In my last post, Catering, I promised to let you in on the top 5 At-Home Catering Secrets you can use to throw a remarkable dinner party. Always true to my promises, here you go…
Secret #1: Hire Culinary Princess Catering
Yes, this is a shameless plug, but can you blame me? Since this blog so happens to be written by the owner of Culinary Princess Catering, I have it on good authority that their food is awesome! Culinary Princess Catering currently offers hot and cold entrees and hors d’oeuvres cooked on site and/or delivered within the Greater Los Angeles Area. Not limited to just at-home gatherings, we offer culinary and serving options for large and small parties and events as well. Want great food everyday, but don’t want to cook? We also offer personal meal planning and preparation, including recipes that account for special dietary concerns (weight loss, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, just a picky eater etc.). We will work with your budget and your vision of a desired outcome to produce quality, scrumptious food that you and your guests will love. For more information, please contact Aleya at Aleya@CulinaryPrincessCatering.com. I look forward to taking care of your culinary needs in true princess style!
Secret #2: Plan, Double-Check and Re-Plan
A flawless event is not only one where the guests enjoy themselves, but is one where you as the planner enjoys yourself. One of the ways to minimize time in the kitchen, running to the store or crying in the cupboard is to plan ahead. Two weeks before the event, plan your menu and create your ingredients list (see Secret #2). Be sure to take any special dietary restrictions of your guests into account. One way to avoid your friend’s new boyfriend (who she really hopes is “the one”) from blowing up like Will Smith in Hitch is to ask on the response card (or e-vite) for your guests to include any food allergies. This may seem a bit much, but you would be surprised at the things people claim to be allergic to nowadays (allergic to all meat, chocolate and dairy? Are you allergic to fun too?).
Pre-shop using your ingredient list to determine prices and quantities. Current ingredient prices may come as a shock and cause you to adjust your menu or recipes according to your budget. It is better to adjust two weeks out rather than the night before. Don’t get discouraged or try to buy outside of your means. Keep it simple and you and your pocket-book will be happier. Besides physically going to the store, one great way to pre-shop is online. For example, if you sign up for Vons.com online shopping, you can see realistic prices without having to get out of your jammies. Remember, buying in bulk will save you money, but only if you have a sufficient number of guests to consume the food you buy. Don’t buy 25 lbs of steak because it is a deal at Costco if you only have 4 people coming over (unless they are NFL players or something). Contrary to popular belief, some “healthy” stores actually have better prices than your normal grocery store and would be worth checking out first. I am not talking about Whole Foods (better known as Whole Paycheck) or Gelson’s. Think more like Trader Joe’s and Sprouts. Another great place to get inexpensive, but good food is your local Farmers Market.
Don’t forget to include beverages, cooking tools, disposable items and garnish in your budget. It is the little things that can add up and bite you in your you-know-what when it comes time to actually make the purchase. Come prepared to the grocery store with a list that has everything you need and use the will power I know you have to avoid picking up anything that is not on the list (yes, even that chocolate. Go on, put it down).
Secret #3: Have an “Ohh-Ahh” Menu
People can eat chicken with peas and mashed potatoes any day of the week. Why not make Braised Chicken with a Chimichurri Sauce, Pommes Duchess and Légumes Glacés? Sounds better, doesn’t it? It will taste better too. All you did was add a simple sauce, pipe your mashed potatoes into little flowers (super easy) and toss your veggies in butter and a bit of sugar. Getting your guests excited about the food you prepare doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Don’t try to duplicate the most complicated Julia Child recipe you can find so that your sister-in-law will finally concede that your cooking is better than hers. First of all, that is just plain petty and you two should find a more constructive way to deal with your differences. Second of all, over extending yourself will probably blow up in your face (possibly in a quite literal fashion) and leave you the one with the feigned look of indifference at your sister-in-law’s next flawless dinner party. Keep it simple, but add small variations that provide enough of a kick to wipe that smug look off of a certain family member’s face.
Your menu should include:
- Appetizers (even if just a cheese and fruit plate or Plateau de Fromages if you wanna get fancy)
- A main protein with a sauce (Ex would be the lovely Braised Chicken with a Chimichurri Sauce that you were getting ready to google)
- A starch (Pommes Duchesse, Bree from Desperate Housewives or frazzled and overwhelmed like Miranda from Sex and the City? For this situation, Bree would be a wise choice. Remember, a dinner party is more than just about the food; it is about an experience. You want to have the time to enjoy the experience with your guests and avoid stressing out in a kitchen. Cleaning as you go will also allow you more time laughing about college memories in the dining room and less time cursing out baked-on food in the kitchen.
Secret #5: Don’t Go with the Flow, Have the Flow Go with You
Wouldn’t it be a shame to have a gorgeous menu planned out, break out your highly-coveted Louboutins, sear your meat to perfection and then realize that you don’t have enough plates to serve the sit-down meal you had planned? I think I just shed a little tear for you in that unfortunate hypothetical situation. The good news is that you can avoid mishaps like that by realizing you are in control of the flow of food at your dinner party. Although you may not like the idea of a steam table buffet line, self-service may be a wise choice if you don’t have enough plates for all courses. If your heart is set on showing off the presentations skills you learned from my blog (hehe), there are several places that will rent plates at a reasonable price.
Besides making sure to have the necessary supplies, timing is critical to your successful party. Make sure to strategically time and position appetizers, salad, main course and dessert so that they work with the space you have available and don’t leave guests wanting. If you are a planning to be a one person show, be sure that the food is kept at the proper temperature during courses. Setting a tentative schedule guideline may also be effective in keeping your party running smoothly.
I wish you the best of success at your future dinner party! Yes, I do expect an invite
Show your guests what you got, make it look easy and stay blessed TCP Friends!