What to take to boss's BBQ?
May 21, 2011 7:59 AM   Subscribe

What should I bring to my boss's barbecue?

I've been invited to my a barbecue at the home of the head of the office where I intern. There will be a professional contact there who will be working with the boss on a major project. I'm in my late twenties and male, a grad student, and don't cook anything suitable for a BBQ.

My youth and young adult life did not really involve barbecues beyond getting together in a state park with people of my parent's cultural background and grilling chicken and ethnic side dishes, so I am not really sure what the norm is here - google turns up advice to take a cheesecake, a case of beer, a bottle of wine, or coleslaw.

Thank you all in advance for your responses.
posted by jackfruit to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cheesecake seems like a random choice, but dessert would probably go over well, or some alcohol (beer/wine). Have you asked your boss if you can bring anything?
posted by Stephanie Duy at 8:04 AM on May 21, 2011

Fruit salad! No cooking required - just chop up some berries, kiwi, melon, etc.
posted by something something at 8:07 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Fruit salad! Chop a cantaloupe into bite-sized pieces, add quartered strawberries and blueberries, and you're all set. Usually at a potluck BBQ the host provides the hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, etc, ad you should bring a side dish. Definitely double-check that you should bring something though, unless your boss explicitly asked people to contribute.

I agree that cheesecake is random. Cookies would be good, though, if you're wanting to bring a dessert.

On preview, I agree with something something. :)
posted by LizzyBee at 8:09 AM on May 21, 2011

Agree- fruit salad is a win-win.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:11 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

What were these ethnic side dishes you grew up with? Might bringing some accessible condiments (chutney, not-too-hot sauce, salsa, etc) for people to try on burgers be fun?

Everyone above is right about fruit. Get what's in season and slightly special (bringing cardboard Red Delicious apples, those crappy oranges that every cafeteria has, or bananas - kind of a downer. Bringing a juicy pineapple or luscious grapes is awesome).

I'm pretty sure that between the months of may and september, showing up ANYWHERE with a watermelon and a big smile is considered totally appropriate and awesome.
posted by sestaaak at 8:13 AM on May 21, 2011

My parents often make potato salad or some kind of pasta salad when they barbecue. And best of all, you can often buy those pre-made at the supermarket. My local supermarket has a deli with a wide variety of pasta salad-type dishes you can buy.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 8:14 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

While fruit salad is perfectly appropriate, rhubarb is in season only a few weeks a year. The "right" answer, therefore, is rhubarb pie.

If you want to make your own crust, I like this recipe (it's pretty idiot proof--I find that you can skip rolling it out and just press it into the pie plate and it retains plenty of flaky deliciousness).

You can also get ready-made crust in the freezer section of any grocery store, it just won't be as quite as good.

If you scroll down, this is the most delicious and easiest rhubarb pie recipe I've ever made. Sure to impress and delight your boss.
posted by phunniemee at 8:15 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Did you ask what you could bring? It may be that no one wants you to bring anything.(Your childhood experiences really have nothing to do with this.)
If you don't regularily shop for fruit, I think fruit salad could be problematic. Do you know that your boss drinks or serves alcohol? What are your colleagues bringing? If alcohol is ok, a nice bottle of wine is always welcome.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:15 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's also easy to make guacamole, usually much appreciated to nibble on with a beer while food is cooking. Just mash up some avocados with lime and salt, and put on a plate surrounded by tortilla chips.
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 8:17 AM on May 21, 2011

Yeah whats wrong with some ethnic sides?
posted by Max Power at 8:19 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you supposed to bring something? If you ask what to bring and the boss says, "Oh, nothing," then bring a bottle of nice wine for them to enjoy later on, or a coffee cake so they don't have to bother with breakfast the next morning, or nice table bouquet for the wife (if the boss is a married man). (Table bouquet just as distinct from something romantic, you know what I mean.)

IOW, if you're asked to bring a side, beer or chips and salsa or an ethnic side would all be fine. If you're NOT asked to bring a side, think "hostess gift." I personally like to do coffee cake because I can say, "After all this work putting together such a lovely party, I figured you wouldn't feel much like cooking in the morning!" (And then you don't have to worry about whether the drink alcohol or are allergic to flowers.) But if you know they drink, wine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:33 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fruit salad, bean salad, pasta salad, or some sort of cookie (desserts that don't require cutting or a fork are always good).

Definitely ask what category of dish they'd like you to bring, since potlucks sometimes go awry when fourteen people bring desserts and no one brings a side.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:34 AM on May 21, 2011

Cook's Illustrated Brown Sugar Cookies-- These cookies are kind of a pain, first you have to jump through hoops to get to the recipe, then they're just finicky to make (the timing is critical but requires making them once beforehand to get perfect). But: "Hey, who brought these, they're really good!!!"

Don't ask if you should bring anything, they might say no, which then makes it awkward to bring something... Just hedge your bets by bringing a desert or wine or something which could also be a hostess gift.
posted by anaelith at 8:37 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing fruit salad. Throw in a couple unusual fruits, too -- people can take em or leave em. Purely simple & easy.

If you want to go up a notch: bring Fruit Soup as dessert. Puree a honeydew and add your fruit salad. Thin with a little milk, add a little sugar to taste if needed, toss a few cilantro or basil leaves on top. Bring clear plastic cups and spoons.)

I also think something of a different ethnicity would be great. (All food is ethnic.) Something different but not wildly spiced or too exotic. Just don't be disappointed if it doesn't move. There's no accounting for taste. And you've got tomorrow's lunch.
posted by LonnieK at 8:52 AM on May 21, 2011

Re Fruit Soup: now that I think about it, I'd include some yogurt or even vanilla ice cream in the blend. You want something a little creamy.
posted by LonnieK at 8:54 AM on May 21, 2011

Are you sure you should bring something? I would bring something to a friend's BBQ, but probably not to my boss's, because my first instinct is that he's the boss and is taking care of it. (Is this an official work event?)
posted by J. Wilson at 9:07 AM on May 21, 2011

Fruit salad is fine but there is a chance the host or other guests will bring fruit salad. Cheesecake is what we did on the East Coast, is not a random suggestion, and is what I would go with to avoid duplication. Cheesecake also keeps which fruit salad doesn't do well. Cookies from a good bakery are also good. A case of beer is very generic and has potential pitfalls so unless you've been there before I'd be hesitant to go there.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:11 AM on May 21, 2011

Nthing the suggestion that if you were asked to bring something, a vegetable side from your own cultural background is a GREAT idea. (Nothing too spicy, though.) If you can give tell us the geographic area where you're interning and your cultural background (South Indian or Southeast Asian, I'm guessing based on your username), we can give you a hand.
posted by KathrynT at 9:33 AM on May 21, 2011

Flowers and a bottle of nicely chilled pinot grigio.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:50 AM on May 21, 2011

Bottle of wine. Could be used at the BBQ, or could be saved for later. If people are bringing things, you are squared away, and if people are generally not bringing things, a bottle of wine does not overstep any bounds.
posted by Nightman at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2011

Nthing: if you know how to prepare accessible "ethnic side dishes" I think this could be a real hit. Think something which doesn't need to be super hot or cold and won't get gross sitting on a picnic table for a while.

But if cooking, or even preparing a fruit salad, is too much work/stress for you:

Get cupcakes or cookies or a cake or pie from a bakery. Don't get this stuff from a grocery store, their stuff is boring and it shows little care/thought on your part. Cheesecake isn't crazy, people love it! As long as it's not the frozen kind from Costco.

Buy a pre-made pasta/grain/potato salad or vegetable side dish. Again, this depends on the quality of the grocery stores in your area, but don't get the gross tub-of-potato salad from the supermarket...go to whole foods, a smaller delicatessen or natural foods market to find something unique. Some good hummus and pita bread, is there a middle eastern market in your area?
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:16 AM on May 21, 2011

Bring a gift for the host &c. Wine is good, but flowers or another appropriate gift for the spouse are a wise investment, if the boss is married. Call ahead to find out what you can bring. Ethnic should be fine if you think it will mesh well with the main course. Spicy is just fine, as long as you bring something else for people who can't handle heat.
posted by Hylas at 1:23 PM on May 21, 2011

Firstly, yes, ask your boss. "I'm really looking forward to the bbq on Saturday. Is there anything I can bring? No? Are you sure?"

Secondly, whether you bring a dish or not, consider also bringing a hostess gift. Flowers are perfect for this. I like a small bunch with a single type of flower, no filler, and simple wrapping. A bunch of eight or so tulips is my go-to choice, but you could also consider something more casual like brightly-coloured gerberas. Ask the florist for recommendations if you're unsure.

If your boss is a man and married or living with a woman, I'd still bring flowers. If it's a single guy, you might consider something like a small box of chocolates or a nice tin of biscuits instead. Or, as already suggested, bake something yourself.

I'd be wary of bringing wine unless you know your boss well, or at least are sure there'll be drinking at the bbq. (I've been to some where there wasn't.) Not everybody drinks, and giving wine to somebody who's, say, a teetotaller, a recovering alcoholic, or of a religion that forbids drinking could be awkward.
posted by Georgina at 1:31 PM on May 21, 2011

Nthing ask first before bringing anything.

If you do bring food, I will nth that accessible ethnic side dishes are a great option.

Also, a big hit at our work barbecues are fruit dips like this one. This is super easy to make, transport, and serve.
posted by gudrun at 1:37 PM on May 21, 2011

Wine or beer, unless you live in the Bible Belt or know your boss to be a teetotaler.

If wine, get something simple with bold flavors, probably "New World" (i.e. from South America, Australia, South Africa, or California). Don't spend too much money, because if you think they're wine drinkers your bottle will probably not be the only one.

If beer, get the best you can afford, ideally an import or microbrew. Lighter beers like lager, pilsner, hefeweissen, kolsch, or just about anything German or Czech are a good call. IPA might be nice too, though they tend to be higher in alcohol (so maybe not ideal for a work setting).
posted by Sara C. at 4:43 PM on May 21, 2011

You know, coleslaw is really easy and, I don't know about anybody else, but it is the first thing I go for at a picnic.You can buy the sauce or make it yourself. Bring the shredded cabbage in a bag, the sauce in a bottle and put them in the bowl when you get there. Easy to transport, always appropriate for a BBQ, super cheap, and hard to fuck up.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:01 PM on May 21, 2011

If you don't cook, or are uncomfortable with the idea of cooking for work contacts, it is perfectly fine to take a dessert you purchase from a nice BAKERY or fancy grocery store. Pie with in season fruit or cookies are both good ideas.

Always take a gift for the host & hostess. In my experience (urban Canadian in nonprofit sector) this would be wine or flowers in the neighbourhood of $15.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 9:07 PM on May 22, 2011

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