While you all know we love a good party, throwing an entire dinner party can be a lot of work! Sometimes we just want to invite “our people” over for some company and good food. The options to make this happen are to either cook everything yourself, which can be a bit grueling, especially in the summer heat, or order food, which can get expensive quickly.
However, we think that we’ve come up with the perfect solution. Build-your-own bars have become a huge trend in entertaining lately and we think they are a fabulous idea. It makes your guests feel special, and you don’t have to spend forever cooking or a ton of money on ordered food. Not to mention it makes dealing with dietary restrictions a snap! Since everyone essentially creates their own dish all you have to do to accommodate everyone is have a good variety of toppings and enough plates. It’s really that simple.
This build-your-own bruschetta bar is a great way to maximize the casual dinner party all summer long. All you need is some grilled or toasted bread, loads of vegetables, spreads, perhaps some meats and some cheeses. We like to add a few additional condiments like honey and herbs to really liven things up, but you can do whatever you and your guests will enjoy!
Here’s a step by step guide to building an amazing Bruschetta Bar:
Choose the Vehicle (ie the bread)
We like to use a combination of toasted French baguette slices and larger sourdough slices so that there are various sizes for people who just want a nibble and those who really want to go for it. Also consider some crusty Italian bread, or even some crackers to add some varying textures.
Main Spreads and Cheeses
The spreads and cheeses will be the base of your toppings. We like to go with some basics like a couple of great cheeses, hummus, and/or guacamole. When choosing your cheeses and spreads do consider the idea that you are going to be adding lots of toppings to these, so the simpler the better. A plain goat cheese, a great sharp cheddar, mozzarella, a simple classic or garlic hummus, and a basic guacamole are our favorites.
Build some Bulk
This is where your veggies and meats come in. The traditional diced tomatoes with basil is a great place to start. Additionally, pickled or marinated vegetables, fruit salsas (consider our Strawberry Peach version) and some crudités will make up the base of your bulk category. The addition of meats such as prosciutto, salami, shredded smoked chicken, and a few others are also great ideas that can add a lot of texture to your table.
The secondary spreads are flavor enhancers or condiments. This can be anything from preserves to pestos. It’s nice to have a variety of flavor profiles to really liven the whole bar up. Start with something sweet like preserves or honey. Savory spreads like tapenades, mustards, or pestos come next. A little tang comes from a vinegar- or citrus-based spread, such as reduced balsamic or tart lemon curd. Spicy spreads like salsas and pepper jellies are also a great bet.
Having a few herbs, oils, and greens always makes a table look nice while also adding the final dash of flavor and texture. Try having some greens such as arugula and some fresh herbs such as basil and thyme. Dried herb mixes and flavored oils are also a great idea.
This list looks huge, we know, but keep in mind you only need a couple of ingredients from each category to make a really wonderful bar, and most of these items are products that you can purchase from the store or pull right out of your own cabinets at home.
If you want to get your guests involved it could be fun to make it a potluck. All you have to do is provide the vehicle, main spreads and cheeses, and then have your guests each bring a unique item or two. This can make for a really fun and interactive dinner that you barely have to lift a finger for!
Here are some additional tips and tricks for designing the ultimate eye-catching and satisfying bruschetta bar:
- Think of a bruschetta bar like you would a cheese plate. You want variety in texture, flavor and color.
- Prep ahead: if you plan to make something like caramelized onions or marinated vegetables you can probably do this the night before so they are ready to go.
- Rub the grilled or toasted bread with a sliced clove of garlic, you won’t be disappointed.
- Purchase some international condiments you’ve never heard of, this is a great time to experiment.
When setting up your bar, make it messy. Use different plates and bowls. Place them on fabrics and cutting boards, and layer them to add height. Sprinkle the grilled bread around and between all the other items, and toss the fresh greens anywhere. Your guests will be making their own plates, so making them feel like it's ok to be messy is a good thing.
Once you have you bar set up, all that’s left to do is pour yourself a cocktail and enjoy the party with your guests. We plan on taking advantage of these kinds of build-your-own bars all summer long and think that you should, too.