During these dwindling months of winter, cabin fever has hit its apex, and all of your potential guests are just itching to get out of the house and celebrate something.
Luckily, the upcoming month offers plenty of reasons to ditch the puffy coat and raise a glass: Mardi Gras...Saint Paddy's... tournament basketball... oh my! Incorporate regional tastes and traditions to ensure people are rounding up their friends to meet at your place for the party.
Eat like a King, Louisiana-Style
Mardi Gras, or literally "Fat Tuesday," marks a time of indulgence — the final day before Lent starts. But it also kicks off a month of partying and gives your guests permission to go all out when ordering food — it's tradition, after all! Think rich, fatty textures; bold, spicy flavors; and decadent sweets.
A focus on Creole and Cajun gastronomy will not only blow up their taste buds, but you'll easily be able to take them on vacation to The Big Easy with blackened fish or boudin served with a buttery cornbread dressing and rich gumbo. Or offer a succulent crawfish boil served family-style for the table to dig into up to their elbows. Whichever dishes you decide, make sure dessert includes homemade king cake with a hidden plastic baby inside. Tradition says the recipient of the slice with the symbolic baby wins good fortune; how about a gift card they can't wait to use on their next visit?
Get Lucky with Irish Cuisine
Nobody is out here looking for the restaurant that serves up the brightest green bun for their burger. Steer clear of the food dye (that goes for your tap beer too!) and think of how you can incorporate true, traditional Irish fare onto your celebratory St. Paddy's Day menus while skipping the gimmicks.
Try Dublin coddle, a hearty comfort food reminiscent of a casserole, consisting of layered bacon, pork sausage, potatoes, and onions, all simmered slowly to perfection in a rich broth. Of course, everything tastes better braised in a bit of Guinness, but don't forget about Ireland's solid selection of other beers. Traditional Irish red ales are a great companion to any meal with their balanced profile of nutty malts and light hoppiness. Or, go all out and offer a coursed Irish beer and food pairing. Porterhouse oyster stout and double chocolate cake? We'll be the first to pull up a chair.
Sink Those Free Throws with Enticing Apps
The best options for basketball-crazed fans are plates you can pass around full of pull-aparts for easy sharing, dips for dunking, and small bites for popping. Instead of a giant soft pretzel, for instance, go the bite-sized route and serve stuffed pretzel bites in a basket the whole table can munch from.
Game day is also a great opportunity to incorporate plant-based and gluten-free options. That eight-top can still have their chicken wings while their buddy can opt for the Buffalo cauliflower version. Or try a loaded black bean dip instead of boring old beef nachos for the veggie-lover at the bar. Those chips served on the side will make sure they stay almost as crisp as their bracket.