November 21, 2013

panini bar

A couple Saturdays past, we had a few friends over for dinner and games. This was not our typical dinner party, due to the fact that we had invited over a greater number of adults than children. In fact, the ratio of people over the age of twenty-seven to people age three and under was a whopping two-to-one. This was huge for us.

I was thrilled that I didn't have to work within the confines of "kid food that adults will also eat", but I did not want to be in the kitchen the entire day. I decided upon create-you-own grown-up grilled cheese: the panini bar.

The day of the get-together I was able to play with my kids all morning, go for a run/bike ride with the toddler, go grocery shopping, and prep dinner about twenty minutes before the guests showed up.

When they had all arrived and had beverage in hand, we distributed "order forms" on which they wrote what they would like us to fill their panini with (I had all the options written on a chalk board next to the table). One of our friends exclaimed "I didn't realize I was going to a restaurant for dinner!"

We (okay, the hubs) grilled the paninis up on our humongous counter top plug-in griddle, which we only pull out of storage for events such as this. (keep your oven on low and store the cooked paninis in there until they are all made so that you and all your guests can eat together. Otherwise, it's not really much of a dinner party.)

Right before everyone showed up I had (very quickly) cut out little tags and taped them to toothpicks so that guests could put their names on them and we would not lose track of which panini belonged to who (whom?) while we were cooking them. There are probably many ways to create a personal-panini-tracking system, but I threw this together fast and it worked just fine.

Dinner turned out great, and everyone raved about the meal (which they had picked out themselves, basically). I served it with a huge salad, but I think I would add a couple bowls of fun-flavored, crunchy kettle chips next time.

What do you think of this idea? Would you or have you done a panini bar for a dinner party? What options would you have added to our list? (I think cranberry sauce and artichoke hearts would also have been good... but not together.)

Happy entertaining,


  1. What I like best about this is the idea of putting pear in the panini. Now I want some.

    1. Pear is my favorite thing to put in a panini (beside cheese, of course)! I love it with fresh basil, turkey, provolone, and cranberry sauce or fig jam.... okay, now I'm hungry too :-)