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Need advice about "catering" a party for 60

I offered to cater my boyfriend's parents' 40th anniversary when there were 30-40 people on the guest list. It's now up to 60 and I'm nervous and trying not to show it. I've never "catered" anything of before, usually it's just parties of 20-30 max that I'm cooking hors douvres for and they are followed by a meal.
I'm doing a 4pm, Saturday cocktail party, all hors douvres.

My menu is as follows:
bloody mary shrimp shooters
Stuffed Mushrooms with pork sausage
Greek turkey burger sliders
meatballs in pepper jelly
flank steak skewer with pineapple
herb crusted beef sirloin on a crositini with horseradish aioli
brie with raspberry and lemon curd in a phyllo cup
smoked salmon tea sandwich
Chinese chicken salad in individual cups
caprese skewer with balsamic reduction
yarlsburg bacon onion dip
homemade hummus and pita chips
large crudite platter
cured meat and cheese platter
assorted olives, crackers, bread twists

I feel like I have too much meat and would like to cut some things off the list. But do I? I'm basically on my own. I'll have a full day to prep and then the party is the next afternoon at their home. I think most people will show up on time. (luckily desserts are being professionally catered so i don't have to worry about those)

Also should I put everything out on the buffet at once? I was thinking of passing the stuffed mushrooms and maybe the brie since they are warm.

Are the meatballs tacky with the rest of the menu? if I passed them with tooth picks would that make them less tacky?

Any suggestions for other dishes? Do I have a good enough assortment? How much should I make of each?

Help! Any advice is greatly appreciated!

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  1. Wow. That is an incredibly ambitious and impressive list and it all sounds delicious. It's a pretty long list and I bet you could cut it down a bit. The stuffed mushrooms, sliders and meatballs all have similar textures so I think you could pick just one of those, and the flank steak and the sirloin also could seem a bit redundant so I think you could probably just do one of those as well. Even then you still have a dozen dishes to make.

    Nothing is tacky if people like it.

    Hard to tell how much to make... professional caterers will probably have good advice. Me, I'd make two of each item per person if they are eating dinner afterwards. But that will probably mean huge amounts of leftovers. But if there is no dinner scheduled or you anticipate it going well into the night, some people will make this their dinner and all bets are off. Some will eat twenty meatballs and keep looking for more.

    1. You do have a lot of meaty items, but I find that those are always popular at hors d'oeuvre functions. If I were going to cut, I'd do away with either the flank steak or the sirloin, since they're both steak and you already have another beef item (meatballs). BTW, I wouldn't skip the meatballs - they may not be as haute as the rest of your menu but people love them, especially older crowds (which I assume this will be). Passing them on skewers or serving them in small lettuce leaf cups will elevate them if you desire.

      Do you know if there are any vegetarians or vegans in the crowd? If so, your menu is a bit light on things they'll eat. You might consider dropping a steak option and replacing it with something vegan friendly, or adding something like a roasted vegetable and lentil salad to the menu just in case. Otherwise, I think the assortment looks wonderful - I'd love an invitation!

      2 Replies
      1. re: biondanonima

        no vegans that I'm aware of, and you are right, most people will be between 50 and 65. I'm thinking of cutting the sliders and the beef skewers...

        1. re: Brewhaha

          Those are probably the two I would cut too (mostly because I'm not a fan of turkey burgers). Skip the flank steak skewers and use the skewer idea for meatballs instead - it will dress them up nicely and make them easier to eat with one hand. I also agree with rcallner that a bake-and-cut option will make your life a lot easier. I might also cut the caprese skewers too, since you already have a cured meat and cheese platter - I'd just put the mozzarella balls in a bowl in the center of that platter, or make a "salad" of cherry tomatoes and mozzarella instead of fussing with the skewers.

      2. You are a nice person, that is a lovely assortment, and you have bitten off a HUGE task. Having catered my stepson's wedding for 100 guests, I'd make a few suggestions. Get a capable helper if you possibly can. (These are your bf's parents? He'd better be helping, too!) All the little tasks will add up and you'll be pressed for time. Are you preparing food elsewhere and transporting? Think about how you're going to do that. I think you have too many options and they seem labor intensive. People will be happy with fewer. I would suggest one or two platters of things that can be baked and cut into bites, and can be eaten by vegetarians or just people who want more vegetables, like a quiche with artichoke hearts, good cheeses, and green chiles; savory baked tofu bites with sesame seeds; a nice platter or two of mixed roasted vegetables. Consider subbing one (or two or three) options for a soup you can make in advance and serve up hot or cold, like a vichysoisse that can be garnished with chopped chives and served there.

        Good luck!

        Meatballs are not tacky - people love them - consider getting them premade and save yourself some stress.

        There are web sites with quantity calculators.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rcallner

          The bf has an amazing ability to clean up after me as I go, so I know that will be a huge help. His sister will also be there day of to help. I am prepping at my house and doing all the plating and heating at their house day of. lots of great suggestions, thanks!

          1. re: Brewhaha

            I would agree with rcallner...cut that list in half and people will be equally satisfied and impressed with the spread. At some point the excessive dishes seem to get diluted with so many wonderful courses. Have fun nonetheless as thats the only reason you are doing it!

        2. I do large parties often and my advice is always to to think about how much work you have to do at the last minute. Everything will take longer than you think since you'll be socializing and people will want to "help". And as these are potential in-laws you won't be able to tell them to go away :)

          That said I love some of your menu ideas and others I would do away with both because I think you have plenty of "beef" items but also I would only recommend doing 2 (maybe 3 if you have to) items that require any amount of last minute cooking (other than just "bake at 375 for 20 minutes").

          The burgers I would get rid of. I just did a party with brie burgers, they are popular but if you don't have a dedicated person to cooking them, they overcook, burn, and get old quickly.

          I wouldn't do the flank steak skewers unless you are doing those at room temp and can cook/skewer ahead of time. Skewering all those and making them look nice will take up time you don't have.

          I would keep the meatballs for no other reason that it keeps a hot item on the buffet all evening (with the meats/cheese/olives/etc). That way if you have a gap of what you can get done in the kitchen it doesn't feel like there is a hole in the buffet.

          I like the stuffed mushrooms and brie since they can all be prepped ahead of time and just cooked at the party house. Think of items along those lines if you ask me.

          I think it sounds wonderful. I just encourage you to remember that you aren't just a "caterer" at this event and I doubt the BF's parents will think of you as such (big red flag otherwise haha). So you have to approach this as being 1/2 guest and 1/2 caterer.

          As far as passing: what I have done at large parties is to have different items come out at different times. I have someone pass one tray of them around casually and place the rest on the buffet table. That way people see that something else has gone around and it can always be found on the table. That reduces the amount of passing time and people needed.

          Good luck!

          1 Reply
          1. re: thimes

            Great tips! Consider the sliders and flank steak officially cut from the menu! just removed them from the spreadsheet :) felt good.

          2. OH - one other suggestion/tip. . . . pastry bags are your best friend! You can get them at any cake store and most large craft stores.

            Put all your sauces/lemon curd/etc in them before you get to the party. I also always bring several large binder clips to help close them.

            Not having to "spoon" a bit of sauce onto everything is a HUGE time saver for any last minute sauce garnishing!

            (I'm thinking your balsamic reduction if you are making it yourself instead of buying - the lemon curd on the brie - the aioli - the bloody mary for the shooters too if you buy a very large one and depending how chunky it is, super chunky mixed with very watery isn't great for pastry bags . . )

            1 Reply
            1. re: thimes

              perfect! exactly the tips I am looking for! I was planning on doing it for the lemon curd, but hadn't even thought of it for the other things. Duh. This is going to be a great learning experience!

            2. Caterer here!!

              I'll skip menu suggestions because you already have many listed above...I'll stick to logistics and numbers. The only meal suggestion I'd make is to skip the soup someone suggested, unless you're going to serve it in cucumber cups or sake cups or something -- like a "sip."

              People eat fewer hors d'oeuvres when passed than when stationary. Take that into account if, at the last minute, you are overwhelmed. Passed hors d'oeuvres need only a napkin and people take only one at a time; stationary or buffet hors d'oeuvres need plates and people tend to take a lot at once rather than one at a time.

              For 60 people, you might be surprised but one day to prep probably won't be sufficient...see if you can do all your mis en place (cutting, mixing of creams/toppings/sauces, etc.) before your prep day.

              If you have sufficient serving platters, place ONE (or pass one) of each type at a time. Prepare at least one other platter of each item and be ready to swap them out when they run low. Replenish the "swapped out" platter and you'll be ready for the next swap! Extra platters may be stored under the buffet table if your space is limited or if you do not have easy kitchen access. The more you put out, the more people will eat all at once...

              As far as numbers...I plan on 20 bites per person if there is no meal served and your party is taking place during a regular dinner hour. Otherwise 12-15 is generally sufficient. For 60 people, 8-9 hors d'oeuvres is plenty, especially since dessert isn't included in that list. Older people tend to eat less than younger people, and people eat more when there is an open bar.

              Best of luck and have fun!!

              4 Replies
              1. re: tsfirefly

                good grief~cut this list down to 6 or 7 items. 1/2 hot, 1\2 cold. you will make yourself krazee trying to do all this. make LOTS of a few dishes, so you just need replenishing.

                1. re: tsfirefly

                  Thanks! How do I count the crudite and antipasti platter into bites? Or do I?

                  1. re: Brewhaha

                    Yes and no (in my opinion) - yes you should consider it in your overall bite count (essentially each piece of crudite is a bite) but I don't really count them as "equal" bites for entertaining purposes (I guess if you were charging a cost that would be different). But for me they are sort of filler/"buffer" foods to keep the table full and to help give someone something to try if you are in the process of preparing something else.

                    So I know that isn't a clear cut answer - but yes I would think of them as bites just not a "full bite" like your other foods . . . . and so if you were considering 15 bites per person and knew you were having a pretty robust crudite/antipasti spread then maybe I would consider 10-12 bites per person (even though if you counted the bites in the crudite you might calculate that you only need 7 bites per person . . . . does that make any sense . . . . )

                    You'll be fine if you think about the advice here - I'm sure they will love it.

                    1. re: thimes

                      that definitely makes sense... It's this saturday so even if it didn't make sense, time is up!

                2. Hire someone to help you. You won't regret it.

                  Break down every single thing you have to do, and make a list.

                  1. Thanks everyone for your advice... the even went off without a hitch! I definitely had lots of left overs and learned a thing of two about my new Cleveland demographic... note to self: caviar isn't necessary. Anyway, just wanted to include a couple of pictures... thanks again!

                    5 Replies
                      1. re: Brewhaha

                        Gorgeous! Congratulations! Hope you had fun, too.

                          1. re: Brewhaha

                            Holy cow that looks crazy professional. My hat's off to you. Can I ask how the timing went for plating and refilling platters?

                            1. re: Dcfoodblog

                              Thanks! I feel really good with how everything went... Timing was surprisingly pretty easy. For the warm stuff I only heated one tray of everything for the start of the party and then just put things in the oven as I noticed platters were getting low. The mushrooms take 50 minutes, so those were the trickiest and I just hoped for the best. As for the cold platters, I had a full tray prepped to go so when it got low I just took the tray over and swapped it out. I used probably a total of 14 cookie sheets to prep stuff on and I have no idea how many platters. The couple trays I used for the shrimp, greek salads and chicken salad were perfect! It was a lot of fun, but I think I'll stick with my current career in advertising :)