Summer Entertaining

Summer Entertaining with America’s Test Kitchen: End of Summer Party Guides

Whether you want Mediterranean and Solange or small bites and Stevie Nicks, we’ve got a party plan for you.

Published Sept. 1, 2017.

This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer (you’re probably en route to Cape Cod or the Upper Peninsula right now), but that doesn’t mean the party has to end just yet. In case you haven’t been following along, we’ve been running a series all summer dedicated to the summer party plans of our magazine editors and TV cast members.

If you’re stumped for ideas for your Labor Day party, don’t worry: we’ve got 10 plans to pick from (and you can mix and match if you choose) below. Now go enjoy the end of summer—and a cocktail—in style.

Bridget’s Back to the ‘80s Summer Splash

“My playlist includes a good mix of 80’s alternative faves, including The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Blondie, New Order, and The Smiths. Plus a lot of The Clash and Beastie Boys to keep things lively. I’ll also be including a handful of songs from 80’s films with famous pool scenes.”   
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Tucker Shaw’s Mexican-American Hawaiian-Mashup

“My party is a Mexican-American-Hawaiian mashup that starts a half-hour before sundown, when the midsummer heat starts to back off in favor of a more comfortable, breezy evening. Three cardinal rules for a backyard party: Get as much as possible done ahead of time, make sure there are enough seats for people (even if they end up standing, you don’t want a musical chairs situation), and lean on paper plates so that the prospect of cleaning up is less daunting.”   
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Jack Bishop’s Spanish Ode to Summer

“I’m a bit of a show-off (at least I can admit it) when it comes to entertaining. Given my job, friends and family have expectations, and I don’t want to disappoint. But I also don’t want to miss the party. I generally pick one dish that requires attention, and everything else can be served at room temperature.”   
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Becky Hays’s Thai Dinner from the Grill

“I like to host small get-togethers, usually with an ethnic theme since I enjoy big, bold flavors. It’s fun to introduce guests to dishes they may not have had before, and my Thai Dinner from the Grill is bright and refreshing and therefore perfect for a summer gathering on the back porch.”   
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Lisa McManus’s “Summertime” Party

“After too much experience with getting overly ambitious about cooking when people are coming over, I now usually go far in the opposite direction: Everything has to be easy, easy, easy. There's no point to my being distracted or stressed. My party is just called “Summertime” for the great Gershwin song.”   
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Bryan Roof’s Saturday at the Grill

“I’ll fire up the grill early in the morning and usually have people start trickling in somewhere between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., just in time to enjoy the heat of the day. So, maybe this means guests get a little sweaty and smoky, but I think you should leave a good barbecue feeling like you need to take a shower. We’ll ride the party into the evening and kick up the fire pit before it’s all over. Occasionally, we throw hatchets for sport.”   
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Elle Simone’s Girls Night In

“I love hosting small gatherings for my girlfriends, whose professional lives rarely ever afford them the time to go out for exceptional dinners or to spend time with each other. Growing up in Detroit, I loved grabbing quick traditional Greek delicacies from Greektown and sharing with friends. I’m still that girl but with new friends in a new town; once a month I have a girls night in where I get to cook and share my favorite Mediterranean staples.”   
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Keith Dresser’s Family Beach House Party

“You can’t miss with barbecue chicken—it appeals to everybody. This recipe delivers one of the best chickens I’ve eaten: smoky, spicy, crispy, and juicy. But what I really like about this recipe is that since it's cooked upright on a beer can, I can fit four or five birds on the grill to feed a crowd.”   
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Dan Souza’s Snack Attack Party

“I keep things so casual when I have people over that to call it entertaining feels generous. My game plan is always the same: prep a bunch of stuff ahead of time and let everyone graze, sip, hang, repeat. My requirements for the food are that everything be bite-size, hand-holdable, and intensely flavored (to pair with the booze!), so I mix and match cultures and cuisines more than The Cheesecake Factory.”   
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Julia Collin Davison’s Off the Grid Dinner Party

“The best part of summer for me is going to my family’s quiet cabin in the Berkshires. There’s no electricity (and using a cell phone is highly discouraged), but we have a propane stove and refrigerator for cooking, along with a huge, well-loved charcoal grill. As you’d expect, dinner parties at the cabin are very low-key, with folks of all ages spreading out on the deck and lawn to eat and socialize. We have lots of fun neighbors—all are either relatives or old family friends—and dinner usually lasts well into the evening with a large campfire, s’mores, and someone strumming a guitar.”   
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Books for All Your Menu Needs

America's Test Kitchen Bookstore

There's an America's Test Kitchen cookbook for all of your menu-planning needs, whether you're looking for make-ahead recipes that will impress a large group or small plate dishes for an intimate affair. ATK's catalog also boasts a number of diet-specific books—even if you're eating vegan, paleo, or trying to cut back on sugar, we've got a book for you.    
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What will be on your Labor Day menu? Let us know in the comments!

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