As I’m preparing for a busy spring catering season, I’m visualizing what my buffets, stations and tablesettings will look like. For many, this is overwhelming to think about and I get that. So, this post is all about giving you some visuals to reference when you’re planning your next party. It’s all about varying heights and textures which both excite the eye.
I also wanted to give you a few easy and fun recipes that I’ve been using for my own fun fêtes the last few weekends with much success. I won’t print the ones I tested on my friends that didn’t work out!
For me, decor and presentation is AS important as the food. If the table doesn’t draw you in, you’re doing something wrong. Usually what makes a table uninviting is lack of interest: everything is on one level, no color, no texture, no greenery. Contrary to what you might think, it is fairly inexpensive to decorate a WOW table.
In this first pic, the food plays center stage. All the whole veggies are saved of course to use for cooking and they really make a statement, right? Add in a few Southwestern hankerchiefs, baskets and raffia and you have an absolutely gorgeous display. Use cardboard boxes underneath your cloth for height. Carve out some butternut squash for your dips and POW:
Here is a more formal display for a similar cheese and crudité display:
With graduations coming up, some of you may be hosting a brunch. Here is a gorgeous display we did for an omelette station. All the items used to decorate this table came from my house. Yes, granted I collect a lot of odd things, but I would not be surprised if you all have similar objects scattered around your house… garage, attic, basement. Be creative and just try pairing odd items together and see how they look.
If you plan on having a few tables for your guests, REMEMBER, they don’t have to match… AT ALL.
Here are a couple of pics from a casual wedding we did at the Stow Inn. We used a mix of vintage cloths with burlap and each table had a different tablescape.
Here is a fun dessert display we did with an old French wooden farm basket. We propped it on a box and filled it to overflowing with giant farm fresh strawberries, and paired it with a Chantilly cream and brown sugar. Delightful!!
This pic was one of my favorite parties ever. It was a South African themed bar mitzvah! I got to use much of my own furniture and decor items to decorate. I love to collect unusual items from all over the world. Many of them found their place on the guest tables. Here is one of the buffet tables from that day. Monstera leaves, burlap, a small Indonesian table holding exotic fruits and flora. It was a magnificent party!
And the bar table, decorated with tall vases filled with kumquats, baby bananas and bamboo branches.
Next up, a college graduation. We plucked a few ideas from the graduate. High school and college memories, favorite music icons, college colors and we created a magnificent display that brought all these ideas to the table without making it look cheesy.
Just remember, whether it’s a simple passsing tray of hors d’oeuvres:
Or a MiddleEastern Display:
Pull those ideas out of your head and make your next party special!
Now onto the food. The same idea goes for food… multiple flavors, textures are key here. Think spicy, cool, hot, savory, sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy. Varying flavors and textures that excite the palate. This weekend, I brined some country pork ribs (salty, warm and sweet) and threw them on the grill; paired them with a spicy Pineapple Salsa (spicy, sweet, cool). I made a 3-bean salad (crunchy, sweet, salty) and a roasted cumin corn salad (spicy, crunchy). For apps, I served a warm bean dip (warm, smooth, cheesy) with a roasted chile salsa (cool, crunchy, spicy, complex) and chips. Dessert was homemade chocolate chip cookies (warm, crunchy) with ice cream (cool, smooth, creamy). It was a wild success because I planned ahead. When I put a menu together, this is how I think… I taste the recipes in my mind, all along remembering the various flavors and textures to make sure they will create fireworks in the mouth!
Molasses Brined Pork Chops
2 quarts water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bunch fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 pork chops (with bone)
Make brine: Combine ingredients in a large non-reactive pan. Stir until
salt and molasses are dissolved. Add chops to brine and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
Preheat a grill to medium. Grill chops medium to med. rare. Serve with pineapple salsa.
1 small can pineapple chunks- diced
small handful chopped cilantro
3 T. chopped red onion
1 bird chile chopped fine
½ lime- juice of
salt and pepper
Mix ingredients and let sit for at least 15 minutes or overnight.
Three Bean Salad- adapted from Verrill Farms in Concord, MA
Barely steamed cut grean beans- 1.5 cups
Kidney beans- 1 can rinsed and drained
Chick peas- 1 can rinsed and drained
¾ cup Red onion chopped
½ cup chopped Parsley
½ c. Raspberry vinaigrette
Roasted Corn Salad
1 large bag frozen white shoepeg corn
1 T. or more to taste of cumin
2 T. vegetable oil or peanut oil
1 jalopeno- chopped fine
½ red bell pepper diced
½ c. chopped cilantro
½ c. red onion
½ lime- juice from
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Heat large pan on med. high. Add oil. Heat. Add corn and sauté while turning for 1 minute. Add cumin. Continue to sauté until corn starts to turn a nice golden brown.
Cool in fridge.
Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Let flavors meld and serve.