Name That Meal
The time of day generally dictates the type of meal you will serve. Traditionally, the shower is held around lunch; however, today’s showers can be held at any time. Each meal has some basic elements that you must keep in mind as you select the shower menu.
Served until 11:00 A.M., breakfast comes in two styles: full and continental. A full breakfast includes eggs and breakfast meats like sausage, bacon, or ham. Pastries, toast, potatoes, and vegetables (e.g., asparagus spears) along with coffee and tea are all customary components of the full breakfast. A continental breakfast consists of baked goods like muffins, croissants, scones, and nut breads, along with an assortment of juices, coffee, and tea.
For a simple buffet breakfast, you should have:
Eggs—scrambled or poached hold up best
Bacon, sausage, or ham
Two types of baked goods (e.g., scones and blueberry muffins)
Coffee—decaffeinated and regular
Tea—herbal and green or black
Variation: Add French toast as a second main dish and a “mamatini mocktail”
What’s a mocktail?
Mocktails are cocktails without the alcohol. A Mamatini, perfect for the mother-to-be, is a breakfast martini. Mocktail: 1½ ounces gingerale, ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice, ¾ ounce orange juice, 1 teaspoon marmalade. Garnish with orange peel and serve in a martini glass.
Served from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., a brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch. Brunches are usually held on a weekend day. You can usually find eggs on the menu, but they are in the form of a quiche or in a crepe. A refreshing salad and assortments of rolls, cheeses, and fruits are also common.
A brunch-menu buffet should include at least one breakfast entrée, such as eggs Benedict, quiche, or baked eggs; a lunch entrée, for example, spinach Florentine crepes; and one salad, like Asian chicken salad or a Cobb salad.
There should be a dessert item as well, which could be simply a cake or tray of cookies. Champagne or mimosas (champagne and orange juice) and sparkling apple juice often accompany a brunch.
Served from 11:30 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., the difference between brunch and lunch is the food served, not the time it is served. Guests invited to a luncheon shower would expect a main-course salad, sandwich, or entrée rather than egg dishes. A plated lunch at a restaurant may include soup, salad, and a hot or cold entrée, as well as dessert.
If you are hosting at home, a single entrée or main course salad with bread followed by the dessert is perfectly acceptable. If the guest list is all women, a Caesar salad with poached chicken is fine, but if men will be attending, select a heartier meal or add a sandwich to the fare.
Tea (Traditional English)
Tea is served from 3:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. Afternoon tea is served until 5:00 P.M., while high tea, which is more like a light dinner, is served between 5:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. Teas, whether in the early or late afternoon, consist of a menu ranging from scones, jams, and tarts to savory sandwiches of egg salad, tuna salad, or cucumber and watercress, finishing with an array of tiny and tempting dessert pastries. Usually two to four different types of tea are offered in the traditional English tea service.
Cocktails are served from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. (also called happy hour) or 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. A cocktail party covers a wide range of menu options. “Happy Hour” implies that there will be some food and alcoholic beverages but not necessarily dinner. Salty snacks, such as pretzels, nuts, and chips, and appetizers such as crudités or mini-quesadillas or pizzas make up the menu.
People come to cocktail parties hungry! Figure on four to six appetizer pieces per person per hour, especially if you will not be serving dinner. Always include a meat option and a vegetarian option, and don’t be surprised if people go crazy for the meat—it’s filling and tempting in tiny bites.
A classic cocktail party features a more robust menu designed to allow guests to move freely and mingle. Food should be bite-sized, plentiful, and portable. A full bar is not necessary; plan on serving one or two signature drinks, such as mojitos and pink or blue cosmopolitans.
A full stomach is a must—so plan on generous servings of everything edible. Cocktail fare can be simple, but variety is important. Consider serving four to six types of appetizers and something sweet for dessert.
Dinner parties start from 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. Any party in this time frame that doesn’t specify otherwise brings with it the expectation of dinner. Plated dinners usually feature meat or poultry; a vegetable or salad; and potatoes, rice, or pasta.
If you are sitting at a table, food can be preplated or served family style. Dessert can be served at the table or in another room shortly after the dinner is over. For a buffet, two entrées, a salad or pasta, bread, and dessert are fine.
To keep the buffet line moving and reduce food questions, label each dish with the name and main ingredients. A menu card can be created on your computer or can be handwritten. Consider giving the dish a name that not only describes it but also works with the shower theme; for example, Baby Carriage Cacciatore with chicken, basil, and sausage.
Desserts can be served in the afternoon, evening, or at break time during a workday. Specify on the invitation that it’s dessert only. Cake is the traditional shower dessert. You can serve it plain or with ice cream.
If you want to amp up the menu a bit, consider a dessert bar or buffet. A dessert bar uses one dessert—say cupcakes—then expands on that theme by offering multiple flavors or mix-and-match toppings, frost-your-own, and so on. A dessert buffet presents a variety of different desserts, such as cheesecake, brownies, a cookie tray, and rice pudding.