Game night is back in fashion. And, according to Cynthia Nims, the author of Gourmet Game Night, “it’s not just a generational thing anymore.” More than an after dinner game of cards, a game night is an enjoyable, relaxing, and inexpensive alternative to a night out on the town. And when armed with a couple of recipes for game-friendly goods that won't leave you with sticky fingers or your game surface cluttered with plates, you have everything you need for a memorable evening.
What to Serve
When planning a game night, consider which games you want to play when you’re putting together the menu. To save space, think finger foods rather than big plates. Using cards? Think clean. “The difference between game night foods and other finger foods is that these are less sticky and greasy — they don’t interfere with game play,” Nims explains. When you’re holding a deck of cards, no one wants to have dirty fingers, and plates stacked around the game board are a recipe for disaster.
For Nims, she tends to serve things that are wholly edible, “so all I’m left with is an empty tray.” Empty dishes are easy to clear and clean and guests enjoy using their fingers to eat. “I’m a huge fan of endive leaves. Their crisp, crunchy, pretty to look at, and pair well with a variety of foods: Chicken salad, ricotta, shrimp… even salmon!” She also loves anything on skewers, as your fingers stay clean and there are no knives and forks to distract you from the game. Serving soups in small espresso cups or shot glasses is another game-friendly trick.
When planning the menu, Nims tends to go for small portions, so that guests can have a variety of colors and foods on their plate but won’t be filled up by trying at least one of everything.
She also likes to serve mini sandwiches, not necessarily tea sandwiches, but super versatile one- to two-bite snacks made with slices of cocktail bread. You can use them to make BLTs, ham and cheese sandwiches, whatever strikes your fancy.
Make it in Advance
“As with any entertaining situation, don’t take on more than you’re comfortable with” when planning a game night, Nims cautions. Be realistic with the time you have and try to do as many things in advance as possible. As with any party, “It’s all about time management,” she adds, “it allows you to unwind and enjoy the competition, too.”
Tailor Games to Fit Your Crowd
When choosing what games to play, its important to consider your audience and their strengths. If you have a bunch of trivia buffs, Nims suggests Trivial Pursuit, but if you have some shy guests, you probably don’t want to bring out games like Articulate or Scattergories, which require players to act. Don't know the crowd well? “Card and dice games are safe bets, while Apples to Apples is a straightforward and fun,” Nims adds. And if you're not a spelling bee star, leave the Scrabble game in the closet.