So you’ve decided to throw a party, and you’ve already got your table set (which we covered last time) – now you’ve got to figure out what to serve. Although creating a traditional menu can seem like a daunting task, the result is well worth it! There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you’re able to pull off the perfect, delicious, classic dinner. Bonus: you also get to eat like a queen.
Here’s what it typically entails:
The Classical Menu
- Cold hors d’oeurve. A small nibble.
- Soup. Clear, thin or thick.
- Hot hors d’oeurve. Another small nibble.
- Seafood. Any seafood item.
- Main Course. A large cut of meat, usually beef, lamb or venison. Usually served with a vegetable.
- Hot entree. Individual portions of meat or poultry, must be done differently than the previous course, specification to follow.
- Cold entree. Cold meats, pate, fish, etc.
- Sorbet. Palette cleanser.
- Roast. Yep, more meat. Usually roasted poultry and served with or followed by a salad.
- Vegetable. A special preparation of a vegetable, usually with a vinaigrette or sauce.
- Sweet. Modern day we call it the dessert, which may include cake, soufflés, puddings.
- Dessert. A cheese and fruit tray perhaps accompanied by cookies or petit fours.
Yes, it’s a lot. But yes, it’s also totally worth it. Here are a few things to remember while you’re preparing to be the perfect hostess, with the perfect menu:
1. Remember the main course. The main dish is still the centerpiece or the meal, even if a number of meats are served. Therefore, the main dish should be the most elaborate, either by size or presentation. (It would help to have a staff specifically designated to follow you into the formal dining room singing about how awesome your rump roast is.)
2. Alcohol. Generally each course is served with an alcoholic accompaniment, so don’t overlook that step! However, it can be exhausting to pick these out on your own. If you’re having a dinner party, request that your guests bring a bottle of wine then pair the wine with a course as your guests arrive! It’s a fun way to make your guests feel like they’re part of the evening, and it also saves you some money. Plus, the more booze, the better.
3. Flavors. Flavors have to complement one another but cannot be the same flavors repeated. Don’t repeat flavors! Don’t make palettes bored! Don’t serve broiled tomatoes as a hors d’oeurve and then have a tomato based sauce in the main dish (not to say you can’t use tomatoes again, they just can’t be the main component of a dish). Balance meats in the menu; don’t just have chicken and steak.
4. Textures. As with flavors, don’t repeat the same textures over and over. Don’t serve a cream based soup then a meat dish with a cream sauce. Don’t serve too much pureed foods either. Vegetables can be cut tons of ways so use it to avoid repeating textures.
5. Appearance. Variety again here. Don’t serve a plate with all white and brown food, spruce it up, you eat with your eyes first, enliven your food.
6. Balance, balance, balance. It’s important from the flavors to the textures. For example, acid and tart foods usually accompany fatty foods as it cuts the fat and resets your palette. Maintaining balance will make everything taste wonderful, and it’ll leave your guests yearning for more. (Which is fine, because they’re about to feast till they burst.)
7. Be creative. Make the dinner your own, and enjoy yourself! What’s the fun in being the perfect hostess if you’re not having a great time?