Need help with Bar Mitzvah menu
I know it's early.. well my mother says it's not too early, but I still think it is. My son is to be bar mitzvah'd January 24, 2009 and I'm looking for an inexpensive way to feed around 100-125 guests. My mother says dairy is the way to go, so could you all give me suggestions.. Take note I'm in Louisville, KY with only 1 (one) kosher place to get food and thats the JCC. SO what do I do?
Takes in advance..
Dairy will probably be cheaper. If you are doing your own setup, you can get many kosher products in bulk from Costco. They have packaged sliced lox (as well as other smoked fish) and different types of packaged salads that are under reliable kosher supervision.
I assume that Cincinnati is a bit of a distance from you. If it isn't, you can look into getting food from one of their establishments. http://www.nhs-cba.org/jewishcinci.htm
Dairy is the only way to go in many smaller areas. If you care, though, you may want to take into consideration the opinions of some of your out-of-town guests, if you're having any. My MIL recently returned from a lovely Bat Mitzvah and all she could talk about was the fact that they didn't serve meat. She couldn't conceive of such a shanda. She lives in NY and FL. Spouse and I, who hail from the kosher wastelands of NC, considered the dairy meal very much the norm.
Would I care if people talked? Not at all. But it seems to matter to some people.
My wife is from Louisville as well -- she belonged to Adath Jeshurun.
First of all, is the reception in your synagogue? If so, you need to ascertain what the kashrut policy of the synagogue is before you do anything else.
Also, what time of day is it? Is this a kiddush in the synagogue or a separate private party for invited guests?
At our synagogue the norm after a Bar Mitzvah is a dairy kiddush, though some families have done a meat meal. We are in a little bit different situation with caterers, there are more to choose from. While there is only one local caterer who is kosher, there are many more in Hartford and New Haven, both about an hour away, and there is also a local non-kosher caterer who can do kosher functions doing all her prep in the synagogue's kosher kitchen.
Dairy can be very nice. Our wedding in Atlanta was on a Sunday morning and the party afterwards was catered by a local dairy caterer. It was quite lovely and ran us under $1k for about 50 guests.
I grew up in Louisville, and my mom still lives there. She now belongs to Anshei Sephard, although we used to be big with Keneseth, but when it went conservative she switched. And there's the rub. There are a lot of dairy things which can be made which taste great, but depending upon whether you're cooking for orthodox or conservative, for instance, you'll need respectively kosher cheese which costs as much or more than meat per pound, or nonkosher cheese which is cheap. Different kinds of quiche are a great menu choice, and different kinds of lasagna. Add to that salads and maybe a bake fish or 2, and finally dessert, and you have a complete meal. Remember that it isn't that easy to serve all this stuff hot on Shabbos if you're orthodox, so think satisfying cold food (room temperature) in that case rather than thigs which must be served hot. If you want something hot, perhaps a vegetarian cholent or soup kept hot on the blech. If it's for conservative, then they may allow actual heating up of food (I'm orthodox, so what do I know about what conservative allows and doesn't allow in that regard?) so talk to the rabbi of the synagogue and see what the story is. If it's on a weekday, then you can serve everything hot.
Craig has given you some helpful pointers. It's really important to clarify what the kashrut and shabbat standards in question are. Many Conservative shuls do in fact require kosher-certified cheese though not all do. Most Conservative shuls will allow actual reheating of fully cooked food though not, of course, cooking. Quiche or lasagna would really depend on the rabbi of the congregation because even if they are fully cooked the cheese melts so many would not allow reheating those items.
I live in St. Louis, am Conservative, and have hosted 2 B'nai Mitzvot in the last 4 years, and attended many. The norm here is a dairy kiddush, our congregation has a sit-down lunch, the other 2 Conservative congs. have stand-ups with some tables for those who want to sit. Cheese needs to be kosher--everything needs to be kosher. We invited our kids to participate in the menu planning: they got to pick some of their favorites, and I got one of mine! Be creative--one friend's son picked bisquits (sp) and an egg and potato casserole).
Our volunteer kitchen crew prepares lunch, and generally buys ingredients from Sam's Club (no Costco here, and I won't go into the politics). They bake ahead of time, whole salmon 1/2's, which plate up beautifully, and are served cold with a dill-sour cream sauce, capers, and chopped red onion on the side; a tray of cold grilled/roasted veggies, including sliced portabellas, red and yellow bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, onions, etc; hummus (check Costco--Sam's has good, spicy hummus in huge tubs); a huge green salad with dried cranberries and walnuts or sunflower seeds; bagels, cream cheese, and lox spread made with lox and cream cheese in the food processor, or trays of lox; pasta salads( Thai noodles with veggies is my favorite); couscous salads; cut-up fruit trays. For hot food, a delicious blintz casserole or noodle kugels, reheated felafel w/ accoutrements (I don't think it works really well reheated), or a veggie cholent. There are lots of Israeli salad possibilities, which would probably be available at Costco or in Cinncinnatti).
For dessert, there are large size kosher mixes at Costco for brownies (add chocolate chips!) and lemon squares, and cookies. I think you might even find "scoopable dough" or frozen dough for cookies. Sam's also carries portioned cheescake squares in various flavors. Very good.
For both kids, we had a Friday night traditional chicken dinner at shul for our out-of-town guests, and shomer shabbat friends, who stayed at the hotel next door. On Sat. night, we had parties at shul with games and an Italian dinner: pasta bar with a couple of sauces, grilled veggies (they went very fast), salad, garlic bread, and "make-your-own-sundaes" for dessert. I suggest thick pastas (e.g., linguine and rigatoni) that will not readily get mushy: don't use angel hair!
You have a ton of time, don't worry about what other people say. I loved having dairy because we could have real cream for the coffee, and dairy desserts. Besides, it is the B'nai Mitzvah that is the important thing. Mazel Tov, p.j.
From the kosher wasteland of Tampa, let me weigh in. Whatt'ya do? You do what any self-respecting ballabustre does. You do your best. Within reason. As my friend said about the modest dairy buffet at my wedding..."you lucky duck. You've got your down payment for your house..and cake too!"
A note. Start making friends, help others out when needed... You must assemble your troops with a deposit of good deeds ahead of time (get help! thank you note and small gift later...)
You plan something for the MILs or adults (Rose's makes a great sour apple martini mix with an OU, btw) and you have a kid pleaser like pizza or hot dogs in a blanket. With a "candy bar" or other distraction, who will care if the pizza is cold, or if you didn't serve meat? As the above person remarked, it's about the rest of your kid's life, not about whether there was meat or dairy!
In BJ's, Sam's and Costco there should be a hot dog in a blanket, quiche, dips, smoken salmon, frozen breads, etc. or other frozen delicacy. You should take a lengthy tour with the hecksher result in mind. For example, in BJs, the frozen baked goods from "headquarters" are kof K, and most are pareve...except the cakes. So if you bake the rolls in shul, you've got Pas Israel bread if that's important. Or you have a OU - D cake! As others have remarked, the hecksher's the thing - if you are OU-D or Cholov Israel that changes things, as well as the kitchen policy of th place you're doing it at.
And finally, a case study: The last two Bat Mitzvahs I have attended here were dairy. The menu was something like this:
Kiddush on Shabbat in Shul
Hummus, dips such as avocado/guacamole type
Deli meat, egg salad, tuna salad
Brownies, cakes, fruit platter
Motzei shabbos: for the kids and friends at Jcc...
Fish rolled, stuffed with bread crumbs
Pasta/ Lasagna (PJ's note above is especially germane)
Pizza (a kid pleaser)
Summer squash (zuccini, yellow squash, herbed butter sauce)
Signed, Holding the Kosher Fort in Tampa
OK what I'm thinking for the menu is this..
Fire roasted veggies with balsamic
Tuna and egg salads
Bagels, Lox, whitefish, cream cheese (plain, veggie)
tomatoes,onions and capers
Herring in sour cream
Pickel bar (half sours, sours, garlic, tomatoes)
Pita and a challah for son's birth weight
Soft drinks, juices and wine for the motzi
Your menu sounds terrific. That's a lot of choices. I'm ready to show up!
My only suggestion would be that in addition to the pita, you have some crackers or toasted pita chips: something crunchy for the dips.
Oh, and make sure you slice the bagels fully in half. When they aren't completely sliced, people who only want a half wind up taking a whole one or putting their fingers all over the half they leave behind. (just a little rant.sorry)
I haven't heard the idea of a challah for the birth weight. Where did that come from?
Good luck. p.j.
It's something of a family tradition I guess with the birthweight challah, my mom did it for my brothers bar mitzvah and also for mine.. so I guess I'm carrying on the tradition... and yes we will have chips for the dips and cutting the bagels all the way.. my mother is bringing the bagels and the pickles from FL so we know they will be good.... you can't get good bagels here in snowbound (12" of snow as of now) KY