'Tis the season - for buffets! I've been wanting to talk about this topic for quite a while, and there's no better time then now. As we start entertaining, gathering and eating our way through the holidays a few small tips and tricks about setting up the perfect buffet will help your party flow smoothly and remove some of your party stress.
I happen to LOVE planning menus. It's one of my favorite things to do. Back when Saturdays were my day off I would sit down and plan out my full week of recipes, my grocery list and my prep for the week. I actually tend to over-plan, but when it comes to planning a party there is no such thing as being over-prepared. I hope these little tidbits about planning a buffet will come in handy as you start planning holiday and New's Year's party's, gathering with the ones that you love! And if you don't love them...well, feed them good food anyways :)
As a former event planner, it's always surprised me that we don't share menu planning knowledge anywhere that we can. It's awfully difficult entertaining at home, trying to decide not only the menu, but what to make and how much of it to make. I'm here to share some good news - there is a formula! Here are some easy, straight-forward guidelines to use next time you are planning your party.
For an Hors d'oeuvres party:
It's really easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning a menu. But try to rein yourself in, Rudolph!! Remember, you still have to make the food, set up and entertain. And then there's the clean up... Make it easier on yourself. For real, everyone. No one will miss that one extra item that you felt like you had to add in. Spend quality, thoughtful time on your menu and add in some simple, special touches and everyone will still leave talking about how great the food was and your sanity will still be intact.
Here is a quick guideline of how many different types of items to serve:
· Up to 25 guests: 4-6 selections
· 25-50 guests: 6-8 selections
· 50+: 8-12 selections
But how do you decide what to make? There's a formula for that, too! I'm here to help - and share a little industry knowledge that's usually kept a closely guarded secret. Well, the SECRET is out! And your party just got easier!!
Use the selection guideline from above, plus the category list below and you're halfway there! You can mix and match how many from each category below, but this should help act as a general guideline to help you work out a great party menu. I've also included a few great ideas and recipes to get you
started. Just click on the recipe title to go to the recipes for easy, no-fuss menu planning.
· Fruits, Veggies & Cheese: Fruit, Veggie and Cheese Trays, Beet & Goat Cheese Bites, Stuffed Strawberries, Baked Brie stuffed with Apricots, Walnuts & Honey, Grilled Rainbow Peppers with Herbed Cream Cheese · Starched Based Apps: Bruschetta, Crab Rangoon, Chicken & Green Chili Empanadas, Asparagus & Gruyere Tart · Meats/Proteins: Gingered Beef Skewers, Huli Huli Chicken Wings, Firecracker Shrimp · Snacks: Cheese Puffs, Cheese Crackers, nuts, chips, popcorn, pretzels. · Dips & Spreads: Babaganoush, Cheese Fondue, Chutney Cheese Ball, Gruyere & Bacon Dip, Parmesan Tuiles with Mushroom Mousse · Desserts: Classic Chocolate Truffles, Cortney's Sour Cream Cut Outs
Ok - so now you know WHAT you're making. It's time for the next formula - HOW MUCH? Now you can simply take the amount of guests and multiply it with the guideline below and you know exactly how much you need to make. As a reminder 16 ounces = 1 pound.
· For a basic hors d'oeuvres party you can plan on 2-3 pieces of each appetizer served. For heavy hors d'oeuvres plan on 5-6 per person.
· Deciding on trays and meats break down by weight in a pretty straight-forward way:
o Plan on 3 ounces of meat per person.
o For fruits, veggies and cheese plan on 4 ounces per person.
· For desserts: Mini Desserts 3-4 per person, Cake or Pie .75 pieces per person.
Here are some great tips and suggestions that I've learned over the years to make life easier:
· Everything should not go out on the buffet at once. Hold some items back for refilling. This way you can continually refill as things empty and it always looks full.
· Have the items that you are refilling plattered up and ready to go. And I mean READY TO GO! Put a fruit tray together, with the dip in a bowl and a SPOON IN THE DIP and tongs on the tray! Wrap it all up with plastic wrap. That way when you take the old tray way and replace it with the new you aren't searching for utensils in the middle of the party. You can also hand it off to someone to set out for you and know that they have everything that they need.
· Keep a reserve of something that you can throw together fast - have sour cream and Greek seasoning? You have an emergency veggie dip. Yogurt, brown sugar and oj- emergency fruit dip! Keep an extra baguette and crackers back and you have a great filler if things start running out fast. Be creative and DON'T panic.
· You will never have enough meatballs, shrimp or strawberries. Just come to terms with it now. You will probably run out and that's OK!!
· Be efficient with your time. Pick the right amount of items and make them in bulk. This will streamline the amount of work you have to do and make your prep time more efficient. Fill in with snack items, bread and crackers.
I leave you with this - nothing ever goes perfectly. We are not perfect. We are not meant to be perfect. Embrace the fact that a few things might not go the way you want them to. And then let it go. The stress that you feel will transfer to your party and it's a downer, man! A simple "Wow, those meatballs were SOOO good that they're all gone!" will suffice. You don't need to make excuses for why you ran out of meatballs (mostly because Uncle Ted snarfed down 20 of them). And you don't need to feel bad about it. Replace those meatballs with one of your backup trays of something else, and go ENJOY your party. You deserve it!!
P.S. Stay tuned for more blog post like this one, explaining planning, serving and feeding a family or a crowd. I have lots to say and many more great tips and ideas coming your way soon!