Raise the Steaks: Catering to taste

You’ve probably been to a party with a fancy spread of appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, and various spreads. You scan the wide selection, you pick and peck while standing next to the host, then when you are alone with the food, you check your peripherals to make sure no one is looking and you gorge yourself on the crab puffs, dips, and cheeses.

Now it’s your turn to host, and you want to impress, without breaking the bank. Two hundred lobster tail starters are a little out of the budget, but potato chips and sour cream and onion dip isn’t fancy enough for the occasion.

Start simple. As with almost anything in life, finish strong. When your guests finish eating, they should walk away saying, “That was some of the best [_____], I’ve ever had in my life” or “Did you try the [_____], Unbelievable”. If you start out with the star of the show or go big to start, everything they eat after that will pale in comparison. So, to avoid that, start with the classics.

Beginning with bite-sized

Ditch the dull dips, go for something that people are comfortable with, and accessible, but still desirable. Shrimp cocktails or a crudité platter are always popular. If you want the ultimate “pick-able” party starter, go for a classic or artisan cheese tray. If you want to get the most bang for your buck stick with the old favorites, some mild and sharp cheddars, some pepper Jack, throw in some pepperoni to round it out.

However, if your motto is “Give me the Gouda stuff” (I apologize for that), then an artisan cheese spread is probably the avenue for you. A mix of Point Reyes, Prima Donna, Drunken Goat, and Bella Vitano cheeses paired with dried fruits, mixed nuts, fig spread, crackers, and freshly baked baguette, give a classy style spread, options and pairings for a wide array of tastes, and needs virtually no oversight. It is a great alternative to your standard boring starting fare.

You’ve put out the snacks for everyone to nibble on as they arrive. Now comes time to do some pre-meal stretching with hors d’oeuvres. Used to warm your guests up before they step up to the literal plate, hors d’oeuvres can be used sparingly as a light appetizer, or full force as a full meal replacement. Some options can be finer finger foods, or require cutlery. For a flavorful handheld bite to eat, an egg roll filled with tender cuts of steak tip and peppers and onions, and served with a melted cheese sauce, is a great option. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, a lamb chop served with a sweet and/or spicy glaze can give the perception of elegant or high class.

The Entrée into Entrees

The entrée is the part of the meal where you can and should go full force. You will take your guests from salivating to satiated with this part of the meal. Again, a caterer who knows what they are doing can cater your meals to your specific occasion, but for the sake of this article, we will talk about some more standard sit down or plated options.

If your guests are more on the grab a bite and continue to socialize side of things, but you still want to make sure they savor every bite; A dish like chicken Florentine or a glazed carved ham can be a nice option that will satisfy most palettes.

Sometimes taste isn’t the only important thing to consider when catering an occasion. Presentation can be just as integral to making the meal. A good dish is first enjoyed with the eyes and then finished with the tongue. A roasted whole filet mignon, and then sliced to serve offers one of the most tender cuts in a beautiful presentation.

Perhaps seafood is the route you and your guests would enjoy the most; be aware that seafood (one of my favorite protein options) can often be met with mixed reactions. Not everyone loves seafood and can split your guests if that's your only option. However, if seafood will be enjoyed by your guests there are some fantastic options. A high-end crab cake made with super lump crab meat and no filler other than the dressing can be an easy fish choice. But as with any other meat, fish can be presented wonderfully as well. A whole Scottish Salmon roasted with fresh dill and spices and served with a cream sauce can look bright and gorgeous on the table.

Desserts and done

It is time to wind down the dinner with desserts. Finishing a meal with sweets gives your guests the chance to talk, rest and digest the meal. A mix of desserts such as cream puffs and eclairs, or individual cakes like a peanut butter explosion, red velvet, lemon raspberry, and Gran Mariner can take the family style dessert and make it just a little more personal and upscale.

Don’t forget the finishing touch when it comes to dessert, coffee. Almost all restaurants (of higher quality) offer coffee on their dessert menus. They pair well and give people that little extra kick after the meal so they don’t go into a food coma.

This catered party is well rounded enough to cover and pertain to a wide array of occasions. As stated previously though, sometimes an event calls for a special layout, array of options, or style; In that case, an experienced caterer can help you build and enjoy the perfect meal for your needs.

Eating is a necessary part of life; we might as well enjoy every bite.

 

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About Jon Hopkins

Jon "Doc" Hopkins is the assistant manager at The Meat House.

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