Picking the Right Menu for the Right Event
Whether you’re having everyone over for cocktail hour, hosting a business lunch or planning a dinner party with friends, having the right menu is crucial to the success of the meal. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen, rather you will want to find the right balance of flavors and richness to complete the perfect menu.
Cocktails and Appetizers
Cocktails and appetizers are generally used to keep guests occupied when they first arrive for a dinner party. Selections should whet guest’s appetites for the coming meal and not be too heavy or extra spicy. Make sure there is a variety of flavors, shapes and colors in the food, such as a salty square shaped chip and sweet colorful berries. Create a beverage station in a convenient place th
at is away from the food prep area, that way your guests won’t gather in the kitchen. Either provide a selection of wine and a few specialty drinks or allow guests to mix their own.
When selecting Appetizers they should come from multiple appetizer families.These include:
Garden: raw, cooked or stuffed vegetables and fruits
Starch: finger sandwiches, breadsticks, crackers, biscotti and rolls
Protein: sliced meats, skewered meats, chicken wings, shellfish and cheese
Snacks: nuts, chips, pretzels and tortilla chips
dips and spreads: dips, pates, guacamole and Relishes
Generally if you are having 10 or fewer guests, you will only need to have three appetizer selections. However, if the party is solely a cocktail party with no meal to follow be sure to offer appetizers from every category with several helpings per guest.
A formal dinner will generally have three courses: a soup or salad, entree and dessert. You’ll want to precede the formal dinner with a cocktail hour and a small selection of appetizers. When selecting a menu for a dinner party begin with the main course and center the other courses around this selection.
If you want to serve a red meat, such as short ribs or a braised roast, serve a lighter first course, such as a small salad or light soup. If you are serving a lighter meat, such as chicken or fish, go ahead and serve a heartier first course, such as a lobster bisque or a rich soup. Always find out what the dietary restrictions of your guests are, so you can provide a vegetarian or gluten-free option if it is needed.
When selecting dessert, think about how much of an appetite your guests will have after the main course. If it’s been a fairly light meal go ahead and serve a rich cake or pudding, but if guests will only be interested in something light, go for a fruit tart or scoop of sorbet instead.
As you’re selecting specific food items, be sure that the plates will be colorful and that a particular flavor isn’t being repeated throughout the meal. Pineapple is delicious but can get boring if it’s included in every course.
A luncheon will have a more casual feel then a dinner and the food selections should be lighter than a formal dinner. Offer a colorful salad for the first course and then stick to pasta and light meats for the entree. If the luncheon is a buffet go ahead and offer a chicken and a steak or fish option. As always, offer a vegetarian and gluten-free option as needed.
For a brunch, stick to a buffet, so guests can select the types of food they prefer. Offer a variety of breakfast and light lunch options, such as a variety of eggs, pastries, salads and small sandwiches.
Our Chef Avi put together a valuable infographic that can give you even more ideas on what to serve at your event! With step-by-step recipes!