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Please help with a bridal shower salad buffet menu & cooking theme

Hi, chowhounds, thanks so much for being such a great resource!

So here's my project du jour...I'm having a bridal shower in less than two weeks and it has a cooking theme. Of course, for me, any event is all about the food, so I'm going to force feed my guests from the minute they get here til they leave! ;~}

I'm thinking of starting with champagne cocktails of some kind and some apps like maybe gougeres and....? The main course will be a salad buffet. So far I'm planning a green salad with field greens, thinly sliced sweet onion, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, feta and a sweet balsamic dressing. I'm going to do some kind of fruit salad/tray/skewers. I want to do a fancy-schmancy crab salad served in endive leaves - does anyone have a good crab salad recipe for this?? I was also thinking of some kind of a rice salad - again I was thinking of a dried fruit/nut/cheese/crunchy (probably green onions) combo, but now that's sounding too much like the green salad, so does anyone have any ideas for a starch-based salad that isn't pasta? (I'm the queen of the pasta salad at all family events, and we're heading into pasta salad season, so don't want to do pasta here.) I'll also serve a nice bread basket and lots of butter. I might want one more salad, so does anyone have ideas?

For dessert I'm planning an assortment of purchased bite sized yum yums from the nice bakery that makes you drool just to walk in the door.

Any other ideas of help with recipess? Also, I need help with the dread bridal shower games - ! I'm going to do the ol' put a bunch of cooking tools and stuff on a tray and show them for 30 seconds and see how many the guests can list. Any other cooking theme game ideas?

Thanks everyone!

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  1. I agree that the rice salad you mentioned is too similar. Maybe a quinoa and wild rice with dried apricots, scallions, red pepper, carrots and an orangey/cumin dressing? It'll get the sweet complement without being redundant. And then there IS a lot that is sweet there, so I'd consider a more savory salad, perhaps butter lettuce with Green Goddess?

    For the other appetizer, Ina Garten's parmesan thyme crackers are fantastic, but maybe too similar to gougeres. Perhaps crostini with apple, fig jam and brie? That sounds suitably girlie.

    1. What abouta tabbouleh or wheat berry salad instead of pasta salad?

      1. A potato/haricots verts salad with a lovely vinaigrette might work for your no-pasta offering. If you like the taste of anchovy, you could incorporate that into the vinaigrette, and then lay some anchovy over the top as a garnish. A salad of half white/half sweet potatoes works beautifully for this. Another grain salad might be an option: quinoa, freekeh, bulgur - and another thought is to make a modified Fattoush: Tomatoes, cukes, onions and bell peppers with toasted pita squares tossed with it, dressed with a lemony vinaigrette and sprinkled w/ sesame seeds. Enjoy your party. A fun game is, "what's the missing ingredient," where you give your guests recipes with an ingredient missing, but you have to make sure it's a fairly significan ingredient: Molasses cookies sans molasses; chicken marsala minus the marsala. You get the idea. Oh and another game is the egg race, you know: an egg (you can hardcook it to avoid mess, but it's more fun if you don't) on a tablespoon that needs to be held aloft and make it to the finish line without being dropped.

        1. This is really simple but delicious and the color would be nice on your buffet. It is a tomato, basil and brown rice salad.

          And I went to one shower where they took the labels off spices and put them on a tray and you had to smell or even taste and see how many you could get right. They did some obvious for those who may not cook much, cinnamon and ginger etc., then some that were more difficult like cardamon and ground sumac.

          1 Reply
          1. gougeres and a champagne cocktail are plenty for starting the party. st. germaine or a good quality peach or pear liqueure are wonderful added to bubbly. (look for the mathilde brand)

            i am not a fan of leafy lettuce salads at buffets. the leaves take up lots of plate space and are difficult to eat without cutting. chopped salads are bite-sized forkfuls, crunchy, refreshing and generally more colorful. use some sturdier lettuce like romaine and iceberg, perhaps some arugula or cress for contrast. the cranberries can still add a hint of sweet (and don't need to be chopped), but i'd go for a tangier dressing, like a dijon vinaigrette. crumbled blue cheese instead of feta.

            rather than a rice salad, perhaps cous- cous with lots and lots of fresh herbs, like mint, cilantro and parsley. cucumber, tomatoes, olives, candied lemon or orange peel and roasted red pepper. insert feta cheese here. :)

            good quality crab doesn't need much adornment. i'd put a dab of remoulade in the endive leaf, toss the crab with some lemon and olive oil, s & p, and spoon some on top of the sauce.

            instead of another salad, i'd strongly suggest another protein, like quiches or fritattas. these can be made ahead and are fine at room temp. fillings nearly infinite.

            is this a brunch-time kind of party? yogurt and berry parfaits are pretty and easy.

            smoked salmon over melon, either slices draped over the fruit or together on toothpicks are good also.

            instead of just pastry for dessert, a fresh fruit platter will be a nice presentation and a lighter finish.

            1. +1 with Hotynoodle on a chopped salad vs. a tossed green. It can be anoying when 1/2 your plate dissapears going down the buffet from the green salad.

              I think a tabouleh/greek salad would be nice, also suggested by a couple others but we all seem to call it something a bit different. Feta, cukes, parsley, mint, tomatoes. I like it with bulgar, lemon and good olive oil, and call it tabouleh.

              Something else protein-wise would be good; perhaps if anyone doesn't like crab, you could also do some endive spears with a nice chicken salad; perhaps curried with unsweetened toasted coconut on top, and some pecans/apple in the mix.

              Deviled eggs (perhaps ceasar or smoked salmon) would be nice, and they can be very dainty if piped.

              A platter of marinated roasted asperagus would be a lovely salad addition, and be vegan and low-cal as well.

              Like the idea of the fruit appearing with dessert.

              1. Ina Garten has a roasted veggie and orzo salad that is delicious! Maybe you could use wheatberries instead of orzo. Panzanella is another option and Michael Chiarello has a bunch if options. I know it sounds like a lot of FN folks but really just happen to be the ones Inknownof off the top of my head. Internet should have recipes for all but on phone and hard to type.

                1. I'd offer a lentil salad to keep with salad theme and have something a bit more protein-rich; this thread has lots of great ideas: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/801858

                  I think with that, a chopped or green salad, a grain or couscous salad, and fruit, you'd be very set, although a platter of roasted asparagus, as gingershelley recommends, would be a lovely seasonal addition.

                  I'd serve the crab/endive as an appetizer along with the gougeres and Champagne. hotoynoodle's suggestions for your cocktail are spot on. I particularly like creme de peche liqueur with rosé (perfect for spring!), or you could go with creme de cassis for a classic kir royale. A few drops of pomegranate juice is also nice for flavoring, and goes well with sparkling water if you want to offer a non-alcoholic alternative.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    asparagus/green pea and/or snap peas with a spanish romesco (nut/red pepper/tomato) sauce or lentil salad with the same, with lots of mint and basil. Roasted asparagus with mimosa (shaved boiled egg) sauce, also gives protein. Or consider deviled eggs or as others have said, a frittata or spanish tortilla (egg potato frittata, also great with the romesco sauce). Or piquillo peppers (from a jar) stuffed with tuna.

                  2. oh, wow, what a bunch of fabulous ideas! i'm going to rethink. love the taboulleh idea & might move the crab up front. could easily do asparagus (just had them last night & YUM!!). After I posted I also thought about a cheese plate...rethinking! like the fritatta idea - easy do ahead. also love the identify the spice game - very top chef quick fire-ish & would drive my sister-in-law crazy!! Thanks everyone!!

                    1. I was at a shower yesterday someone brought a corn salad. It was terrific. It was from Thomas keller's Ad hoc cookbook but you can get it online. It was fresh corn ,lime juice ,chives ,lime zest, cream. It was the first thing to go. It was served with the scoops chips next to it . People put the salad in the chips. Very yummy

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Laurieso

                        This was my thought too -- I was at a meeting recently that had a roasted sweet potato and corn salad, and it was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately I was so busy hoovering it down that I failed to notice what other things it had in it and what the dressing was.

                        Edit -- I found a description of the corn salad on the hotel event menus. It says: Sweet potato Salad, Roast corn, Cucumbers, mustard Dressing

                        One of my favorite salads is greens served on a bed of cous cous, with grilled chicken, spiced pecans, mango, grapes, and cranberries drizzled with a ginger vinaigrette. I'd also think about maybe a fruit salad for those with a sweeter tooth, like a watermelon, mint, and feta. A caprese is easy to make too and can be customized in lots of different ways.

                        For games -- you could always do your standard bridal shower games and do cookware as a prize.

                        1. re: Laurieso

                          where are you? is corn in season? i'm in boston, so fresh corn is months away. same with watermelon.

                          gougeres, a grain-based salad, bread and pastry is a LOT of starchy food. just keep that in mind and think of balance. i don't think you need any cheese for this event.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            I'm in NY . She bought the corn in the supermarket and used that . It was delicious

                            1. re: Laurieso

                              i'm sure the recipe makes a fantastic dish. it would never occur to me to buy corn on the cob at this time of year, sorry. i only buy it local. just like berries and peaches.