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!
Let's Learn about Crêpes!
What could make for a tastier brunch, lunch, or dinner than a crêpe? Chances are, even if you've never eaten a French-style crêpe before, you've probably eaten it in another form — as a pancake, a crumpet, a dosa, a blini, a hotteok, a farinata, or as some other flat, wheat-based roll — all of these foods, including crêpes, are pancakes. Each type of pancake is either meant to hold fillings, or can be enjoyed alone with or without condiments.
The French crêpe is a thin shell of fried pastry batter, often containing containing eggs, milk, and butter, and is offered with savoury or sweet ingredients: meats, cheeses, veggies, and herbs for savoury crêpes, and chocolate, fruits, jams, creams, syrups, marshmallows, and other sugary ingredients if sweet. Vended on Parisian streets and streets around the world, crêpes are extremely popular today. But how did the humble crêpe come to be?
The origins of the crêpe can be traced back to ancient Greece, where they took the form of breakfast pancakes, which were made with only flour and water, sometimes honey. But the actual crêpe we know today was created accidentally by a teenaged Henri Charpentier in 1896. He had been given the task of preparing a dessert for the Prince of Wales, King Edward VII, and other nobles.
But an accident happened: the dessert Henri was preparing was "ruined" by a drop of wine sauce, causing the fire underneath the dish to flambé, thus transforming it into the crêpe Suzette, the predecessor of what is now known as the French crêpe. Henri, in a fit of genius, introduced the dish as his brand new creation to the royals, and they happily accepted it. Just imagine trying to pass off a mistake as an invention! Chef's hats off to the courageous Henri! The dish was named "crêpes Suzette" in honour of a young girl who attended the banquet.
Because the Prince of Wales loved it so much, the crêpe spread like wildfire across France and Europe, eventually entering North America and other countries in later years. Today, France celebrates Crêpe Day (Candlemas) on February 2. On that day, everyone eats crêpes all day long. According to French Catholics, cooking a crêpe while holding a coin brings wealth. But happiness doesn't come so easily — in order to obtain it, believers must flip a crêpe in a pan by flicking their right wrist, all while holding a coin in their left hand. If the crêpe lands in the pan face down, your happiness is assured!
Who knew the French crêpe had such an interesting history or traditions associated with it? We hope you'll come out and try our crêpes soon. We'll be serving the sweet and savoury types that you can build yourself for $4.99, as well as pre-made crêpes for $1 more ($5.99). Our premade crêpes are savoury: ham and egg, mushroom and brie, egg and mushroom.
We look forward to feeding you some steaming hot, delicious crêpes on May 16,
Other Meals at French Lunch: Soups and Meats
The previous article explored French Lunch’s foundational dinner options: the ones that we think you’ll enjoy the most for your final meal of the day. But there are actually more dishes available for you to choose from, like a variety of soups, meat dishes, seafood dishes, and vegetarian meals, all of which are oven-ready and microwave-ready (just make sure you read the instructions on the labels so you know which appliance to use!). Our meals are easy enough for kids to prepare, so there’s really no way you can mess them up. Just pay attention to your cooking times, and you’re good to go.
To begin with, our offerings include an excellent bouillabaisse soup imported from France. Bouillabaisse is a classic Provençal fish stew that originated in Marseille’s fishing community. Bouillabaisse combines three or more fish with a broth of vegetables like tomatoes, onions, leeks, and herbs with rouille sauce on top. Although we don’t carry rouille, you can use aioli instead. Or you can experiment with other condiments in our pantry if you feel adventurous. In Marseille, each eatery has its own take on bouillabaisse. You can’t go wrong with this dish.
If you want something old-fashioned, have our French onion soup with baked cheese on bread. Ours is straightforward: just beef broth, onions, butter, olive oil, herbs and cheeses. A bit of red wine is added in during cooking to accentuate flavours.
Do you love beer? Then treat yourself to our cheddar beer soup, made with actual beer (yup, really). Like wine, beer can be a great cooking ingredient, and that’s why 16th century European monarchs ended up having beer soup for breakfast every day. We’ve added aged cheddar cheese to our beer soup for better taste, as well as traditional French Dijon mustard, carrots, onions, and garlic.
If you want a soup without animal products, try out our Borsch soup, which is only made with beetroot, potatoes, carrots, onions, kidney beans, tomatoes, herbs, and spices. It’s a strikingly beautiful dark red in colour and makes for a nice photograph (Instagram addicts, you know what I’m talking about!).
Feel homesick or just plain sick? Cheer up by wolfing down our very own chicken noodle soup. Maybe not just like mom makes it, but hopefully quite close. Ours is a blend of chicken breast, broth, celery, carrots, onions, herbs, and gluten-free pasta in case you’re allergic.
A wholesome alternative to chicken noodle soup is cream of mushroom soup, which lacks the meats but does have milk in it for creaminess. Add in a dash of white wine, Portobello mushrooms, onions and chives, and you’ll instantly warm up.
Our signature meat dishes are beef provençal and coq au vin, two extremely famous French stews that are eaten throughout the year. But we also have five other ready-to-eat fresh meals in our Meat & Poultry section.
Like our tiger shrimp and saffron paella cooked and packaged in-store. Paella is an ancient Spanish rice dish that is oftentimes served as a huge community feast — in fact, the largest paella ever recorded was 21 metres in diameter! Our paella is only fit for one or two people, but we think you’ll enjoy it just as much as a huge paella at your family’s next reunion. We use chicken thighs, basmati rice, red peppers, garlic, onion, and of course, tiger shrimps and saffron.
Looking for sandwich meats? Our cooked-in-store rôti de porc braised with garlic and herbs may excite you. We slow-cook the meat for 8 hours so it's very tender and excellent both warm, and cold.
Finally, we have two uncommon dishes that you might struggle to find elsewhere: hachis Parmentier and Toulouse sausage casserole.
Hachis Parmentier is essentially the French version of Shepherd’s pie. While Shepherd’s pie is a traditional English dish, Hachis Parmentier was actually named for the nutritionist (Parmentier) that invented it — Parmentier created it to urge the use of potatoes in France during the 18th century. Just like Parmentier desired, we also want to instill good eating habits in our community. Our Hachis Parmentier is made with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, potatoes, milk, and cheddar cheese. We encourage you to eat it bit by bit, in small portions, and to grab a forkful of a vegetable side with each bite of hachis. Your waist will thank you.
Before we end the article, let’s go over the Toulouse-style casserole, a lean pork casserole made with mild Italian sausages. Our recipe is based off the French cassoulet, a slow-cooked casserole composed of sausage, other meats, and some vegetables. Our casserole has eggplants, tomatoes, and red wine, in addition to the usual onions and garlic. If you often find yourself buying hot dogs from food stands on busy streets, give this gourmet sausage stew a shot.
In the next article, we’ll examine French Lunch’s seafood and vegetarian selections, alongside the cheeses and cheese spreads we’ve stocked our pantry with.
Stay tuned, and, as always, we look forward to feeding you,