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Fundraiser VIP Reception menu help


baroness
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I am in charge of a pre-show meet & greet with the stars for a charity fundraiser on October 3rd. This event will provide hospitality/a light dinner for the performers and their spouses as well as rewarding patrons for their support. The venue is a normal-sized home one block from the church. I would like to do any real cooking/baking at home, leaving only arranging and re-heating to be done onsite.

There are several BIG variables in the mix:

1 - Some food items, such as cheese and antipasto trays, may be donated by local businesses, so their contents will be a mystery until arrival. Wine may appear in a similar fashion.

2 - The actual number of guests is unknown (though the space limits the number to 35 on a comfort level).

I hope to inspect the physical situation this weekend, and get updates from other fundraisers as to tickets sold and any edible donations.

In the meantime, I need to start on a menu that is colorful, easy to eat/relatively un-messy, not too labor intensive, and of modest cost. Not asking much, am I? :blink:

* Possible Donations,

% Easy to Assign to Others:

--------------------------------------

* % Cheese platter

* % (Antipasto platter?)

* % Vegetable platter

* % Dips for above: Ranch, Hummus, (hot cheese +/or bacon or spinach dip?)

% Grapes

% Apple wedges

% Pineapple

% Olives

% Crackers, Bread

* % Wine - white, red

% Ginger Ale

% Cola

% Bottled Water

% Lemon wedges

% ICE

------

And hot items I or someone else might make:

Gougeres (Any favorite recipes?)

Shrimp and Rice

Chicken - tenders or boneless wings (teriyaki? BBQ sauce? NOT Buffalo)

Meatballs

((DESSERTS and caffeine will be served at the church after the show!))

---------------------------------

This is a rough draft, but I welcome any and all ideas and tips as the event is less than a month away--Yikes!

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I'm confused about a couple of things.

1) What exactly do you mean by "VIP"? Looking at what you have, I don't get a feeling of either VIP or champagne taste.

2) How is it being served? You say "hospitality/a light dinner", but will it be served cocktail-style? Will there be plates, cutlery, and tables and chairs available for everyone? I'm just wondering how the shrimp and rice will be served.

If it's more cocktail-style, sausage rolls are always welcome. If it's slightly more vip-ish, use puff pastry and homemade sausage meat (I just use ground pork and penzey's breakfast sausage spice mix--sometimes I add asparagus or red/orange/yellow peppers to add colour). If it's a little more low-brow, use pillsbury crescent rolls and hot dogs. The puff pastry version is less labour-intensive than the pillsbury version, because you can make big rolls and just cut several pieces from each one, rather than rolling hot dogs individually.

For the dips, I'd go with fig and olive tapenade and some kind of cream cheese/walnut/olive combination (when I had my tea party, someone recommended her recipe, and it was a huge hit with my guests) and the hummus, but I'd skip the ranch dressing.

Spanakopita always goes over well, or tyropitakia. You could also do a version with mushrooms, like a mushroom streudel.

Quiche? If you use premade shells, it's not so labour intensive.

What about juice or some kind of fruit punch? With the exception of water, nothing on the beverage list is particularly healthful (wine is debatable).

All of the above can be made ahead of time, and can be served at room temperature if reheating become problematic.

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In this context, VIP is the feeling we wish to give to patrons who are paying 3 times the general admission price in exchange for a few perks!

The food will be served buffet-style. I'll know more about the number of seats available when I've seen the space, but am planning now for food that can be eaten standing up. The shrimp and rice is in this category. Plates, napkins, and cutlery will be provided.

I don't like ranch dip, but it's popular among this crowd. The fig and olive tapenade sounds wonderful--do you have a recipe to share?

Spanakopita sounds good as well.

Juices are a staple, along with caffeinated beverages, at the dessert reception. I'd rather avoid lugging them about as well - if you chose ONE, what would it be, to go with these savories?

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I hosted an event recently at which "upscale" food was requested, and I devoted a lot of time to figuring out what that means. No fan of tenderloin, I decided to go with a grilled beef tenderloin largely because of the cache it communicated to the guests, whom I wanted to feel special.

I say that because when I look at this list I'm trying to find VIP/upscale items:

* Possible Donations,

% Easy to Assign to Others:

--------------------------------------

* % Cheese platter

* % (Antipasto platter?)

* % Vegetable platter

* % Dips for above: Ranch, Hummus, (hot cheese +/or bacon or spinach dip?)

% Grapes

% Apple wedges

% Pineapple

% Olives

% Crackers, Bread

Gougeres (Any favorite recipes?)

Shrimp and Rice

Chicken - tenders or boneless wings (teriyaki? BBQ sauce? NOT Buffalo)

Meatballs

---------------------------------

Let me be clear: I'm not passing judgment at all, but I worry that your VIP guests may do so.

Are there upscale/"gourmet" items that can communicate just that VIP feel that you can add? For example, shrimp cocktail communicates "upscale" to some people -- I have no idea why -- suggesting that your shrimp and rice dish might be better split into shrimp alone and rice pilaf or biryani or something.

And, along those same lines, what's your pp budget?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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What a timely request. I’m catering a wedding shower on a limited budget, and the word I’ve kept in mind is FAUX. For instance, there is Chicken Faux Gras (from Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard) that is absolutely excellent that uses chicken livers. It is a great recipe, and a bonus is that you can play it up that it’s “faux” gras since you’re catering to a large crowd who may disapprove of the real thing. Another bonus is that it can be made ahead.

Also, boursin cheese is great for appetizers and such, although it can be a bit pricey. You can make a boursin-like cheese with cream cheese, herbs, garlic, etc., that tastes fantastic. You can also make this well in advance of the event. I don’t know what I’m doing with it for the shower yet, but it will be served in endive leaves where the guests and easily pick them up.

There’s nothing wrong with crudités with ranch dressing. It’s good that you’re catering to your crowd’s taste. Real homemade ranch dressing made with fresh buttermilk is fabulous. You can make the ranch dressing/dip many days in advance. Peeling the vegetables for the vegetable tray is very time-consuming, and that’s one thing I would order from a good grocery store near you as you will be busy with lots of last minute items.

Since it’s VIP – it would be good to splurge on one or two large items. I’m not sure what you’re talking about with the shrimp and rice, but shrimp is always a crowd-pleaser.

A few more ideas:


SnowAngel’s Vodka Spiked Cherry Tomatoes

Country pate, or pate de Campagne, served with cornichons and crusty baguette (I’m using the one in Julia and Jacques’ cookbook.)

Roast beef crostini – Cooks Illustrated has a great method for roast beef using inexpensive eye of round. I can PM you the recipe if you’re interested. You can buy day-old baguettes and make your own large croutons to serve these on – very economical and better than you can buy.

I’m also making Marlene’s Red Pepper Jelly cheesecake. It’s my first time making it, but several Egullet members rave about it, so I’m sure it will be fantastic.

Melon/prosciutto spears. Just spear a melon chunk, a slice of prosciutto and top off with a grape. Easy to pick up and usually well-received. However, the last time I did these there were guests who plucked off the prosciutto just to eat the cantaloupe. I don’t know what that was about.


***

Good luck, and I hope you post pictures.

Rhonda

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Chris,

The shrimp dish has tomato notes and is rather like a hot shrimp cocktail, but richer due to the butter. If the weather forecast is unusually warm, I may split the shrimp and the rice.

Budget will be discussed on Sunday; right now I'm thinking under $10 pp. The event is only 1 hour, though the performers may arrive early.

------------

PopsicleToze/Rhonda,

I like the boursin-clone cheese idea. I don't think the vodka tomatoes would play with this crowd (though I'd already put it in my personal to-try folder!).

Yes, please PM the crostini recipe.

I don't 'do' beef, but I'll find someone to make it. That's a great upgrade from meatballs.

------------

HungryC/Celeste,

I hope to get some hints - or better info - about what I may need to use at Sunday's meeting. Stay tuned....

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I got a quick look at the venue Monday; will return with a tape measure this weekend to help plan the furniture layout. The kitchen is small but modern; unfortunately there is not much counter space for prep.

The wine is being donated, so that is a considerable help in terms of budget. So far, there are about 25 guests, 2 of which are 'tween boys (There is fast food in the neighborhood, if they need it :wink: ).

Revised menu thoughts below, with comments and questions. Items with question marks are iffy.

Cheese platter, crackers

(Antipasto platter?)

Vegetable platter

Dips for above:

Ranch (popular with this crowd)

Hummus

Fig-olive tapenade (Thanks, prasantrin!)

(Olives?)

Bruschetta/Crostini with toppings:

Tomato-Herbs with and w/o fresh mozzarella

Pear-Walnut-Chevre

Slow Roasted Beef (Thanks, Rhonda!)

Hot items:

Gougeres

Shrimp and Rice

Coconut-Crusted Chicken Bites

Individual Swiss-Potato Gratins - (should I make some cheese-free? with bacon?)

Spinach squares - (basically spanakopita sans phyllo)

(Roasted vegs? cauliflower, parsnips, carrots....)

Assorted Grapes

Pineapple

Wine - white, red - (To be donated by a wine enthusiast)

Ginger Ale

Cola

Bottled Water

Lemon wedges

ICE

------

((DESSERTS and caffeine will be served at the church after the show!))

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Just my 2 cents, but for just 25 people, you have quite a variety of items (at least 12, by my count). If you really want things to feel/look VIP, perhaps you should skip a couple of items and concentrate on the presentation (thus using the time/expense you saved by scaling down the number) of your remaining items. Upgrade the quality/variety of cheeses, serve with a pile of toasted walnuts and some honey, or some more of that olive/fig tapenade. You seem to have a mediterranean focus (crostini, olives, tapenade, gougeres, spinach squares), so why include coconut-crusted chicken? Or pineapple? And swap the swiss cheese for fontina & pecorino in the potato gratins...maybe a grilled or broiled chicken skewer alla diavolo or brushed with pesto would feel a little more italian/provencal/mediterranean.

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The count is 25 now. When the general public promos start hitting the local papers, the number may double or more -- I think there were 56 tickets printed, plus there are 8 comps and the volunteers working the reception (4-6).

I'm an artist, so presentation is definitely my thing. The food WILL look gorgeous.

Good point about the chicken; I'm open to other flavor ideas but I don't want to fuss with skewers - the more guests, the more people eating standing up.

The pineapple, and to a lesser extent the grapes, are palate cleansing and a somewhat sweet note to end the meal.

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Sounds yummy. But considering that the event is only one hour, I would suggest reducing the number of items on the menu. Rather than including any hot vegetables (actually, I'm unclear as to how people would be eating those, anyways), how about incorporating some grilled marinated vegetables on the antipasto platter, or as garnish on the some of the other dishes. Perhaps only two variety of crostini (one meat, one veg).

Re: Skewers. Easiest way to do for a cocktail dinner is to cube, marinate and cook the chicken ahead of time. Glaze, reheat, then slide 2 or 3 pcs. onto picks at the venue, with fresh garnish. Short skewers (3 or 4") are great for stand-up affairs.

I personally love the idea of the potato gratin, especially bite-size. Good call on the cheese, Hungry C. Don't bother w/ the cheese-free/bacon variations. Just make one variety.

If this is a mostly stand-up affair, then I suppose you are designing everything to be fork-free? Maybe even plate-free? Could you use ceramic spoons for the shrimp/rice, or could you just forgo the rice and serve cold poached shrimp, shells off, with picks?

It's only an hour. 8 pcs per person, max.

Karen Dar Woon

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The first article hit the paper yesterday: Read Here!

As far as trimming the menu:

The antipasto platter will be donated, or it is out -- unless we max out on tickets. (FWIW, According to the New York Times, this county is the most heavily Italian-American in the entire country...so the Mediterranean food theme works well)

On the issue of whether the shrimp are hot or cold:

The hot shrimp with rice is fork-friendly, tasty, and easy

I am uneasy about certain guests, known to me (but whom I can't control), who will "vacuum" them up if they are cold and unaccompanied. They would also require sauces added to the menu.

If the weather is unusually hot, I may try them cold, with fingers crossed.

Karen, you *may* be warming me up to the chicken skewer idea, if I can find short ones!

The roasted vegetables are a personal favorite - but a lot of work and they could 'stink up' the place, so they are out.

8 pcs. per head sounds reasonable.

What about beverage amounts?

Thanks for the continuing input!

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Sorry, I forgot about replying for a couple of days!

I use the fig and olive tapenade recipe on David Lebovitz's website. It's really great! I usually use less olive oil--maybe 1/3 cup or a little more, but that's mostly because I was trying to cut calories.

If you want more vegetables without doing roasted ones, what about something like caponata or a spin on ratatouille? Caponata would be well-suited for an Italian-American crowd, and you could make it ahead, so you won't have to worry about stinking up the place the day of. You could also use either as a topping for crostini (what's the difference between crostini and bruschetta? Are they the same?).

About the fig and olive tapenade, you can also do it as crostini with a schmear of soft goat cheese. I love grilled sandwiches with soft goat cheese and fig and olive tapenade!

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On the issue of whether the shrimp are hot or cold:

The hot shrimp with rice is fork-friendly, tasty, and easy

I am uneasy about certain guests, known to me (but whom I can't control), who will "vacuum" them up if they are cold and unaccompanied. They would also require sauces added to the menu.

If the weather is unusually hot, I may try them cold, with fingers crossed.

could the shrimp be served as a passed hors d'ouvre?

Sorry if it sounds as though I am pushing too hard about shrimp... but it seems the only item on the menu which requires a fork.

eliminate the forks = easier to eat standing up.

as for beverage amounts: if you are renting glassware, get the smaller (8 oz?) wine glasses and tumblers. Again, as it's ONLY ONE HOUR, then you can estimate about 2 drinks per person, max. About 1/2 the people will re-use the glass for their 2nd drink. Using the 8oz glass, you should be able to pour 4-5 glasses of wine per 24 oz/750 ml bottle; each serving will be about 4.5 ounces.

How are you planning to purchase the soft drinks? For the slight added expense, I would suggest 32 oz. bottles, rather than the 64 oz. bottles. There will be less spoilage; a large bottle left open will lose it's fizz pretty quickly.

Glad to see you're getting some newspaper coverage.

Karen Dar Woon

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Karen, I do not mind all the shrimp discussion at all.

Passing the cold shrimp would control consumption IF I can:

Spare someone from the kitchen

Have sufficient floor space for the server to work the room (depends on final guest count; the 2 adjoining rooms are not huge)

But--won't it look funny if the shrimp is the only served item? :unsure:

At least one of the older VIPs *needs* to eat seated; I don't want him/them to feel different, so there will be a few tables. And I would think that dressed-up people would prefer to have the option of forks rather than fingers only.

The wine enthusiast is bringing the stemware; I did recommend she NOT bring her best. I'll pass on your size reco's to her. In this area, the 2 liter sodas are routinely less than 1 liters, so we'll probably go big -- who knows how much the boys will drink.

And yes, we are jazzed by the start of the media coverage! :biggrin:

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I use the fig and olive tapenade recipe on David Lebovitz's website.

....You could also use either as a topping for crostini (what's the difference between crostini and bruschetta? Are they the same?).

I'm looking forward to making the tapenade; it sounds great.

Good question about crostini vs. bruschetta - I associate vegetable toppings with bruschetta for some reason.

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I used to do an annual open-house for about 50 people, with very little help. One dish I always made was this shrimp "salad". I served it heaped in a big crystal bowl with toothpicks along side, so guests could spear their own mini-skewers. It was always a big hit and made the shrimp go a lot further.

1 lb. 21-25 shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked (I cut them in half length-wise, to make them go further)

1 pint grape tomatoes

6 oz. whole, pitted olives (you need smallish ones, whatever kind you like)

1 can sliced water chestnuts

8 oz. Mushrooms, cut in half if large

½ head cauliflower or broccoli, broken into bite-size flowerets (discard stems)

Dressing:

2 Cups Mayonnaise (I think I used less)

½ C. well-drained horseradish

2 tsp. dry mustard

Juice of one lemon

1-2 tsp. salt

Grated parmesan (this wasn’t in the original recipe and I don’t remember how much I used… maybe ½ cup?)

Mix and refrigerate 1-2 hrs. (or more) before serving

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  • 3 weeks later...

:biggrin: Now that the breadcrumbs have settled and the glitter cleaned up, I'm happy to report that we made over 250% of our monetary goal! :biggrin:

The definitely most popular item was the Parmesan Puffs; they absolutely evaporated.

The next most popular items were the Tomato-Mozzarella Crostini, Hummus with Pita and Vegetables, Shrimp, Pineapple, and Grapes.

Next would be the Potato Gratins, the Pear-Chevre and Beef Crostini, and the Tapenade - which may have suffered due to unfamiliarity.

The chicken and spinach squares were not as popular, and could have been eliminated.

Due to donations (shrimp, veg tray, beef, some cheeses, and wine), the cost per paid VIP was about $7, with about 1/3 of that being paper goods and the like.

Due to the wine enthusiast doing the pouring, there were only 3 of us working the food tables; another pair of hands - or two - might have been worth the crowding.

:blink: I'm keeping ALL my notes, perchance we do this again next year!

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Do you have the authority to subcontract some of the work? There are some really great cheese shops in NYC that might be willing to set up a cheese tasting as well as olives, antipasto, etc... at a reduced price if you allow them to advertise at the event.

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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