Heather Christo's Easy Party Idea: Grilled Cheese and Soup Bar

For low-maintenance fun, try a do-it-yourself grilled cheese and soup bar with all the fixings
Lauren Mang  |   January 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
easy entertaining party ideas heather christo
Heather Christo with her soup-and-grilled-cheese bar creation

Anyone who feels hosting a party is too much work should take a page from Heather Christo’s playbook. The Queen Anne–based culinary whiz and entertaining expert, whose eponymous website is brimming with creative recipes and tablescape ideas, has a few secrets up her sleeve when it comes to simple yet inventive ways to serve guests, which she shares in her new book, Heather Christo’s Generous Table: Easy & Elegant Recipes Through the Seasons (Kyle Books, $29.95). The Seattle native and former catering company owner suggests building a party around classic winter comfort food. “I don’t know anyone who isn’t obsessed with soup and grilled cheese.” Not only is such a party a surefire hit, she says, “This is low-maintenance entertaining. You just set everything out and walk away.”

To create this comfort-food-filled spread, opt for multiple cheeses, meats and breads, along with different condiments, so hungry partygoers can assemble sandwiches to their liking. Adventurous eaters? Throw in a wild card with Olympic Provisions’ salame di cioccolato, a salami made with chocolate ganache, candied orange peel, nuts and Oregon grappa, available at Metropolitan Market (multiple locations; metropolitan-market.com).

Get the crafty menu- and service-board look: “If you search for large-scale chalkboards in stores or online, they’re way too expensive,” Christo says. Instead, go with oversize, lightweight wood painting panels—this one, and the one used to display the food, can be found at Artist & Craftsman Supply in the University District (4350 Eighth Ave. NE; 206.545.0091; artistcraftsman.com)—and then coat with chalkboard spray paint.

Savvy hosts needn’t worry about slaving over the stove on the day of the party. Christo suggests whipping up soups, such as her curried pumpkin with chicken and rice or creamy tomato basil, days prior to the party and freezing or refrigerating it until you’re ready to heat and serve.

Add color to your grilled-cheese-and-soup-bar setup with brightly hued napkins. Modernist bowls ($8), Scape dinnerware salad plates ($24 for a set of four), Harmony napkin in Lotus Pink (set of four, $20), gold flatware (one place setting, $29), all from West Elm (2201 Westlake Ave.; 206.467.5798; westelm.com).

Cheeses: Mt. Townsend Red Alder, Mt. Townsend Trufflestack, Kurtwood Farms Dinah’s cheese, BelGioioso sharp provolone and Beecher’s Dutch Hollow Dulcet rindless double cream, all from Metropolitan Market (multiple locations; metropolitan-market.com). Meats: Pio Tosini prosciutto di Parma, Olympic Provisions mortadella, Hempler’s sundried tomato chicken breast, Salumi Artisan Cured Meats salami and Olympic Provisions salame di cioccolato, all from Metropolitan Market. Breads: Pain du George, sourdough, multigrain and Rosemary Diamante, all from The Essential Baking Company (multiple locations; essentialbaking.com); also available at PCC Natural Markets, QFC, Metropolitan Market, Safeway, Whole Foods and other specialty grocery stores. Sour white ficelle, rye and pane francese from Macrina Bakery (multiple locations; macrinabakery.com); also available at Metropolitan Market, Thriftway, Whole Foods and other specialty grocery stores. Condiments: Dalmatia dried fig spread, Mama Lil’s hot peppers and Kozlik’s Canadian mustard, all from Metropolitan Market; cranberry mustard, Heather Christo’s recipe; and pesto and tapenade from Metropolitan Market olive bar.