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Feb 16, 2008 12:01 PM

Take-Out Dinner That Can Be Served Cold?

It's my turn to provide dinner for six at an out-of-town meeting that I'll attend next week. Due to time constraints and other issues, I will only have half an hour between the end of one meeting and the next meeting at which people will immediately want dinner. Thus, I'm hoping to find some good options that can be acquired in Austin, transported in a cooler, and served cold or at room temperature (no kitchen facilities are available).

Does anyone know of a local catering source or take-out department that offers a main course like Chicken Marbella, the classic dish from _The Silver Palate_ cookbook that can be served at room temp? (Cooking it myself is not an option for various reasons, but the recipe is discussed here: ). Any other non-sandwich ideas for catered main dishes that both taste good and can be served cold? I'm covered on the salad and bread, but I might need a couple more sides, depending on what kind of main course I bring.

I'm probably blanking on something really obvious, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I'm really hoping to avoid resorting to take-out food from a chain, which is what everyone else has done so far—with Rudy's and P.F. Chang's.

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  1. I believe Central Market and probably also Whole Foods can easily accommodate this. Even more easily if you contact them ahead of time.

    I don't know their specific menus, but something like roasted chicken (carved into pieces) would be very good at room temp. Personally I wouldn't care for cold/room temp chicken marbella, because of the sweetness.

    Pasta or rice is a room temp standby for good reason. Maybe they have some stuffed peppers, which would be great if you have any veggie attendees.

    Alternatively, a tray of lasagne would travel well and possibly even retain heat, but it's also great at room temp.

    1 Reply
    1. re: renz

      Speaking of chicken, cold fried chicken is a picnic favorite, and would likely fit the bill for your dinner. I wonder if a place that makes good fried chicken like Tony's Southern Comfort or Gene's could be convinced to make you up a delicious tray of chicken to go.

      If you do go the roasted chicken way, I'd be tempted by El Pollo Regio (Riverside). The grocery store rotisserie chickens (no matter how organic they may be) always seem to congeal in an unappetizing way when allowed to cool.

    2. My thought would be Middle Eastern food, perhaps from Sarah's Mediterranean Restaurant? Here's their catering menu:

      2 Replies
      1. re: Hsien_Ko

        I would prefer Phoenicia. You do need to call them at least one day ahead though.

        1. re: threecats

          Thanks for the ideas, everyone. I had been thinking along the lines of: "Who does a good job of making what I would cook, if that were the arrangement for these dinner meetings?" So, of course, I was getting nowhere. I haven't decided on the main dish yet, but I'm happy to have a few solid options.

          For dessert, I'm thinking of getting two large containers of banana pudding from Gene's. It's usually a crowd-pleaser; it's also fairly indestructible, which is important since it will be sitting in a cooler all day. I'm hoping that their pudding has not gone downhill since my last visit.

      2. Has anyone tried Soup Peddler's Poulet aux Colporteur? (on the menu for next week)
        That sounds interesting, and like something that might work for MPH. I was going to suggest ordering some to pick up on Monday, and then if you like it, to order more. However, their process is that ALL ordering for the following week must happen the prior week.

        I've enjoyed their cream of mushroom soup, but not cold...

        My favorite served-cold chicken pasta salad has either

        1) lemon, basil, garlic flavors
        chicken cut from sauteed pounded thin fillets
        pasta: penne

        Related....whole Foods has a smoked mozarella pasta salad that is delicious. You might be able to simply ask them to make that with chicken. That would be really good.

        2) sesame oil, chili oil, soy, cilantro, garlic flavors
        chicken cut from sauteed pounded thin fillets
        pasta: soba

        Central Market has a version of this from their salad bar that you could try and order in advance if you like. But the smoke mozarella pasta salad might have wider appeal. And would definitely go well with salad and bread.

        Or, for something befitting the colder weather...

        If you have access to an electrical outlet and a slow cooker to use as a warmer, some Cin chili chili would be great... Haven't yet purchased take-out chili in Austin, so can't offer a req there. The slow cooker could go into a cooler on the way. But that's maybe a bit more fuss than what you might want to do.

        Now I'm craving that Whole Foods' smoked mozarella pasta salad w/ sauteed chicken pieces added.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sweet100s

          Thanks for these additional ideas, sweet100s. The smoked-mozzarella pasta salad at Whole Foods sounds perfect—if it's available. Their official policy is: They almost always offer this item, unless they don't. Apparently, the WF catering department is not interested in customizing their offerings for small orders. "Small," to them, seems to mean "for less than 50 people." So, I'll have to call an audible if the pasta salad is not in the case when I need it, but that's okay. I was planning to pick up one or two items at WF anyway. I'm not getting the whole meal there because their prepared food is so expensive.

          By the way, around Valentine's Day, I noticed that the downtown Whole Foods was stocking a small Moosewood "triple chocolate cake" in the refrigerated case. It made me think of you. ;-)

          1. re: MPH

            yea yea.... More like you thought of Hostess brand 'strangely compelling snacks' !!! [glare]

            Ya know... another good option is the Red Pepper Fettucini that they almost always have. They always seem to have one or the other. Between the two, I find the smoked mozzarella pasta more delicious, but the other one is very good also. Maybe a little lighter without the cheese but still flavorful with all the other ingredients.

            So..... you could play it spontaneous and just:
            - Show up at WF the morning of your meeting or evening before
            - Order the chicken or meat of your choice behind the glass from the cold counter
            - Turn around and order the pasta of your choice from the counter behind you, and ask the pasta person to cut up the chicken and mix them both together before packaging the pasta

            Some other secret information for you: There are a total of 5 places in the downtown Whole Foods where I have sleuthed that red pepper fettucini or the smoked mozzarella pasta:
            1) The refrigerated shelves across from the pizza oven area
            2) The pasta case near the pasta station across from the meat counter
            3) The refrigerated shelves to the right of the salad area (to the right from as you walk in)
            4) The refrigerated shelves to the right of the BBQ station as you would walk up to order
            5) The refrigerated shelves on the back wall behind the seafood 'salad bar'

            1. re: sweet100s

              =D You crack me up, sweet100s.

              I managed to find a container of the smoked-mozzarella pasta salad in the refrigerated section near the BBQ station. Although I didn't include this pasta salad as part of my take-out dinner for colleagues (it's way too garlicky for the office), I did enjoy it myself. If I made it myself, I'd cut back on the garlic, but I liked the flavor combination overall—and I'm a big fan of smoked mozzarella. Thanks for your tip sheet on its secret locations!