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Old 01-09-2013, 11:57 AM   #1
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"fancy" dinner party menu suggestions?

I am doing a Dinner for 8 thing with my church, where they pair up four couples that otherwise do not hang out together and we each take turns hosting a dinner party at our house over the course of the year. Well, we are paired up with people that have more disposable income than us, so the dinners thus far have been fancier than I had originally planned to do. Not totally high-end, but not exactly from the $5 menu thread.

So I am looking for suggestions for dinner fare that looks more expensive than it really is, and is not too labor intensive so I can actually enjoy the dinner party. I have some culinary background, so I can cook and I can pull off fancy presentation. I'm just stuck for ideas. All I can think of is something in puff pastry so it looks pretty, or upscaling breakfast fare (quiche with higher end veggies, muffins or strata baked in fancy shaped tins, etc.) I know you mamas can come up with something better than this. TIA!

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Old 01-09-2013, 12:58 PM   #2
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Re: "fancy" dinner party menu suggestions?

Why not do a pasta bar with a few different sauces and a couple different pastas. Pair that with a big Cesar salad and some garlic bread.
Presentation has a lot to do with how fancy something feels.
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Old 01-09-2013, 12:59 PM   #3
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Re: "fancy" dinner party menu suggestions?

"Expensive" can be in the work that went into it. How about homemade foods like popovers, deviled eggs, homemade pie (including the crust, possibly with a top lattice crust?). Veggie platter with more than just carrots and celery (cucumbers, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, avocado slices?, etc) and use a real ranch dressing that you might already have (at $3/bottle) instead of a separate $4/bucket of less flavorful "dip". Fresh fruit platter (blackberries and blueberries are on sale at Aldi right now, plus clementines, kiwi, etc). Homemade guacamole and chips. Taco layer dip. Fruit pizza. A fair amount of labor, but almost all of this is stuff that can be done in advance rather than while guests are present.

Hmm, I'm short on main dish ideas. Shish kabobs can look fancy. How about cultural food that they may not have had before, for the novelty factor? Indian curry, Vietnamese pho, homemade sushi? Potato leek soup, squash soup, any cultural soups meant to be served cold? Does anyone in the family hunt, can you put game meat on the table (venison, duck, etc), that might have a novelty factor.

Provide a menu on the table with the fancy names for the dishes, such as Vichyssoise instead of "potato leek soup"?
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Old 01-09-2013, 01:15 PM   #4
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Re: "fancy" dinner party menu suggestions?

Sandra Lee comes to mind. Her setups are so fancy that she could serve a dead fish and no one would bat an eye. So presentation will probably take you most of the way if you wanted to serve something less fancy.

I say cook whatever you make best. Don't try something new unless you are 100% positive it will have a good outcome.

Things that come to mind that are fairly cheap - spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, white lasagna with fancy salad and homemade garlic toast, stir fry or fajitas, or even a turkey or chicken with jazzed up fixin's.

Ina Garten is always good for appetizers. Her thing is something like buy 2, make 1.

For dessert, how about strawberry short cakes, or homemade ice cream with a chocolate layer cake. Or a tirimisu?
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Old 01-09-2013, 01:23 PM   #5
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Re: "fancy" dinner party menu suggestions?

It sounds like you have had some of the dinners already. How does everyone get along - is it natural-feeling, do you feel like there is one-up-manship going on or stuffyness/hoity toity-ness?
If everyone is cool, I would honestly go for "easy, inexpensive to prepare, but SUPER FUN and party-ish"
ie:
different kinds of fondues - you can do them in multiple crockpots
make your own pizza/baked potato/pasta/taco/fajitas bar
different ethnic or regional food that everyone may not be familiar with - do you or DH come from a different area or have a fun "family" food?
Food on sticks is always fun? DH and I do this alot: chicken thighs cut into strips and skewered, marinated in sesame oil/garlic/soy, then grilled. Japanese grilled rice balls (i always forget their name), grilled or roasted veg, and a couple sauces.

spring rolls - rice paper wrappers, a dish of hot water, and a bunch of fillings. Just seeing what different people put in theirs, and who is really bad at wrapping, is fun :-) Also this is a great dish for any group with allergies - we have lots of GF folks and they appreciate the total lack of gluten.
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:03 PM   #6
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Re: "fancy" dinner party menu suggestions?

Personally, i would do a whole roasted chicken on a bed of chopped veggies, stuffing and a large salad on the side served with a white sangria.
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:25 PM   #7
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Great ideas everyone!

Totally forgot about Sandra Lee. Will have to revisit that.

Kabobs or other food on sticks is a great idea. Not sure about the logistics of fondue for a table for 8, but I like that too.

One of the people is from Japan, so I am not going do anything Asian because it would be pseudo Sandra Lee Asian at best. DH is Indian but IMHO real indian food is way more labor intensive than I am willing to do for a dinner party. We are from Texas, so Tex Mex or Cajun is a possibility, I am adept at both. I have an ice cream maker, I can make ice cream. I've done pies from scratch but it has been a while.

We have been to one dinner, and it was at one of the two couples that are empty nesters. They bought a spiral ham and did what I would normally do for Thanksgiving. The next one is hosted by the other family with four kids so I am hoping she lowers the bar The group as a whole clicks very well for conversation and is enjoyable to linger over dinner with them.

Thanks again for the ideas! I knew y'all could come up with some good ones!
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:31 PM   #8
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Re: "fancy" dinner party menu suggestions?

I was going to suggest jambalaya. It is always a hit here and comfort food with a side of cornbread and maybe strawberries with cream for dessert.
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:51 PM   #9
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Re: "fancy" dinner party menu suggestions?

Pork Roast in the crockpot.
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:59 PM   #10
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I was just reading an article about entertaining and it said that you should go for comfort foods. It makes people so happy to eat fried chicken and Mac n cheese that they overlook it not being fancy. Like PPs said, go for fancy presentation. If you serve store brand ice cream out off a glass bowl instead of the carton, no one knows it was cheap.
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