food

From grazing boards to conversation cards: Here's exactly how I hosted Friendsgiving this year.

Soul Origin
Thanks to our brand partner, Soul Origin

While Thanksgiving is a predominantly an overseas tradition, every year when it comes around, I can’t help but feel a little FOMO for all that good food and holiday cheer. It’s like, why do we have to wait for Christmas to have all that in Australia? Not fair.   

So that’s how I started hosting ‘Friendsgiving’. 

What’s a Friendsgiving you ask? Well, it’s basically just getting your friends together around the pointy end of the year, typically around Thanksgiving. 

Basically, Millennials love nothing more than putting a catchy name onto an existing concept and I’m all for it! It’s the perfect excuse to host friends and loved ones around the holiday season.

After the year that was (here’s looking at you, COVID curveball) we definitely didn’t expect to be locked down again so this year’s celebration felt all the more needed. 

But I'm also sure we're feeling all the more exhausted. So, I’m going to share some of my tips for making Friendsgiving this year less stress and less mess, but equally as fabulous as the others. 

1. Outsource the food

I’m the first to admit that I love a platter. Whether it’s a grazing board or just a simple charcuterie plate, I never skimp on an opportunity to feed my friends. 

This year, though, I decided to try something different while still sticking to my roots. I outsourced my food BUT plated it up like I usually do at a grazing table. 

I always thought catering was for older, fancier people but then I got offered to try Soul Origin’s new catering menu. It’s food that looks seriously impressive (think mini falafels, halloumi sliders and fresh pastries) but still at an affordable price point. If you’ve ever eaten from one of their stores, you’ll know their food is super fresh and delicious too.

Their catering platform offers brunches, lunches, salads, desserts and party packages so you’re spoilt for choice.

It seemed like an easy decision for me, especially because it leaves more time to catch up with friends and takes the stress out of prep. 

The online booking system is super easy to use. Image: Supplied 

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This year, I decided to host a brunch because everyone loves brunch.

I had some vegetarian friends coming as well, so I also made sure to order things that catered for everyone.

I remember in previous years I was always rushing to get ready and do my makeup which left minimal time to prep my grazing table. When my friends arrived, I was always so frazzled and I definitely wasn’t the hostess with the mostest.

Which was why it was so great that Soul Origin also delivers. It saved so much time for me and my partner who were trying to organise literally everything else, like the very important Spotify playlist/Google Home syncing that always fails us as soon as we invite people over. 

It looks so good, even before I set up the grazing board! Image: Supplied 
I ordered some Breakfast Wraps including spinach, mushroom and egg; chorizo and egg; and bacon and egg. I also got some Breakfast Sliders with a mix of bacon, egg and relish; and halloumi, tomato, rocket and hummus. Then for brunch dessert, I got some yoghurt and granola pots, seasonal fruit cups and a selection of pastries. Talk about decadence! 

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Here are some tips on how I set up the ultimate brunch grazing board.

Laying out the framework and then creating some height using a food stand. Image: Supplied 

  • Lay out the framework. This means working out what platters you’re going to use. I like to use a mixture of sizes and textures. My favourite hack is using wood cut-offs as platters. You can get these from Etsy or some florists sell them. They create a super rustic look, and they’re typically $5-$10! 
  • Create some height. This is the most important thing to turn your grazing board from average to amazing. You can use a tiered cheese board (I got mine from Kmart) or even some food stands (this one is from David Jones). If you don’t have these, you could use a pot-plant stand (yes, seriously) or just turn a bowl upside down and place a platter on top of it.

Time to add some style. Image: Supplied. 

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  • Style your platter. This means adding some eye-catching elements. I like to use dried flowers as opposed to fresh flowers because they can last for up to a year, which means you can re-use them time and time again. You can also add some chalkboard labels (Kmart again) and label all your food. 

This is nice if you have vegetarian friends so they know what they can and can’t eat! You also might want to add some linen cloth or napkins under some of your boards to add some more warmth to your grazing platter.

Finished grazing table! Image: Supplied 

  • Think about eatability. This means laying out serving ware. How are your friends going to dish up the food? I suggest laying out some napkins if it’s just finger food, spoons for the desserts, as well as tongs to serve. 

And that’s how you create a rustic yet luxe grazing board with minimal effort. I think using Soul Origin cut down my prep time from 2 hours to around 20 minutes. Which is definitely worth it in my books! 

Brunch ready. Image: Supplied. 

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2. Drinks 

I stopped drinking two years ago and one of my favourite things to do is introduce my friends to new and exciting non-alcoholic drinks to try. And what better occasion to do this than at my own Friendsgiving? It means no one feels left out and you can focus on socialising. 

For Friendsgiving, I set up an Esky full of Soul Origin’s bottles of juices including their Cold Pressed Orange Juice, Tutti Kale and Minty Melon. Is there a better pairing than OJ and bacon and egg wraps in the morning?

I also had a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails for my friends to have as well. 

These are the two I made:

Non-Alcoholic Mimosa

Ingredients:

  • Soul Origin Orange Juice
  • Non-alcoholic sparkling wine

Method:

1. Add equal parts OJ and sparkling to a champagne flute.

2. Garnish with orange slices and strawberry.

Non-Alcoholic Punch 

Ingredients:

  • 3 bottles Soul Origin Minty Melon Juice
  • 1 bottle non-alcoholic sparkling wine
  • 1/2 bottle soda water
  • Melon (rock melon and watermelon)
  • Lime wedges, strawberries and mint

Method:

1. Combine the juice, sparkling wine and soda water in a punch bowl and stir.

2. Using a melon baller, scoop out melon flesh and place into punch.

3. Add in lime wedges, strawberries and picked mint leaves.

3. Entertainment

So what do you actually do at a Friendsgiving? Here are a few fun tips:

Image: Flex Factory and Rosewell 

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  • If you’re like me and have a random bunch of friends who don’t really know each other, I love to whip out some Conversation Card Games. These guys make it super easy to have frank and honest conversations with those closest to you — and isn’t that what Friendsgiving is about? Getting closer with your loved ones? These cards typically require critical thinking and self-evaluation. 
  • Take time to go around the table (or couch!) and say your highs and lows for the year. Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and appreciate the year that was, in all its ups and downs. You can also add on a dose of optimism and say what you’re looking forward to the most about next year. This is some good old-fashioned wholesome fun, and I think that’s what we need right now. 
  • In the true spirit of Friendsgiving, gratefulness is a huge part of the day. Why not go around the circle and say what you’re thankful for about every person there? If you don’t know someone, just speak about first impressions, you never know how much that can mean to someone.
  • Karaoke is always a party pleaser, so who says you can’t do it during brunch? Whack on some YouTube karaoke tracks and blast them out in your living room. Hot tip: Duets can really bring out people’s competitive sides and also it’s never too early for Christmas songs. All I Want for Christmas Is You is a banger all year round. 

4. Decor

While we can’t go all out with wintery and cosy decor like they can in the US for Friendsgiving, that doesn't mean we have to give up on decor all together. 

Here’s some of my ideas:

Image: RJPartyDoctor on Etsy and Kmart 

  • Have some of those balloon letters that read ‘Friendsgiving’. Cringe? Maybe, but they're still pretty cute and a great photo op! Everyone loves them.
  • Who said balloons are just for children's birthday parties? Keep things classy and get some gold balloons and place them near your ‘Friendsgiving’ balloon signs. 
  • Goodie bags — again, taking inspo from children’s birthday parties. This year I’m going to make my friends goodie bags with some samples of non-alcoholic spirits, chocolates and also a handwritten note.

Soul Origin's new catering menu is bringing that good mood soul food straight to you! To make your next event entirely stress free, leave all the food prep to Soul Origin.

Feature Image: Supplied/Mamamia.

Soul Origin
Soul Origin is the family that you choose! With over 125 stores across Australia, this Australian owned and operated QSR business has been providing fresh food and killer coffee to local communities since 2011.