When you’re hosting a luncheon party, combining the menu, decor and any activities into a cohesive theme aids in decision-making and helps you impress your guests. Whether it’s a casual lunch, a working lunch or a more formal occasion, preparing as many dishes as possible in advance allows the host more time with the guests. Combine your strengths in the kitchen with seasonally available ingredients to ensure success.


A Casual Buffet

Possibly easiest of all is a serve-yourself luncheon party at which guests fill their plates and mingle. Casual buffet luncheon parties work for bridal or baby showers, sports or hobby luncheons, and friend or family reunions. Keep guests mingling by arranging tables for seating mixed with cocktail-height tables. Serve cold foods such as salads, meat spreads and cheeses on iced platters separately from hot dishes like meatballs for sandwiches and casseroles warmed by chafing dishes. Place drinks like iced tea and lemonade on a third table with ample ice.


Cold-Plated

When a sit-down luncheon party suits the occasion best, keep it simple by preparing cold entrees in advance and serving them on chilled plates to each guest. Try scooping three different prepared protein salads on a bed of lettuce. Add curry and raisins to a traditional chicken salad and serve with a dilled egg salad and crab or seafood salad. Garnish the plate with julienned blanched vegetables dressed in vinaigrette. Also appropriate for cold-plated luncheon parties: boiled shellfish platters, Cobb salad, sliced roast beef with horseradish or tabbouleh topped with feta.


Hot Lunches

On a cool day, serve soups and hot entrees to luncheon party guests for a satisfying afternoon. Warm tureens full of soup or stew and serve alongside baskets of fresh rolls. Offer a few varieties including a vegetarian option such as mulligatawny with meaty choices like white chicken chili or peppered steak soup. Serve miniature quiche bites baked in a mini-muffin tin after the soup course with steamed broccoli or asparagus. Spoon out a warmed persimmon pudding topped with fresh whipped cream for dessert.


Brunch

Serving brunch for a luncheon party blends the best of both worlds with both breakfast and lunch favorites. Egg dishes such as an egg casserole or frittata can be served buffet style or in individual portions. Sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil dressed in balsamic vinegar on the side complements the eggs while adding freshness. Appropriate appetizers for a brunch-themed luncheon party include sausage-stuffed mushroom caps, shrimp cocktail, or melon balls wrapped in prosciutto. Include a bloody mary or mimosa bar for adult luncheons.