When the other Kitchn editors and I first discussed the porch party I ended up hosting a few weeks ago, we all agreed it had to have a simple menu. There would be no appetizer platters or multiple side dishes, no fancy dessert course or cocktail station. Instead, I would stick to the basics: one appetizer, one salad, the main dish, and dessert.
Here are three reasons why a simple menu works so well for a party.
Reason #1: A simple party menu means less stress.
Who goes into planning a party saying "I want to put together the most stressful menu I can!" No one. No one says that.
And yet, how often have you found yourself mired in party plan details and make-ahead madness? It's easy to let ourselves believe sometimes that how good a host or hostess we are is based on how many options we lay out for our guests. "Look here! I made this, and this, and this. Oh, and I also made this in case you don't like this." But is more better? Or is more just... well, more?
Simple does not mean lazy. Simple does not mean un-special. Simple does not mean you don't care about your guests. Simple means, simply, that you're narrowing your focus, which can be very freeing! And a whole lot less stressful.
Reason #2: A simple party menu means more time to hang out with your guests.
I think there is absolutely a time and place to throw a party with options up the wazoo, and the adrenaline rush it takes to pull that off can be thrilling. But most of us don't want to throw an elaborate party every week; we just want to enjoy good food with friends. We want entertaining to become a regular, enjoyable part of our lives.
That's another reason to plan an easy party menu: less time in the kitchen means more time at the party! If you don't want to spend the whole afternoon watching the oven timer and strategizing your stovetop maneuvers, plan a simpler menu.
Reason #3: A simple party menu lets you focus on the best part of the menu — in this case, grilled pizza!
When you throw a "Pizza Party on the Porch," the main event is, obviously, the pizza! This was also why we kept the other menu items low-key; we wanted to focus most of our time and attention on making the best grilled pizzas we could.
We decided to make three kinds of pizza, which may sound decidedly "not simple" but consider: you're just swapping out different toppings on the same base of dough, so it's really not that fancy. The most labor-intensive part of the whole menu was prepping the toppings, and even that wasn't so bad. We just put all the ingredients on the table and spent 30 minutes chopping, dicing, and shredding. That was it!
A simple 4-part menu — one appetizer, one salad, the main dish, and dessert — has a nice arc to it. It helps ensure that your guests aren't stuffed by the time they hit the main course. It lets them ease into and out of the meal. It focuses attention exactly where you want it — on the pizza, in this case! — while at the same time rounding everything out with delicious, complementary flavors.
So, to that end, here's the menu we put together for the pizza party. The only thing we made ahead was the pizza dough and the syrup for the strawberry soda; everything else was easy enough to prep that morning!
My Simple Pizza Party on the Porch Menu
- Smoky Corn & Jalapeno Dip with chips
- Strawberry Basil Soda
- Assorted beer, including the Firestone Opal Farmhouse Ale, Ommegang Witte Wheat Ale, Banner American Ale, Maine Beer Company Tiny Beautiful Something, Pretty Things Jack D'or, and Jack's Abbey Session Rye IPA
- Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza
- Grilled Cherry Tomato, Corn, and Goat Cheese Pizza
- White Pizza with Avocado, Spinach & Mozzarella
- Dough used: The Best Pizza Dough for Grilling
Stay tuned! Tomorrow I'll show you the full party, from start to finish.