Have you ever hosted or assisted autumn or winter outdoor party / meal? What food did you had? Is it better to have people to sit at tables or cocktail party format that they can move around to keep themselves warm?
I’m thinking of organising one, around 20 people. Please bear in mind that there won’t be outdoor heater available. Temperature is around 10˚- 15˚C / 50˚- 60˚F. Any suggestions of food, drinks and organisation are welcome.
We had a big neighborhood potluck on Halloween every year when I was a kid - entirely outdoors, in a part of the world where children are required to get Halloween costumes that will fit over snowsuits. It was very casual and there was minimal seating (a few chairs here and there but no eating tables), but the format worked well and encouraged mingling as well as letting people stay warm.
Food was equally casual. Hot cider for kids and beer for adults. Chili or other hearty stew, kept hot in a crockpot and served in styrofoam cups for insulation. Other warm appetizers kept hot in crockpots/chafing dishes. One-bite things that can be speared with a toothpick are ideal - that way they get eaten hot out of the crockpot rather than sitting on a plate too long. Meatballs, miniature hot dogs, pigs in blankets, potstickers, etc. Cold sandwiches, crudites, chips, etc. rounded things out, along with dessert (usually a big apple crisp kept warm in a chafing dish).
Anyway, 50-60F is my favorite outdoor weather, so I wouldn’t worry about being warm myself, but food definitely cools off unpleasantly quickly at that temperature. Borrow all the crockpots you can!
Let me be a contrary voice: Having an outdoor party with no heaters when the temperature is in the 50s, and when people cannot go indoors to warm up, and when 20 people are going to be sharing (sequentially) a bathroom in this time of COVID strikes me as an ill-conceived idea.
It would be a nice idea if you can figure out how to be covid-safe.
Some things we have been doing when seeing people outdoors in the yard during this time, in case it’s helpful to you:
Short gatherings as much as possible (<2h) - minimize risk of someone needing to come inside to use a bathroom
Only one family at a time - reduces overall proximity and risk
Sanitizer, wet wipes, paper napkins set up in one place, to avoid people needing to go inside to was hands or the like.
Masks on at the beginning while everyone situates themselves in the backyard - once people are settled, socially distant, we take masks off.
Separate food spaces and servings if necessary - we set up an appetizer table (sometimes with a separate wine decanter) for the guests near their seating, and a separate one for us. So no cross-touching of dips, cheeses, crudités, and so on. (We have done a single serving station for mains, as there is less hovering in that case - the guests serve, go back to their seats, then we serve. Would be better if we separated that too, honestly, as the serving spoons are still being touched.)
Individual snacks and drinks where possible - this is the opposite of normal instinct in terms of packaging, etc, but safer right now, especially if kids are involved. So cans or small bottles of soda, water, and so on. Separate decanters for wine occasionally.
Limited alcohol - it’s been a demonstrated fact even in our small sample size of visits that as people drink more, they get lax. Better to meet again another time, safely, than let the distance slip and regret it - just for one more glass of wine or another cocktail.
It’s been effective to lay out the house rules upfront - not as directives, but as “this is what we are doing and as much as we are comfortable with at the moment.”
In almost all cases, this has worked to set expectations and curtail what we still consider risky behaviors, even when we know the guests have been comfortable taking different risks than we are.
But it’s not perfect. I’ve had to lead small children out of the house when they followed someone in, and adults too, when despite knowing that no one is welcome inside at the moment they just “pop in” to wash hands, or grab something from the kitchen instead of asking us to get it. Then we don’t invite them again, because it just doesn’t work for us at the moment.
Well stated considered the highly challenging times we are all facing.
I would skip on the whole idea at this time. Another point 20 people may not be allowed by the French Government … It is not allowed in Spain or Italy. NOT MORE THAN 6 PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED AT GATHERINGS OR TABLES …
Not this year, lock down Covid the day after tomorrow. Anniversary happens in this temperature each year, unfortunately. Indoor dining table can seat 10, but 20 will be too crowded. Thanks the concern, everybody.
It’s too complicated with covid and too much responsibility as well. LOL, actually interested in knowing what is good to eat in a cold weather. I’ve even been looking at winter camping food, and street food in cold countries to get ideas.