Perpetual Host: Menu Planning

Today the lovely Jessica is guest posting and sharing her knowledge about menu planning!

Every good host or hostess knows that the key to a great event is an unforgettable menu.  When I host an event, be it Thanksgiving dinner for the family or a brunch with my girlfriends, I find the menu planning process fascinating.  I take what I have found in my cookbooks, look to Pinterest to see what I have previously pinned and my favorite blogs like Roost in order to make a list of interesting (and yummy looking!) menu items.  Once I come up with a good list, I take to the process of editing my list until it is just right.  For me, a menu is complete when the theme of the meal shines through and I am confident that I am capable of pulling it off!

Menu planning can be as easy as throwing together what you have in the refrigerator and pantry, or it can be a creative process of curating a meal that will be both delicious and aesthetically pleasing.  It is really up to you as to whether this is a 5 minute or week long process and either way can yield amazing results.

Regardless of the actual time it takes, there are several key questions I ask myself when creating and editing my menu and I want to share a few of them with you today:

You may be hosting a fall party, dinner with friends on a Thursday evening, a baby shower brunch, or Christmas dinner, but from the most casual to uber-fancy, you should think about the vibe your meal is creating.

Combining complimentary flavors allows your guests to truly enjoy what many like to call ‘a party in your mouth’.  Personal preference is a perfect compass in this realm, but a general rule is always consider the balance of savory and sweet and the level of spice that each dish may or may not bring to the table.

Balancing the temperatures across menu items allows there to be a distinct difference in the foods your guests eat.  It’s as simple as serving as a spinach and strawberry salad with a roast and fingerling potatoes, or spicy shrimp tacos with chilled homemade guacamole, but the impact is great.

It may seem a trivial point, but the colors you place on your table and plate can add interest and excitement to a meal.  Think about the colors represented in this brunch menu:  French toast with cranberry apple compote, herb and tomato baked eggs, blueberries and a citrus fruit spritzer – white, yellow, blue, orange, red – the vibrant and varied colors represent a lively celebration with friends.

If each recipe in your menu calls for 10 different ingredients, it’s too complex!  Keep it simple when possible and if you seek a culinary challenge, choose one or two dishes that you have never tried before.  Understand the realistic amount of time it takes to make each dish and ensure that you have ample time to clean up (and shower!) before your guests arrive.

What are your favorite menu combinations?  Do you have a ‘go-to’ list of menu items that you like to pull out for special occasions or an evening in with friends?

October 25, 2012