Last year I had the awesome opportunity to cater a lunch for the lovely ladies of The Women’s Club from my Mom's condo community. They are a fantastic group of vital women who meet for various occasions. They have a book club. They go to the theatre, take field trips and just enjoy one another’s company. They regularly host parties and luncheons, and that's where I came in. My Mom is in charge of organizing one summer luncheon each year. After hearing about the one she organized last year, I asked if she wanted me to help her cater the upcoming one. My Mom is an amazing woman who is always willing to help others and give of herself. So, naturally I wanted to do something special for her and for her friends. This particular luncheon is usually a casual one serving up typical summer fare, like sandwiches and potato salad and such. My goal was to up the ante a bit, and so I embarked in creating a menu that they might enjoy. I sat down with my Mom and her friend, Elena, who helps her with this event. As luck would have it I was just coming back from working a catering event in the Hamptons and had some leftovers with me. Call it fate, kismet or just plain damn good luck that I had this nibbles for them to try. It was almost like a wedding tasting. As I pulled out dish after dish for them to taste test, we took notes, jotted down what they liked, what I could slightly change and what I could add, all taking into account the likes of their group. It was great to have both my Mom and Elena providing valuable feedback so we could tailor the luncheon to offer up some delicious dishes. And so the menu was set, and the plan hatched.
Tomato Mozzarella Puff Pastry Tarts
Arugula & Parmigiano Reggiano with Lemon Vinaigrette
Chicken Salad with Grapes, Apples & Walnuts served with Romaine boats
Turkey Breast & Swiss Cheese Roll Ups
Asian Slaw with Peanut-Tahini Dressing
Israeli Couscous with Sautéd Zucchini & Roasted Tomato with a Roasted Garlic Dressing
Peach Cobbler with Whipped Cream
Lime Zest/Raspberry Filled Cookies
Normally they use throw away plastic tablecloths and paper dishes. It was a hard sell at first, but I convinced my Mom that using cloth tablecloths and real dishes would make it feel special. As you all know, I HAVE tablecloths. Enough, in fact, to cover the buffet table and all the seated tables.
The luncheon was held in the condo’s clubhouse, which meant we had to set the room up with tables and chairs for 30 guests. They showed me their usual set up, but in traditional Dana fashion I rejiggered the entire space. Thankfully, I had the help of my Mom, Elena and Olivia. Especially since I decided that we would seriously need to move most of the furniture around. They were very willing and accommodating to my suggestions. Moving the seating area that was directly in front of the fireplace gave way for a perfect place to set up the main buffet table, front and center. It was August, so no need to have access to that. With this new placement, we were able to better utilize the entire space and the built-in counters next to the fireplace. Which is where I placed the plates, napkins and utensils for a better flow.
When setting up a buffet table, think about the flow. Think about how people will reach for the food items and make sure you place them accordingly. Set higher items in the back, and group foods together. Bread near the items like the Egg Salad and Chicken Salad, condiments close to the cold cuts, for example.
Make sure you have utensils for each dish and have any condiments close by.
Make your platters look pretty. Arrange the food so your guests feel that you took time and care in preparing the meal. It makes them feel special, as they should.
We used my Soothing Blues theme but gave the tables a vibrant color pop with small centerpieces using Ribbon flowers accented with white hydrangeas cut from my garden. Simple but striking. The best part was showing Elena, who was reluctant in arranging the flowers, just how easy it is to create a floral arrangement with impact. Hesitant at first, her confidence grew once I showed her color blocking and explained that simpler is better. And with that she finished the rest beautifully. The key; do what looks good to your eye and it will look good to others.
It was so lovely to be welcomed into their group and serve them food that they enjoyed. Everyone seemed to have a good time and loved the food offerings.
There is a simple joy in sharing food. In creating an atmosphere where people feel loved by your efforts. Remember, no matter what we do in life, whether it be the words we speak, or the food we make, the flowers we arrange, or the door we hold open, when done from a place of purity then the world is stirred with love. Thank you to my Mom, Elena and Olivia, and to Rhona and the entire Women's Club for welcoming me to your luncheon last year. Here’s to all of you, hoping you enjoy these memories and share many more happy adventures and good eating together!
And for the rest of my readers, I hope this brings about inspiration on how and what to serve for Ladies’ Summer Lunch. Ok, Men are welcome, too! In fact, all are welcome. Stir it with LOVE!
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