The Greatest Food Bar of All
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
I'm not going to keep you guessing. It's a meatball bar.
I am a big fan of food bars at parties. I like the variety, the you-do-you mentality. When I was little I didn't even know that Wendy's served hamburgers because I was so into their salad bar. I didn't eat anything at the salad bar except those little ham cubes and vanilla pudding, but that was what was so magical about the salad bar - I didn't have to! I did me! I have not been back to Wendy's since the demise of the salad bar. I don't think I could ever be satisfied knowing that those little ham cubes were once an option.
I've been to clam bake bars, mashed potato bars, candy bars, trail mix bars, and ice cream bars like the best of them. Hell, we've even had a cruise-ship themed party that included a nacho bar, hot dog bar, and fondue bar. But my eyes and heart and mind have all been open by the delight that is the meatball bar.
Now that the weather is actually starting to feel like winter, Maurie Smith, that extraordinary Gemini, invited some of the neighborhood denizens over for a post-holiday Friendsmas celebration. We were asked to dress festive. Maurie donned her jaw-dropping, 3-D snowman sweater. Casey wore seasonally appropriate flannel (though seasonally appropriate flannel is pretty standard for Casey. I don't even know what kind of flannel is seasonally appropriate for summer, but I can bet you he has it.). I wore something that one of Santa's elves vomitted up after the North Pole's office Christmas party. Look, I only get to wear my gingerbread man necklace once a year, and I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by.
What makes Maurie's house particularly festive is the massive Christmas tree her family invests in each year. We all know that picking a Christmas tree is one of the most - if not the most - important decision of the year. It gives me so much joy that Maurie's family consistantly goes hard and then goes home with a massive tree that literally scrapes the ceiling with its upper boughs. That is the reason for the season, my friends.
I hear you - enough about the festiveness. Give me meatballs. Yes. I'm with you. The thing I love about meatballs is that they are so upfront about what they are. They are not trying to hide the fact that they are balls of meat. There is nothing pretentious or mysterious about them. They are just meat... all balled up. Meatballs are adorable. Meat balls are the Hufflepuffs of the meat world. You have those showy Gryffindor filets that take up all the space in the meat case, that sneaky Slytherin bacon (it somehow snuck its way into every type of food!), and, of course, those Ravenclaw organ meats. So many nutrients, but no one really likes them....
And then there are the Hufflepuff meatballs. They are approachable, easy to serve, and they fit in with all sorts of sauces. And that is why the meatball bar is a genius way to entertain your friends.
To have a proper bar of any kind, you must give your guests multitudes of options. Bars are the Choose-Your-Own-Adventures of dinner parties. At a meatball bar, the presence of options is most important in the sauce array. Meatballs with tomato sauce is pretty standard, and there is no reason to shy away from standards. However, I encourage you to go boldly into new meatball territory. In addition to classic tomato sauce, Maurie offered us a vodka sauce, a rosé sauce, and a pesto sauce. Having a non-tomato-based sauce added a great balance to the other options. Here are some recipes to consider:
Swedish meatball sauce (à la IKEA)(i.e. my favorite place to go on a date)
No one ever says no to alfredo
There are two ways to make your bar exciting: screwing with the sauces, and messing with the meatballs. For the meat - make some tiny pork balls, big beef balls, turkey balls, veggie balls, lamb balls... there are so many balls, and the more balls you have the more you can say "Balls," and "balls" is a damn funny word to say over and over again. Maurie kept it interesting but simple by offering us a tray of bite-size pork balls and a crock pot of large beef balls. It was perfect.
And just because you went meatballs to the walls, don't worry - you can still have a cheese tray.
If you think of other sauces that would make the ball bar shine - let us know! And thanks to Maurie for having balls.