How to Throw a 50 State Party: The Food

It was tempting to go all out and serve 50 items at our 50 State Party. Instead, I focused on foods that we discovered during our travels that I thought might be new and interesting to most of our guests. I ended up serving 11 foods and 2 drinks (the third drink I'd planned didn't arrive in time). Everyone enjoyed trying regional favorites they hadn't had before and I had several requests for recipes. Affiliate links below. 

This is the last of three posts about hosting a 50 State Party. Part one is about the invitation, guest book, and decorations. Part two is about the games and activities. Part three is all about the food. 

How to Throw a 50 State Party

While I would have loved to introduce my friends to Kentucky's Burgoo, North Dakota's knoephla soup, Oklahoma's Onion Burgers, or even Ohio's City Chicken, I'm saving them for a future dinner party. For our 50 State Party, I went with foods I could serve at room temperature or straight out of the fridge. And with the exception of one item, all were finger foods. I guess you COULD eat pie with your fingers, but I provided forks. I created a label for each food using the flag icons from my website

Several people asked me if there are any foods we discovered during our travels that are now part of my regular repertoire. There are many, but the one I've made most often is Biscochitos. We first discovered them in Santa Fe in 2016. They are the official State Cookie of New Mexico and they are now my go-to potluck item. Everyone likes them. 

Steen's is now a favorite in the deRosier house. It is delicious on biscuits, which is how we first tried it in New Orleans in 2019. Steve has even used Steen's for homebrew!

The first time we had Fry Sauce (more specifically, Hires Big H Fry Sauce), was during our 2016 trip to Salt Lake City. It's mostly served on hamburgers and as a dipping sauce for fries and tots, but we saw it offered on all sorts of other menu items across Utah. It's not typically used as a dip for potato chips, but that was the easiest way for my friends to taste it. You can make your own fry sauce, but our taste test determined that it won't be as good as Hires. 

Kringles are a Wisconsin favorite (they're the official State Pastry) and now they're a deRosier favorite too! There are sooo many flavors of Kringle and they all sound great. 

We bought Buffalo Berry Candy on a whim in the Dakotas and loved it. None of us had heard of buffalo berries before, but it turns out they are delicious! At least, they're delicious once you add a bunch of sugar. We still haven't tried them on their own. But I'd love to! The candy is intensely fruity, tart, and perfectly balanced. I can't think of another fruit to compare it with. You just have to try it!

Speaking of berries and the Dakotas, we got to taste chokecherries directly off the bush during a ranger talk at Wind Cave National Park. Yum! And they're even tastier with a bunch of sugar in the form of chokecherry jelly! The flavor reminds me of pomegranates. Chokecherries are the state fruit of North Dakota. 

Popcorn is a big deal in Illinois. Chicago even has their own style of popcorn, which we first enjoyed at Garrett in 2018. Chicago popcorn is a half-and-half mix of cheddar cheese and caramel popcorn. I thought it was weird at first -  cheddar cheese and caramel is not a normal flavor combination. But the more I eat, the more I love it. The salty and the sweet are perfectly balanced. 

St. Louis is famous for a lot of unique foods and I was determined to try them all! The Gooey Butter Cake was even better than I expected. This recipe comes really close to what we tasted from the bakery in Missouri. 

If you love factory tours as much as the deRosiers do, go to Hanover, Pennsylvania! That's where we first learned about Utz Potato Sticks. They're soooo good! 

Hoosier Pie is the State Dessert of the Hoosier State. It's creamy and sweet and super rich. Cut really thin slices! I used this recipe for the party. 

Pan de Campo is the official bread of Texas. We first discovered it through Little Passports back in 2018. It's basically a giant biscuit, cooked in a cast iron pan or Dutch Oven, then cut into wedges or torn into chunks. Yum!

I don't like coffee, but I really wanted to try Rhode Island's iconic drink, coffee milk. I served it at the party and it wasn't half bad. I'd drink it again. It would be even better churned into ice cream. The tour guides we had in Providence said that Aristocrat is the proper brand for a true coffee milk, so that's what I used. 

The other beverage I served was pink cranberry juice from Massachusetts. We learned all about pink cranberries during our fabulous bog tour. We took pictures of it at the party, but since I put it in an opaque pitcher, you can't appreciate how pretty it is. Better to show you how pink cranberry juice looks in the original packaging. 

As I mentioned at the top of the post, I'd ordered a third drink to serve but it didn't arrive in time. I'd hoped to share Michigan's Faygo with my guests, but it wasn't to be.  

There are so many other amazing foods and drinks we've discovered during our travels. While I wish I could have a real maple creemee every day, or have a hot brown and Derby pie at the Brown whenever I want, those foods are special because I can't have them at home. They contribute so much to the memories of our travels. I'm always thankful to that Steve and Trevor are adventurous eaters, but particularly so when we visit new places. It's been so much fun discovering all this together and I'm glad we had a chance to share a little bit of that magic with our friends during our 50 State party.  


  1. Gosh...the amount of planning to go into this party.

    1. I enjoyed the planning as much as the party itself!


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