When you plan a party, no matter how many guests you’re hosting, food is bound to take center stage. When you are hosting a themed party, the food you serve should coordinate with the theme. The good news is that it’s easy to translate most of your favorite appetizers into theme-specific versions, especially when you’re hosting a beach party.
When planning your beach-themed soiree, match the food to the beach locale. In other words, avoid tropical fruit salad and coconut shrimp if you’re planning a New England or Maine-themed beach party. Likewise, if you’re trying to evoke the Hawaiian islands, don’t serve New England clam chowder. Once you decide on a basic theme for your party, do some research and find out the local specialty of the beach area you want to evoke. Or, if you’ve visited the area before, try to find a recipe that resembles one of the favorites you enjoyed while you were on your trip.
Seafood is often the first food that comes to mind when you think of beach parties, and the options are nearly endless when it comes to seafood appetizers. Crab cakes, fried calamari, shrimp cocktail served with cocktail sauce or creamy dressing, and crab or lobster mini-quiches all offer a taste of the sea. Shrimp or scallops wrapped in bacon are often crowd-pleasers, as are seafood ravioli made with your favorite seafood or mushrooms caps with a seafood stuffing seasoned with ranch-flavored dry mix. If you’re serving a New England clambake for dinner, try an appetizer of quahogs, or stuffed hard-shell clams. Mix the meat of the hard-shell clam into a seasoned stuffing, and bake the mixture in the clam shell. Check the seafood section of your grocery store for pre-made quahogs that only need to be reheated.
Simple and Casual
One of the reasons that the beach lifestyle, and beach parties, is so popular is that it is casual and seemingly effortless. For that reason, stick with simple appetizers for your party. Serve teriyaki or Jamaican jerk seasoned grilled chicken, shrimp or beef on skewers, or prosciutto-wrapped melon on skewers for easy-to-serve, easy-to-eat appetizers. Serve an assortment of dipping sauces with your skewers. Experiment with sweet-and-sour sauce, tropical fruit salsa and creamy salad dressing. Or, if you’re trying to evoke the feeling of a sunny day at the beach, “Beach Blanket Bingo”-style, serve appetizer versions of snack bar favorites. Think cheeseburger sliders, mini-hot dogs and popcorn shrimp or fried clams, served in paper containers that evoke memories of a day at the beach. Let your guests choose their favorite condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayo, tartar sauce, cocktail sauce and creamy dressing are crowd-pleasers.
How you serve the appetizers at your beach-themed party can help establish the theme. Instead of serving stuffed mushroom caps on a plain tray, use a surfboard-shaped platter instead. Arrange appetizers in clean seashells (several online retailers sell shells in bulk) or serve chips from clean toy buckets; use smaller buckets for dips. If you’re throwing a tropical-theme beach party, use tropical fruits such as pineapples and coconuts as centerpieces. For example, arrange skewers of chicken on a platter surrounding a pineapple and other tropical fruits. Add color with paper umbrellas -- use them to garnish finger sandwiches or mini-burgers.