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Dinner Party - Experiment on guests or Not?


ermintrude
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I say yes provided they have enough to eat.

I.e. You serve 5 courses and 2 should fill them up and so what if they left the experimental duck brain and wombat milk sorbet with grated platypus nipple.

Edited by ermintrude (log)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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depends on what you mean by "experiment." I think you need to know your guests' appetite for adventure. Some people will try anything, others would not be pleased to be served grated platypus nipple. Maybe it's your choice of hypotheticals, but if I was planning on servng something that I though would shock my guests, I think I'd give them fair warning that they were being asked to walk on the wild side so they could decline the invitation. But if you mean simply try something new (which might not be a success), I say fine, so long, as you note, there's enough food in case your experiment fails. I've had a few of those, and they can be a lot of fun regardless.


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I am not sure that I would experiment on people who are coming for dinner for the first time, but we get a lot of repeat diners so that is not a problem. We will try new recipes on company when are using a reliable source. There are also so many recipes that from spending a lot of time cooking, you just know that they are going to be good from reading them. I am often even confident about changing the recipe to suit our tastes, for example substituting pancetta for platypus nipple.

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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I agree with Rob. I've even tried out some ideas on paying customers for catering jobs:

"Do whatever you want, surprise us".

Okay then. <insert evil laugh here>

P.S. Got a recipe for that wombat milk sorbet? :laugh:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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It depends. If I'm cooking for friends, probably, especially since I know how adventurous or not they will be. On the other hand, we entertain clients frequently, and there, I never experiment with dishes I'm not familiar with.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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if one never experimented on guests, then the statistical sampling size would be much smaller.

I'm all for trying one or two "new" items on the full menu. Especially if I am also accommodating someone's dietary preferences.

Besides, if things don't work out the way you planned, at least you are not stuck w/ a lot of leftovers. But definitely have a full enough menu that if the wombat milk sorbet is not a hit... there is another offering.

Karen Dar Woon

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Many times when I have a casual dinner party it's for the express purpose of trying some new recipes, especially the ones that don't scale down well for only two people. The guests know well in advance, and I always have a pizza delivery phone number on speed dial should things get out of hand.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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I had a bad experience last time I went "experimental" on my guests. I was making a meatloaf-type-thing from one of Bugiali's Italian cooking books which was not going to scale down well, so I invited a friend of mine and his girlfriend over for dinner. They knew what they were getting into. Unfortunately, they showed up with the girlfriend's mother in tow! I'm not sure she realized that it was OK to make cracks about the extremely flat meatloaf with the not-quite-cooked carrot strung through the middle :blink: . Tasted OK, but butt-ugly. She was so polite about it! :laugh: She must think I am the crappiest cook ever (this may be true, but I would never want to be judged on the basis of that meatloaf-thing!!). So be careful what you decide to make. I'd lay off the platypus nipple.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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last week, I made a baked custard for a dinner party. It turned into a sort a sweet egg scramble.. so bad that I had to make another dessert at the last minute. I put both desserts on the table and they both got eaten. :shock: Okey before you think my friends have real bad taste, this was at the end of the night where we all had had a lot to drink and sweet egg scramble did not seem so bad anymore :laugh:

Tonight, another dinner party and I made another baked custard. It`s not as bad as last week, but perfect, it is not. I trust my guests will laugh about it, with me, and eat the pear compote and madeleines I made as well, and try the custard.

I can`t really think of a dinner party I´d be giving where these things would be an actual problem. If I was catering, and making money with my baked custard, maybe. But for my friends, no. They eat what I give them, and if I experiment with one thing, I´ll make sure there are always a couple of foolproof things on the table as well so they won't go hungry!

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Years ago, I had some next door neighbors who were my best friends. We had dinner together at least once a week, and they generally liked my cooking :wink: so I felt free to try new things whenever I wanted.

This was mideighties in San Clemente, not exactly a hotbed of cutting edge cuisine, but I had brought some recipes with me from Philadelphia. I wanted to make Thai Chicken Curry, a yummy dish from a long -gone restaurant, FROG. In SoCal, I hadn't yet established where to buy my usual supplies, so I bought a different Thai Chili paste than I had used in the past.

I'd just started to fry the chili paste when my friends walked through the door and started coughing and choking. Apparently the chili content of the new paste was much higher than before and was sending toxic fumes throughout the house ! :shock:

After airing out the house, I continued with dinner, finding the dish to be WAY hot (no surprise :hmmm: ) but thanks to lots of cold Singha beer, everyone enjoyed the food. :laugh:

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I do like to experiment and expand my knowledge in the kitchen, and it's much more fun with an audience to taste the results--but I find that audience is much happier if it either has some advance warning or a graceful alternative.

But before I pull the experiment on others, I do prefer to either do some kind of test run beforehand, or to cook the experiment early enough that I have time to make a suitable replacement.

Sometimes a good test run just isn't do-able, which can lead to some interesting last-minute weirdnesses. Prior to this dinner I pulled off recently, I had practiced my whole steamed fish technique--but on single 1.5 lb tilapia. The morning of the dinner, I found beautiful big 4-pound tilapia at the market so I got one--failing to take into account that this big ol' fish exceeded the size of the wok I'd been using for fish-steaming. Oops. :blush: The fish got done eventually, and I had a "learning experience." :laugh:

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One of the main reasons I throw dinner parties is to experiment on the guests! The only times I've had major failures, I was the only one one at the table unhappy with the dish. Seems I've been blessed with hungry, undiscriminating friends.

There was one time I probably went too far. For Christmas a couple of years ago I gave my parents a gift certificate for a big, home cooked meal. I decided to pull out all the stops, and planned a six course menu, of all original recipes. Only one of the two desserts was something that I'd made before, and this was a new variation.

Looking back, this was just an act of hubris. I am not a good enough cook to pull off something like that! It all turned out ok, but I think most of the courses could have been much better (and would have been, if I'd made them several times and refined them). I might do something like that again for close friends who know what they're getting into, but for a meal given as a present, I should have made something that put the emphasis on good food and not on invoking the stress of a Top Chef episode.

Notes from the underbelly

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I don't think I've ever given a dinner party that included only the tried-and-true. As someone else said, that's part of the reason to give dinner parties -- to try something new that wouldn't scale correctly for a couple of people at home.

You live and learn. Two dear friends have very conservative taste and I've given up doing anything too gastronomically challenging for them on the savory side. I always try a new dessert when they come over. Other friends eat every organ, every cuisine and I feel free to experiment with what a teenaged friend of my daughter's once called: "Your parents' weird food."

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I experiment on friends (and my husband's notoriously unpicky fellow grad students) and go back to proven recipes for anyone I'm trying to impress.

I did an entire tapas dinner for 12 of things I'd never made before, and it worked out great, because then things coming out at different times in unknown quantities is just part of the charm. Obviously I planned for more than we needed and so when I didn't have time to make the tortilla it wasn't a crime, and if I'd made it and it came out inedible, still wouldn't matter.

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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I've certainly tried my fair share of recipes for the first time on guests. Mostly family though, where the consequences are not so horrible if they fall flat.

That said, if there is one rule I try to adhere to, it's not to experiment too far outside my comfort zone. For example, if I tried a recipe for braised short ribs I've never had before -- but the ingredients looked good/made sense to me -- I would go for it becasue I've made so things like it, I would know where not to screw up and/or could make adjustments around it.

Conversely, I would never try serving something to guests I have absolutely no experience with: Like sea urchin. Or spit roasting a whole pig. I'd have to have some degree of hands-on before I'd be willing to take the plunge with guests.

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My dinner party guests are almost always my friends and family, who come with exuberant senses of humor. Thus, we all share the perspective that experimentation and any attendant risk of "failure" represents potential entertainment. The best memories have come from howling with laughter at what it took to melt the smoked gouda on top of the eggplant tart (not the recommended oven setting, not 450, not the broiler, hey, what happens with a blow torch and what is this gouda made of, anyhow? ). Another course at the same party, a mirin-marinated glazed mahi-mahi with tomato coulis and Chinese greens was a much more tasty experimental success, but is fading much faster from memory.

I generally try to avoid "affairs of state" dinners with potentially stodgy invitees I don't know very well, but if I have to, then I guess I'd go with the boring and reliable (and ply them with wine in hopes of de-stodgifying them.... ).

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