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Help me round out this buffet?

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I'm helping a friend DIY her wedding reception, which will be a small and simple buffet. The items we have so far are:

Meatballs in tangy sauce (hot)

Spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts

Fruit platter/salad

Brie Bites- puff pastry with blackberry jam and brie cheese baked in mini muffin cups (hot)

Wedding cake

I think we need something else, maybe something starchy, but really don't have space to heat something else at the venue. I will have two home-size ovens and a two burner stove, so not a lot of cooking space. The brie needs to be done throughout the evening, and the meatballs will stay in the oven, and we will refill the plate in the kitchen. I don't have chaffing dishes as an option as flames are not allowed in the church hall.

I'm hesitant to do rolls, as they seem so blah, and muffins are really just ugly cupcakes, and she's having pretty ones for her wedding cake.

Any ideas?

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  1. What about sides of poached salmon, served cold, and a grain-based salad, like a great pasta or quinoa or farro salad?

    4 Replies
    1. re: milklady

      Salmon is WAY out of the budget. We're trying to do the whole thing for 130 people at under $300, including dessert and punch. I don't think quinoa would go over well with this crowd, but pasta salad could be a possibility. I'm trying not to recreate the last wedding buffet I helped with, and that had pasta salad, fruit, a savory palmier, and meatballs.

      1. re: sarahjay

        <$3 per person is tough, especially since you seem to be making 'sit down' foods-saucy meatballs and salad are not conducive to standing and eating. I assume you are making (and not buying) meatballs and somehow getting a deal on fruit, salad fixings, Brie, puff pastry and desserts. How much additional money per person do you have?

        If the savory palmiers worked last time, do those again. There's is nothing wrong with making a very good, memorable meal. Are the guests the same ones, or 'new' people who would enjoy the food?

        1. re: Cathy

          Probably about half the people are the same, so I'm switching up the puff pastry, which I make myself, so it's cheap. The cupcakes are being made by bridesmaids, and the puffs will only take a couple of pounds of brie total, which I'll get from costco. I've done them for other events, but not with this crowd in the past year.
          The total cost is for the meatballs, puffs, cupcake, and salad is around $160, based on previous spreadsheets and today's trip to the shops to see how prices have changed. I'm not sure what fruit will cost in March, but I could change the salad to crasins and feta and just do strawberries for the fruit. I can get a flat of that day's berries (from Watsonville) for between $20-25 in mid-March. I don't think I would need more than a flat or two, which would put my total at about $210. I think I could do a ham, rolls, mustard, and cheese for the remaining $90.

          1. re: sarahjay

            If you find that cheese may be too expensive for individual sandwiches, you could make a ham & cheese salad (ham salad with cheese) and make a light mustard dressing to bind it together.

            I made this for a church dinner using a piece of inexpensive ham, chopped and the basics like shallots, fresh celery leaves and pickle relish. Made a dressing of mayo, mustard and some herbs then stirred in some shredded smoked gouda cheese. I used small homemade rolls to make sandwiches and served on a large platter with bowls of pickled carrot chips and fresh green bean pickles which I made myself using an overnight quick pickle recipe. Everyone loved them and I had no leftovers. This way you use less ham and don't have to spend a fortune in cheese for individual sandwiches. The smoked cheese set it off perfectly.

            Also, why not consider making salads in lettuce leaves instead of a salad bowl? You'll have portion control, less waste and you could set out bottles of dressings. Guests could grab & go and they don't need a table to eat it at. A nice touch would be to roll each leaf once filled and tie with a scallion string. Using a squirt bottle for the dressings, guests will make less mess.

    2. IMO, you need something besides meatballs, cheese and fruit, especially since, by your post, it seems like the reception will be going on for awhile. A ham sliced and put between small rolls or biscuits with maybe a mustard spread to accomapny is always nice as is the ever present chicken salad. Both can be made ahead and no need for last minute oven space; no need to re-heat. Spring rolls are another make ahead option and can sit at room temp for a long time; platters of pickled and/or roasted veggies add color & texture to the table.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Cherylptw

        I like the idea of ham and rolls--maybe turkey, too, and home made rolls. You could add fun condiments to this, too. People could do meatball sliders.

        1. re: chowser

          I'm worried about it looking too "wedding standard" Would bretzel rolls be okay for a wedding? With ham and mustards and sliced cheese?

          1. re: sarahjay

            i make cornbread in a casserole dish, so it's long and flat. split horizontally and make ham/swiss/mustard finger sandwiches.

            i think you need another protein besides the meatballs... what about deviled egg salad on black bread or in boston lettuce cups? chicken salad with almonds and grapes is nice this way too.

            are you in the northern hemisphere? strawberries will be out of season and basically flavorless in march. pretty for color, but you are already doing a fruit salad. i also don't like "leafy" salads for buffets. they take up lots of plate space. a fresh crispy chopped salad would be nicer, and will hold up longer at room temp after being dressed.

            pasta salad, imho, is mostly horrible. the pasta gets gloppy and soggy. a potato salad with a lemony vinaigrette (not a heavy mayo dressing) would be a nice side here.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I agree w hotonoodle regarding another protein. I also worry that some folks may not be fans of hot or spicy food and may avoid the meatballs. Could you serve the sauce on the side and maybe add another sauce option and, a protein that would work w the same sauces? Maybe some grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs (relatively inexpensive).

              Other ideas. . . braise a cheaper cut of meat, or serve a bean, lentil or quinoa salad, a flatbread topped w meat and meatless options...

              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                i think the op means hot as in temperature for the meatballs.

      2. I would add:
        - some interesting flat breads and dips (hummus, baba ghannouj, roasted red pepper etc.).
        - pasta salad
        - cold shrimp
        - spanakopita (Costco has a delicious frozen version that can be baked ahead of time and quickly reheated before serving. It is in a large coil that would look really pretty on the table and only $7 each).

        1. Ham biscuits? Mini-biscuits, with a thin slice of salty, country ham -- or prosciutto. The beauty of biscuits is that they can be made ahead and don't have to be hot, just room temp.

          Or just forget the ham and make the biscuits cheesy, or herbed, or both. Tastier than rolls, and handy to soak up a bit of the meatball sauce if needed.

          1. if you have a couple of slow cookers and enough power, the meatballs could stay hot in there.
            What time is the reception?

            1. I'm going to give the bride the idea of the pretzel rolls with ham and cheese. She's picked out the meatballs and the salad, so those will stay for sure, but the fruit could be replaced by a veggie tray if we need to. The reception will only last about 3 hours and people will come and go, not sit at once. Most people won't come expecting to leave full (Mormon weddings aren't the same as other receptions I've been to) older people will come at the beginning for food and younger people towards the end for dancing and clean-up. I do a few of these a year, but am always looking to make each event unique and not a cookie cutter reception.

              Thanks for you help!
              I'll report back later :)

              2 Replies
              1. re: sarahjay

                Well, there's always the jell-o salad...

                1. re: sarahjay

                  I think sandwiches and pasta salads are too picknicky for a traditional indoor wedding. I was going to raise the kosher/halal issue but then read Mormon, so probably not an ecumenical guest list. I agree with keeping the meatballs in a slow cooker. Even if you don't have enough power to keep it plugged in, if it's been heated up before it arrives, it should stay pretty warm for 3 hours. Coolers - even cheap styrofoam ones - with a heated brick wrapped in a towel work well, too. I do think you need a hot starch. Twice-baked potatoes, perhaps? Rice pilaf?

                  Fig jam rather than berry. I'd rethink the strawberries for the salad since you are also having a fresh fruit platter. Use craisins or raisins, and pecans or walnuts, for the green salad.

                  While the hackneyed jello salads are grim, there are some gorgeous ones using fresh fruit on CH threads. You could consider these in lieu of a fruit platter or fruit salad. Either use individual clear glass bowls, or make in lasagna pans, cut into squares, and arrange on a platter set over an identical platter filled with crushed ice. If you use plain gelatin and white grape juice, it will allow the colors of the fruit to shine through. One particularly pretty combination is blueberries, kiwi slices, and halved green seedless grapes.

                2. Risi e bisi
                  Great quality bread with a variety of flavored butters