Planning a party can be a hectic and whirlwind event. Choosing a location, décor, theme and guest list can turn even a casual party into an all-consuming event. However, the most difficult aspect of planning any party has to be the menu planning. The goal in planning a party menu is to choose items that guests will enjoy while staying within the budget. Without proper aim, this process can go awry, leaving guests with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Write down the basics such as the type of meal to be served, formality, budget, serving style, theme and who will prepare the food. This will help guide your party menu by eliminating items that will not fit or may be impossible for the situation. If you are undecided about some of these points, writing down the possibilities will help keep you focused.
Consider any possible food restrictions that your guests may have. Common concerns are vegetarian guests and guests with allergies. Try to offer a few meat-free and hypoallergenic foods to err on the side of caution–even if these are only side items.
Plan the main course first with your list of requirements and restrictions in mind. For inspiration of main courses, search through culinary magazines, peruse cookbooks, shop locally and use seasonally fresh foods. If serving the food buffet-style, it is also important to consider how well the food will hold up over time under constant low heat.
Choose a few appetizers or first courses that complement the main course. If you are serving a lamb main course, do not first serve a heavy meat appetizer or soup. Instead, consider pastries, vegetables or white meats.
Decide whether to serve a dessert. If so, consider the main course. If the meal was heavy, try a lighter course. Using the same example, a lamb course may warrant a fig tart or cherry cobbler. If the meal was light, then consider a heavier dessert. Also consider a possible theme. If serving wild Pacific salmon, continue with the northwestern theme and serve a huckleberry bread pudding.
Choose several beverages that complement the meal well. For heavy German foods, offer German beer. For Japanese cuisine, serve sake. For traditional American food, there is nothing like a cola. For the best standby, talk to a local sommelier and pick up several nice bottles of wine.
- To prevent an allergic reaction, inform your guests of all ingredients in your menu.