Compose any type of party food menu for any occasion using this easy guide to food courses
A full course dinner can consist of three, five, eight or twelve courses, and in an extreme form---twenty-one courses!
A great party food menu starts with...
A selection of small bites of food served to stimulate the appetite.
Also called hors d'oeuvres or canapés they are often eaten without
silverware (finger food).
Appetizers are not considered a course unless served at the table before the soup or salad. Appetizers are an excellent party food on a buffet or luncheon menu. Even a light drink (aperitif) is considered an appetizer.
Keep the rest of the meal in mind when choosing a soup. It can be hot or cold and thick or thin. Keep it simply flavored. Serve soup as an appetizer in an espresso or demitasse cup. Soups can also be the main entree for a lunch menu.
Favorite choices are leek and potato, gazpacho, seafood bisque and consommé.
Can be served instead of soup or before or after the soup or even after the main course and before desert, almost like a palate cleanser. Salads are perfect on a at brunch, lunch or dinner party menu, and make an interesting appetizer course when served on small plates.
Like the soup the salad can also be served as the main course depending on the occasion and time of day. Good choices are Roasted Beet Salad or Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette
More Salad Recipes
How Much Food to Serve
For more help see Cocktail Party ideas
See the Food Quantities Chart for more help
Keep in mind who your guests are and be aware if they are pickers or
heavy eaters. On a buffet of numerous types of dishes people will take
smaller portions of each in order to sample everything. You can
pre-slice or pre-cut such things as roast beef, lasagna and cakes to
help with portion control.
The main course or entree is the party food center of attention. Usually it is the most filling and the most complex dish on the menu. Every course leads up to the main course and if well-planned, can function as sort of a "gastronomic climax", if you will.
Sides dishes such as rice, potatoes, vegetables and bread are generally not considered courses but are a part of the entree.
The meal ends on a sweet note. Either hot or cold, sometimes accompanied by a suitable dessert wine. A heavy meal should be topped with a light airy dessert.
A most delicious and easy dessert is fine chocolates and fruit perhaps served with a liqueur such as amaretto or Kahlua.
Usually made from fruit juice and having a soft, icy consistency, sorbets are customarily served as a palate cleanser between courses. They also make a light and refreshing dessert.
Sorbet is an elegant and surprising touch for your guests. You can make it at home but also look for it in your grocer's freezer case under ices, frappes or granitas. Sorbets never contain milk so don't purchase sherbet as it will be too dense and too sweet.
The meal can begin and end with appropriate wines, cocktails or liqueurs. These are not considered courses in and of themselves.
See Chef Menus alcohol guide for more information.
Freshly brewed, flavored, decaf or regular. Also offer tea with lemon and honey. If you've got the right equipment, offer cappuccino and espresso.
Here is an example of a twenty-one course menu. What a delicious, albeit long, evening this would be!
"Cooking for a Crowd
The Ultimate Guide"
All the information you will ever need