Tips for Serving a Multi Course Meal (without a personal chef!)

Tips for Serving a Multi Course Meal (without a personal chef!)

Someday I will hire a personal chef to cater a party for me. Actually, someday, I absolutely will hire this personal chef team and sit back and enjoy being served throughout an entire party. That will be a treat in itself, however, I also really love to cook and serve for my parties. I enjoy the whole process of planning, executing and serving dishes to my guests. Many of my parties are fairly simple with serve yourself or buffet style dishes of foods. Occasionally, I like to serve multi-course meals (either plated or family style) and when I do, I like to use the following tips/tricks/hacks to make the dinner more enjoyable for everyone involved. 

Tips for Serving a Multi Course Meal (without a personal chef)

I am the first person out there that will recommend hiring out (or purchasing out and bringing in) for large parties and life events. I value the talents of others and their ability to make my life easier more than I can say. These tips will work for just about any type of party, big or small, but they still require the work be put in. Hiring a chef, ordering catered items, renting dinner ware, hiring a cleaner or hiring a server are absolutely time and sanity saving options for important events. This list is for someone who really wants to do it themselves, whether because of circumstances or because they enjoy it.

These tips will also help for those trying to save money in their party budget for other area. I do stress that you know your limitations however because saving a few dollars here or there and being disappointed in the end will only make it feel like you wasted the money you did spend. I enjoy throwing parties, preparing dishes, and cooking foods. I’m pretty good about timing things out as well. I am terrible at getting the house spick and span before a party. I often hire that portion out and do the entertaining part of it all myself. Know your talents, your limitations and your resources and have a fantastic party!

1. Prep what you can before the party day.

This seems easy, right? Prep anything and everything you can for your party before the big day hits. It is trickier than it seems however because some items don’t keep as well as other items. Anything that you can prep without compromising the quality should be prepped as far in advance as possible. When creating my menu, I often try to get at least one or two items that can be prepped prior to the big day on the menu. Some menu items that can be prepped early include soups, sauces, vegetable cutting prep and many dessert and drink items. Need a simple syrup for your speciality cocktail? Whip one up nearly a week in advance and store in your fridge. Want to serve a dessert of cookies under ice cream? Prep the cookie dough up to a couple of months in advance and store in your freezer. This works great for home made crackers as well!

2. Pre-plate what you can before the party begins!

A lot of my multi-course parties combine a mix of serving dishes family style and plated. Family style is easier on the chef (and whoever does the dishes afterwards) and the plated style of serving is often easier on guests. I tend to serve the dishes that have to be made or finished during the party as family style and pre-plate (or even pre-dish for an all family style meal) what I can. Salads can often prepped an hour or so before the party, wrapped in cling wrap, and stored in the fridge. If you are serving an individual cheese course or a cheese platter you can also prep these early and put in fridge, just make sure you get it out with enough time to get it to room temperature before serving.

3. Include Entertainment at the Party

Include some form of entertainment at your party so that time between courses goes unnoticed. A little time between courses is actually great because it gives your guests time to really savor the course before it. Too much time can be a drag, but with the rest of these tips and a little entertainment no one will notice a time slag. I often do a photo booth, music, questions at the table or even drink pairings that guests can talk about in between courses.

4. Serve a menu that doesn’t all need to be served HOT.

Planning your menu carefully is very important when you are doing it all and wanting to actually sit down and enjoy your meal with your guests. I try to serve at least a couple of items that can be serve chilled or at room temperature. Salads, appetizers, cheese plates and desserts are easy places to put in items that do not have to stay hot before serving.

5. Utilize warming and cooling appliances.

Take advantage of any and all warming and cooling appliances that you have in your home. I clean out my fridge as much as possible before a coursed meal so that I can pile in pre-prepped plates of items or pre-cut elements that will come together for a portion of the meal. My oven, if not in use, is set to warm and all hot dishes are carefully stored in the warmer so that they can still be served. (Be careful to not let hot food dry out in your warmer. Cover with foil and try not to put in to stay warm for too long.) My crock pot is typically in use for sauces or soups that are prepped in advanced, but need to be served hot.

What tips do you use when serving a multi-course dinner to friends or family? Comment below!

Posts with Multi-Course Menu Ideas:

Italian Dinner al Fresco Menu with Free Printables

Italian Dinner al Fresco Menu with Free Printables

Pregnancy cravings are no joke. Add to that my desire to entertain… well, a simple craving for an Italian meal turned into a multi-course extravaganza. I researched formal Italian meal courses and found out that Italians, they know how to dine! Out of my research (and cravings) came a 9 course meal that lasted four hours long!

I can’t say that the entire inspiration for this party was my pregnancy cravings… though, they certainly took a big role! The other inspiration was Kohl’s. When Kohl’s asked me  how I celebrate summer I knew the answer was “Dinner al Fresco” and went shopping with that in mind. After coming across the Bobby Flay Home collection of melamine tableware I knew that I’d be serving an outdoor Italian feast.

Read on for my Italian dinner al fresco menu, table decor resources AND free printables so you can throw your own outdoor Italian feast!

Italian themed dinner menu and free printables — A Well Crafted Party

Italian themed dinner menu and free printables

Free Printable Wine Tag

Resource List

Menu for an Italian Dinner al Fresco

Italian Dinner al Fresco:

In my massive craving for Italian food I went on a research binge to find out different ideas for a coursed out Italian meal. What I discovered is that Italians LOVE their food! A formal Italian meal has several different courses to it. Now, typically they wouldn’t list the aperitivo course on a menu because it is meant as a sort of opening to the meal. But, I just love a big full menu, so I included it. Below is what I did for our Italian meal. Please note that I am not Italian, nor have I had the pleasure of going to Italy. I wrote my Italian menu from researching different ideas and coming up with recipes. They may or may not be authentic Italian food. However, the menu items are delicious. Also, I used Google Translate to help me figure out how to word the menu items on the menu I created.

Apertivo Ideas for Italian Dinner

Aperitivo:

The opening course that usually features a cocktail, Prosecco, champagne, wine  or sparkling water may also be accompanied by light appetizers. I served Prosecco, Italian Olives & Caprese Bites.

parmesan stuffed grilled artichokes

Antipasto:

The antipasto course is slightly heavier than the apertivio course. Sometimes you’ll see either an aperirtivo or antipasto course offered at restaurants, but I went all in and did both. I chose to serve my garlic and parmesan stuffed grilled artichokes for this course.

Primo or first course in Italian meal

Primo:

The primo course is a heavier course than the antipasto, but lighter than the secondo course that comes next and is often served hot. Typically it is a pasta dish, risotto or soup. I chose to serve a clam spaghetti or Spaghetti alla Vongole. I’ll be sharing my recipe for this soon because I make my Spaghetti alla Vongole a tad different than other people out there, but in the meantime you should check out the Spaghetti Vongole from Jamie Oliver! YUM.

Secondo or second course in Italian meal is usually the meat course.

Secondo: 

The secondo course is quite a bit heavier than the primo course and is typically the meat dish. It is often served alongside a contorno which is a vegetable side, either cooked or raw. An insalata (salad) can be served with this or after this course. I chose to serve my meat on top of my insalata or contorno (whichever you please) with a beautiful grilled flank steak served on a bed of arugula with freshly shaved parmesan and lemon. (Recipe coming soon!)

Italian inspired fruit and cheese plate

Formaggi e frutta:

A cheese and fruit plate comes next in this extravagant meal. While most of our meal was served family style I prepped individual plates for the cheese and fruit course. I served a beautiful Italian gorgonzola and fontina cheese alongside grapes and grilled figs that were drizzled in honey. Just so you know… figs and gorgonzola are beautiful together.

Dolce Course or dessert course is one of the most important courses in my opinion.

Dolce: 

One of my dear guests asked if she could bring anything to the event and I happily took her up on making a dessert because she is one of the best people in the world to ask to bring dessert. She never disappoints and didn’t disappoint on this lovely evening. She brought locally baked shortcakes to top with local strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Such a nice way to round out the meal.

Caffè:

Just when you think you are done… there is more! The caffè course is typically served last unless followed by an ammazzacaffè. I got this part wrong on my menu originally but fixed this for the printable. I put the digestivo after the caffè. It honestly didn’t make much of a difference though. We served a nice rich espresso. For all those non-Italian palates in the room (everyone) we had some whipped cream to top the strong coffee and sweeten it a bit.

Digestivo or Ammazzacaffè:

The digestivo is a drink to conclude the meal. It is typically a liqueur of some sort. We served Limoncello.

To say we were full after this evening would be an extreme understatement.

 

Dinner al Fresco menu and free printables

Free Italian Dinner Printables:

If you’ve been reading long then you know that I’m obsessed with the ease of printables. This party was no different. I created up some fun Italian-inspired printables to bring together the table. Today I’m giving them away… for free! If you like free printables then please take a moment to sign up for my newsletter. All of my newsletters promise never before seen content, goodies, opportunities or printables for subscribers ONLY. And, of course, if you use some of my free printables I’d love to see them in action! #awellcraftedparty on any social media images so I can see and share. Now… onto the goodies:

Instructions are listed on the printables. To download, click on your selected printable, hit download, and save to your computer. Print according to instructions. Printables are for personal use only.

Free Printable Wine Tag

 


 

A big thank you to Kohl’s for asking me how I celebrate Summer. This was a lot of fun to put together. Kohl’s provided me with a gift card to help in celebrating summer. Thank you for reading posts that help support this blog. I only talk about companies that I have used, liked and feel that my readers would benefit from knowing in my blog posts. I regularly shop at Kohl’s for their great selection and prices. Please refer to my policies for more information. 

 

Easy Antipasto Recipes

Easy Antipasto Recipes

Antipasto (plural antipasti) means ‘before the meal’ and is the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal. ” — Wikipedia

I’m a big fan of this traditional first course of a formal Italian meal. Heck, I’m a fan of ALL courses of a formal Italian meal, but this one holds a special place in my heart because of how darn easy it is to put together a great antipasto recipe or three. And, really, antipasti just sounds so fancy!

Caprese Bites

My favorite antipasto recipe to make is barely even a recipe it is so darn simple. It is also incredibly delicious and looks great on a platter! The recipe for my caprese bites is below along with a round up of some awesome Antipasto recipes from around the web. Think of this your one stop antipasto shop. (Don’t forget to Pin for later reference because, believe me, you’ll want to come back here and make these for guests!)

Caprese Bites

Caprese Bites

Caprese bites are an easy way to wow your guest for antipasto course!

Ingredients

  • 24 toothpicks
  • 24 mozzarella balls packed in water
  • 24 leaves of basil
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning
  • Balsamic Glaze or Balsamic Vinegar Reduction for drizzling
  • Optional red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Drain your mozzarella balls and put in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Italian seasoning. Mix up so that all mozzarella balls are covered in the mixture.
  2. Cut your cherry tomatoes in half.
  3. Spear your basil, mozzarella and cherry tomato half with a toothpick. With the big leaves of basil I like to pierce the basil, put the mozzarella on the tooth pick, and then pierce the other end of the basil sort of sandwiching my mozzarella between the top and bottom of the leaf. I end with the cherry tomato half, cut side down, so it can stand on a platter.
  4. Drizzle with a balsamic glaze and serve!
  5. If you want to add a little spice then sprinkle some red pepper flakes across the finished dish!

Notes

You can purchase a balsamic glaze or you can make it yourself! To make your own balsamic vinegar reduction simply by taking a cup of balsamic vinegar, cooking until boiling over medium-high heat (stirring occasionally), and then turning down the heat to medium-low and cooking until the vinegar has reduced by half. Some people like to mix in honey in their balsamic reduction... me, just give me vinegar!

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 Easy Antipasto Recipes

Amazing (and Easy) Antipasto Recipes:

 

Okay, I promised a one-stop antipasto shop and that is what I plan to give you. Some of the below dishes would make for the perfect antipasto course all by themselves, others are the perfect addition to a beautiful antipasto platter.

Antipasto Platter Makings:

 

Stand on their own Antipasto Dishes:

 

Antipasto Salads:

 

Have any favorite Antipasto Recipes or Tips to add? Comment below with your favorite links, tips, dishes to serve when you do your own antipasto course!

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