The last day of school is always a cause for celebration — and not only for the kids. I’m just as excited to not have to pack lunches every day and nag about homework as they are about finally being free from the confines of the classroom.
But this year it’s an especially big deal, because it’s also the last day of 8th grade. Both Wendi and I have daughters who are heading to high school next year. They’ll be leaving our little neighborhood K-8 school behind, a place where they’ve grown, and watched their friends grow, from little kiddos to independent-minded teens.
It’s a big deal. And big deals deserve a big spread.
Tell any teen you’re throwing them a party with a giant buffet of, say, sandwiches and they’ll probably give you blank stare. Or an eye roll. A giant array of desserts, however, is a different story.
Dessert bars are just inherently fun. No wonder they’ve become insanely popular at weddings. Rarely in life do we get to walk up to a buffet table loaded with a dozen different sweets and have whatever the heck we want. It’s like a day dream come true. A cause for celebration unto itself. And you can easily make it a reality with a little help from your local bakery or grocery store.
Sure, if you’re super ambitious (or having a potluck) you could make all the treats from scratch. But when you’ve got other things to worry about, like not dissolving into a puddle of tears because your baby is growing up and going to high school, then your nearby specialty grocery store is your friend.
The trick is to shop wisely. The nicer the store, the better your options. I’m sorry Safeway, your cupcakes are cheap but they’re also sub-par. It’s better to pay a few dollars more for treats that are made with real butter and cream — and taste like it.
Between the store’s in-house bakery, the locally made treats usually stocked nearby, the packaged goods on the shelves and the oddball stuff in the freezer section (think cheesecakes, Belgian liege waffles and French macarons), you’ll have no trouble coming up with a pretty impressive buffet in no time. To make the store-bought stuff feel special, just customize them with a few finishing touches.
- Cut a pan of brownies or a cheesecake into tiny squares, top with a raspberry, and spear with a skewer for a tiny, elegant bite.
- Serve a platter of coconut macarons with a bowl of chocolate sauce and/or lemon curd for dipping.
- Poke popsicle sticks into Belgian liege waffles (sweeter and denser than regular waffles) and drizzle them with melted white and/or dark chocolate.
- Give mini cupcakes a pop of color with a shower of sprinkles.
- Set out crispy meringues and/or squares of pound cake or angel food cake alongside bowls of whipped cream and strawberry puree, so kids can make their own Eton Mess or strawberry shortcake.
- Top a lemon tart with a cloud of whipped cream and decorate with vibrant edible flowers.
- Pair a platter of cookies with bowls of frosting, so kids can customize their own sandwich cookies.
The list of ideas can go on and on. Try filling out the options with jars of colorful candy and French macarons. And throw in a platter of fruit for a tiny nod to nutrition. Just aim for variety and have lots of fun with it. When you’re serving up this much sweetness, you can’t go wrong.