I love entertaining. It’s one of my favorite things in life. Getting to make food, prepare drinks, make sure everyone is having a good time – I love it all. For some people, this isn’t the case. In this post, I will go over why I picked an Antipasto Happy Hour, how to make a stress-free plan, and how to do it all in the comfort of your own home.
- Narrow down a guest count and guest list.
- Pick a day and time. Invite your guests.
- Pick a menu. Be sure to find out from your guests if there are any allergies or special diet restrictions. Take these into consideration when making a menu.
- Choose and purchase any decorations, napkins, small plates, food cards, flowers, etc.
- Make a plan. Figure out when you will clean and prepare your house, grocery shop, and a timeline for prep/cooking.
- Execute your plan.
- Most importantly, enjoy yourself the night-of! Keep in mind, your guests are clueless about exactly what you had planned. If something isn’t perfect, it’s okay!
Narrow Down a Guest List
First and foremost, decide how many people you want to host. On a weeknight (or workday), I advise no more than six people total. A non-work day lends more time for prep and execution. Feel your guests out for best days of the week. Let them know if you need them to bring drinks, alcohol, games, or anything at all.
Pick a Date and Time, Tell Everyone and Pick a Menu
Next, pick a date and time. Once you select your date, send out an invitation. Do this a few weeks in advance to allow your guests time to arrange their schedules. If you’re going a more informal route, a text, email or private social media invite will suffice. If your crowd runs more formal, you can send a snail mail invitation. It’s fun to get a letter or invitation in the actual USPS mail.
Just after sending out invitations, narrow down a menu. Before making final menu selections, make sure you are aware of any allergies or dietary restrictions your guests may have. Take these into consideration when planning your menu. If you are unsure if a dish or food is appropriate for someone, just ask.
One of my favorite, easy DIY happy hour menus is a selection of antipasto items. Cheeses, fruits, pickled vegetables and crackers are perfect for vegetarian guests.
A meat plate with a variety of aged meats, like salami, pepperoni, prosciutto and dry coppa ties it all together. An Antipasto Happy Hour is an easy way to present an elegant and gorgeous looking spread.
Serve the meats and cheese with a smattering of olives, crackers and a one or two additional bite-sized appetizers (like my Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Goldew Peppers or these Smoked Salmon Canapes) for a hearty selection of food.
Cocktails & Drinks
Pick a cocktail (or cocktails) for your special evening. Choose something that is in line with the time of year, or goes along with your food selection. For this particular happy hour I hosted back in November, I chose to serve my Cranberry Pomegranate Moscow Mules and a bottle of rosé.
Be sure to have a selection of non-alcoholic drinks available as well.
Pick Decorations, Napkins, Plates, Flowers, and Place Cards
Seven to ten days ahead of time, pick out what napkins, plates, silverware, glasses and serving platters you will use. This will give you enough time to order or shop for anything you are missing. When choosing a platters for plating, think about the food you need to plate, how it will be prepared, and how large or small of a plate/serving dish you need. Be sure to wash and dry all dishes, glasses, silverware, etc. the day before your happy hour.
In addition to plates and such, pick out any decorations, flowers, or place cards you would like. Pick up flowers the day before or day-of the happy hour.
Make a Plan
Once your details are nailed down, put together a schedule for the week of your fabulous antipasto happy hour (or whatever menu you chose!). Write out a schedule for the 48 hours leading up to your event. Include things like washing dishes, pulling out plates/platters, food prep, setting out food, and chilling drinks as needed. With an antipasto happy hour, you can prep the meat plate, cheese plate, and fruit the morning of your event (or even the night before). Just be sure to wrap it in saran, and store in the fridge. Also note, most cheeses are better when they rest at room temperature for an hour or so before serving, so keep that in mind.
With the proper planning, rest assured that you can enjoy yourself for a fabulous evening with your friends. Plan a menu, make a schedule, get as much ready the day before or morning of, and voila! The perfect happy hour right in your own home.
Antipasto Meat & Cheese Platter
Host a perfect antipasto happy hour
- 4 oz prosciutto thinly sliced
- 4 oz dry coppa or salami thinly sliced
- 4 oz pepperoni thinly sliced
- 4-6 oz hard Spanish cheese like Manchengo
- 4-6 oz fresh mozzarella pearls
- 4-6 oz semi-soft cheese like Drunken Goat (one of my faves!)
- assortment of olives, pickled beets, pickled artichokes
- various assortment of nuts
- assortment of crackers
- berries or grapes optional
Decide if you will plate the meats and cheeses together or separately. On one section of the plate, pile the prosciutto. In separate areas, pile the salami/coppa and pepperoni so each meat is in a distinct, organized pile on the plate.
Next, plate the cheese. Put the mozzarella pearls in a bowl, and set out some toothpicks or small tongs. If plating together with the meat, make sure there is enough room for guests to slice the hard and semi-soft cheese.
Fill in the blank areas with fruit. Grapes or berries work well.
In small bowls around your meats and cheeses, put out an assortment of nuts and pickled vegetables (like beets, artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives, etc.) Marcona almonds are one of my favorite nuts to serve with an antipasto plate. You can find them in the specialty cheese section of most grocery stores.
Put out some crackers or bread, and whole grain mustard or fig spread if desired. Make sure you have utensils for picking up/slicing/spooning all of your items.
Note, most cheeses are best served at room temperature. Pull them out one hour before your guests arrive for optimal cheese-goodness.