Lessons Learned in the Last Thirty Years:
- Never try a new recipe for the first time on your guests
- Start small. Entertain with snacks and small dinners before tackling a formal dinner party
- Always start off with small groups of really good friends
- Unless you can afford to hire help, focus on food that can be prepared ahead
- Know your guests. It is so much better to know about food allergies and preferences before you start to plan
Before you start planning:
- Check all your equipment beforehand
- Check local stores to see what is actually available.
- If something has to be special ordered, find out how much lead time the vendor will require and if there is a minimum order. ( ie… you might not want to have to buy an entire wheel of a specialty cheese )
- Count your dishes and silverware before you start to invite people.
- Make sure that you either have nice table linens or a tested creative alternative
Any plan should include the following
- Money Matters – money cannot buy love or friendship, but it will determine what you can put on the Menu
- Menu – with of course tried and true recipes with ingredients you can actually buy in your area
- Use a variety of equipment…..ie you are courting disaster if everything on the menu has to be done in the oven Note: This includes the pots and pans you need.
- Set the ambiance – do your decorating and have your music ready before hand
- Timing – have at least a rough idea of when all the little tasks need to be done.
- Refrigeration space available- surprisingly, this is the one most commonly overlooked
- Unless you can afford help, make sure you give yourself time to actually spend with your guests
Tips for Keeping the Money on Track
- Use locally grown and produced food, in season if possible
- Only buy what you need. For instance, you might only need one red pepper for that stir fry, not a kilo
- Don’t put a lot of heavy courses in one menu. Nobody will be able to finish the meal, no matter how wonderful
Menu Planning 101
- Play to your audience.
- Mix up flavours and colours with each course
- Don’t run two heavy courses back to back
- Remember to consider how you want to decorate the dishes for each course.
- Be realistic about your skill level … and that of any volunteers that are working with you. It will be easier to find help next year if the experience is a positive one.
- Always have a plan B, like a pan of lasagna in the freezer.
- Regional or National Foods
- Seasonal Holiday – No shortage of these
- Literary – foods from your favourite author
- Ethnic Celebrations
- Historical – such as the Victorian era or a Medieval Feast
- Go back to basics with a Classic Menu