disposable.

i finished the look with yellow tablecloths, a tan pop-up gazebo for shade, and small white flowerpots filled with sprigs of oregano and parsley and vinca stems grown just for the occasion. okay, if i'm being honest, it was overgrowth from my uncontrolled herb garden. but they were terrific as relaxed and unfussy table decorations. (note to self: be a better gardener next all started off so nicely...)

i also placed bottles of perrier and carafes of still water on each table. i chose the perrier bottles specifically because their green color further enhanced the look of the tables and drove home the color scheme - a great example of how money spent on one function (beverages with lunch) can also fulfill another (coordinated color scheme). the picture below is pretty bare, as it was before anything else was on the table, but it'll give you an idea of the trailing little green arrangements.

other drink offerings included assorted sodas, sangria and prosecco and were self-serve in clear solo bare cups with bright yellow straws. while the coals were heating up, we snacked on a gloucester and stilton wedge, an emmenthaler swiss wedge, a chianti smoked salami, sliced apples and whole wheat crackers. the definite star was a platter of (kelly's invention) parmesan-stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto and baked until crisp and bubbly. her original version actually included toasted pecans too, which i would definitely try next time.

for lunch, we served chicken cutlets slathered in the barbecue sauce i first made on our week on fire island, along with hot italian sausage and hot dogs, a green salad with fresh dill, cucumbers, scallions & bricks of feta and a pesto and pea pasta salad (n.b. i made this with whole wheat pasta and i think it would have been far better with plain old white pasta. also, i skipped the pine nuts, which i shouldn't have. and another n.b. the hot dogs were hebrew national 97% fat free, 40 calories a piece and were fully enjoyed and polished off by all, serious hot dog enthusiasts included).

i liked using the sangria and barbecue sauce recipes which had been created over the summer as a little full-circle touch on the very last day. for dessert, we had old timey italian ices in cups -- chocolate and cherry -- and used the flat wooden scrapers, a lucky score when i thought to ask the guy stocking the freezer section at the store. sure enough, he had just enough for my party laying around. pays to ask!

happy additions to the party were our neighbors with bottles of homemade wine and new baby in tow, the same new baby who was not yet in the world on memorial day when we drank sangria at their summer barbecue. i love when things come full circle like that, especially in the form of a party.

here's to the end of summer and the start of a whole new season sure to bring good things all around.

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