Party Pointers: Buffet Party Planning

Buffet Party Planning–

  • Buffet portions are usually smaller than sit-down meal portions because the guests are offered more choices. So if the recipe says, “serves 10,” you will probably get more servings out of it for a buffet.
  • Don’t offer food that needs to be cut with a knife—forks only. If it is not a seated buffet, it is very awkward to try to cut meat on a plate in your lap.
  • Make your food selections bite-size.
  • Food should be easy to manage with the least amount of silverware if any
  • Balance mild and strong-flavor foods, crispy and creamy-textured.
  • Plan around local produce and seasonal foods—don’t skimp on quality and avoid repeating similar-flavor dishes.
  • Tong may be helpful to get food from platters to your guests’ platters
  • Allow for variety of colors, textures, flavors
  • Have at least one vegetarian dish and something for guests with food allergies
  • Avoid mayonnaise—use vinaigrettes or fresh salsas
  • If serving pasta, use chunky shapes like raviolis and penne, and avoid long pastas such as fettuccine.
  • If serving meat, make sure it is tender, boneless, skinless, and cut into bite-size pieces
  • Avoid messy sauces
  • Choose foods that are either good at room temperature or that won’t overcook if kept continuously hot over a warming device
  • Hot foods should be kept 140 degrees or warmer; cold foods 40 degrees or colder.
  • Room temp foods shouldn’t be on table longer than 2 hours
  • Buffet portions are generally smaller than portions for a sit-down dinner since there are more choices
  • If children will be present, have several foods that are appealing to them
  • Make certain when you put out a sliced loaf of French, Italian, or artisan’s bread, make sure you slice all the way through. When a guest is balancing a plate in his/her hand, it is extremely awkward to reach for a piece of crusty bread and end up pulling up the entire loaf.
  • If some of your guests want to bring something to the party, let them. Perhaps some sort of appetizers or dessert would be the easy suggestions.
  • A nice surprise at a buffet is a soup that can easily be easily drunk when served in small mugs.
  • Make sure the greens in salads are cut or torn into small pieces
  • Pick-up desserts are the best—cookies, brownies, mini-cakes
  • Food colors, textures and shapes are the key visual elements in making a buffet display beautiful.
  • Alternating or repeating food shapes and heights adds visual interest; cubes, cylinders, spheres, and pyramids are just some of the shapes food can assume.
  • Give platters a focal point; the focal point introduces a large shape into a field of smaller shapes on a platter. Garnishes are most effective when they offer information about the food instead of simply adding color.
  • Pay attention to a platter’s layout—asymmetrical arrangements tend to look natural, while symmetrical arrangements look formal.
  • Go for contrasts like red tomato peel roses on beds of leafy green kale; julienne cut carrots with half moon cuts of zucchini and summer squash
  • Arrange food on platters in strong, clean lines. Lines arrange food neatly and can be straight, curved or angled. When you repeat a line, you have created a pattern. The more evenly spaced the lines, the more obvious the pattern. In order to have a line, you need a starting and ending point.
  • Precut cheeses and desserts and have them at separate stations which gives the impression of more food and will isolate an expensive item from the main traffic area.
  • Smaller plates means more trips to the buffet, which means guests, especially women, will be inclined to eat less. Smaller wine glasses will stretch your bar stock.
  • Arrange platters so that it doesn’t appear that the food is overflowing. Guests will still be able to get what they want, of course, but they’ll naturally hold back if they think the people coming behind them may be shortchanged.
  • Arrange the buffet from main entrée to desserts. That keeps people from loading up on one heavy item, only to find out when they get to the end there’s something else from that category that’s like an equal amount of. And, because the entrée is what you should have the most of, you want it at the beginning of the line: people don’t always make it to the end.
  • To be sure you have enough food, prepare at least one extra portion of each dish for every six guests.

Warming and Cooling of Foods

How to keep food warm:

  • Warming candles, canned liquid fuel, alcohol lamps, and chafing dishes are the most common equipment used to keep feel warm on the buffet table.
  • You can use electric warming trays or single heating units which can also be used to cook food at the buffet table—remember that this equipment must be used close to an electrical outlet and might best be used on a one-sided buffet table that is pushed up against a wall.
  • You can make your own heaters, using clay or glass bricks surrounding canned fuel. You can also wrap clay bricks in foil, heat them in the oven, put a heatproof pad under each brick for protection of the table, lay a decorative cloth over it, and place the platter directly on top.
  • Another alternative is to use a butane canister fuel stove, which has regulated heat from low to high and can be used for cooking as well as warming.
  • Covered chafing dishes or casseroles are also very helpful in keeping their contents hot.
  • For easiest serving, have foods cut into individual servings when possible. Slices or wedges of a main course could be positioned on lemon leaves or in lettuce cups. Individual cookies or dessert bars could be served in folk or paper bake cups so they’re easy to pick up.

How to keep food cold:

  • Chill the platters and bowls for cold foods in the refrigerator before the party.
  • Sit the plate or bowl of cold foods in a larger tray or bowl of ice
  • Freeze an ice ring with a large center of colored water with or with edible flowers in it—then you may place cold foods or drinks inside the ice ring.
  • Only plate what is to be eaten in a short amount of time and replenish often.

Beverages and Bars

  • You may serve coffee, teas, sodas, juices, hot chocolate or other nonalcoholic drinks.
  • If your crowd is accustomed to a full bar, you should have the appropriate items set up for use. Preferred alcohols are vodka, scotch, gin, tequila, run and sometimes bourbon.
  • It is your choice to serve and you don’t need to serve a full bar unless you want to—for many parties, wine, beer and perhaps champagne are sufficient
  • For a large beer-loving crowd and a casual buffet, consider a keg and don’t forget a tap to dispense it.
  • For more than 30 guests, you should consider hiring a bartender. For fewer than 30 guests, they can serve themselves if the bar is organized and everything is in plain sight.
  • If guests sit at assigned, pre-set tables, allow 2-2.5 glasses per person at cocktail hour, in addition to a water, wine or maybe champagne glass at each place setting, If seating is open, allow a total of three all-purpose glasses per person for cocktails and a full buffet.
  • It’s also a good idea to have a large pitcher of water and water glasses available.

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