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!
French Lunch Gourmet: Choosing The Perfect Dessert
After a lavish coq au vin, it’s always delightful to end with an equally lavish dessert —perhaps one or two petit fours, an éclair, or crème brulée. French Lunch has almost as many desserts as it does main courses, and you’re bound to find something you like among our selection of gourmet European pastries, chocolates, cakes, tarts, and more. All of our desserts are imported from Europe, mainly France, and are mostly French in origin. Let’s go over them briefly.
Chocolate éclairs. A good old éclair can’t do you wrong if you’re not big on European treats, as you can get them at any grocery store, coffee shop, or restaurant these days across Canada. How do our éclairs differ? For one, we’re completely transparent about what’s inside them, all the way down to the preservatives (some are required for the éclair to keep while shipping). Main ingredients include water, sugar, eggs, and flour.
Chocolate lava cake. Warm it in the oven, slice it in half, and watch the chocolate syrup within ooze out like a mini waterfall. This is a dark chocolate-flavoured lava cake (24%) with sugar, butter, crème fraiche (a fattier version of sour cream used in France), eggs, flour, and cocoa powder. Perfect for a cold, rainy day in spring.
Lemon meringue tartlets. A tangy, yet sugary dessert that will cool you down on a hot day. The tartlet portion forms a slight crust around the cream, preventing it from sliding downwards and giving the tiny pie a neat form factor. Take one to work with you and leave it in the fridge for three hours before lunch or maybe just before your shift ends, and it’s ready to eat. Remember to put your name on it so no one steals it! Made from sugar, eggs, wheat, butter, lemon juice and almond powder.
Crème brulée. A dessert native to France, our crème brulée is from Québec, which is close enough culturally. It comes in a pack of two. This brulée is a blend of cream, egg yolks, partially skimmed milk, sugar, starch, and a packet of caramelized sugar (that red stuff on the top of the brulée). This dessert requires at least 8 hours of defrosting time in your fridge, but the wait is oh so worth it. It’s like ice cream custard. If warmed, it melts on your tongue, along with the caramelized sugar topping, and produces a heavenly taste. You will want more.
Hot chocolate soufflés. Another pack of two from Quebec, the soufflé has white chocolate and cookie crumbs inside. Defrost it in the fridge for 8 hours and warm it in the microwave. Grab a bit of vanilla ice cream to go with it and you’ll have a mouthwatering hot and cold dessert: an ice cream soufflé!
Key lime cheesecake. Separated into three lovely colours indicating cream cheese (white), key lime cream (yellow), or graham crumbs (brown), this is a rather picturesque dessert. Defrost it, grab a spoonful and see if you’ve created a neat division of layers. Try the cream cheese layer first, then the key lime, and finally, the graham. It’s more fun to eat each layer one by one so you can discover for yourself how the ingredients complement one another!
Caramel flan. In France, this dessert is also known as crème caramel, but both terms are used interchangeably. This is a soft, spongy caramel custard from Quebec in a pack of two. This is a plain dessert, as its main ingredients are cream, eggs, and caramel, but there’s a hint of coconut in there too. If you’ve eaten a spicy dish and want a light dessert to alleviate your tongue, look no further than caramel flan.
Red velvet cheesecake. Mmmm, red velvet! In cheesecake form, no less. Vibrant strawberry pureé over red velvet, with white stripes of vanilla and a little dollop of cream cheese on top. It’s a great gift to give someone (or yourself). Give it to Mom for Mother’s Day, or eat it just because. Who needs an excuse to eat a perfectly good cheesecake?
Exotic petit fours and chocolate petit fours. Petit fours are small and often, cute-looking individualized confections topped with a variety of sweet ingredients. They’re often sold in large sets, and tend to offer diners a bit of every dessert out there. Both of our petit four sets are from France, so you know you’re getting quality chocolates.
Petit fours (eight) – names and ingredients you might not know
- Far Breton: a miniature Far Breton cake, this petit four combines flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and butter with floured prunes and powdered sugar.
- Chocolate éclair: a miniature éclair!
- Praline choux: a petit four based off the Paris-Brest pastry with praline cream using choux pastry dough (the kind of dough used to make éclairs)
- Hazelnut ganache: ganache refers to icing or glaze used to fill chocolate pastries. It’s made by pouring hot cream over chocolate and then stirring it to remove all lumps.
- Fleur de sel: this literally translates to “flower of salt” and refers to sea salt. Fleur de sel is used to add more flavouring to foods, and is often sprinkled on chocolate to balance its taste.
Canelés de Bordeaux. Onto the rather noteworthy gourmet foods! Canelés de Bordeaux are round, rum-based pastries with vanilla and custard interiors and caramel exteriors. They have a unique flower-like indentation at their peaks and can be eaten during any meal of the day — including breakfast. Our French canelés are composed of sugar, wheat, rum, milk, and powdered eggs. If you want a sophisticated dessert, take these canelés home.
French macarons. Colorful and adorable, macarons are iconic these days. No French food shop is whole without them, including us — that’s why we went out of our way to import these macarons straight from France for you to enjoy. Each pack contains a dozen macarons: chocolate, lemon and vanilla.
French Lunch has more than 11 desserts for you to dig into — and we’ve only gone over the frozen ones in this article. We have more in our pantry, including chocolate fleur de salt, packaged Belgian macarons, and assorted biscuits. What’s your favourite?
As always, we look forward to feeding you,
Meal Preppers Unite! Exploring Our Lunch Menu
So, what's French Lunch about? First and foremost, we’re a healthy meal shop.
Every menu item that we cook in our kitchen or imported from Europe, is, in one word, FRESH. We've painstakingly hand-picked all of our items from a long list of European classics.
First, we look for healthy, fresh, preservative- and sodium-free ingredients. If a food item passes this test, we source it and sell it in our store.
We also look out for nostalgic, sentimental foods that you may have grown up with in France, Spain, Italy, or someplace else. To offer you even fresher, healthier and more convenient meals, we freeze the foods we cook in recyclable containers that are microwave or oven-ready.
Our specialty is the "French Lunch", which is... you guessed it, a lunch of fresh foods. But not just French foods: we throw a bit of Spanish and Italian in there too. All items come in 16 oz. or 400ml (school or office-sized) and 24 oz. or 650ml (hungry bear or share) sizes.
16 oz. is perfect for one adult or two school-aged kids. 24 oz. is great for two adults or one very hungry teenager.
If you order a starter, a main course, and a dessert together, you've ordered a French Lunch. You can also order an entire week of lunches, AKA our French Week special.
This includes 5 main courses starting at $33.50 (16 oz.). Save yourself a lot of time by ordering your lunch online. It'll be ready for pick up at our store promptly.
Online, we offer four starters that you can pair with any main course, including baby carrots, grape tomatoes, or celery sticks with alioli dip and cheese macaroni salad.
Aioli is a Mediterranean garlic and olive oil dip. It makes eating veggies fun and tasty, especially for fussy kids.
The macaroni salad combines pasta with dried veggies, including red bell peppers and celery with yummy cheddar cheese. It's definitely healthier than boxed, sodium-rich, bland, and artificially-flavoured mac and cheese.
Other in-store starters that we'll be introducing soon include brie with crackers and grapes (everyone’s favourite!), olive oil breadsticks with coppa di parma, and red potato salad.
See all of our main courses here. We've got:
This French-imported quiche blends zucchini, grilled eggplant, red peppers, onions, and olive oil. If you feel peckish and want some vegetables baked in cheese, definitely try it. One piece fills one person for one meal.
Dessert might just be everyone's favourite part of a meal. It's always nice to end a meal with something sweet, fruity, and/or chocolatey. For desserts, we have caramel dessert bars, chocolate dessert bars, and lemon dessert bars, if you want something similar to cake.
Or you can grab some packaged European desserts like nougat bars, a can of peach slices in syrup, dates, and apricots.
A Real French Lunch
So there you have it, a comprehensive listing of French Lunch's starters, main courses and desserts. You can combine all three for a solid French Lunch experience — it'll be like eating in France itself.
You can even buy 5 main courses for the French Week experience. We personally recommend the cordon bleu; it's our favourite!
As always, we look forward to feeding you,