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Upscale Comfort Food

I'm trying to develop a menu for an upcoming party. The theme is upscale comfort food. I'm trying to do something different and innovative. For example, while lobster mac and cheese is good - it's been done before. I'm looking for unique and show stopping. One idea that was bounced around was spaghetti and meatballs - lobster meatballs with squid ink pasta.

This party is usually about 4-6 courses, the main course being a duo plate of meat and seafood as to satisfy meat lovers and vegetarians, or people that want to eat both. The party is too big and the time period is too short to serve different meals.

I'd appreciate any suggestions to get my brain on a roll :)

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  1. check out my "pretty" shephard's pie - this could work. I did it as a joke because of something my son said to me once. Ok, sorry can't find the pic bu this link might work:

    1. how about a potato gratin with wild mushrooms and black truffle?

      1. For example, while lobster mac and cheese is good - it's been done before.
        I don't know if any of these are fancy enough for your thoughts, but they are served in a friend's very upscale restaurant with many compliments from the patrons...

        Lobster or shrimp Mashed Potatoes
        Wasabi Mashed Potatoes
        Tuna Meatballs with Spaghetti

        The Tuna meatballs sell out every time he offers it as a special.

        5 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          The tuna meatballs sounds great! Did they have a sauce with them?

          1. re: krisrishere


            The tuna meatballs are cooked through in tomato/marinara...my guess is about somewhere between 10-20 minutes. You'll have to experiment with the size of the meatball you make to see what cooking time is best. He prepares and serves the dish exactly as regular meat meatballs with just enough binding ingredients to hold the meatballs together.

              1. re: krisrishere


                I just asked a friend who works in the restaurant I mentioned above. He says they use the belly portion of the tuna and the meatballs are made exactly with the same seasonings as his regular veal and pork meatballs....also, they form them into a slightly flat shape and cook them on a greased sheet pan in the oven first....and then the tuna meatballs are warmed in the sauce before serving. Sorry, but he does not know the temperature set for the oven cooking.

                Since you live in the South, I would suggest you consider serving Shrimp and Grits or Mixed Sea Foods over Polenta. On another recent thread about shrimp ideas, I mentioned one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston serves a dish called Maverick Grits...which won a national best recipe award from a magazine years back.

                You can check out this thread for ideas:


                1. re: fourunder

                  The meatballs sound fantastic. A play on shrimp and grits is definitely on my idea list. Thanks again!

        2. I make an upscale seafood lasagna that is always a big hit. Shrimp, lump crab, fontina with the mozz along with provolone and parmesan reg. Ricotta with spinach...all layered with Bechamel.

          7 Replies
            1. re: Janet from Richmond

              I would think the shrimp and crab would be painfully overcooked by the time all the other ingredients were hot and melted. No?

              1. re: c oliver

                I put the shrimp (large) in raw. The crab holds up fine. Neither get overcooked. However, I cannot stand reheated seafood, especially shellfish, so whatever is left either Dh eats or it gets chucked. I make it with three layers of filling and 4 layers of noodles. I put the raw shrimp in the middle layer and the lump crab in the top and bottom layers.

              2. re: Janet from Richmond

                That sounds great, but it would be really hard to do for 200 and not overcook it. Crab is also a no-go..too many allergies.

                I like the lasagna idea though!

                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    could you share your recipe for the seafood lasagne?

                  2. in columbus ohio i was served "steak in a bowl." it included sliced fillet, truffles, and foie gras, in a reduced sauce of red wine and veal stock. it had the very homey--almost homely--look of a stew, but gracious...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: silverhawk

                      That sounds sooooo wonderful. "Upscale" indeed.

                      1. Not sure if it's high end enough since it's rustic, but ratatouille is comfort food to me :). You can make it the traditional way or the way it was served in the eponymous animated film. The NY Times has the recipe for the latter listed as Confit Bayaldi.

                        Caponata works too. There is an astonishing array of Persian stewed or baked vegetable dishes as well. Imam Bayaldi is my favorite, although not sure if this is Arabic rather than Persian. Morocco has a rich array of tagine dishes, but I haven't tried them.

                        1. how about--
                          home ground kobe beef sliders with potato strips fried in duck fat


                          steak/eggs--fillet and a poached duck egg with cavier and bearnaise

                          my favorite upscale/downscale meal is actually braised lamb shanks, but it probably doesn't have the flash--or underlying irony-- you're looking for. on the other hand, it is mighty good and mighty real.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: silverhawk

                            The steak and eggs have hit a wonderful nerve with me. That sounds right up my alley.

                            The sliders sound good too. One year a dessert was served where the guests had to pick it up with their fingers..I can't tell you how many complaints we got about that. It wasn't acceptable. Unreal. Oh and we've had complaints about serving meat with a visible bone..very unrefined.

                            1. re: krisrishere

                              Oh and we've had complaints about serving meat with a visible bone..very unrefined.


                              Are you kidding me? That's a tough crowd. I think unrefined is when they don't have meat served with a visible bone.....i.e.,Lamb Chops passed on a silver tray.;0)

                              1. re: fourunder

                                That's exactly what sparked the complaints....lamb chops.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  better than over-refined where you're served meat that is, itself, scarcely visible.

                                  duck confit nachos?

                            2. Hors d'oeuvres: kobe beef sliders with gruyère and tomato chutney; Scotch quail eggs with chorizo and saffron aioli; chistorra-in-a-blanket with jalapeno Chinese mustard; fontina, asparagus and prosciutto-stuffed tater tots. Perhaps a mini pancake and eggs breakfast of blinis with poached quail eggs, caviar and creme fraiche.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: JungMann

                                Those are fabulous ideas. Thank you!

                              2. I just saw a recipe on Gourmet for Duck Fat Donuts stuffed with confit. They served it with sour cherry preserves. Instead of preserves, do you think it could be paired with a cold sour cherry soup or something?

                                Just thinking (typing) aloud.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: krisrishere

                                  i don't know if "overkill" can be used in this context, but the cherries with the confit friiters/doughnuts feel like overkill to me. the fried goodies sound better with with a vegetable' duck soup made with defatted duck stock. or more refined--duck consomme.

                                2. Two things come to my mind from my own kitchen....
                                  - smoked salmon quesadillas (I use a mild white cheese), garnish with fresh dill
                                  - cheese cake made with half goat cheese/half cream cheese, garnish with either lemon zest or fresh edible flowers

                                  1. Zucchini flowers filled with herbed ricotta, breaded, and deep fried.

                                    1. Huitlacoche empanada appetizers, baked fresh figs with Questa honey and Maytag blue cheese for dessert.

                                      1. I'm going to second the gourmet pot pie idea. You can make different kinds (beef, chicken and vegetable). Just add a puff pastry crust to a bourginion, coq au vin and a vegetable stew with fennel, white wine and saffron. Easy to make all of the stews ahead of time and freeze. For an appetizer, what about a gourmet take on pimento cheese? Shredded smoked cheddar with finely chopped chipotle as the pimento with a touch of creme fraiche to make it dip-like?

                                        24 Replies
                                        1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                          How would you serve the pimento cheese?

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Pimento cheese is huge down here...

                                            1. re: krisrishere

                                              Oh, I grew up in Atlanta and love it. I was just wondering about an 'upscale" presentation.

                                                1. re: krisrishere

                                                  Anything is fancier served in an endive leaf. Or maybe as a filling for scooped out boiled red potatoes, topped with chives?

                                                  1. re: 4Snisl

                                                    ooh! Those are great ideas 4Snisl. When I've done upscale pimento cheese, I'd put it in a brioche roll with black forest ham. Kind of a upscale take on the kitschy church supper dinner rolls with ham. You could even make biscuits with finely chopped jalepeno and chives.

                                                    1. re: 4Snisl

                                                      But will these people eat finger food?

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        No. That's the problem. No finger food and no bones. lol So pretentious.

                                                        1. re: krisrishere

                                                          Instead of an appetizer course, could you do a soup course? Tomato soup in Chinese soup bowls?

                                                          Is there someway to do an "upscale" version of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green peas?

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            Bistro Jeanty in the Napa Valley serves a tomato soup under a dome of puff pastry. It's SO good and has a wow factor.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              Oooh, oooh, oooh!!!

                                                              You just reminded me of one of the most wonderful upscale comfort foods I've ever eaten. Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich a la Alan Wong. Cold yellow and red tomato soups served in a cocktail glass (in a yin-yang pattern, no less), topped with a parmesan cracker and a gooey, crispy sandwich of fresh mozzarella, kalua pig, and foie gras on sourdough. The third and fourth photos on this webpage show the presentation:


                                                              Tell 'em to eat the sandwich with a fork.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                Oh yum! Nothing more I can say. I hope I try this some day. That sandwich sounds ono!

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  That sounds right up my alley!! Definitely a keeper...foie gras is probably a no-go, but I can figure out a different combo.

                                                                  1. re: krisrishere

                                                                    In this prep, the foie doesn't really stand out. Unless you know what you're looking for, you won't taste it specifically. But it adds incredible richness.

                                                                    Here's a recipe:


                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                      Oh, man, some of those other recipes look great too. The oxtail soup? You are SO bad :)

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        I like Hawai'i (and the rest of Polynesia). Nowhere else on earth do I feel svelte.

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                          Do I recollect that in Michener's "Hawaii" that the larger/fatter the Hawaiian queens, the more powerful they were???

                                                                  2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                    alanbarnes: Those are beautiful ideas AND photos. What I can't get over is whoever went to all the trouble to post them actually said, "I was disappointed with Alan Wong’s." I personally would welcome the opportunity to be "disappointed" with any of the dishes pictured. Talk about some folks ya just can't reach!!!

                                                                    Along these lines, how about Tomato Soup with Lemon Rosemary Cream? My mom clipped it from Bon Appetit years back and it's very similar to the cream of roasted tomato soup they serve at Tapas in Elmwood (if you remember that from when you lived in CT). We have made this recipe many times and LOVE it!

                                                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                      How could I forget?? ..And the greek salad dressing, but I digress. ;)

                                                                  3. re: c oliver

                                                                    Tomato soup and grilled cheese was on my list of things to play with.

                                                                  4. re: krisrishere

                                                                    pimento cheese on a fried green tomato on top of a baby grren salad...eat with a fork.

                                                                    1. re: krisrishere

                                                                      I would not have thought there were 200 people in the world who don't eat finger food. You must have found them all....

                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                        Yeah, tell me about it. My staff and I worry about this meal all year long.

                                                        2. re: Dcfoodblog

                                                          Lobster pot pie--w/fennel, shallots, carrots, peas, oyster or other wild mushrooms ; white sauce made with cream and seafood stock; puff pastry crust. Veggies and sauce can be prepared ahead of time, lobster added and crust put on just before baking.
                                                          But, yes, it has been done before.

                                                        3. Since we are already starting to roll into fall (Yikes!) I have been thinking about braised short ribs recently. So many options. Jiko at The Animal Kingdom Lodge (Disney World)
                                                          used to do a tamarind based sauce with them that was very good.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Fritter

                                                            That sound delicious. I'd like to have a least 1 slow cook item There are too many things going on during the days prior to this event, it would be one less thing to worry about.

                                                            1. re: krisrishere

                                                              The great thing about short ribs is that people love them, you can bring a lot of other flavors in, Vanilla, orange, Balsamic, Lavender. The list is endless. Plus they are easy to make.

                                                              1. re: krisrishere

                                                                short ribs have become the poster boys for "up scale comfort food." they've been showing up on menus for several years. interestingly, i think there's been an upsurge in short rib offerings at nice restaurants in response to the recent recession--a comforting, "slow" dish that seems nice and can be provided at a lower cost than many options.

                                                                i love short ribs almost as much as braised lamb shanks. silly me, i prefer both to veal shanks.

                                                            2. For dessert, what about some la-dee-da ice cream sandwiches or some kind of mini-banana split?

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                Actually dessert has been decided that it would be Cake and Ice Cream. I had a banana cream pie ice cream down in my notes...has the same look as vanilla, only not. Maybe some kind of decadent chocolate cake.

                                                              2. Salmon pot pie. Turkey pot pie with mashed potato crust. Fish pot pie. Shrimp pot pie. Halibut pot pie. Just throwing stuff out there

                                                                How about iceberg wedges with a clever serve yourself dressing? Include some tomato and cucumber slices on the side

                                                                1. duck quesadillas
                                                                  twice baked potatoes with caviar
                                                                  broiled tomatoes with basil pesto
                                                                  shrimp wontons on a bed of greens

                                                                  1. There is a French bistro in my city that serves a killer Mac and Cheese with Duck Confit. Some other ideas: Meatloaf with foie gras chunks, Spaghetti with Wagyu Meatballs, Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup.

                                                                    1. Thank you everyone for your suggestions. Here is the final menu. We've actually been OK'd to do meat with the bone in!

                                                                      Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

                                                                      Parmesan Crusted Brioche with Fontina and Gruyere Cheeses served with a Caramelized Fennel and Heirloom Tomato Puree topped with Creme Fraiche

                                                                      Tuna Salad

                                                                      Ahi Tuna Ceviche accompanied by Red Dandelions and Bloomsdale Spinach topped with Dry Satsuma Mandarin, crispy Pancetta and a Pawpaw-Champagne Vinaigrette.

                                                                      Pot Roast Surf and Turf

                                                                      Braised Swiss Beef Shank (read VEAL or Osso Bucco) with Maui Onions, Apple Finn Potatoes, Morels, Black Knight and Sugar Crisp Carrots.

                                                                      Herb-Truffled Risotto

                                                                      Butter-Poached Monkfish

                                                                      Cake and Ice Cream

                                                                      Meyer Lemon Coconut Cake with Dragon Fruit Ice Cream

                                                                      Knobb Creek Dark Chocolate Madness with Creme di Cassis and Godiva Chocolate Ice Cream

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: krisrishere


                                                                        A very nice menu.......just some FYI for you to consider. According to the following thread, it is suggested that tuna does not bode well in ceviches.


                                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                                          Very aware of that. It's actually going to be more what the next poster down said..there's going to be a light aioli on top. The powers that be like "ceviche"

                                                                          1. re: krisrishere

                                                                            That's not ceviche. It's tuna tartare with aoli.

                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                              Thank you, I'm very aware of that however, there will still be a little lemon juice on the tuna.

                                                                              1. re: krisrishere

                                                                                I didn't mean to be nitpicky; I'm sensitive to culinary terms morphing so far from their original that they lose meaning, especially mexican /LA/SA terms. It sounds like a nice dinner ahead for your group.

                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                  I understand :) Thank you. It's a once a year deal so it needs to be nice.

                                                                        2. re: krisrishere

                                                                          That is some menu!!! The Ceviche sounds incredible and that Brioche oh yummy!