Among my circle of friends, the most popular form of entertaining is the impromptu happy hour. Happy hours are attractive for all the obvious reasons, no planning, shopping and preparing a big, multi-course meal; kids are always invited so babysitters don’t need to be secured (and paid!); and as long as you can handle the chaos, the group can be quite inclusive. But the appeal of the “impromptu” aspect may be less obvious.
Impromptu = No Expectations. As the hostess, you can put out just about any nibbles (as long as the wine is ready to be poured) and people will be thrilled. It helps if you have a well-stocked pantry, and a couple of cheeses in the fridge certainly don’t hurt. When you’re on the receiving end, one minute you are staring down the clock, fielding questions from the kids and wondering what you’ll make for dinner and then BOOM! you’re loading everyone into the car and heading off to a party.
This is how the impromptu happy hours go down in my neighborhood:
Email: Who’s up for happy hour at my place? I’m opening a bottle of Sancerre as I type.
Respondent 1: I have to drive lax carpool, do you think you’ll still be going at 7pm? (rhetorical question–answer is always “yes”)
Respondent 2: Yes! What time? I’ve got a whole bunch of fruit that needs to get eaten.
Respondent 3: Picking up from swim, on my way over I’ll grab a couple of pizzas for the kids. How many do you think?
Respondent 4: On my way!
In the background, spouses are being texted (“meet us at happy hour after work”); carpools are being re-routed (“could you drop Joey at happy hour instead of home?”) and fortunately in my great circle, food is being pulled from shelves as each guest decides what they can bring. Again, “no expectations” so it truly feels that everyone goes above and beyond.
Bottle in one hand, balancing platter in another, friends arrive in waves. The conversation around the kitchen island ping-pongs from topic to topic and then back again, as new faces filter through the door. Glasses are filled and then refilled, kids are fed and then magically disappear (oh, the joys of a basement kid-zone), working parents roll in and visibly unwind before your eyes.
There’s no real meal served but between one person’s dumplings and another’s cheese dip, no one leaves hungry. In fact, most times no one leaves at all…
Here is a perfect impromptu dish to serve at any happy hour:
- All quantities are variable depending on what you have on hand. Choose the size of your serving dish based on your vegetable quantities.
- 1 large (16-oz) container of hummus
- 3-5 ripe tomatoes (deseeded and chopped)
- 1 English hothouse cucumber (deseeded and chopped)
- half a red onion (cut into thirds and thinly sliced)--could substitute chopped scallions
- handful of olives, optional (chopped)
- handful of fresh parsley (chopped)
- olive oil
- pita chips
- Spread the hummus evenly along the bottom of your shallow serving dish (dish should have sides no more that 1" high and should be a size that accommodates the number of tomatoes you plan to use. I usually use a 7"x12" rectangular dish, but you certainly could use something smaller. If using a smaller dish use less hummus.)
- Sprinkle chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and olives (if using) over the surface of the hummus.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with some good olive oil. Serve with pita chips for dipping.