Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So you want to serve something... Party Planning Crash Course Part 3

Alright then, we will be needing something to eat and drink at this party of ours. Whether you have ten or a hundred people coming to a party, you need to create a menu and the food and service ware in advance. If you are a novice at this sort of work, I suggest you consider committing to this at the time the guest list is created and simultaneously drawing up a work list for yourself against a set timeline.

Here are a few tips for first time do it yourself hostesses after you have set a budget for your spending:

1. Create a manageable menu.
a. If you are alone on party day, consider buffets of food served at room temperature which is small enough for appetizer plates or pretty napkins: You will not run out of oven space, burn things, or have to run around with a canape tray.
b. account for your time in a realistic way: Determine how much you can realistically prepare in advance and freeze, cook in the days and hours before advance, and what should be purchased.
c. Be sure you have enough food and emergency fillers (Cheeses, charcuterie, breads, bread sticks, and crackers. If something goes wrong, these will save you a world of heartbreak.
d. As a rule of thumb, plan for 4 to 6 hors d'oeuvres per person. The less the food displayed, the more hors d'oeuvres you will need. If small desserts are planned,
I plan for two servings per person (I can always wrap up the leftovers and send them with the last guests).
e. If you are on a very strict budget, consider more fruit and veg than meats, cheeses, and fishes or use a cost club to help offset these higher costs.
f. Determine what drinks will be served: Liquor is a significant draw on the budget and I am not a fan of stocked bars unless a caterer is involved with a bartender and liability insurance. It easier and more efficient and cost effective to have a signature drink and/or a punch as well as well drinks (beer, wine, soft drinks, bottled water). Just remember: setting up a bar, mixing punch, and heating ciders takes time for which you will also need to account.

2. Determine how all these items will be served and cleared. You may find you need to reassess the guests and/or menu based on these circumstances:
a. do you have enough room to display all the food you want to serve and allow the guests to move about comfortably at the same time?
b. how many plates, glasses, serving plates, and linens you own and your budget to rent those you don't
c. how much space you have to place these items next to buffets and bars and whether you have room for a bussing table which will make an easy location for guests to place their used items once finished with them
d. your ability to manage used plates and glasses which must be removed right away from whatever odd place the guests have selected to place them.

3. Make a list of the rentals you will need: Dishes, glasses, serving platters, coffee services, bars, heating ovens, linens, tables, chairs. Many party rental companies have websites you can review and a seemingly endless array of beautiful touches for your event. Dish and glass rentals make clean up a breeze since only dishes need rinsed before returning. They will also deliver and pick up for an extra fee. Book as far in advance as you can.

4. Consider whether you need to hire help for that day: Servers, kitchen hands, bartenders, babysitters all need to be booked well in advance. While it pays to make contact with a hard working teenager or two in the neighborhood who can work in the kitchen or sit, caters can arrange for bartenders, cooks, and professional servers or you can contact a local favorite restaurant to see if any of their personnel are interested in a side job on a night off from the restaurant. Based on the help you have been able to secure, review your menu plan once again to be sure it remains manageable.

Returning now to our Tree Trimming Open House, the menu has thus far seen seven iterations and will still likely see a fourth passed selection (one fell out when my trial on turning Alinea's Bacon, Apple, Butterscotch literally went up in a blaze of haute glory) as well as a flushing out of the Milk and Cookie Display (easy to make ahead and freeze). Not to mention changes which will occur when our family reviews the food plan, which, for the Hostess is the stress equivalent of a thesis defense since we are serious foodies and/or partyers. We are considering the following as our menu:


1. Marinated Mini Antipasto Skewers
2. Mango and Chicken Jerk Tostones
3. Stuffed Mushrooms with Crab and Porcini


1. Savory Palmier, Homemade Breadsticks and Pretzel Display with Pepper Buttermilk Dip and Hummus
2. Spiral sliced Black Forest Ham with Rosemary and Cheddar Biscuits, Peach Chutney,
Mustard Assortment
3. Beef Tenderloin on Caper Butter Crostini with Horseradish Sauce
4. Hasselback Fingerling Potatoes with Blue Cheese Dip
5. Skewered Grilled Pineapple and Bacon Display
6. Shallot Thyme Cheesecake and Crispy Flatbreads
7. Cheese and charcuterie board

Photo: Martha Stewart Living

Dessert Table:

1. Red Velvet Cake
2. Milk and Cookie Display

Photo: Domino


Photo: Martha Stewart Living

1. Red and white wine, rose champangne
2. Punch and Broken Leg Cocktails
3. Soft drinks and bottled waters
4. Coffee service

Photo: Martha Stewart Living

No comments: