Planning for Variety on Your Buffet Table
Focus on “eye appeal” when you plan any party menu. Think of how the food will actually look when it is sitting on the buffet table or on someone's plate when you are choosing what you want to serve. You will definitely want an interesting variety of colors, textures, flavors, and sizes.
Choose no more than five major dishes for a buffet. That keeps everything much simpler and creates a more elegant appearance. Since you will likely not be hiring anyone to serve the guests as they pass through the line, having more of fewer dishes also motivates people to move through the line faster because they have fewer items to sample.
For a real meal, your dishes would most likely include the following:
One hot meat dish
One hot fish or poultry dish
A starch, ranging from pasta salad, rice, potatoes, or rolls
A green salad
Some sort of vegetable dish, either hot or cold
And for dessert, the cake, possibly with ice cream and/or a fruit salad.
If a budget has you constricted so that you are planning the party at a non-meal time, or if you simply want to keep it very simple, why not try something like the following hors d'oeuvres menu:
Crackers or interesting bread
One or two kinds of cheese (perhaps Brie and Colby)
An interesting fruit platter or fruit salad
A vegetable item (even as simple as carrot sticks and dip)
Some nuts or salty snack food like pretzels