When hosting a get-together with friends, cooking a big meal isn’t always required. A common solution for those with access to only a kitchen is to host a potluck dinner, but students living in dorms with access to a bathroom sink, microwave, and maybe a mini fridge have to be a bit more resourceful.
For some college sutdents, a toaster oven is their best friend when planning a mid-week study-break-cum-dinner-party. Yet, don’t fall into despair thinking a regular menu of toaster quesadillas, microwave popcorn, and ramen noodles is in your future forever. Even if it’s been weeks since the last grocery store run, or you have only two hours to straighten up — and you still have to pick up something to eat — planning an impromptu dinner party in your dorm room can be easy and painless. Just ask Emily Smith, a college student in New York City, and the niece of renowned caterer Lulu Powers.
To give Smith a hand when planning a small yet memorable get-together for her friends, Powers shared her five key ingredients for a successful yet simple party, none of which require access to a kitchen. While Powers and Smith went shopping in New York City, each of the items below can be found in even the smallest college towns.
So what are you waiting for? Email, call, or text your friends to come on over and bring along a bottle of wine.
1. Cheese makes for a great meal
When planning her get-together, Smith went to a local cheese shop to pick up a selection of four cheeses (Asiago, mozzarella, goat cheese, and Gorgonzola) to serve with a fresh baguette. To round out the offerings, Smith purchased stuffed olives, spicy sausage, and a meat paté, as well. If you don’t have a cheese shop in your town, head to the market and pick up some packaged cheeses like Cheddar or Boursin. Supplement them with something from the deli counter, like sliced Swiss cheese, prosciutto, Genoa salami, and mortadella. Here are some other no-bake appetizer ideas.
2. Dress up the space with flowers
Never underestimate the power of fresh flowers when having friends over. Stop at the corner bodega or market and pick up a bouquet of fresh tulips, lilies, or colorful roses for about $10, then arrange them in a water glass or mug as a centerpiece.
3. Supplement with something sweet
Round out the food offerings with something that no one can resist: fresh cookies. Stop at a local bakery or coffee shop and pick up an assortment of flavors, break them into smaller pieces, and arrange them on a plate. Not a fan of cookies? Do the same with brownies, or even an assortment of different chocolates and candies.
4. Put on some good music
5. Add something unexpected
Adding a decorative element to your get-together doesn’t have to put strain on your wallet. Powers took Smith to Pearl River Mart to pick up a bright lacquer tray and fortune cookies for favors. Not in New York? Stop at a place like Pier 1 Imports for a cool faux crocodile tray for $20, or pick up a stylish glass pitcher at Cost Plus World Market for $13. You can even find fun cheese-themed trays for $20 at Target.