Okay, so the idea of a luxurious dinner party for the third challenge of Project Food Blog really threw us for a loop. Luxurious…what does that even mean? Exotic themes? Hard-to-find or expensive ingredients? Fancy table settings? We have no clue about any of that stuff. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had people over for parties plenty of times with tons of great food. We definitely know how to throw a great LAN party if we do say so ourselves. But luxurious? We can’t fake that. So rather than pretend, we’re not even going to try. That’s right. This is our kind of entertaining. And really, it’s how we were raised. We had great family gatherings and food as children, but it was always a simple, collaborative effort. All hands on deck so to speak. That’s how we learned to entertain, and it’s how we continue to learn about our family’s traditions in food and cooking. And yes, it can be had with some fancy mis-matched plastic “china,” as my grandma called it.
So when Neil’s parents and two of their friends decided to come to town for the annual Roots-N-Blues Festival this weekend, we decided to give them a sweet little welcome lunch reception. That’s right, lunch. No dinner party, just a fun, easy lunch to allow them a bit of food and relaxation before the festival.
Ironically, as freelance designers, a lot of the same strategies involved in design apply to planning a meal for guests.
Our first consideration was to choose a theme. A theme isn’t so much a necessity for your guests as it is a way to make your life a little easier. It’s really a plan. A way to streamline and have an outline for the order of things and what you are trying to say, whether it be for your food or a design. We wanted a meal themed around the music festival. The music played at the festival is jazz, blues, soul, and a bit of bluegrass and reggae. We thought the best way to encompass all of that was soulful, southern cooking. Something warm and comforting and most of all seasonal.
Our second consideration was to think about our guests. Neil’s parents and their friends are all older and like simple, mostly healthy foods. They eat lots of veggies, exercise, and don’t drink a lot of alcohol. One of them is even training to climb Machu Picchu next spring! It was important that our food be light, accessible and flavorful without being overly rich.
The third consideration in planning our meal was the timeframe available. We were planning a lunch and then heading to the festival, therefore it was important that our meal be prepared and served in three hours time. Short, but definitely doable. We achieved much of this by preparing as much as we could ahead of time.
The fourth consideration and always the party pooper of any planning process are the available resources for your meal. For some people this probably isn’t a huge consideration but with graduate tuition and a new small business, it is for us. So we set our budget at $50.
So there you have it. For under $50 we planned a tasty and simple lunch of Shrimp Po-Boy Sandwiches with homemade remoulade, cole slaw and pickle spears (yep homemade pickles!), served with a side of seasoned organic sweet potato fries. For our other side, a Pumpkin Bread Pudding with sweet soft breads and fall spices. And for dessert, Rum Raisin Apple Pie, built on a classic flakey almond crust with granny smith apples from the Kohler Family Farm. And to drink, Spiced Hot Apple Cider, a cozy beverage spiked with a little rum for extra warmth.
Of course, a few pics from the prep:
Shrimp Po-Boy Sandwiches
Rum Raisin Apple Pie:
Spiced Hot Apple Cider
The buffet-style spread, a tradition in both of our families:
And of course, a few pictures and a video from the festival!
The lunch and festival were a huge success, replete with both the familiar and the new. Everyone was able to experience something they both loved and had never thought to try, and it sparked exciting conversation and old stories. Those really are the best meals aren’t they? And as is traditional with all the meals in our family, we made extra so there would be plenty to nosh on after the festival and into today. What good is hospitality if you don’t make enough for second dinner and first and second breakfast?
Are there any hospitality have-to traditions in your family?
Neil and I want to thank you again and again for all the support you’ve given us in Project Food Blog. We’re continually surprised each time we advance and we want you to know how much we love and appreciate all of you. We’ll post all the recipes for these dishes this week, so stay tuned! And as always, here is the link: