Going Off-List

Week before last I did something I haven’t done in over 5 years: went shopping without my Menu Mailer grocery list.

For those not familiar with Menu Mailer, it’s the invention of Leanne Ely, the Dinner Diva, and features a set of dinner recipes, serving suggestions and an itemized, categorized shopping list each week. Even though I’ve got a culinary degree, am a veteran list-maker and perfectly capable of decided what to make for supper every night, it was nice to not have to make those decisions each week…

Find the rest over at Nibbles ‘n Bites!

Menu Planning

Since we talked quantity last week, let’s talk quality now!

Here are some qualities of a properly planned menu:

1) It complements the theme of the party or event.
2) The food is prepared and served properly.
3) There’s plenty of it.
4) There’s enough variety that no one feels like they should have eaten before they came or pick up something on the way home.

To achieve a good variety on your buffet, you should evaluate each item you plan to include as to where they fall on the following list:

Flavor: Salty vs Sweet
Texture: Crunchy vs Chewy/Soft
Temperature: Hot vs Cold
Composition: Meat vs Vegetable

Most items will fall in more than one category, the important thing is that there is a balance between each. Shooting for at least 2 items that fall under each (whose other categories are different from one another) is a good target. For instance, at the last event I made both bacon-wrapped artichoke hearts and chicken salad puffs. Now, both of these are meats and both of these are soft but one is hot and the other is cold plus they featured different proteins so they balanced. If I’d have served ham salad puffs instead of the chicken, we would have had our single point of difference but we also would have had two very similar protein sources, so you also have to consider what is going INTO each item and look for variety there.

Of course, there are exceptions to almost every rule. At last month’s Pumpkin Brunch I joked that I should have called it the Pork & Pumpkin Brunch as there was ham, bacon and 2 types of sausage (links and bulk) spread throughout the various dishes. But, then, I knew my guests well and–as many said–they weren’t complaining! (There were several non-pork items as well: pumpkin pancakes, an omelet station and veggie quiches.)

Sure, sometimes in an effort to ensure a good mix of options there ends up being more food than was really needed for the number of guests. In my mind, though, it’s worth it to make sure no one feels left out, especially those with dietary restrictions or just a pickier palate.