9 Finger Food Tips for Summer Cocktail Parties & Outdoor Events

Summer is the perfect season for hosting catered events. With long days and warm weather, there’s no better way to bring people together than over delicious food and drinks. 

But planning the ultimate catered event can be tricky!

From finger foods to full-blown grazing stations, our top 9 catering tips will help you plan a crowd-pleasing cocktail party menu.

1. Serve a VARIETY OF 5-7 finger foods

For summer events, variety is the way to go. An example would be a variety of 1-2 kinds of hors d’oeuvres, and the rest of the finger food could be cold.

This combination of hot and cold bites allows guests to sample different flavors and textures.  Plus, a warmer weather gathering will lean towards wanting bright, fresh dishes. 

2. Include a mix of protein and carbohydrates

When it comes to catering an event, having a balanced menu is key. Making sure your event includes a good balance of protein, carbs, fruits, and vegetables will keep guests feeling satisfied. Consider adding proteins such as grilled chicken, steak, and fresh fish to the menu. 

Balance the menu out with “carbier” hors d’oeuvres like mini grilled cheese, risotto cakes, and bruschettas. 

A varied menu will keep your guests interested and excited about what’s coming next. Also, a mix of both proteins and carbs will ensure that there’s something for everyone at the event! 

3. Serve at least ONE item vegan or gluten-free!

No matter the event, it’s always important to have a range of finger food options available for guests. If you’re looking for vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free hors d’oeuvres, most caterers should have plenty of these options on their menus. 

Some popular vegan finger foods are vegetable skewers, falafel bites, and veggie spring rolls. For added flavor, offer a variety of dips to go alongside the dishes.

4. Stick to Lighter Fare

While 1-2 hot items are solid menu choices to have, sticking to lighter party foods won’t weigh your guests down. Options like Caprese Skewers and tuna tartare on fried wontons or cucumbers are popular summer items. This allows the guests to try fun and easy, bite-sized dishes, while not being confined to a set meal.

5. Include 1-2 GRILLED hors d’oeuvres

Try using quick-cooking proteins so you don’t have to spend too much time on the grill. Fish, and seafood grill more quickly than items like chicken and steak. Serving grilled food on skewers, like bbq shrimp & veggies, work well for summer events. Skewered hors d’oeuvres are easy to eat while mingling and holding a drink. 

6. Include a GRAZING TABLE 

A grazing table is a great way to keep your summer event trendy and fun. You can have an array of artisanal cheeses, seasonal fruits, veggies, nuts, and a variety of dips for guests to nosh on throughout the party. It’s also an effortless way to provide a photogenic, tasty spread. The best part? No cooking is required!

7. Serve a refreshing SALAD in individual cups

In addition to your grazing table and appetizers, why not surprise your guests by serving salads in individual cups? 

Grainy salads like quinoa with grilled zucchini stand up well in warm weather and aren’t too heavy. This makes it easy for everyone to mingle and enjoy their food at the same time! It’s a great way to add a refreshing, portable twist to your summer party.

8. Try GRILLING FRUIT for dessert

To continue the outdoorsy, grilling theme, try grilling fruit. Whether you’re using a grill outside or an indoor one, you can really enhance the flavor of fruits like pineapples, peaches, and apples by grilling them. 

Peaches with ice cream (served in mini cups) or grilled pineapple skewers drizzled with rum sauce are amazing options for the dessert menu.

9. Serve a SEASONAL COCKTAIL to set a festive mood 

Serving a seasonal cocktail at your next catered gathering is a great way to set the festive mood. Cocktails like spiked lemonade, margaritas, and sangria make party planning a breeze because they can be made ahead of time and held in pitchers so guests can serve themselves.

For an added dazzle, try adding fun garnishes like slices of citrus, olives, and berries to your drinks. Make sure to provide plenty of non-alcoholic options as well!

With these tips and tricks, you’ll be ready to plan the event of the summer! 

Contact us to plan your next catered event. Whether you’re planning an intimate gathering or a full-blown party, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s make this summer one to remember!


Sweet Basil Catering

How to Create a Grazing Station like a Catering Pro

Grazing stations are a modern alternative to traditional buffets and are a great option for both large and small events.  One of the best things about grazing stations is their versatility. We’ve created hundreds of grazing stations over the years for both social and corporate catered  events.  A fun part is creating specific looks to match the occasion. 

If you’re thinking about setting up a grazing table for your next gathering you’re going to want to check out our TOP TIPS for creating a professional looking grazing station.

1. Pick a Sturdy Base

Picking a base for your grazing station might not be the first concern that comes to mind, but it’s really important when preparing grazing stations!

You should be sure that the table or countertop you pick is strong enough to support the weight of food-laden platters and won’t shift easily when bumped by guests; and that the size of the table won’t make the food look lost (too big of a table) or over-crowded (too small of a table).

Also consider a water-resistant finish if you plan on using the tables outdoors so you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged in wet weather and for easy clean-up. With these sturdy tables, your grazing stations will look great and provide a safe and secure spot for guests to help themselves.

2. Set up the Room with Intention

Traffic flow is a must for a grazing station, so be sure to set up your table with intention. Choose an area of a room with a view and plenty of room around it to allow for mingling.

When preparing for a event, traffic flow is key to ensure that guests have a smooth and enjoyable experience, so be sure to set up your table with intention. 

Think of ways to create pathways for guests to move around the event space easily, especially if there are areas with limited seating. This will ensure that guests can move freely and enjoy the party without feeling crowded.

3. Find a Connecting Theme for the Menu

Choosing a connecting theme for your menu is a fun part of the whole experience.

When selecting a theme, think about the type of grazing station you would like to offer as well as the types of colors, ingredients and flavors that will work best with the theme.

For example, a rustic Mediterranean theme can have grazing stations tailored with cheeses, meats, and fruits that match the flavors and bright flavors of the coast. 

Using wooden boards and utensils, and colorful glassware would also add to the fresh and bright feel.

4. Play with Dimension

Larger setups can be hard to navigate for guests. Accessibility is a crucial point in figuring out your grazing station setup!

Here’s a tip: Add varying heights for dimension. You can use things like cake stands, risers, tiered stands and crates to do this. Not only is this more pleasing to the eye, but it makes it possible to fit more platters on the station which will give your guests access to all of the finger foods. 

5. Decorate your Grazing Station

A great way to create a wow factor and professional look is by decorating your grazing station Adding candles, flowers and plants is an easy way to create a beautiful atmosphere for your guests. For example, if the event has a Spring into Summer theme, use flowers that are in bloom like tulips, daffodils, and peonies. Find candles with matching colors and scents, and the whole event will tie together! For an extra touch of luxury, you could use edible flowers or fresh herbs for garnishing the boards.

6. Menus & Signs

Grazing stations, while beautiful and decorative, can also be overwhelming to guests if the foods aren’t labeled. It’s never a fun moment grabbing what you think is one type of cheese, and realizing it’s something else.

So to alleviate any confusion (and avoid food allergies), you can dress up the presentation of your grazing station by using stylish menus and small signs that indicate what each item is. You can use picture frames to hold the menu, or toothpick labels to place on top of different cheeses, fruits, etc.

This makes it easy for guests to identify their favorite hors d’oeuvres without having to ask. 

7. Stick to Bite-Sized Food

Grazing stations are designed for serving finger foods. They’re meant for mingling, socializing, and snacking. So you should stick to hors d’oeuvres and bite sized foods that are easy to eat. 

Larger dishes should be served separately, location-wise, as anything larger will be difficult for guests to manage and eat while milling about the event.  It’s best to cut cheeses and fruits into bite-sized pieces so they’re easy to eat. 

8. There’s Always Time for Dessert!

After noshing on savory foods, most guests want something sweet; and adding desserts to your grazing station is a great way to add variety.

You can pick out one or two desserts or chocolates for your grazing station that will complement the savory finger foods.  Whether you’re looking for something sweet and simple like mini tarts and cookies–or decadent like truffles and caramels, you can find something to satisfy everyone looking for something sweet.

Grazing stations are such a great choice to add to your next gathering. They’re accessible, full of variety, a great focal point, and are always crowd-pleasers.  And now you are ready to plan your next event with these tips and tricks!

Buuut…If you don’t have the  time or mojo to set up your own grazing station we’re here to help. 

When it comes to providing beautiful and delicious stations, we’ve got your back!

Contact us to bring your catered event to life. 


Sweet Basil Catering

The Benefits of Interactive Food Stations for Catered Events

Interactive food stations are a catering trend that continues to grow in popularity. 

This innovative catering option is a fun and exciting way to bring your event menu to life by providing guests with an interactive experience. 

In a nutshell, they make catered events come alive! 

Guests have the opportunity to create their own custom dishes and hors d’oeuvres from a variety of ingredients and toppings, making the meal (and therefore event) a unique experience. 

In this blog, we will explain seven reasons why interactive food stations are a great option for  catered events.

1. Entertainment Value:

Interactive food stations offer entertainment value. It’s a refreshing concept that breaks the monotony of a typical catered affair. You can choose from a wide range of interactive stations such as nitrogen ice cream bars, sushi-making stations, or even a DIY taco bar.

Customizable tacos? Yes, please! 

These stations are visually appealing and engaging, allowing guests to interact with each other. 

2. Variety of Options:

Interactive food stations offer a wide variety of options, enabling guests to choose what they would like and how much they want. Plus, interactive stations offer a wide variety of cuisines, from global street foods to gourmet dishes. With interactive food stations, guests don’t have to settle for a set menu. They can explore and experiment with different cuisines and flavor profiles, making it a food adventure. Each station brings a new surprise! Interactive stations also offer bitesize portions, so guests can try a bit of everything without committing to a full meal.

3. Minimal Staffing Required:

The setup for interactive food stations is relatively easy, compared to traditional catering setups. Most stations require just a few chefs, and the guests can serve themselves, eliminating the need for an abundance of servers. However, it’s still important to have a few catering staff on-site to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

4. Create a Memorable Experience

Interactive food stations help create a unique and memorable experience for your guests. Not only does this enhance the overall event experience, but it also helps stimulate conversations and connections between guests. In a world where everyone is glued to their screens, interactive food stations offer an opportunity for guests to engage with each other in a more natural way. They’re well-suited for corporate team-building events since the seamless culinary experience encourages communication and collaboration among colleagues.

These catering station options can range from simple finger foods and hors d’oeuvres to more elaborate DIY setups like a “make your own sushi roll” station.

The benefit is that the teambuilding event becomes more memorable and engaging, allowing colleagues to build stronger relationships.  

5. Easy Clean-Up:

Interactive food stations are designed to be as easy to clean up as possible. Chefs will usually prepare the food directly in front of guests and all ingredients are pre-portioned, so there’s no mess or fuss. And with experienced catering staff onsite, there’s no need to worry about hiring a separate cleanup crew. 

6. Convenient for guests

Interactive food stations are super convenient. Since the dishes are pre-plated or served in individual portions, guests can easily try different dishes while mingling. This relieves guests of having to worry about balancing big plates of food and drinks while trying to enjoy the event. As well as establishing steady foot traffic from station to station, so the guests won’t have to wait to try each dish! 

7. Peace of Mind

Interactive food stations are a great option for providing a fun and hassle-free catering experience for your guests. These various stations allow guests to serve themselves and sample an array of different dishes, without the need for a formal sit-down meal.

Not only does this create a more relaxed atmosphere for everyone involved, but it also enables guests to socialize and enjoy the event more freely. The way the stations are strategically placed can create better traffic flow for guests and catering staff alike, reducing the likelihood of overcrowding and congestion. This ultimately ensures a smoother event for all involved parties,  making it an excellent choice for any occasion. 

Interactive food stations have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their versatility, customization, and entertainment value. From low-key events to black-tie affairs, interactive food stations have revolutionized catering, making it an unforgettable experience for guests. 

Ready to try an interactive station? 

Contact us to start planning your next catered event.


Sweet Basil Catering 

7 Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Spring Brunch

The official first day of spring was last week, and I’d wager to say that for most of us, it couldn’t come soon enough! Why is it that brisk temperatures and snow are so charming in November—and such drudgery in February and March?!

With spring comes the quintessential seasonal meal: brunch. Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, Mother’s Day, or just the rite of spring, brunch seems like the perfect fit. I even think a brunch wedding could be an incredibly elegant affair! Something about the warmer days, the flowers peeking out of hiding, and the sudden urge to wear sandals and floral dresses (even for those of us who might otherwise never wear sandals and floral dresses!) just call out for brunch, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorite ideas for hosting a spring brunch everyone will love.

What makes a great brunch?
A few thoughts on the brunch as an art form:
It’s breakfast and lunch, so it’s key to have foods that bridge the gap. Decadent pastries can belong to breakfast or dessert, and egg dishes do an excellent job of satisfying those craving breakfast or lunch.
Serve coffee and tea. Not everyone drinks coffee. A selection of juices is also a must and I like to have at least one signature cocktail or punch.
Go beyond the mimosa or bloody Mary. I think the Moonwalk cocktail is a fun departure for most brunches.
Revel in spring’s bounty! Go for asparagus, leeks, ramps, spring onions, peas, radishes, fresh baby lettuces—all those fantastic veggies we’ve been dreaming about since December or so!

7 Menu Ideas for the Perfect Spring Brunch:

Crepes—Oh La La!
I love the idea of a crepe station for a brunch gathering that recalls the fabulous street carts and window shops of Paris. Since crepes lend themselves to a variety of fillings, they bridge the sweet and savory divide nicely. If you don’t have enough hands for a manned station, these ham and egg crepe squares also look delish and could be varied with different fillings.
Yogurt Bar
Greek yogurt is still all the rage right now, and a yogurt bar or pretty yogurt parfaits with fresh granola, berries, even a dollop of lemon curd, jam or whipped cream make breakfast feel a little more decadent. Look for Greek yogurt that is produced the traditional way—that is, strained to thicken it, rather than containing added pectin or other thickeners. Our partner – Barcelona Tours.
If you want to go in a little more unexpected direction, why not host an ethnic-themed brunch? Mexican food is always a crowd pleaser with huevos rancheros or chilaquiles. Serve some colorful pan dolce and maybe a tequila sunrise as well.
Calling All Quiche
Quiche, and its Italian cousin the frittata, is pretty standard brunch fare, but you can punch it up by serving many variations on the theme. What about a selection of six or eight different quiches, depending on the size of your party, served buffet-style with a simple green salad? Try one or try them all. This is a great make-ahead menu option.
Southern Comfort

Be sure to invite ladies to wear their best hats to your Southern-style brunch. Creamy grits with lots of toppings (bacon, different cheeses, sausage, herbs), biscuits and cream gravy, heavenly pecan rolls, even fried chicken and waffles if you like. Serve with sweet tea and a not-too-sweet Southern Comfort punch: 1 5th Southern Comfort, and the juice of 6 oranges, 6 lemons, and 6 limes, plus lemon-lime soda or sparkling water to taste.
Elegant Eggs
Make plain scrambled eggs seem a little more elegant by upping the ante when it comes to toppings and mix-ins. You can’t go wrong with a little smoked salmon and fennel, or try topping creamy scrambled eggs with a dollop of caviar and créme fraiche.
Salad Season
A spread of salads can also make a lovely brunch that takes advantage of seasonal produce. You might serve favorites like a warm spinach salad with bacon dressing, a fresh chicken salad with poppy seeds, fruit salad dressed in a lemon balm simple syrup, and minted peas. Slabs of crusty buttered baguette with slices of fresh radishes and sea salt make an elegant accompaniment. Choose a light cocktail like this fizzy elderflower cocktail that features St. Germain and Champagne.

As Seen In ..

As seen in New York Weddings Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings and Brides Magazine. Sweet Basil Catering is featured throughout the media for their showcase service and cuisine.


Brides Magazine asks Sweet Basil’s founder, Amy Aversa how to stay classy and cut costs on wedding bills. Amy’s expert advise helps readers “Trim the Fat Without Losing the Flavor.”

5 Tips to Avoid a Catering Disaster

It’s August. It’s hot, muggy, and everyone has left New York City for someplace a little cooler, calmer, and quieter. But soon enough, everyone will flood back into the city and the parties will pick up.

Who knows, you may even find yourself in need of a caterer.

Hiring an inexperienced caterer can bring your party down to its knees; on the other hand, an efficient and experienced caterer can create a buzz that will leave your guests gushing for days and weeks.

Here are five serious questions you need to ask before you decide on a caterer:

  1. Do I like the food? Although it may seem obvious, sometimes we let our concerns override our pleasures. The food and drinks are going to be your guests’ most notable experience so make sure you absolutely love the food your caterer has to offer.  Even with a polite, well-trained staff, you won’t like your party if you don’t love the food.

  1. Do I know enough? There are always details that slip away. Make sure you know how big the catering staff will be, how much they will be interacting with your guests, and how they will be using your space.

  1. Does my caterer know what I am expecting? Do I know what I want? Again, seemingly simple, but we need to know what we want in order to have fun. Make sure your caterer is clear on your expectations, that you have covered everything from drinks,  appetizers, and serving quantities, to clean-up and dress-codes. Make sure that your vision is clear.  If you’re  having a hard time, talk to your potential caterer to see if they have the creativity and experience to give you ideas you love.

  1. What kind of party am I having? Talk to your caterer about other events. Get references if you want. Make sure you know your stuff, and they know their stuff. If you want a fun, relaxed party, talk to your caterer about staff interaction.  Discuss the tone you would like to set so that you are on the same page.

  1. Who am I inviting? Make sure you know your audience. If you’re  inviting your bosses and coworkers, you’ll likely have a different party than if it’s close friends and family. Talk to your caterer about the guests and make sure to mention anyone who might need special attention.

Jump into a season of events that will be fun and well-run. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

The Word Is Out

Sweet Basil’s food and presentation are creative and wonderful. Everything from set up to cleanup is perfect. They are such a pleasure to work with and are in my opinion NYC’s best catering company. Steven Schwartz, Chief Operating Officer, Hearst Corporation Sweet Basil’s food and presentation are creative and wonderful. Everything from set up to cleanup is perfect. They are such a pleasure to work with and are in my opinion NYC’s best catering company. Steven Schwartz, Chief Operating Officer, Hearst Corporation