How To: Menu Party Plan

Taken at our holiday party, Jan. '11

My husband and I are both February babies.  To be exact, we are one week apart, translation: Dual-birthday celebration.  Our theme this year is French, meaning French cuisine, décor—starting with the E-vite.  In the meantime, as each person decides whether or not to respond “Mais, oui” or “Mais, non” Josh and I are saying the same to an array of possibilities of French dishes.  But as much as I would love serve all of our favorite French fair, some just don’t work for a party—for a number of reasons. 

SERVABILITY.  Ask yourself how you will be serving the dish.  Will it be hand-passed?  Will it have to hold its own on your buffet?  If you are hand-passing a dish these should typically be food that has to stay hot.  Personally, I think you should minimize the number of hand-passing because it is labor intensive and after all, this is your party to not only host, but also enjoy.  Buffet items shouldn’t be temperature sensitive for instance: Crudités, cheese, etc.  Items such as pâté, poached fish, or any sort of meat product should not be exposed at room temperature for more than two hours.

PLANNING AND TIMING.  I like to serve dishes that can either be prepped the night before or the morning of.  The time before and during the party should only be spent on finishing dishes.  Remember, you are not just a cook, but a host as well.

FLAVORS AND SEASONINGS.  When serving a number of people the boldness of flavors is one to play with.  How spicy something should be, or how much garlic can be used, it’s a fine line to walk.  I mean let’s face it, the last thing you want is for your food to be bland and blah, the trick is to counter balance bold flavors with milder flavors.

VARY DISH TYPES.  Just as you need a balance in flavors, you also need to vary your dishes.  For instance: A vegetable option, a meat option, maybe a cheese tart, a room temp soup, etc.  You want to play with what could be considered as an appetizer, a main, a side, a dessert.  Also, look at textures—balance soft and hard, crunchy and moist. 

HAVE A STAR.  Just like a well scripted performance, there must always be a star.  This dish is truly your piece de resistance.  It will be the one thing that will have people talking about.  And it will be synonymous with your party.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be crazy, but it has to be creative and different—even if you are putting a twist on a classic.

PRESENTATION.  I’m sure that you’ve heard this before, that the eyes eat before the stomach.  I really don’t recommend buying sets and sets of new flatware and dishware.  I challenge you to do quite the opposite actually.  See how resourceful you can be with what you already have.  You never know, what you will come up with.  And 9 times out of 10, it will turn out to be better than you think.

Categories: Entertainment, Food & Drinks