Since I moved out of my tiny studio apartment in Boston, I have relished in being able to actually entertain more than one or two other people. I eased into entertaining with throwing a dinner party for mine and K’s parents back in November, but this Summer I’ve jumped all in.
Back in May (Cinco de Mayo to be exact) I invited all my coworkers and their families and friends over to our apartment for a fiesta. It was one of the first nice days after the worst winter ever, and we listened to music, sat outside, drank Sangria and ate way to much food.
Here are my guidelines for throwing the perfect backyard fiesta.
Of course food is first! I think a good backyard fiesta should begin in the afternoon and extend into dinner time. That means you’ll want a variety of food out at different times.
Snacks: You’ll want lots of tortilla chips. Like, more than you think you need. Even if people don’t like Mexican food, they like tortilla chips. You’ll also want a variety of dips. For my fiesta I made homemade salsa, guacamole, fresh charred corn dip, queso, and pico de gallo. Each were varying in spice-level so there was something for everyone.
Entrees: Fajitas are the ultimate party food. If you have a grill you can give someone the job of grilling some steaks and chicken and then slice it on site, or you can cook it prior to the party and warm it through when you’re ready to serve. People can build their own–just make sure you have lots of fixins’. Tortillas, sour cream, cheese, hot sauce, and then some sautéed peppers and onions are essential to a good fajita plate.
I also made a casserole of cheese enchiladas and a big pot of beans in the crockpot for the vegetarians (my mom) in attendance. The enchiladas can be made the night before and then popped in the oven when you’re ready to serve, and the beans can be simmered all day.
Desserts: I usually outsource desserts; baking isn’t my forte and usually people ask to bring something, so I’ll either ask them to bake something or pick something up from a bakery. My aunt Joan made this Sopapillla Cheesecake and it went like gangbusters. We also had cookies and some pie!
I think it’s a good idea to have a house cocktail and then invite everyone to bring anything specific they’d like to drink. I also stock up on plenty of sodas, waters, and juice for those who are not partaking in adult beverages.
K’s parents brought some amazing Sangria that was a big hit, and could (should!) be made ahead of time. We also had some margaritas mixed up and cute glasses to serve them in.
This is my favorite part. Fiesta’s might be the easiest thing to decorate: the brighter the better! I found a piñata at my local party store along with some brightly colored napkins, plasticware, and plates. A couple of “Fiesta!” banners and a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey hung on the wall completed the mood.
Finally, I love a party with props. Have a couple of sombreros laying around–they’re cute decorations and who knows? Maybe after everyone gets acquainted, someone will decide to wear one! (I’m looking at you again, Mom!)
And Don’t Forget…
Other essentials that any party would be remiss without:
- Music! My mom always told me that the best way to ruin a party is to not have music playing. She’s usually right.
- Ice. And lots of it!
- A cooler. See above.
- Trash and recycling bags
- Plenty of tupperware for leftovers
- Serving spoons/platters
- Did I mention ice?
The bottom line though? Throw a couple of tortillas and some ground beef in the middle of a table and you have a fiesta. It’s less about the party and more about the people, or at least I think so!