Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Menu Management

Remember that hilarious episode of Modern Family when Cameron tries to bond with Gloria by eating spicy food? He takes a bit, then sprints from the table shouting "I feel like I ate the sun!"

Well, the scene is riotously entertaining on tv, but we don't want it played in our dining room at our next dinner party. If you are hosting a cocktail party, you need not worry much about the menu--presumably you will offer a variety of nibbles and your guests are not expecting a meal. If you are serving an actual meal, however, you want to avoid a food flop--or your guests seeking an emetic or fire hose after they ingest your masterpiece. There's nothing worse than half of your guests declaring an allergy to shellfish as you as you unveil your shrimp scampi, or an aversion to spicy food as you slice the chili-glazed rack of lamb.

Here are some ways to avoid this nasty scenario:

--- Check with your guests ahead of time. I always send an advance email around to my invitees asking about dietary restrictions or strong aversions--some specific foods that people tend to avoid, either because of allergy, religion or personal preference are: seafood, pork, beef, lamb, nuts, chili peppers, mushrooms, and organ meats, so take a poll if these are featured on your menu.

--- Always, always, always have a several choices on the table. If you are offering meat or fish as a main course, provide ample sides (salad, bread, an interesting vegetable and/or starch option) so that vegetarians can partake without feeling slighted. This practice also avoids your rustling up an omelet as everyone else tucks in to your filet mignon. Regardless of your menu, options are key--a chili-laced vegetable curry sounds divine to me, but some folks don't eat spicy food. Good thing there'll be basmati rice, naan, lentils, and salad for them.

And this video really isn't about menus or chili peppers, but The Office cracks me up. They mentioned a rather unorthodox use of spicy food here, so I thought you might get a giggle....

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