Kitchen Talk - The French Lunch Blog — appetizer
5 Christmas Catering Tips to Keep You Organized
Christmastime can be quite hectic. Especially if you're planning a Christmas event that includes catering — always plan ahead to avoid the holiday rush, no matter the size of your event, venue, or guest list. We've written this article to help you avoid any potential party disasters. Here are five major tips to remember when organizing your 2017 Christmas party.
1. Write out your guest list in advance. Know how many guests you're inviting well before your event, and try not to make too many changes to it. This will help you keep control of your expenses, especially if you have a budget to stick too. Send out invitations well in advance so that your guest list stays concrete.
2. Figure out your venue. Where will the event take place? Your home, a banquet hall, your company's headquarters, your store, a public institution, or elsewhere? What's the maximum capacity of the venue, and what safety features does it have? This is very important if you're inviting more than 20 guests. Fitting too many people into too small an area is just asking for trouble. Not only will your venue be unsafe, but your guests will end up unhappy.
3. Search for a reputable caterer with a decent turnaround time. Only hire licensed caterers that can actually produce a license for you if you ask them to (of course!). A licensed kitchen equals safe dining, and you definitely don't want to get your guests sick. No caterer should be cooking out of a house's basement, that's for sure!
Turnaround times should be set at a minimum of 48 hours. This allows for the freshest possible meals in a short time frame. Any more, and your party will be running late. Any less, and the caterer might not be able to guarantee the quality (or appearance) of your catered meals.
4. Use decorative Christmas platters to keep guests entertained. If children will be attending your event, you'll certainly want to keep them happy, or risk dealing with a lot of cranky kids. Stressed-out parents, too. Crêpe, chocolate fondue, smoked salmon, or meat platters, as well as cheeseboards, are a great way to please guests until the hot entrée arrives.
It's also possible to create an impressive, Christmas-themed buffet for colleagues and business partners out of platters. Some foods can be stylized into your company's logo, complete with festive holly, miniature Christmas trees, and wreath signs labeling each food on the walls. All of this serves to emphasize your company's professionalism, and increases brand awareness. They'll remember your grandiose feast and compare it to other ones next Christmas!
5. Create a schedule for your event and stick to it. At most Christmas events, guests will be drinking and merrymaking, which is what you want to happen, of course. But don't let this merrymaking get in the way of your serving times. Always set a clear beginning and end time for your event — not just for your sake, but for everyone's. A lot of us linger around because we feel awkward leaving before everyone else.
That doesn't have to be the case. Especially at a professional or formal event. Think carefully about when your guests will be networking — when appetizers are served, or after dessert? — and take it from there. You can even appoint a specific time for introductions, say, 30 minutes before the event.
Divide your event into three categories: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Then allot minutes to each. When will you serve appetizers, and how long will they be out for? Do this for each meal. The more control you have over the experience, the more enjoyable your guests will find it.
Follow these steps, and your future Christmas parties are bound to go smooth & be swell.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas,
— French Lunch
5 Things You Need to Ask Your Caterer
If you're in need of catering for a large event you planned from ground-up, you'll need a reliable caterer to help you plan the culinary side of your event, from portion sizes to courses, dietary needs, and delivery. These five major questions will help you get started on figuring out what you need to know about your potential caterer.
1. Will your meals match the formality of my event? A pretty straightforward question. Determine how formal your event is. If your event is a birthday, baby shower or bridal party with a business casual, or more informal dress code and venue, you can get away with serving junk foods. But an engagement party, networking event, or corporate meeting will require more formal fare.
Meals that require utensils are generally a good idea. You'll want to keep your hands free of food for handshakes, after all. But you'll have to account for extra forks, knives, plates, and other kitchenware, unless your caterer provides those things at an extra cost. Never use paper or plastic utensils for formal events.
2. How flexible are you? Is your caterer willing to adapt to your dietary requirements? Reputable caterers will offer you gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, and vegetarian options. In terms of deadlines and delivery, reliable caterers will provide you with an exact turnover time for standard orders, the minimum being 48 hours. Some caterers will even provide free delivery to certain areas, like French Lunch does.
3. How is the food being prepared? Ensure that the food your caterer is preparing is being prepared fresh, and separately from other foods, if you're worried about allergies. Every reputable caterer will do this once you notify the business of your dietary requirements. As mentioned above, caterers will ask for notice 24 to 48 hours prior to your event, for enough prep time.
4. Is the food coming from a licensed kitchen? Your caterer should be licensed. The food you are purchasing should not be coming out of an unlicensed kitchen, but a proper shop or restaurant, owned or rented. Licensing is done by government institutions, and guarantees the cleanliness and safety of freshly-prepared foods. You don't get any of these guarantees when you choose an unlicensed caterer cooking out of a household's kitchen. Remember, you are liable for any illness that result from an unlicensed kitchen's food at your event.
5. How much time do you need? How quickly do you need your caterer to deliver? Most formal fare requires at least 48 hours of cooking time if you want the freshest meals possible. For example, French Lunch has to marinate and slow cook the meats found in coq au vin and beef provençale for at least 24 hours, so we ask for an advance notice of 48 hours.
Ultimately, catering is a fun experience that allows you to enjoy food that you wouldn't normally eat. After all, the average catering service is licensed and follows strict regulations. You'll have to go out of your way to find one that fails to meet your standards.
Are you located in the Greater Toronto Area? Need catering in Oakville, Mississauga, or Burlington? We'll make it easy for you. Try French Lunch Catering today!
4 Appetizers to Try Before Dinner
We're sure that you'll enjoy these appetizers (hors d'oeuvres if you're French) even if you're no gourmet buff. With that said, let's begin!
Blini with Red Caviar & Sour Cream. We know what you're thinking. Caviar on a tiny Russian pancake? But why? This gourmet starter dates back to imperial times, when it was served in czars' palaces. Eventually, the dish found its way into France — no surprise there, considering how close the two countries were in the late 19th century. Our blini can be defrosted and heated up easily. Ready within 30 seconds!
Potatoes au Gratin with Porcini. This tasty potato-mushroom pie (made with Italian porcini mushrooms) can be eaten by itself, but we've chosen to turn it into a starter instead. Gratin refers to the browned crust on any French dish, which is composed of breadcrumbs, cheese, and sometimes eggs and butter. Eat before or with stews like coq au vin!
Escargots with Butter. As a French food shop, if there's one item that has to be on our menu no matter what, it's this one (duh!). Here we have traditional Helix shells stuffed with butter, garlic, parsley, red peppers, and salt. If it's your first time eating escargot, you may need a drink to go along with it. Preferably alcoholic. 😉
Pacific Salmon Stuffed Shell. Stuffed shell foods are found all across European gourmet. Escargot is one unique example. This starter is more conventional, but just as good. The stuffed shell's plain name hides its true nature as a flavour-packed dish, with white wine, vegetables, shrimp, potatoes, Swiss and mozzarella cheeses coming together in a lightly spiced salmon pie. Squirt a bit of lemon juice on top and serve!
What's your favourite starter? Is it on this list? In any case, we hope our picks inspired you to try one of these fine hors d'oeuvres in the future. Drop by 187 Cross Avenue and chat with us any time. We love seeing new faces!
Before you leave, please consider voting for us. We've been nominated as Best New Business/Store 2016/2017 by the Oakville Beaver's Readers' Choice Award panel. Voting has already begun. 😄
Until next time...
Au revior (we look forward to feeding you),