AUTHOR: BEC OF 'FOR EVERY HEN'
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Unlike the typical party food table, a food bar (or station) tends to focus on one type of dish, treat or beverage only. And it's this focus that not only makes them incredibly fun to style, but also quite easy to tie into your overall event theme (hot chocolate bars pair perfectly with a winter wonderland theme, for example). On top of this, they also encourage guests to self-serve; meaning that although there is some prep involved before the celebration, you can sit back and enjoy your meal with friends once the party is underway.
With all of these positives, it's easy to see why food stations have become such a popular way to feed the hoards around the world. I, for one, LOVE the idea of these glorious tables; so much so that I decided to write an entire blog on them! If you're just like me (or you're curious and want to learn more), check out my favourite options below.
DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR
Homemade bruschetta is almost always on the menu when I’m hosting a party; not only because it’s quite easy to prep, but also because that deliciously crispy piece of bread can be garnished with a range of toppings (meaning it appeals to most, if not all, guests). And it’s this range of flavours and dressings that make a DIY Bruschetta Bar so much fun to put together (and even more fun for party-goers to devour)!
CREATING YOUR DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR
The first step in creating your mouth-watering set-up is deciding on a variety of spreads and toppings to serve. Traditionally, bruschetta is garnished with tomatoes and garlic; but don’t let this hold you back. Offer everything from cheeses, meats, avocados and salmon to hummus and salsa. Chop toppings into bite-size pieces and serve in individual bowls alongside mini tongs or other serving utensils. Fill glass jars with delicious spreads alongside spoons and knives. If you want to get a little fancy, label your jars and bowls so that guests know exactly what it is they’re sinking their teeth into.
Now it’s time to prepare the base. Toast thin slices of bread, infused with herbs and oil, either in the oven or on a pan. Once ready, serve immediately in baskets lined with tea-towels, or on plates that have been warmed in the oven.
From here it is up to your guests to get creative; experimenting with new and exciting toppings, or sticking to their good old fashioned favourites!
If you're considering a Bruschetta Bar at your next event, click here for more inspiration. With everything from meat/cheese pairing ideas to made-from-scratch pesto/spread recipes, these tips will have you WOWing guests with your cooking skills in no time!
DIY COOKIE IN A JAR BAR
Looking for food bar ideas with a difference? This DIY Cookie in a Jar Bar, the brainchild of Krystyn from 'Really, Are You Serious?', will provide guests with the opportunity to not only create cookies from scratch, but also to test out wonderful mixtures they may not have otherwise tried. Even better? It also doubles as a favour following the event!
CREATING YOUR DIY COOKIE IN A JAR BAR
For starters, you will have to source enough large glass jars as there are guests. Rather than purchasing new, put the call-out on Facebook and collect friend's jars once they've emptied them of food. Soak to remove any labels and wash thoroughly.
Whilst your jars are drying, it's time to prep the ingredients. What you offer will depend greatly on the recipe you decide to follow, although most will require self-raising flour (wholemeal and gluten free options are great to have just in case), brown and/or white sugar, baking powder and baking soda (find some fantastic cookie in a jar recipes - and video tutorial - by clicking here). You should also grab lots of chocolate chips, M&Ms, sprinkles, nuts and anything else you can see making a great addition to your delicious desserts!
On the day of your celebration, place jars neatly in a basket at one end of the table, and ingredients in their own individual bowls (each with its own measuring cup, scoop or serving utensil). On a large blackboard, write down the base recipe for guests to follow (this is particularly important for the cookie part - any additions, such as chocolate chips, is entirely up to your friends!). Print off cooking instructions that can be taken home following the event. If you wish, you can also leave some cute tags, strings and ribbons on the table for people to decorate their final product with (if they don't want to keep it, it will make a beautiful gift for someone they love!).
From here, guests can enjoy creating their very own cookies. A very interactive activity that will involve lots of fun and laughter, but will also result in a beautiful take-home favour. For more DIY Cookie in a Jar Bar inspiration (+ set-up ideas), click here.
Handy Hints: If you don't like the idea of creating cookies from scratch, there is also the option of purchasing pre-made cookie mixes from your local Supermarket. Simply place the mix in your jars before guests arrive (as pictured below); party-goers can then add in any extras they like (such as peanuts) and take home to bake!
Not sold on the cookie idea? These 'build it yourself' style bars also work with hot chocolate (click here for video recipes), brownies, muffins and cakes. Pick your poison and go from there!
DIY HOT CHOCOLATE BAR
Is your event scheduled to take place in the middle of winter? Or perhaps your guest of honour loves nothing more than indulging in some chocolately goodness whenever possible? If you answered a resounding ‘yes’ to either of these questions, a DIY hot chocolate bar would be the ideal addition to your celebration!
CREATING YOUR DIY HOT CHOCOLATE BAR
This enticing drink station can be put together in three simple steps, starting with the milk. It’s important to offer a variety of milk (warmed), ensuring that all dietary requirements are catered for. Full cream, light and soy are all quite common choices, as is almond milk. Pour the options you decide to serve into separate jugs and place them neatly on your table; adding cute little labels or tags so that the contents of each jug are easily identifiable.
Next, it’s time to set up the cocoa itself. Offer a range of options (think along the lines of shaved Lindt chocolate, Milo, drinking chocolate, or your own mix of cocoa and sugar); placing a spoon nearby so that guests can easily scoop and stir it into their mugs.
And finally, no DIY Hot Chocolate Bar is complete without some sort of dipping treat! Set out little bowls filled with cookies, gingerbread men, marshmallows, mints, shaved chocolate, hot chocolate on a stick (click here for recipe) and, if your celebration happens to fall around Christmas (or Christmas in July), some cute candy-canes.
Handy Hint: If you’d prefer, you can pre-make the hot chocolate in a saucepan; keeping it warm until guests are ready to enjoy it. Once your party-goers have filled their mugs with warming cocoa, direct them to the Hot Chocolate Station to stock up on their favourite dipping treats, toppings and more!
Hot chocolate alone not going to cut it for your event? Why not make it a 'Hot Beverage Station' instead? Alongside your sweet warming drinks area, offer a selection of different teas (green, black, herbal, etc.) and coffee. Place a kettle or hot water urn next to mugs, sugar and spoons and let your guests do the rest!
DIY MASHED POTATO BAR
After a food station that will cater to a range of dietary requirements, fill those stomachs AND taste great? You cannot go past a mashed (and/or baked) potato bar! Perfect as a side dish or appetiser, there's something about this dish, smeared with delicious toppings, that you just can't go past. So go ahead - treat those guests of yours (and yourself) to a spread so good everyone will be back for more!
CREATING YOUR DIY MASHED POTATO BAR
To pull off this food station, you need to offer guests a range of fun and exciting toppings. Whilst this may sound daunting, I assure you it's not. From mince to vegetables, herbs to shredded cheese, what you choose to serve here is only limited by what's available in your fridge!
Next, you need to focus on the potato. Search for fresh, home-made recipes online (here's a fabulous one to get you started) and cook up a storm. Dish up in small bowls or, as 'Adventures of Mel' suggests, in martini glasses.
From here guests can serve themselves; topping their mashed (or baked) potato with one or more of the wonderful options on offer.
Considering a Mashed Potato Bar for your event? Click here for plenty of inspiration! From mashed potato recipes to setting up the bar itself (see images below), these tips will have you creating a food station so beautiful guests won't want to ruin it by digging in (until the wonderful smell gets to them, of course!)
DIY POKE BOWL STATION
DIY Poke Bowl Station section written by Karina of Order-In
Poke bowls are not only on trend right now in the foodie world, but they are an excellent option for events. They are completely customizable for everyone’s individual tastes and dietary needs, and don’t require arduous set up. DIY Poke Bowl Stations are easy to create, but certainly don’t skimp on flavor.
CREATING YOUR DIY POKE BOWL STATION
The first step to building your DIY Poke Bowl Station is deciding on your selection of bases. This will act as the foundation to the bowl. You can keep it simple with white or brown rice, or opt for lighter alternatives of quinoa and leafy greens.
Next step in the poke bowl station should be your protein options. Traditionally, poke bowls are topped with salmon or tuna tossed with soy sauce presenting flavours similar to sushi, but there are endless options to suit your tastes. In addition to the fish, try out shiitake mushrooms or tofu for vegetarian and vegan options, chicken, crab or even fresh prawns. Line up your variation of protein preferences so guests can top up according to their own tastes.
Now for the fun part; dressing and garnishing! This is where your poke bowl will take on all the beautiful colours, textures and flavours they are known for. Dressings can be spicy, sweet, or salty (even all three)! Try out wasabi aioli, siracha mayo, chilli sauce, honey garlic soy or even miso. There are plenty of delectable dressings you can include and combine for creative flavour blends.
Add a couple of fresh garnishes to top off the dish and add some colourful crunch. Fresh fruit and veggies make excellent flavour additions, as well as fresh chilli, onion or pickles. Nuts and seeds can also act as additional protein to make sure everyone’s bowl is satisfying.
If you’re looking for a fun, healthy and flavourful way to enhance your hen’s party or bridal shower, a DIY Poke Bowl Station can be the perfect thing to place on your menu.
For more tips and tricks, check out how to make your own poke bowl here.
DIY POPCORN BAR
Fun and the perfect option for any bride-to-be with a sweet tooth, popcorn bars are all about cheeky flavours, unique toppings and sugar highs!
CREATING YOUR DIY POPCORN BAR
Setting up a Popcorn Bar is an enjoyable experience, as you're limited only by your imagination. To get started, source some bowls and/or jars (for displaying popcorn and toppings), serving tools (such as scoops and spoons), and recyclable popcorn boxes or bags. Set all of your items out on the table and arrange as desired.
Now for the hero of the table. Will you serve delicious, fresh plain popcorn drizzled with butter and salt? Or show off your amazing cooking skills; delighting guests with a range of home-made, uniquely flavoured options (caramel popcorn, butter popcorn or even chocolate coated popcorn, for example - click here for some easy to make recipes)?
Whichever you decide, be sure to provide a range of topping options as well - with everything from butter and shaved chocolate to sprinkles and lollies being more than acceptable! Remember: the more variety you offer guests in this area, the more pairings you can experiment with. This will result in new favourite combos being made, most disgusting combos being avoided, and sweet-tooth foodies rejoicing!
For more Popcorn Bar ideas, tips and tricks (including recipes, topping ideas and table set-up inspiration), click here.
DIY SALAD STATION
Summer or winter, fresh or baked, salad always makes a fantastic side-dish! And with so many delicious vegetables to choose from, it's no wonder food stations featuring a mix of edible plants, meats, and pasta/rice products is a popular choice at parties year-round.
CREATING YOUR DIY SALAD STATION
The first step in creating your DIY Salad Station is preparing the vegetables. Carrots, lettuce, pumpkin, capsicum, onion, broccoli, mushrooms and corn are a great place to start. Chop or grate each option and place in individual bowls.
Next, it's time to turn your attention to the meats. Popular options include chicken, turkey, bacon, ham and seafood (tuna, salmon and shrimp, for example). These can either be sliced (when appropriate) and served in individual bowls, or placed neatly on a grazing platter.
Now, it's time to cater for the more adventurous eaters on your guest-list! Wholegrains (such as quinoa and rice), sesame seeds (and other seed varieties), dried fruit (such as cherries and raisins), beans, tofu, fresh fruits (such as pears, tomatoes, avocados and apples), nuts, herbs, noodles and dressings (mayonnaise or salsa, for instance) will all be a welcome addition for any food lover.
And finally, don't forget the staples of many a salad at home - boiled eggs and cheese!
Handy Hint: Serve all of this alongside bread slices and rolls so that guests can decide between salad in a bowl or as part of a sandwich.
If you have the time, you can also add some baked (or mixed) salad options to the set-up. These include potato salad, coleslaw, warm roasted vegetables, noodle salad, pasta salad, greek salad and more.
If you enjoyed the food bar inspiration in this article, you may also enjoy the following:
MAKING YOUR FOODIE FRIEND'S DREAMS COME TRUE!
Fun and easier to create than you think, your food bar or drink station is bound to be an absolute hit at your celebration - not only because it means guests' serve themselves (less work for you #winning), but also because they look AH-MAZING! If you have any tips yourself, or I've missed some food stations that absolutely NEED to be featured, please don't hesitate to let us know via the comment section below or on our socials.
Cheers to THE most mouth-watering event around!
Much love, keep smiling - Bec x
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