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Old 10-29-2007, 02:36 PM   #1
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Menu Inspiration Needed....

Howdy all,

I am helping a friend with a Christmas open house for her upscale spa located in an upscale hotel.

She has requested Christmas type food (very specific!) and has allowed me to develop the menu.

The event will be over 4 hours. I have no idea how many guest will pass through. She is thinking "a lot", but how many is that? My gut says to expect 60 or less.

Now, everyone has a different idea of "Christmas-y food." I have been toying with a few ideas, and an hoping someone can offer some suggestions to help get this menu in order.

Ideally, I would like to have 1 or 2 hot hor dourves, 1 cold, and a dessert.

1) Dessest - Coconut chocolate brownie, butter cream mousse, with shaved chocolate in a mini martin glass (my take on a traditional nanimo bar)

2) Selection of 2 cheese logs (one spicy, one not) with fancy crackers.

3) Warm mushroom tart


I have also been thinking about a deluxe antipasto table, which is not exactly Chistmas-y, but it would be divine! - If I went this route, I would also consider switching to a tiramisu for the dessert, presented the same way.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!



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Old 10-29-2007, 02:54 PM   #2
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Give to her sample menus that you know you can pull off. Don't do things that she wants, but you're not sure if you can do it. If she is unhappy with them for any reason, explain to her that these are items that you know you can make taste good, which is the important thing. If she's not happy with that, then she is free to go through the hotel's food and beverage department or she can contact an outside caterer for her function.

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Old 10-29-2007, 02:56 PM   #3
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It would seem one would need a great variety of hors d'oeuvre s...some hot some cold some veggie some meat some dairy some fish. will these be passed or will it be a buffet?
The antipasto idea is always good and can be made quite seasonal. There are specific items the Italians associate with Christmas. The cheese log doesn't sound upscale to me, however, a variety of fine aged cheeses may well be with excellent toasts and crackers.

But the first questions need to be answered. If it is a buffet carving boards of fine roasts be it beef turkey or ham with wonderful mustards etc might be in order. Chaffing dishes of meatballs, crab dip etc might work. Passed hds can include many of these items too but arranged quite individually.

mini kebabs with satay beef or shrimp, souvlaki or teriaki chicken. Pickled herring, caviar on chopped egg and onion, smoked salmon, gravlox, etc.

Hope these give some ideas.
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Old 10-29-2007, 03:01 PM   #4
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Before you go to any trouble, make sure the hotel will allow food from outside to be served.
Less is not more. More is more and more is fabulous.
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Old 10-29-2007, 03:02 PM   #5
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Sorry, I guess I was a bit unclear with the style of this event. People will be passing through the spa, there is no seating or meal, she would just like to have hor dourves there to help get people to stay a bit longer,and possibly purchase some goods.

As far as what I can pull off, I am pretty sure I can do anythign she asks.

I would include some impoted cheese as well with the logs, but you are right, maybe not so upscale.

And yes, she has been given the go ahead on outside food.

Thanks again for the advice & suggestions.
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Old 10-29-2007, 03:05 PM   #6
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What, exactly, is "very specific Christmas-type food"? If it's so "very specific", she must have given you some guidelines/ideas? Who does she think you are - Mrs. Claus - lol!!!! I love the holidays, but even I'd have a problem - apart from eggnog & cookies - coming up with "very specific Christmas-type food" (unless you plan on roasting a goose).

Another thing that would have me worried is her answer to your guest number query: "a lot". How are you supposed to figure a quantity out of "a lot". Depending on how "upscale" & populated the hotel & the location, a Xmas open house could, as you surmise, mean "60", or it could mean "100" or more.

I know you say she's your friend, but she ain't helping you a whole lot here. Plus, are you just helping her out with the ideas & cooking gratis, or is she paying you? Big differences that can make or break a friendship.
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Old 10-29-2007, 03:11 PM   #7
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Yes, not very specific, I know! I guess my sarcasm was lost over the net!

She really has no idea how many people may come. We are in a small town (pop 15,000) but she is well known, as is her family. I would assume she will be inviting past and present clients, family, friends etc. That being said, I will give her per piece pricing, and she can order what she likes.

As far as payment, yes, I will be paid. I am a caterer, and I have to make a living whether she is a friend or not. She knows I wouldn't expect a free massage, and in turn she wont expect free food
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Old 10-29-2007, 03:11 PM   #8
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Since it's a spa, you'd probably be best off with spa cuisine type foods.

Fresher, healthier, lower in fat, etc.
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Old 10-29-2007, 03:18 PM   #9
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Welcome to DC, Rub.

I'm not clear from your post. Are you a caterer? Do you have adequate liability insurance in case someone claims they got sick on your food? Do you have a commercial kitchen in which to prepare the food?

Most cities have very specific laws governing where food served outside your own private home may be prepared. I would be very careful to find out and observe your local regulations. It's great to help out a friend, but not at your own personal liability. These days, our society has become so litigious, you really need to protect yourself.

All that said and over with, if your friend has a "spa," does she want food that is "healthy" as well as beautiful and delicious? You might want to check that out with her before you compile your menu.
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Old 10-29-2007, 03:23 PM   #10
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Yes, I am licensed, insured and rent commercial kitchen space. That is not an issue, but I do appreciate your concern.

A am still trying to get more info from her, but as you can see, it has been quite hard. I do understand that it is a spa, and the "healthy" aspect should definately be considered. I will design a menu that is more "spa like" as well, and will let her choose. Would you have any suggestions for an alternate menu?

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Old 11-17-2007, 02:45 AM   #11
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Assuming this thread is still a happening thing, to me a Christmassy menu would include things like mince tarts, shortbread biscuits, fruit cake, frosted grapes, mini canapes (or damper or savory scones) with ham or turkey and topped with cranberries, a brandy cheese dip with crudites/crackers, sparkling wine mini-jellies, pinwheel sandwiches, smoked salmon with cream cheese on cucumber rounds, that sort of thing. (Pretty much it would have more seafood and fresh fruits if it were here but...) The "special occasion" nuts would come out also with lots of bubbly and bon-bons (or Christmas crackers - take your pick). I wouldn't be serving a cheese plate if it is over several hours as the cheeses deteriorate unless you are going to spend time checking on them and replacing them through the day.

As to the health component, I would have thought one of the big things about flogging good health is to make the things we all love and want to eat but in a healthier way. Just a suggestion.
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Old 11-17-2007, 10:30 AM   #12
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Think of what you would fix for Christmas dinner, and miniaturize everything.

Order "silver dollar rolls" (baby buns...wheat ones would be nice) from a bakery, and make little sandwiches with mayo, ham and a bit of lettuce.
Put a pick through the sandwich and stick an olive on top.

Also order miniature crescents, and make little turkey sandwiches. A healthier alternative would be to make turkey wraps with flour tortillas and slice them into rounds.
Please use real baked ham and real roast turkey for the sandwiches, not the pulverized, glued together deli stuff.

Make spinach balls...frozen spinach mixed with stuffing, rolled into balls and baked. I can give you a recipe if you need one.

Or bake dressing in miniature muffin pans. Slice jellied cranberry sauce, and cut into stars using a tiny cookie cutter. Right before serving, top each dressing bite with a star.

Make tiny pecan tarts using a miniature muffin pan.

A bowl of spiced nuts and a couple of cheese logs will be great with this.

Fill a punch bowl with warm spiced apple cider.

You could also make an hors d'ouevres tree by pinning pretty ruffled lettuce or ornamental kale to a styrofoam cone and sticking picks with assorted goodies like ham cubes, oives, cheese cubes, tiny sweet pickles, pineapple chunks or what have you, and then stick the picks into the tree. It's time consuming, but very eye-catching. If you want it to smell good, stick fresh stems of rosemary into the tree along with the goodies.
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Old 11-17-2007, 12:26 PM   #13
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I'm trying to think of things that can be both christmas-y and healthy, familiar yet fresh. It's a tough combination to think of- most of the traditional christmas foods I've grown up with have been on the heavier side. I'd say with a spa opening, you'd definitely want food that is stylish, light, and refreshing.

I think blini might be a good idea for a warm app. for you, because they can be paired with so many garnished, and they are very light, yet melt in your mouth. A christmas garnish might include a savory interpretation of cranberries; I hear cranberries and foie go well together, though that could easily become too rich.

One thing I remember from christmases growing up is making gingerbread with my grnadma. An intersting thing to do might be to make a gingerbread tuile, and form it like an ice cream cone or a piroutte, and fill with egg nog ice cream.

Shrimp cocktail always seems to be popular with my family around christmas time, but it's certainly something that's been done before. If you could find a unique interpretation on it though, it might be OK.

I'm completely out of ideas for now, but I'll be thinking about this for awhile I think. I'll let you know if I come up with anything else. Either way, it's an interesting challenge and I wish you luck.
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Old 11-17-2007, 04:42 PM   #14
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Thanks all for the replies. Yes, it is an interestign challenge. I look forward to hearing more ideas, and I will be sure to let you know the final menu.
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Old 11-17-2007, 09:19 PM   #15
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Wow!Thats tough not having an idea of how many people.Plus what is her budget?Im thinking gazpacho with avocado in shot glasses,oysters on the half shell or oyster shooters in a shot glass.My thinking is along the line of Spanish Tapas plus other items like crostini and parmesan crisps grilled polenta triangles.Belgium Endive with a creamy herby cheese.Cheese plate with some great crackers and individual grape clusters.Pita chips with red pepper hummus.Dont forget the beef and chicken possibilities maybe in a kabob form.Sauteed whole mushrooms.Marinated vegetable plate including asparagus,brussel sprouts and the other usual suspects.As for dessert as much as I hate to say it chocolate covered strawberries(always a hit) and an assortment of delicate christmas cookies and mini fruit tarts, delicate to me can also mean petite.I could go on and on.But bottom line it should be little tidbits that they can just pick up and put on a plate no cutting of salmon or cheese, dipping etc.
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Old 11-17-2007, 09:44 PM   #16
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rub, have you ever heard of the italian tradition for christmas eve called la vigilia, or the feast of the seven fishes?

traditionally, seven fishes are served (along with pastas) to represent the symbolic nature of the number seven in the catholic church. 7 days of creation, 7 holy sacraments, etc..

some people go as far as to only serve white fleshed fishes, to represent purity.

anyway, do a search; there's lots written about it. you could easily make up the type of menu you're looking for, to be served to a mobile crowd, and sell it as the italian traditional christmas eve meal.

The past is gone it's all been said.
So here's to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow you'll find better things
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