Now that you’ve decided when to serve (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and how to serve (buffet, sit-down, passed), you are at the point of deciding what to serve and how to present it. Food is a sensory experience—you smell it, see it, taste it, feel it’s textures. It’s a feast for the eyes and palette, even if you are serving just one dish.
As you start to create your menu, incorporate a sensory run-through. How will the plate look? Are the foods you are planning to serve of similar color and texture? Mashed potatoes, sliced turkey breast, and creamed onions are all delicious, but on the same plate they are visually boring. Green beans would be a great addition to this plate and this menu. Green beans with slivered almonds would be an even better choice.
Plan your menu to include a variety of flavors, textures, and colors to create a menu that has visual and sensory appeal.
Food Variety and Texture
You do not need a wide variety of foods at a shower, but the foods you do choose should complement each other without being repetitive. Don’t repeat a main ingredient in another dish. Creamed spinach, spinach salad, and chicken spinach casserole is spinach overload.
Mix sweet flavors with savory ones, like pork chops and applesauce; balance hot flavors with cool, such as spicy chili with sour cream. Too many sauces, competing gravies, and too many rich foods are also not recommended.
The texture of foods is another way to expand the sensory experience and add variety to the menu. Crunchy salads are delicious with tender pasta dishes. Pignolis (pine nuts) offer a contrast to steamed vegetables. Crispy steak fries are the perfect companion to a great filet mignon.
The way food is presented is an art form in and of itself. You do not need elaborate presentations, but you do need to think about how the food will look as it’s presented on the plate. For most home showers, there will be a central food table set up for a buffet. The table will contain platters, bowls, and trays of the various foods prepared. To make your table visually appealing, consider the following:
Color. A tray of tomatoes garnished with herbs, a platter of roasted chicken breast, and a bowl of salad with fresh peas, red peppers, and romaine lettuce will not only be yummy, but colorful and interesting as well.
Shape. Use food shapes as a design element. Round, red new potatoes, narrow strips of yellow pepper, asparagus spears, carrots cut on the diagonal, melon balls, and pineapple chunks all bring an added level of visual excitement to your menu. Consider both natural shapes of foods as well as the shapes you can create with slicing and dicing.
Garnish. The garnish is a food accessory. It finishes the presentation and creates a well-dressed plate. A handful of fresh herbs, a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, a swirl of crème fraiche, or a dusting of cocoa powder can be the finishing touch.