Cookout season is coming up so it might be a good time to talk about menu planning.
The most successful parties have a theme, either stated or implicit. For example, a typical backyard barbeque most likely would feature grilled burgers, dogs and maybe some ribs and chicken. Sides probably would include potato salad, cole slaw and perhaps a tossed salad.
This menu all fits together because it is thematically united. In other words, the foods all go together.
Menu planning can be the best part of any occasion because it’s fun and everybody can get involved. Coming up with great ideas and then executing them so that your guests enjoy themselves at your party is one of the most rewarding of all experiences.
Restaurants do the same thing, only on a more permanent scale. The menus restaurant chefs create are thematically united — Italian, Asian/French Fusion, All-American Grille, etc. — but the menus are repeated daily, with only minor seasonal changes and daily specials thrown into the equation.
Once your menu is planned, you can build on your creation by adding the most appropriate decorations and even music if you like.
I recently catered my brother-in-law’s birthday party at the new house my younger brother and his wife recently bought in Los Angeles’s up-and-coming Highland Park neighborhood. Because many of the guests were first-time visitors to LA, I wanted to evoke the California vegetarian tradition, but with meat as an option.
Because we were grilling outside, I immediately thought of veggie burgers and tofu hot dogs. I added hamburgers, turkey burgers and turkey dogs to the protein list, all of which were served on whole wheat burger buns.
For sides, I chose quinoa salad, smoked mozzarella pasta salad, cole slaw, macaroni salad and Asian chicken salad.
Dessert was a giant birthday cake bought from a nearby supermarket.
The party was a huge success, and the menu was extremely well received. Those people who weren’t familiar with vegetarian food enjoyed sampling California vegan cuisine, adding to their vacation adventure.
Selecting a menu that will resonate with your guests and enhance their experience at your party can turn a simple backyard get together into an event your friends and family won’t soon forget.