Oct 152010

After each Open House, as we pack up the leftovers and get ready for the game night that immediately follows the party (my reward), my husband and I take notes about what recipes worked and which ones didn’t. Basically a post-mortem.

  • What should I make again?
  • What was too much effort for the payoff?
  • What looked gross after two hours at room temperature?
  • How much did I make? Was that too much or not enough?
  • Was there something that I really liked so I didn’t mind if there were leftovers?

These notes aren’t gospel – one year I made 2 pounds of shrimp and we ran out halfway thru the party, so the next year I made 4 pounds and no one ate any shrimp that year! – but they give me a starting point when thinking about the next year’s menu.

2009 Dessert Table

Our Dessert Table last year. Yes, everything there was made from scratch.

So based on last year’s notes, here are the definite inclusions on this year’s menu:

  • Buffalo bites – my husband’s signature dish
  • Sugared cranberries – easy, do ahead, seasonal, and a favorite of a friend who helps out the day of
  • Peach meatballs – these are killer, and easy because I start with frozen meatballs and bottled barbeque sauce that I doctor up
  • Sweet cheeseball – on menu almost every year, not consistently devoured but there’s usually two or three people who seek me out for the recipe
  • My punch – always a hit and hard to keep the bowl filled
  • Lemon cornmeal shortbread bars – these are divine, will have to make a triple recipe if I want leftovers
  • Roast beef – an inexpensive cut of beef, cooked low and slow, sliced thin, served with rolls and condiments
  • Raspberry streusel bars – I hope no one eats these, I want them for breakfast the rest of the week

And here’s what I’m not making in the future:

  • Elephant ears  – really best right out of the oven and didn’t catch people’s eye on the dessert table, hubby’s boss liked so I may make some for her on a separate occasion
  • Chocolate Babka – a chocolate bread, this one made with crescent roll dough, too messy for a party and hard to serve, better warm
  • Cupcakes – hard to do ahead, people just didn’t go for either variety, cakes in general don’t go as well as cookies
  • Mini Club Sandwiches- based on a Giada Di Laurentiis recipe, great for entertaining lunch or football party, not so much a holiday party
  • Cranberry Nut Muffins – same principle as cupcakes, plus I didn’t like this recipe so I won’t make what I won’t eat

Unfortunately, my notes from last year are more detailed about each savory dish than all the sweet stuff, probably because I’m tired after this party and details for 50 dishes are a lot to write down. I do remember that most people filled up on savories and didn’t leave room for dessert, so we had lots of sweets leftover. I think the dessert table this year will focus almost exclusively on cookies: bar, drop, and rolled. As I can make most of those ahead of time, it should be win-win.

I think we’ll also use smaller plates, so people can’t get as much food in one trip. (Assuming I can find smaller plates that I like and that match my color schemes.)

What about you? What dishes are tried and true entertaining fare? What recipe will you never do again? Let me know in the comments!

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