Seating, Serving, and Style
Your shower food should fit your shower style. A formal shower calls for formal food—china and caviar at a barbeque just doesn’t work. Find the best way to serve up the best food with the least amount of stress to you, the hostess, whether that means baking ahead, buying in bulk, ordering out, or catering in. The only rule about doing it right is making it comfortable for everybody.
Method of Food Service
The method you choose to serve the food will play an important role in the menu you select. A formal dinner requires that guests be seated and that food is served on a proper dinner plate with proper flatware. Inventory your supplies to see how many plates, glasses, and serving pieces you have. Will it be enough for the number of people you are inviting?
If not, how will you make up the difference? You could rent what you need or you may decide to go casual and use paper goods. With a casual setting and theme, a plate of “small bites,” held on a lap or perched on a cocktail table, is perfectly acceptable. Here are the three types of food service:
Passed service. Frequently seen at cocktail parties, this type of food service requires staff devoted to going guest to guest with trays of appetizers and drinks. Those manning the serving trays should be adept at juggling a tray of drinks and a handful of cocktail napkins. If this is the service style you have chosen, consider hiring professional waitstaff.
Self-service. The buffet is the most common way to serve food to a crowd. It allows the food to be arranged on a serving table, and then guests go to the table, take utensils and a plate, and serve themselves. It works well in most homes and with most age groups. It also requires fewer people to manage the food service. You can use paper plates, paper napkins, and plastic forks or china, cloth napkins, and silverware for a buffet.
Plated service. This style of service can be dressed up or dressed down. Obviously, it requires table-and-chair seating for all the guests. This is perfect for groups of ten or less. Even if your home can accommodate a larger group, a sit-down meal may require an extra set of hands (or two) to serve everyone.
For the home buffet, a five- to six-foot table is the minimum requirement for setting up food, plates, and dining accoutrements. Use the extension leaves on your dining room or kitchen table, or bring in a six-foot folding table. If you are covering the buffet table with a cloth, choosing floor-length linens makes a better presentation.
Those in the food-service industry know that as soon as the first tray of food is set on the serving table, a buffet line will form instantaneously. And as the hostess, that’s when you’ll be glad you considered this issue of food and traffic. If you are hosting the shower in a home, look at doorways and hallways in relation to the placement of the buffet table. If you do not want guests to sit at the buffet table, remove the chairs and place them elsewhere in the room.
Set up the table to allow traffic to flow on all sides, rather than just one side. Place plates, napkins, and utensils together at the starting point of the buffet line. Allow space at the edge of the table for guests to rest a plate as they serve themselves.
When hosting a large group, have two sets of food and place one on each side of the table—two bowls of the salad, two trays of the chicken, and so on, to ease congestion. If your group is more than 20, set up two buffet tables or consider food stations around the room or in other rooms of your home. Set up a beverage area away from the food table, which will also prevent a bottleneck as the food is served.
Menu faux pas can be avoided during the planning, but they are hard to correct at the shower! Nothing is more embarrassing than to arrive at a party all dressed up, sit down at the edge of a chintz-covered couch, and spill a droopy paper plate filled with barbequed beast all down the front of your outfit and the couch. It’s also embarrassing to be introduced to the mother of the guest of honor with a chicken wing in your hand. Food that is too spicy, too saucy, too drippy, too sticky, too crumbly, and too hard to eat is not a great idea for a ladies tea, but may be perfect for a backyard barbeque shower with family.