Step one in planning a dinner party is usually the guest list. Although I am the first to admit that I can think of delicious food more than people at times, it is crucial to keep in mind your guests preferences, the atmosphere you want to create for them, and the reason you are gathering them together when planning a menu.
I am hosting a somewhat impromptu team bonding dinner for my frisbee team. I decided that the end of the season is drawing near, but we still feel like a group of people who have just met, and it is time to do something about it.
Guest preferences: Absolutely no clue. However, unlike most of my parties, the guest list is 100% American, so I don’t know how they will feel about my typical outlandish international cuisine.
Desired impression/atmosphere: I have to admit, I am looking to impress without it look like I am trying too hard.
Reason for gathering: Get to know each other better.
Because of my complete lack of knowledge about my guest’s food preference, I am in a bit of a pickle. I first thought that I should stick with something unadventurous, maybe soup, salad, some sort of pasta, dessert. Then I thought – wait a minute, that is so not me. Whether or not you are looking to impress your guests, it is always important to cook something that expresses your cooking style.
Important menu considerations:
- How long do you want the dinner to last?
- How much time do you have to prepare?
- How many courses do you want to serve? (This ties in with the first question)
- Does the group have a prevalent cuisine preference that you can cater to?
- What do you have in stock?
- Is there a reason to show off with some fancy, crowd-wowing dishes?
- Do you have a unifying them or element to integrate your dishes together?
- Are you making all tried-and-true recipes or can you throw in something new?
For this week, I decided that a longer dinner is better in this case (to a point). The dinner is at seven, so I have an hour and a half tops to prepare. Since I don’t know what the group will like and will be a bit short on time, I am going to play to my strengths and make some South Asian dishes.
I have a lot of vegetables in stock from my farm share that would make a great salad. Since I want to stick a bit to what I know I do well, I will concentrate on some coastal Indian curries and mix in a couple Balinese elements with similar spice bases. I’m going to keep the apps, salad, and vegetables to recipes I make often, but I think this is a great time to try making a fish curry and bust out my new gelato maker.
I definitely want to have hors d’oeuvres so guests have something to chat over while people are arriving. I am not sure whether I want to break things into courses or bring everything out at once, but I think I will see how things are going on the day itself and decide accordingly based on how strong the conversation is.
After working through the questions above , I ended up with the following menu:
- Balinese fried bananas with sweet & spicy yogurt dip
- Gado-gado (vegetable salad with balinese peanut sauce)
- Ghevda (maharashtrian green beans)
- Matar usal (maharastrian pea curry)
- Gule ikan bali (balinese fish curry)
- Steamed rice
- Mango gelato with fresh basil and coconut
Keep up with the party planning with the next post in the series!