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Dinner Party: Planning Issues


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I am planning a dinner party and I am currently scheduling the timing between courses. Is there a general rule? For example 20 minutes between courses?

I have 12 diners and they will be presented with 7 plates of food. The portions will be similar for all plates. In general this is the plan:








I assume that one important factor is the speed of the diners themselves, however for planning purposes, I will disregard that element until dinnertime.

I guess what I am asking is the time between a guest is served a plate and a second plate is served to the same guest. Hope this clarifies my inquiry.

Thanks in advance for any comments


Edited to add clarification

Edited by AlexP (log)
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Thats 84 plates!!!! Are you going to have to wash plates in between courses? Thats a lot of time right there..Can you describe your menu? How much plating time will it take.. 30 seconds a plate is going to take you 6 minutes.. Then is everything going to be cooked and waiting to go or are there last minute things that need to be done?

Also how much time are you planning on spending with guests? Will people help you?

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Ok Daniel, if I start multiplying dinners and plates and other funny calculations I could get pretty stressed :biggrin:

First plate will be used for the last plate. Second plate will be used for the 6th course. I have other plates for the rest of the food. I am doing the cooking and I have two people helping me by serving the food, pouring wine, and doing dishes and other miscellaneous including planting. And yes, we have 6 different wines!

Obviously, none of us will be sitting at the table.

The menu without fancy names for sauces:

- Croquettes and Empanadillas (Deep Fryer)

- Piquillo Peppers Stuffed (Oven)

- Butternut Squash Soup (Pot - warm up)

- Ravioli (Pots - cooked ravioli and warm up sauce)

- Scallops and mushrooms (Pan roasted the scallops during service and warm up sauce)

- Bouef Bourguignon (warm up)

- Creme Brulee and Cheesecake

People are coming at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. I have all my planning done until Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Now I am planning the actual dinner time.

There is not turning back now :smile:


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"You are so money and you dont even know it" Everything sounds awesome... I have a little more math for you. 20 minutes in between each course is 2 hours and 20 minutes of waiting time.. Add that with 15 minutes of eating per course and you have yourself a 4 hour dinner.. That sounds about right... Maybe cut down the wait time a little for beginning courses if you want.. Either way, as long as the company is good then people will be happy to hang out at the dinner table all night..

Either way, post pictures and stories about the experience.. Good luck!

Edited by Daniel (log)
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Thanks Daniel.

My time question is combining both times that you refer to (a) time between courses + (b) time eating.

For example, I serve the soup at 8:00 p.m. The dinners take 15 minutes to eat it and I serve the pasta 5 minutes after we take the soup bowl away at 8:20 p.m. Total time between full bowl of soup and full bowl of pasta 20 minutes. (the above minutes are just examples to explain my question)

What I am trying to figure out is what should I plan for a+b.

15 minute eating time 10 minutes between plates for a total of 25 minutes?

The company is great and everybody is looking for having a good time, however, I have been to dinners when the timing between courses is so long that kills the entire event.



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I did a 10 courser for 4 once. That took about 5 hours all up, starting from 5pm and going till about 9:45 but we were working at a pretty relaxed pace.

We were going pretty slow because we spent quite a bit of time between plates just digesting the food and having good conversation. My best advice to you would be to not get stressed and try to rush it. My menu format was pretty similar, emphasis on easy to prepare and reheat items. However, looking back, I felt pressure to get the plates out as soon as possible to minimise the time spent away from guests. An extra minute or so is going to get lost in a 4 hour dinner and spending that extra bit of time means you can take care with the plating and make sure you don't miss anything.

Plating is often more complicated than you imagine in your head. First, you have to clear out enough counter space to put down 7 plates, then you have to plate each one, garnish, wipe and serve.

Be careful about portion sizes, I would serve the soup in a cup and probably limit it to 2 - 3 ravioli and 2 - 3 scallops per person.

Overall, it seems a very heavy menu. Putting in some quick and easy palate cleansers between course also helps with the timing and digestion. I would be hesistant to eat something as rich as a creme brulee right after a rich Bouef Bourguignon. Maybe a small sorbet course in between would lighten it. I also did a slice of watermelon sprinkled with a bit of chiffondale mint and some maldon sea salt just before the main and I thought it worked out to be a really good palate cleanser and easy too. I would also think about more cold courses, maybe drop one of the apps and put in a salad?

Of course, it's your dinner party but I would reccomend looking at the eCGI lesson on menu planning. When working with multiple courses, rhythm is very important and theres nothing more disappointing that reaching the end of a epic meal like that and coming up with plates which look and taste fantastic but your just not in the mood to eat.

PS: I am a guy.

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After thinking about it a bit more:

Do you need both creme brulee and cheesecake? Would just one do? Are you set on them? I would far prefer an acidic fruit dessert after a meal like that rather than a creamy rich one. How are you going to prepare the brulees, it can be tricky doing 7 and getting them all right at the same time.

What starch are you going to serve with the Beef? Apart from the ravioli, theres no starch on the menu. You have to watch the starch carefully as that's what really fills you up.

What sauce are you doing with the ravioli? The menu as a whole seems a bit too mushroom heavy (both the scallops and the beef), I would probably put the rav after the scallops and make a sauce that contrasted with the earthiness of the mushrooms to prevent fatigue.

Do you really want to start off the meal with something deep fried? Whats the batter? If it's not done properly, it's going to leave a greasy feeling over everyones palates which might dull it for the later courses.

PS: I am a guy.

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Thanks for your comments. I agree that the menu is heavy. However the portions will be small. Think about it as a tasting menu. For example, there will be only one large scallop with the mushroom sauce and an asparagus puree. The beef will be served with some potato puree, a couple small roasted vegetables, and the sauce. Piquillo peppers are pretty small. I am planning in about a 3/4 cup of soup. The ravioli are 2 inch in diameter and I will serve 3 per person...

Basically, I am hoping that small portions and a variety of wines will make the dinner flow.

The creme brulee is just a few spoonfuls of creme and phyllo dough making layers.

In the spring and the summer, I could design a lighter menu, however, it is 7 degree F. in Minneapolis right now.


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Great menu and good luck.

I read the thread yesterday, determined I didn't have anything to add then slept on it... and I have a comment now.

From a timing point of view, the two appetizers may be combined into one or have them close together. If your guests are "anxiously" anticipating your meal, they may arrive rather hungry and you might be able to squeeze those two closer together or even at the same time.

The soup may add more heaviness than anticipated. Squash soup has the tendency to become heavy with the richness of butter or cream if used - I'd suggest attempting a more stock-based soup with even an acid added to it such as specialty vinegar or a reduction as a garnish... this should attempt to drop the overall heaviness of the meal.

Other than that, it all sounds great. Again, good luck.



Brian Misko

House of Q - Competition BBQ


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Thanks for the comments and encouragement Brian.

I am planning in a "thin" version of butternut squash soup. I will be pushing the veggie stock over cream as you suggested. I made the stock with a heavy reliance in carrots and it has a nice orange tone that should go well in the soup.

At the beginning, it was the plan to have all the appetizers in the same plate. However, the dinnerware does not allow me to do that without compromising the desire look of the presentation. Looking back, we should have never registered for big dark green plates for our wedding :smile: The plates that I have for the 1st appetizer are rectangular and white and would not hold the peppers as well with an appealing look.

By the way, there are some nice looking pictures of ribs in your site.


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I also did a slice of watermelon sprinkled with a bit of chiffondale mint...

Q. What do you call a male dancer who minces herbs?

A. A chiffondale!

(Did you mean chiffonade?) :wink:

Edited by ruthcooks (log)

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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  • 2 weeks later...
So how did this go?

Thanks for asking, sorry that I have not posted a follow up.

The dinner was just great. We had 12 friends dining and another friend helping my wife doing all the serving of food and wine. They also helped me with planting the food.

We went to a great wine shop with the menu and they helped us choose all the wines. We had a tight budget for the wine, so most of them are table wines. Nonetheless, they worked quite well. The only one that had a weak reception was the sherry with the soup. I do enjoy drinking it though.

I wanted to post some pictures but I am having problems with ImageGullet. Anyway, here is the menu. Some dishes are standard Spanish tapas, three others are inspired by Thomas Keller (pasta, scallop, and beef) Crème Brulee from Michael Symon and the Cheesecake from Marcel Desaulniers.

The timing was good starting with the first set of tapas at 7:30 p.m. and serving the deserts at 11:00 p.m. this timetable was more driven by the diners than by my cooking. I could have served the dishes a little faster, but people were having a good time and the breaks were welcome by all.

Although I do know that it was a heavy menu, people did not seen to care at all. The only thing that was not eating completly was the crust of the cheesecake, most plates came back empty.

Here is the menu (I had some substitutions for a couple vegetarians (e.g. tofu instead of scallops and portabella mushrooms instead of beef):

Assortment of Olives, Bread, and Oil with Parmesan Cheese

Moreau Blanc


Shrimp Croquette and Rouille, Tuna Empanadilla and Tomato Sauce

Manchego Croquette, Zucchini Empanadilla with Spinach Oil

Pimientos del Piquillo Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Marquis de Perlade Blanc de Blancs Brut


Butternut Squash Bisque

Lustau Los Arcos Dry Amontillado


Chestnut Ravioli with Fontina and Celery Root Puree

Sutton Table Pinot Noir

United States

Pan-Roasted Jumbo Scallop with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus Puree

Berger Gruner Veltliner


Braised Short Ribs, Fall Vegetables, and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Panarroz Jumilla


Vanilla Ginger Crème Brulee Napoleon

Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Cheesecake

Smith Woodhouse Lodge Reserve Porto


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