Since we’re talking parties, I wanted to share with you the details of the anniversary event Alex and I threw for his parents a few weeks back. A theme takes a party to the next level, and taking in all the components–the number of guests, the timing of our travel to Maryland, the likes and dislikes of the crew, and the abundance of summer produce–we choose a Biergarten theme.
We kept the decorations simple: a big Biergarten banner, a few little flags for the cheese plate, a table runner, and some oversized beer steins as vases for flowers. Drinks were bottles of good German beer–naturally!
As for the food! What we liked best about the menu we created is that it mainly featured easy, make-ahead dishes. It was split between items we could order by mail straight to Maryland since we were coming from New York late Friday night (great German sausages, frozen hot pretzels from Lancaster, PA) and a vegetable platter we’d throw together from what we found at the nearby farm stand.
We featured mini potato pancakes and zucchini cakes for the first course, then moved to hot pretzels, which we took from the oven in batches as guests settled in. They were a huge hit! Finally, Alex grilled four kinds of sausages–Weisswurst, Bratwurst, Chicken Bratwurst, and vegetarian sausages–as I put the finishing touches on the three vegetables: a potato salad, a red cabbage slaw, and a big oval plate of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.
Dessert was a vegan interpretation of a Black Forest Cake, made and served in two single layers. A lot of the party doesn’t eat dairy, so I thought doing the “icing” on the side in the form of hot fudge sauce and ice cream would work, and people assembled their own Black Forest Sundaes. I can’t say enough good things about this cake–it’s sweet, fruity, and fudgy, and you’d never know it’s vegan.
Aside from the party itself, I loved shopping with Alex’s brother and cooking with two of his aunts, and it was a pleasure to be all together in a big kitchen, chatting, listening to music, and cooking loads of food.
**Biergarten Party Menu for 25**
Assorted German Beers
Bratwurst, Weisswurst & Chicken Bratwurst from Schaller & Weber
Simple German Potato Salad
Sweet Red Cabbage Slaw
Tomatoes & Cucumber Wedges
A FEW NOTES ON QUANTITY AND PREP
Appetizers: we hosted about 25 people, so in terms of amounts, we quadrupled this potato pancake recipe and formed each latke in the size of a silver dollar. We also quadrupled the zucchini cake recipe and made both a few hours in advance then heated them up in a 400°F oven for about 10 minutes to re-crisp. For the chive sour cream, we just mixed a few tablespoons of minced chives with 2 cups of sour cream. We ordered 75 hot pretzels, though we only served about 50.
Mains: We served about 60 sausage–slightly more than 2 apiece. For the potato salad, we bought about 8 pounds of potatoes and made this recipe minus the buttermilk. Making potato salad for a crowd turns out to be a bit of a feat: you’ll likely have to cook the potatoes in batches, so make sure you have a big pot for cooking and a big bowl to transfer potatoes into as they finish cooking. We used 1 large red cabbage for the slaw. You can make all the salads an hour or two in advance and store, covered, at room temp.
Dessert: we made two Cherry Chocolate Cakes (which we called Black Forest Cakes, since they’re cherries plus chocolate) in 9-inch Pyrex pie pans but skipped the icing. Instead, we served them with chocolate sorbet, vanilla ice cream, and hot fudge. I can’t say enough good things about this dessert. It’s a winner. Also, find someone to help you pit the pounds of cherries!