Tasty shrimp appetizer

The first baby boomer turned 65, or retirement age, on January 1, 2011. Until 2028, 10,000 or more baby boomers will reach that age daily and retire in droves. Marking the milestone of retirement deserves more than a vegetable platter and a grocery store cake. Whether you're holding the party at the office or elsewhere, create a menu that's fun, but also pleasing to most.

You could head out to a restaurant or bring in a platter of sandwiches, but that's rather impersonal. Instead, consider a themed event:

  • Serve food that was "in" the year the person stated work. For example, for a '70s theme, serve cheese fondue, stuffed steak and pineapple chicken. 
  • Make it a vacation theme for the permanent one the retiree is about to embark on. Cut-up fruit, tropical punch, baby pork ribs, Asian glazed chicken wings, pot stickers and shrimp toast bring to mind the islands and getting away. 
  • Base your menu on a ticking clock. Make mini pizzas with the toppings in a clock formation. Arrange a raw vegetable platter with celery representing the hands and other vegetables representing the big numbers of 12, 6, 3 and 9 o'clock. Serve it another platter with 12 types of cheese, to represent the 12 hours in a day. Finish with a festive clock-decorated cake.
  • Host a retiree roast. Serve sliced roast beef, chicken and pork with classic sides such as potato and pasta salad and steamed vegetables. Invite the guests to make speeches that poke fun at the retiree.
  • Theme it around the retiree's interests and plans for his newly found free time. If he's a big golfer, make it a golf-themed party with club sandwiches, skewers of small mozzarella balls strung alongside cherry tomatoes and a golf-themed cake. For someone who loves gardening, plan a garden party with a fresh salad, poached chicken with seasonal vegetables and cupcakes topped with fondant butterflies.

The theme and menu you choose depends on when and where you plan to hold the event.

  • An in-office party might be more about the decor as you'll invite people to bring food in for a potluck or cater the event.
  •  If you're hosting a lunchtime event, the fare should be lighter -- sandwiches, salads and soups work well. 
  • A backyard barbecue at a co-worker's home is a fun way to celebrate the retiree and invite his family. 
  • At cocktail hour, finger foods alongside festive drinks that match your theme are appropriate -- think stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta and chicken skewers.  

For a formal evening event, your menu depends on the attendance. A plated meal is more formal than a buffet, but harder to serve for a large party. To send the retiree off in style, surf and turf with a potato gratin is elegant and crowd-pleasing. Good buffet options include:

  • Italian pasta and roast pork
  • Ham with grilled apples and slaw
  • Carne asada with peppers and onions, fresh tortillas and guacamole