Lunch for 20
I have a friend cooking lunch for 20 people this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) and need some fresh ideas. The ideas/recipes need to be pretty straightforward - she's not a whiz in the kitchen. She did this same event last year and was disappointed in herself... She served turkey sandwiches ones day and roast beef the next.
Guests will be attendees from a dog training seminar put on by her husband. There will be both men & women. Budget is $10 per person per meal. Lunch will be prepared & served in a residence with substantial kitchen space. Depending on the weather, they will be eating outside. She's serving cookies. This will be buffet.
Here's what I came up with as ideas and was hoping you all could come up with a few other ideas outside the box:
Pulled pork or brisket sandwiches served with poppyseed coleslaw and good quality chips. Maybe homemade quick pickles?
Chipotle Chorizo Chili (or just regular old chili) with homemade green chile cornbread
A taco bar with some purchased barbacoa and rotisserie chicken as options - pico de gallo, guacamole, etc.
Why not just do meat and cheese platters, assorted crudites, chips, pickles, olives, different types of rolls and breads, various salads, condiments, etc? Vegetarians and others with dietary issues can then eat what they want and skip what they want (unless you are planning on telling everyone ahead of time what ie being served, or find out if there are any allergies). Since you said she's not too adept at cooking, this would be easy for her to put together too. I know she did sandwiches last year, but this way, it's a bit more elegant.
I don't see chili being a good option for an outdoor summer event.
Because you say she was disapponted in herself last year ~ IMO it's the details that make things memorable.
Will the dogs be there? Maybe have small "doggie" bags with homemade dog biscuits inside, or if this is for dog owners she could just have the bags at the end to send home. Maybe make some cute dog-decorated cupcakes for one of the days (if she enjoys that sort of thing - I'm thinking along the lines of "Hello Cupcake").
A tongue-in-cheek menu (maybe too much for some) could be hot dogs with toasted buns and a variety of fixings, along with a few really good picnic-type sides. Maybe a menu or two with sample combinations: Chicago-style, southwestern or Tex-Mex, German, etc. There are a variety of toppings in the June Sunset: the surfer, artisan, cowboy ...
And I'm not suggesting that everything be dog-themed - but it can be a fun touch here and there.
Putting thought into how the food is displayed, even separating a beverage station. Adding cucumber slices or orange and lemon slices to a water jug can make it feel more special than just water someone has to fill at the sink. I think these things often get forgotten, but they do make a big impact.
How about ordering fried chicken and having a chest of cooler corn, baked beans, and bowls or platters of fresh fruit one day.
Second day slice up a couple hams and roasts and do as suggested with bread baskets and cheeses; crudites and chips w/dips. Have a platter of lettuce, sliced tomatoes, etc. (make only half as much as you think you need, there are always tons of leftover lettuce and tomatoes).
serve cookies both days ~~ every one loves homemade cookies and brownies.
$200 a day is a lot of money for lunch for 20
How about attractive large ravioli shapes (filled with something like ricotta and pesto) on long skewers, alternating with pre-grilled and raw veggies (i.e. grape tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, red onions, etc.? A pesto vinaigrette can be drizzled over them. She can do something similar for dessert with skewers of fresh fruits, alternating with pound cake with a chocolate ganache drizzle. Round it out with a bean salad that has chopped salami chunks, deviled eggs, garlic bread and a simple green salad.
On the second day, I really like the pulled pork idea, with slaw, buns, potato salad, plus a couple of different store-bought pie choices (pecan and apple or other fruit) with a scoop of ice cream. She can offer a small fruit salad as well.
I'm liking the pulled pork idea. If you guys swing that way, shredded chicken is a nice second sandwich alternative (some people love it, some people have never even had one).
The deli trays/make your own sandwich thing are very widely accepted and work well. I like a LOT the idea of having the 2nd tray be different with more italian style meats than typical american cold cuts.