How much food for an afternoon party for 2 dozen people?
August 18, 2014 4:23 PM   Subscribe

We're having an Sunday afternoon (1-4pm) cheesecake reception for 2 dozen people, and also want to provide fruit, veggies, cheese, and crackers. How much non-cheesecake food should we provide for a group this size, if most of them are also eating cheesecake? What about beverages?

We never have more than a couple of people over, so we have no intuitions about food quantities for a group this size.

We had 24 people RSVP, with 18 of them indicating they'd eat cheesecake. So, we're going to get 24 slices of various flavors of cheesecake from our excellent local cheesecake place, to give people some options, including the option of cheesecake gluttony!

How much fruit, veggies, cheese, and crackers should we get, in addition to the cheesecake? How about soda, juice, and (a modest quantity of) beer?
posted by fussbudget to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have had good luck with this calculator from the Kitchn. I always add more food if it's something that can be frozen and put away like cookies or muffins, or crudites can be reused in soup or salad.
posted by checkitnice at 4:34 PM on August 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just as an aside - it doesn't sound like you have a meal so much as a lot of snack foods?

Typical etiquette states that if you are hosting a gathering over a meal time, you should provide the meal. Not sure if cheesecake and crudités covers it, but you may want to add something a little heartier to your offerings as well.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 4:55 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The bottom line is that people are coming to be with you (and the other guests) rather than for the cheesecake itself, although it's surely delicious. Since the focus is dessert, it sounds like you'll need less of the snacky foods than normal. I would have lots and lots of coffee on hand: if you don't have the resources to make a lot at once, how about getting those party boxes from Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks? I'd go with at least two regulars and one decaf and hot water for tea but, then again, I love coffee so much so this might be overkill. ;-) I also find it hard to estimate alcohol but with time of day and dessert plan, I'd think it'd be a lower number than at other gatherings. Or have a little beer and then a drink or two that goes well with dessert? (Sorry I can't help you with specifics there but surely other Mefites can!) Maybe two LARGE veggie trays and a fruit tray plus lots of hummus and salsa and corresponding chips. (You can always return the extra bags!) Do you feel you'll be set on plates and cutlery or would you like some help with that, too?

I know it's not specific but, when it comes to the food, how about talking to the people in your deli section? Supermarkets may not hire experts like they used to but I'm sure many of the folks have experience with planning for such events and would love to share their advice! If you REALLY want to reach out to people, you could send a mass email asking if the attendees have any special snack food requests but I realize that could get overwhelming. In addition to you and your husband, will anyone else being coming as an extra set of hands, like in a guest-helper role? If not, I'm sure there are some friends who like pitching in and/or feel awkward just standing around and would be glad to get drafted on the spot.

Room for any more? ;-) Just kidding but this sounds like it'll be great, no matter what!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:03 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would suggest you slice each of the cheesecake servings in half, lengthwise so they keep their shape, folks can try more than one AND offer a bunch of toppings to choose from. Go light on the other food. You are having a cheesecake party, go all out.AND have a coffee bar set up.
posted by jennstra at 6:26 PM on August 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Good on you for offering non-sweet options- useful to clean the palate for people wanting a break between multiple flavors.

I'd stay away from, or provide less of, cheese - it tends to be very filling, and you want people to have room for cheesecake!

Definitely veggie sticks - A large tray if buying from your grocery store. If you're cutting your own, then I would do a full heart of celery, 4-6 carrots (depending on size), a couple of green or red peppers, and 3-4 cucumbers (cucumber is harder to reuse if you end up with spare), and then 2 or three dips - maybe hummus, tzatziki? Nothing too creamy or rich - given focus on cheesecake.

re: drinks - definitely coffee. If you want alcohol, I'd do a light, fizzy white wine - something that won't compete with the cheesecake. An Asti Spumante, or maybe a Gewürtztraminer? Those are good options for afternoon drinking also. I dont have any idea about beers though.
posted by darsh at 10:25 AM on August 19, 2014

My extended family gatherings are about this size.

For a typical cheese platter, I'd get three different kinds of crackers (there will be leftovers), and maybe three of four different cheeses --- a Brie, a goat cheese or Boursin-type soft cheese, a hard cheese like a cheddar or manchego, and maybe a small wedge of blue or a smoked Gouda. Plus a bunch of grapes. If you want to take it to the next level you could add a dry sausage, or some proschiutto, or dried fruit or nuts. Figs and apple or pear slices also go well.

You may want to lay off the cheese a bit, of course, with the whole cheese cake thing. Another simple option besides the deli tray of cut vegetables and dip would be a bunch of bruschetta: finely dice up 3-4 ripe tomatoes, a roasted red pepper*, half an onion, and a bunch of fresh basil. Mix together in a bowl with salt, pepper and olive oil. Thinly slice a baugette and toast slices in the oven. Rub each slice with a clove of garlic, top with a spoonful of topping, serve. Baba ghanoush and pita chips would be another good option.

Drinks-wise, a lot depends on your crowd and their taste. My basic guideline is you want to have about one drink per hour per person, all together. 3 hours, 20-ish people, maybe about 5 cases of soda/seltzer. Or maybe do 4 cases of soft drinks and a couple six packs of beer, or two cases of beer and three of soft drinks. It really all depends on your guests --- if it was my family/friends, I'd have soft drinks for kids and beer/wine for adults in proportion to the number of each invited.

Coffee's very good idea , with cheesecake. If you wanted to have a booze option with that Irish coffee's very simple --- shot of whiskey, 4oz/half a cup of coffee, dollop of whipped cream, done. Guests can add sugar as they like. Might want to offer tea as well.

*can roast your own over a gas burner, but most supermarkets will have them in jars in the Italian food section.
posted by maggiepolitt at 3:55 PM on August 19, 2014

Rough guidelines I use. I modify behavior and quantities dependent upon the crowd, and my desired conumption on thir part. If I want more water consumption, I make the water centrally available, increase water availability by up to 25 percent of calculated, and decrease alcohol availability by 10 percent and move it to an inconvenient location.

Under 14 years old:
4oz. liquid every hour
2-4oz. food every hour

Male over 14, under 21
100percent non alcoholic 8oz. fluid every 30 minutes
4-8oz. food every 30 minutes.

Female over 14, under 21
100 percent non alcoholic 8oz. fluid every hour
50 percent eat 2-4oz. food every hour, max 6oz.

Male over 21
75percent alcohol 1 drink every 45 minutes max 5 drinks per person
25 percent non alcoholic 8oz. fluid every 30 minutes.
66 percent eat 4-8oz. food every 30 minutes

Female over 21
50 percent alcohol 1 drink every hour max 3 drinks per person
25 percent non alcoholic 8oz. fluid every hour
25 percent water 8oz. fluid ever 30 minutes
50 percent eat 3-6oz. food every hour, max 8oz.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:50 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, especially for the coffee suggestion - we would not have thought of that.

Here's what we bought:
- The aforementioned 24 slices of cheesecake (and they were fantastic - check out Cheesecake Machismo if you're ever in Albany, NY)
- veggies: 1 bunch celery, 3 bell peppers, 2 lb baby carrots, 2 small boxes grape tomatoes, 2 cucumbers (made two big veggie trays)
- 2 1 lb containers each hummus and dill dip
- fruit: 1 small watermelon, 1 canteloupe, 1 bag grapes, 2 lbs strawberries (made two medium bowls of fruit salad)
- cheese: 1 small wheel brie, 1 wedge Beemster goat cheese, 10 oz sharp cheddar, 1 small tub fresh mozzarella balls.
- crackers: 2 boxes assorted party crackers, 1 bag wheat pretzel twists, 1 bag pita crackers, 1 pack gluten-free rice crackers
- 2 "box o joe" coffee boxes from Dunkin Donuts (which is about 10 small cups of coffee each, 1 regular, 1 decaf)
- (we also put out various teas, and told people we'd put a kettle on for hot water if they wanted tea)
- 4 8-packs of assorted 7.5 oz sodas & seltzers
- 4 6-packs assorted beer
- (we put out water with lemon, too)
- plates, plastic tumblers, forks, toothpicks, napkins.
- big bag of ice

Here's what was left over:
- 5 slices cheesecake
- about 75% of the fruit salad and half the watermelon that we didn't use in the fruit salad
- a few bits of cheese
- half the crackers
- about 10% of the vegetables (and one whole box grape tomatoes and 1 lb baby carrots that we didn't use on the trays)
- 1+1/3 tub hummus, 1+1/2 tub dill dip
- about 1/2 of the regular coffee, and 2/3 of the decaf
- about 1/3 of the soda
- beer: at least half left, but some people brought some, too!
- lots of disposable flatware, plates, etc.
- 2/3 bag of ice

My friend who loaned me all the platters and serving dishes also gave me a ton of plastic takeout containers, so I was able to send most of the fruit salad (and assorted other things) home with our guests.

Everything went really well! I'm not sure whether people would've drank more coffee if we had better coffee available, but it was pretty warm out and box o' joe was all we could handle anyway as far as providing coffee for a crowd. Next time, I would keep a better eye on the cooler and keep the other beverages near it for easy replenishing - maybe borrow another one so we could have more stuff icing down at once. I'd also have more cheese next time if we're not having cheesecake as well.

The idea of doing a mealtime gathering is still overwhelming to me, but now I know we can handle an afternoon snacky party!
posted by fussbudget at 7:18 AM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

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