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Home Entertaining

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 
Greetings, If anyone out there enjoys entertaining at home, I would love to hear your opinions. Traditionally, at least in the U.S., when you invited people over for a meal, you served food in large serving vessels (dishes, bowls, etc.) that got passed around the table. People took what they wanted in the amounts they wanted (hopefully within limits of propriety). I love to cook for people, but I have a big problem with this approach. First of all, as a creative cook, I attempt to balance and coordinate flavors in each course. If I am serving meat A with side dishes B and C, they are all meant to complement each other. If someone chooses not to eat side dish B because they don't like it and take more of C instead, the course, and thus my creation, becomes incomplete. In addition, the viusual aspect of a meal is very important. I like to coordinate not only flavors and textures but also colors, and I arrange the components in a visually pleasing way, which dictates assembling everything in the kitchen and bringing individual plates to the table and putting them in front of guests. Finally, rejecting, however implicitly, a dish when you are a guest bothers me on prinicple. When I invite people for dinner, I always ask if there are any foods they cannot or would not eat. That's their opportunity to make their requirements and desires known, and I always respect what they tell me. Once that is done, however, I feel that they have committed to eating what I make. This stems from the fact that I strongly believe that anyone who claims to enjoy eating has a responsibility to him/herself and others to train their taste to enjoy all foods, assuming it is medically safe. Extreme? Opinionated? Inflexible? Excessively harsh? Perhaps. But I do believe this. The arguments against this approach are pretty obvious. Some people would consider it presumptuous for me to dictate what the guests would like, in what combination and what quantity and arrange it for them. It is also thought to eliminate the opportunity for seconds (this is not actually true -- I always offer seconds if there is any left, but most people shouldn't be asking for seconds to begin with). Finally, bizzarre though it may seem, there are people out there who have never grown out of their childhood obsession with keeping everything separate on their plates, and my approach of artistically arranging things with sauces and garnishes smashes that obsession on the spot. So, am I being draconian? My S.O., who obviously co-hosts all of these dinners (although I do most of the cooking) thinks it's perfectly fine, but she is a foodie, and that's how I've been cooking for her for ten years. But the only guests I've done it with so far were avowed foodies whom I knew to be not just accepting but excited about my approach, and who did the same for us at their houses. For others, I've given in to passing around serving platters. Any thoughts or comments? Thank you all in advance. Best Regards, Tony
post #2 of 51
Well, it does smack a little of controlling behavior, but presumably anyone who comes to your house knows you already and is disposed to put up with your foibles. As long as you're not glaring at anyone who passes up the turnip soufflé or doesn't clean his plate, I don't see a lot wrong with this, though. Rather like your average banquet, where you sit down and someone brings you what is being served. Period. We do much the same for our Christmas party-- not in the food, which is passed heavy hors d'oeuvres, but on the bar. Instead of the full bar with lots of spirits and beer, we do just red, white, and soft drinks. We choose the wine carefully, and nobody complains. I actually did hear a total dips**t demand some Scotch when faced with such a lineup [at someone else's party], but I try not to invite such people to my house.
post #3 of 51
I find that most people invited in our home take my lead, they go for the ride. I will often let people help themselves, but they appreciate explanations about the dishes, especially when it's Americans who are unfamiliar with, say, French traditions or Italian ingredients. But it depends on the company you keep, for sure. Most of our friends, I think, look forward to the experiences at our home, and they'd do anything I ask.
post #4 of 51
If someone doesn't want to eat everything you've plated for them, that's their choice, not yours. Of course you don't have to invite them back...
post #5 of 51
Excepting things like bread/biscuits, the ONLY meals during the year that we have platters/bowls of food that are passed around the table are Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter dinner. If there are alot of people or kids involved, sometimes we do a buffet, but all 1-3 couple dinners (other than casual pizza/take-out of course) involve my wife putting together nice plates for everyone. That's just the way we've always done things. BTW, my wife is definitely in the foodie category.
post #6 of 51
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Excepting things like bread/biscuits, the ONLY meals during the year that we have platters/bowls of food that are passed around the table are Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter dinner.  If there are alot of people or kids involved, sometimes we do a buffet, but all 1-3 couple dinners (other than casual pizza/take-out of course) involve my wife putting together nice plates for everyone.  That's just the way we've always done things.  BTW, my wife is definitely in the foodie category.
I hesitate to prepare plates for people, as I feel I may be imposing amounts and choices. I guess I learned a new term. Foodie. I don't think that's me, though. I cook as I breathe, it's integrated into our lives, I don't make a big deal of it. I could cook with my eyes closed, or make something out of whatever is left in the refrigerator. That's not being a foodie, is it?
post #7 of 51
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First of all, as a creative cook, I attempt to balance and coordinate flavors in each course.  
As a creative but socially ept cook, I call bullshit. I'm bringing friends into my home for the socialization, not to show off my skills. Is it that hard to creatively cook something that can get passed around? I say keep the post-modern manifestation of Dali's take on the plight of the Maori to those who you know will appreciate it. And warn them in advance, just in case. Tom
post #8 of 51
Fabienne, I don't think I've ever heard of a definition of "foodie." IMO, a foodie is just someone who views food as more than just sustenance; more than just taste - they seek out not just great tasting food, but also a wide and sometimes exotic variety. Foodies like good wine. They love coming across a well-stocked farmers market. They get excited about freshly caught trout; fresh herbs from one's own garden; perfectly ripe home-grown tomatoes; morel mushrooms; slow-stirred pumpkin risotto; really great cheese made by a family in the countryside and sold at their roadside market; homemade scratch ravioli made with smoked salmon caught by a friend or family member; strawberry-rhubard pie made with homegrown rhubarb.... I could go on but I'm getting hungry.
post #9 of 51
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First of all, as a creative cook, I attempt to balance and coordinate flavors in each course.  
As a creative but socially ept cook, I call bullshit.  I'm bringing friends into my home for the socialization, not to show off my skills.  Is it that hard to creatively cook something that can get passed around?  I say keep the post-modern manifestation of Dali's take on the plight of the Maori to those who you know will appreciate it.  And warn them in advance, just in case. Tom
I agree, it is not a restaurant, it is a casual comfortable get together where one can show off the prowess of his/her cooking and still make the guest feel comfortable...allow the guest to interpret what the taste should be.....not what you think the pallet should enjoy, everyone tastes food in a different and enjoyable way...as it has also been stated, it hints at a controlling personality, if I were invited to a friends house and they were to serve restaurant style, I would prefer not to return, we have many dinner parties, and we serve food some like an some do not like, however there is always alternatives, to satisfy all.
post #10 of 51
Do your friends call you "Soup Nazi?"
post #11 of 51
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(tiger02 @ Feb. 03 2005,12:58) Quote First of all, as a creative cook, I attempt to balance and coordinate flavors in each course.  
As a creative but socially ept cook, I call bullshit.  I'm bringing friends into my home for the socialization, not to show off my skills.  Is it that hard to creatively cook something that can get passed around?  I say keep the post-modern manifestation of Dali's take on the plight of the Maori to those who you know will appreciate it.  And warn them in advance, just in case. Tom
I agree, it is not a restaurant, it is a casual comfortable get together where one can show off the prowess of his/her cooking and still make the guest feel comfortable...allow the guest to interpret what the taste should be.....not what you think the pallet should enjoy, everyone tastes food in a different and enjoyable way...as it has also been stated, it hints at a controlling personality, if I were invited to a friends house and they were to serve restaurant style, I would prefer not to return, we have many dinner parties, and we serve food some like an some do not like, however there is always alternatives, to satisfy all.[/quote] I have to agree. sometimes I will make rather unusual foods for my friends, but I will always give them a more comfortable option, and once I put the food in front of them I expect them to be polite and conversant but I don't dictate what they do with the food I have served them. likewise, sometimes I am at people's houses and I am not in the mood for some concoction that they have thought up. and, let me fill you in on a little secret - sometimes people might not like your food. I, for instance, have very high standards in indian food, and for some idiotic reason people always want to serve me indian food. on the other side of the plate, I don't really like some specific high end engrediants, so if you put them on my plate I might end up giving hem to my wife. let me add another little secret - kitchen wine isn't jsut for cooking, it is for helping he cook relax. have a glass, chill, enjoy your time with your friends.
post #12 of 51
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let me add another little secret - kitchen wine isn't jsut for cooking, it is for helping he cook relax. have a glass, chill, enjoy your time with your friends.
AMEN brother, and a good question, why does everyone think when they have had curry out in a good restaurant, that all of a sudden they think they know how to cook it....leave the curry to the real indian people to cook, there is nothing worse than a bad night eating curry...I love Indian cuisine, but there is only one place in the world I will eat it, the UK....why, because they have the besy I have ever eaten.
post #13 of 51
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(globetrotter @ Feb. 04 2005,16:02) let me add another little secret - kitchen wine isn't jsut for cooking, it is for helping he cook relax. have a glass, chill, enjoy your time with your friends.
AMEN brother, and a good question, why does everyone think when they have had curry out in a good restaurant, that all of a sudden they think they know how to cook it....leave the curry to the real indian people to cook, there is nothing worse than a bad night eating curry...I love Indian cuisine, but there is only one place in the world I will eat it, the UK....why, because they have the besy I have ever eaten.
yeah, I spent 3 very intersting years in india, and for me the memories of the food are related to other memories, so I really hate having food that is "indian style" or "fusian indian" etc, or just plain bad indian. not that I am a food snob, it just happens that that particular cusine has a lot of "baggage" for me.
post #14 of 51
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your comments. I have conducted a similar survey off line among my friends, acquaintances and colleagues, and the public opinion has come down *firmly* on the side of plating. I found this a little surprising, but the fact remains that it did. More importantly, my latest dinner party took place this past Saturday, and I aksed the guests themselves what their opinion was. They were in favor of plating as well. Everything went off without a hitch, everyone loved the food, and there was no problem with flow of conversation. A few comments...
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I agree, it is not a restaurant, it is a casual comfortable get together where one can show off the prowess of his/her cooking and still make the guest feel comfortable...allow the guest to interpret what the taste should be.....not what you think the pallet should enjoy, everyone tastes food in a different and enjoyable way...
I am sorry, but isn't it going a bit too far? Sure, this is a casual and comfortable get-together, but after all, *I* am the cook, therefore *I* interpret what the taste should be. Yeah, I know, controlling personality, yada yada... As I mentioned before, I always ensure that I know everyone's restrictions and preferences before I invite them over. Plus, these are people we know well and know their foibles for the most part, and they know us well too -- they know to expect something a little unusual when they come to our house.
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and, let me fill you in on a little secret - sometimes people might not like your food.
I've been cooking for ten years, and I know my skills and limitations well at this point. I will not attempt something that I am not certain will come out well. I will also never cook something for company that I have not previously tested on my girlfriend and myself. Beyond that, it's a risk they take. If they don't like my food, it's unfortunate. We'll go to a restaurant next time. Besides, creative doesn't mean weird. We're not talking about poisonous blowfish here.
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let me add another little secret - kitchen wine isn't jsut for cooking, it is for helping he cook relax. have a glass, chill, enjoy your time with your friends.
I'll counter with a little secret -- there is no such thing as kitchen wine. One shouldn't cook with any wine that isn't good enough to drink. But I'm just being picky about words here. I get you, and believe me, I have no problems in the wine-in-the-kitchen department... Thanks again, Tony
post #15 of 51
Maybe it has to do with the region you are from, I do not supoose to be up on all of the Martha Stewart or Emily Posts rules of on etiquette, however, I can say we have never been to a dinner party where anyone serves a plate, and most of my wifes friends are in the cooking clubs at the club, and take careful consideration to be proper in the in etiquette department...
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