From the moment I found out I was expecting a daughter during my second pregnancy, my party-planning wheels began turning (just like this ambitious young lady’s!). I browsed Pinterest for first birthday party themes and the adorable “One in a Melon” idea was the winner — although the equally adorable “TWO-tti Frutti” fruit theme also caught my eye! (Here’s a great guide to birthday parties in the Greater New Orleans Area if you are looking for something outside the home.)
With the theme set and date approaching, I shifted my focus to the menu. I decided with a fruit theme, lots of fresh fruit would be a must. Then the idea of brunch occurred to me and, once again, Pinterest delivered. The grazing table seemed to be an awesome way to add a little “wow” factor to the various brunch items I had planned. It’s basically a charcuterie board on steroids.
The grazing table turned out to be a hit with kids and parents alike. Kids especially liked the plentiful fruit (and chicken nuggets, obviously), so there were lots of options, even for picky eaters.
I planned out the menu based on a few easy-to-prep hot items including frozen mini quiches, fully-cooked microwaveable bacon (so I didn’t have to babysit or clean a pan!), and frozen chicken nuggets (for kiddos and also for anyone who was interested in making chicken & waffles). Those items needed to be kept warm, so they were just off to the side of the grazing table in chafing dishes.
I was also serving individual cups of yogurt, so those were placed in a big bowl of ice. Outside on the patio, we had a tub of ice with juice boxes and flavored milk for the kiddos and ice chests full of drinks.
A neat little item I tapped for the spread was my desktop coffee mug warmer that doubled as a syrup warmer. I simply heated the syrup in the glass syrup bottle in the microwave and then capped it and set it on the mug warmer. It kept the syrup at the perfect temperature for hours.
Focus on the Big Picture First & the Details will Follow
I’ll be honest, it was a little intimidating to make the grazing tables of Pinterest a reality in my own home. Mostly, I worried I wouldn’t have enough food to fill up the area for the grazing table. So here’s how I got around that:
First, ready your surface.
I cleaned my countertop and spread out kraft paper so the food wouldn’t be directly on the counter.
Plan your space based on large items like platters.
For my menu, I had three platters of various sizes that I was using for a smoked salmon platter, a charcuterie platter, and a baked brie en croute platter. (Details on how I easily made these platters below.)
Spread your larger individual items around the platters.
In my case, I had several bowls of sliced fruit and granola as well as piles of cocktail croissants, mini bagels, and palm-sized Belgian waffles. I placed those bowls and piles strategically around the platters.
Scatter smaller bowls of “filler items” like condiments and toppings around the platters and piles.
I had several small bowls (the size of teacups) placed around the setup that I filled with various filler items like flavored cream cheese spreads, chocolate-covered espresso beans, candied nuts, and cereals like Fruity Pebbles.
Use your produce and any other miscellaneous items to fill in the gaps.
I bought all my fruit from Sam’s the day before the party (well, all except for the bananas) and washed/prepped it that evening so it would be ready to go the next day for party time. I bought three varieties of grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries & blackberries. The strawberries and grapes are “sturdy” enough to not need a bowl, so they are perfect for taking up space wherever needed.
I also used smaller pastries like mini cinnamon rolls, danish, donut holes, and Pop-Tarts Bites to fill in any blank space in my setup.
Since I prepped my platters and bowls beforehand, it only took about 20 minutes to actually assemble the grazing table. And it was a HUGE hit!
Oh, and about those platters…
The smoked salmon platter is simply a pack of smoked salmon from Sam’s that I surrounded with sliced lemon, sliced cucumber, sliced red onion, and some capers. So easy! You could absolutely add things like sliced avocado, sliced tomato, and sliced hardboiled egg.
The charcuterie platter is a pack of cracker-cut cheese slices from Sam’s and a pack of their charcuterie sampler meats. I alternated a column of meat with a column of cheese and that was it! Took 2 minutes.
The baked brie en croute platter is just a simple 3 (or 4) ingredient baked brie surrounded by various crackers. I use this recipe my aunt has used for ages:
3 (or 4) Ingredient Praline Baked Brie en Croute
1 wheel of brie, rind removed
2 tubes of crescent rolls or crescent sheets
4-6 pralines (store-bought is fine), roughly chopped (or substitute 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup chopped pecans for the pralines)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut brie wheel in half leaving a top and bottom.
Roll out crescent dough (pressing closed any seams if using triangles).
In the center of the crescent dough, place half of your pralines (or half your brown sugar and pecans). Top with the top half of your brie.
Repeat with a layer of praline and then end with the bottom of brie.
Pull in the sides of the crescent roll dough to wrap the brie like a package. Neatly press the loose ends into the brie and turn over so the ends are now on the bottom.
Place the brie package on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20-22 minutes.
Let cool 15 minutes before serving with crackers and/or apple slices.
ALTERNATE RECIPE: Replace the pralines with 1/2 cup raspberry jam.