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Middle Eastern/Lebanese catering


I really need help with a party I'm throwing. I found a lebanese retaurant that can provide me the food but don't have a clue about portion sizes. Can someone take a look at this and give me an idea if this food will be enough for 55 standard adults? The get-together is only an hour long lunch so we aren't talking about folks coming back for 3rd and 4th servings

Tomato Bulgar 1 Tray
Rice & Lentil 1 Tray
Mousaka (Eggplant, chickpeas, onions, diced tojmatoes, garlic, mint & pomegranate juice) 1 Tray
Tabouli (finely chopped parseley, tomato, mint cracked wheat, lemon & olive oil) 1 Tray
Okra (Okra sauteed with cilantro, tomato, garlic & pomegranate juice) 1 Tray
Stuff Grape Leaves (hand rolled grape leaves with rice, chopped parsley, onions & tomato & lemon juice) 50 pcs
Falafel (served with tahini sauce on side) 50 pcs
Hummus with pita 3 lbs
1 bag of pita cut with each one cut into four pieces in a tray 1 bag
Baklava cut into small pieces 1 Tray
Rice Pudding with cinnamon and pistachio (rose water on the side) 1/2 Tray

Thank you!

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  1. Is this going to be a sit-down party where guests will be seated with plates and silverware, or will guests be standing and chatting? I'm thinking if I have a glass of water/soda/tea in my hand, it will be hard to negotiate some of the foods if it's not sit-down.

    Also, just my opinion, I would omit a side (the bulgar or rice) and add kibbee, unless it needs to be vegetarian.

    1. First thing that comes to mind if you're having 55 adults - do you expect that there will a) be guests who won't want grape leaves or falafel and b) those who do want, will be happy with one/two?

      In general, I do think that it sounds like enough collectively - but only if you feel certain that a good number will totally bypass the grape leaves or falafel. Personally, I would double the grape leaves order and potentially nix the falafel option. Unless they serve a baked falafel - as a fried item in general, I don't think they're super awesome unless pretty quick from the fryer.

      1. 1) So glad I posted here. Also totally forgot. This is all required to be vegetarian (no meat, fish, eggs but dairy and milk is okay)

        2) The falafel balls would be consumed 45 mins after coming out from the fryer and the restaurant says they will stay warm in the aluminum container. What do you think?

        3) Guests will be standing and chatting. In fact, that brings about another question. There are 5 kids aged 5-8. Are they going to be okay standing and chatting? There are literally no chairs at this place and I'm taking my own square table to lay out the dishes

        4) Would it make sense to have 2-3 women from my family serve the guests or let them serve themselves? Some may not have greek food so think the former may be a good idea

        2 Replies
        1. re: eateat22

          Personally, I would say no to the falafel. To judge my opinion on this properly - I will admit that I've been living in Jerusalem for a while now. So I both access to very fresh excellent falafel. And a lot of dreadful falafel - and the bad is usually the result of it sitting for a while after frying.

          The local way that recently cooked falafel is in a paper bag - not aluminum/foil. Think about french fries, how well do you think they'd hold up in an aluminum dish for at least 45 minutes?

          I also think that as falafel is generally considered a popular item - so I'd still be concerned about having only 50 for 55 adults. I would also add that this menu is screaming for lane/yogurt condiment. The tomato-bulgar, and rice-lentil could really be enhanced with that.

          1. re: eateat22

            You may need to think about how you'll handle the children. I can guarantee that they will run around, especially if there are no chairs, and unless you're sure their parents will keep them under control, you might have to bring in a small table and kid size chairs to accommodate them.

            Oh, and I think it's fine to serve falafel because people probably expect it. Unless your guests have lived in Israel and had access to great falafel, even 45 minutes-ago falafel is okay if it's well prepared to begin with (made with soaked chickpeas rather than canned, for example). I'd rather have yummy fried falafel than baked, any day, even if it's not just out of the fryer.

          2. There are a lot of grains here but few "mains." People may leave full, but you may also have people missing out on the grape leaves and falafel. Tomato bulgur and tabbouleh seem duplicative to me. I would eliminate one and perhaps double up on the grape leaves or falafel). Were it me, I might suggest subbing a crunchy fattoush for one of the grain salads and doing spinach pies or fried cauliflower in lieu of the falafel. Speaking from experience, catering trays usually arrive sealed and the falafel is never that great after steaming for 45 minutes.

            I don't know how many pitas come in one bag, but at my bakery it's 6 pitas per bag. You might want to triple up to give everyone some bread for the hummus.

            1. Instead of taking out the mousaka, is it okay taking out the rice & lentils? Also, I can ask the restaurant if they do baked falafel because I know some guests love falafel and do 75 pieces of grape leaves & falafel each

              1 Reply
              1. re: eateat22

                Middle Eastern moussaka and okra are both saucy stews. You want rice to accompany them, although some people eat moussaka with bread. If you omit the rice, you will definitely want a separate tray of pita to serve with the okra and moussaka.

              2. I'd ditch the tomato bulgar as you'll have bulgar in the tabouli plus many other starches in the falafel, grape leaves and dessert. I'd add some protein such as kafta skewers or kabobs of meat. May also want to add more pita chips for the tabouli.

                1. Which yogurt condiment do you suggest?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: eateat22

                    I'd first ask if they have labne - which is a Levantine style thick strained yogurt. It's often served with some olive oil on top and is great on it's own. That would be my preference and guess of fitting in with a Lebanese restaurant. Otherwise, any kind of tzatziki type dish.

                    I do get the others comments about falafel being expected and with lower expectations. Given that, I agree that increasing the amount of falafel/grape leaves. I agree with the idea of leaving off the tomato bulgar as there will already be bulgar in the tabbouleh if you're looking for a dish to drop.

                  2. Finally folks - can you please comment on whether this food collectively would be enough for 55 adults (I counted the kids as half). I only saw one response on that. The trays again are Standard half size tray 10.5 x 8 1/8 x 2 9/16

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: eateat22

                      Those trays are smaller than I expected. At that size, I'd say each tray would yield 20 mezze-sized portions at most. You'll want the full sized trays.

                      1. re: eateat22

                        The caterer is only suggesting half as much of each item that would be appropriate for a buffet luncheon. You will run out of popular items quickly and the second half of your guest will face empty trays.

                        As a rule of thumb (from my way back when days as a caterer) you need 1 and 1/2 times the amount of food for a buffet lunch than you would need for a plated luncheon.

                        Also, you CANNOT count kids as one half with this menu, what are you going to do? Restrict the kids to half a falafel ball? It doesn't work.

                        Cut down on the choices and increase quantities substantially. This will be a new cuisine to many of your guests and they will want to try a bit of everything. You won't get 50 servings spoon scoops out of these small aluminum trays.

                      2. One bag of pita usually has 6-8 pieces. Cutting those in 4 will only yield you 24-32 pieces. Most people who take pita will take 1-2 pieces, so I think you are way short there.

                        I also don't think 3 lbs of hummus is enough. We have a middle eastern deli nearby where we buy hummus, etc by the pound. A 32oz container of hummus at this place is about 3 lbs. That would feed about 20-25 people as an appetizer portion, but definitely not 55. I've gotten that for small get togethers. Same with the grape leaves -- people aren't going to take just one, they will probably take 1-3 each, depending on if they like them. Keep in mind that many people unfamiliar with middle eastern food will stick to familiar items like pita, hummus and falafel.

                        Instead of going for more items, I'd cut back on the number of items and increase the quantities for each.

                        I'd go with:
                        rice and Lentils - 2 trays
                        Moussaka - 2 trays
                        Stuffed grape leaves - 100pc
                        Falafel -- 100pc
                        Hummus - 6-7 lbs
                        Pita - 5 bags
                        Rice pudding - 1 tray

                        I'd also add in a tzatziki or something.

                        ETA: Just saw that the trays you are referring to are half trays, not full pans. When we order middle eastern and/or Mexican foods at work, we are told that a full tray of rice, beans, stew, etc feeds 25-30 people. 1 half tray of food isn't going to feed 55 people unless they are taking a tablespoon's worth of food each.

                        1. I'd ask the restaurant about how many people that would feed. They should know. Also, unless your guests are familiar with this cuisine, I'd put up cards identifying each dish. Sounds casual so I'd let people serve themselves.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Hobbert

                            Guys - not able to gain a foothold on this and the caterer doesn't have too much of a clue. With the 1/2 trays, I think I can go with this
                            Rice and Lentils - 2 trays
                            Moussaka - 2 trays
                            Tabouli - 2 trays
                            Stuffed grape leaves - 100pc (should be 1 tray)
                            Hummus - 3lb (this should be a quarter tray approx)
                            Pita - 2 bags (this should be quarter tray)
                            Rice pudding - 1 tray

                            This brings me to 7.5 trays and the recommended serving for appetizers & main course usually is 8-10oz. My caterer tells me each tray is 4 mid-size chinese soup containers which itself is 16oz. Hence 7.5 X 4 X 16 = 480/55 people = 8.72oz per person

                            1. re: eateat22

                              Do you have a link to the caterer's menu or the name of the restaurant? It looks like we both live in NYC and I've ordered plenty of ]catering here so I might know the place. I'm actually surprised they're not more helpful. I worked as a caterer and I do a lot of catered Middle Eastern meals and they are usually so very precise with servings, much more so than the corporate caterers. I don't know about Dishes or Pax, but most Middle Eastern places know how I would feel as the host if I show up with 40 falafel and 55 diners!

                              FWIW, I made a "Chinese soup sized container" of hummus musabbaha with sumac and pimenton for a 7-person mezze picnic last weekend and it was demolished. And yet we had 16 x 20 containers for this afternoon's 20-person catered, 6-dish lunch and had left overs for at least 4. There's more than volume in determining catering.

                              1. re: eateat22

                                I'm not sure why you are trying to get away with bare minimums. My mom used to do Indian food catering, and I order the food for my work company lunches for 60 people. I can assure you that you will not have enough food based on what you've said so far. As an example, I ordered Mexican food last week for work. For 60 people, I order 2 full trays of beans, 2 full trays of rice, 25 lbs of carne asada, 100 flour tortillas, 100 corn tortillas, 3 huge bags of tortilla chips, 6 lbs of hot salsa, 6 lbs of pico de gallo and 8 lbs of guacamole, and 2 full trays of fruit salad. There was nothing left except a few tortillas.

                                As a host, it's always better to have too much food than not enough. You can always give away leftovers but you will be extremely embarrassed if you don't have enough food.

                                1. re: eateat22

                                  If the restaurant regularly caters, they should be able to tell you how many people that will feed. I mean, restaurants focus on portions, right? I might consider going elsewhere if I were you.

                                  1. re: eateat22

                                    If the caterer "doesn't have a clue", you need a new caterer. I'm serious.

                                2. Where areyou getting the food from?

                                    1. Guys - there usually is a cost to everything. Isn't there? For greek food, what would be a good estimated of a per person catering cost? For italian food, I've gotten quotes from 8-10 pp and think it should be similar to greek food. If I start doubling up all quantities, I'll be paying over 15 pp

                                      1. Guys - I apologize for beating this to death but I've finalized the items. Can someone tell me now if this is enough or you would increase the trays for any particular item? I can always put one more tray for something that will be very popular but can't figure out what item it would be. And once again, the half trays here are standard half size tray 10.5 x 8 1/8 x 2 9/16

                                        Rice & Lentil - 2 half Tray
                                        Mousaka - 2 half Tray
                                        Tabouli - 2 half Tray
                                        Stuff Grape Leaves - 100 pcs
                                        Hummus with pita 5 lbs
                                        Pita - 4 bags
                                        Baklava cut into small pieces - 1 full flat Tray
                                        Rice Pudding -1 half Tray

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: eateat22

                                          As I said before, each half try will serve 20 small bites max. So you are proposing
                                          Rice and lentils for 40
                                          Moussaka for 40
                                          Tabbouleh for 40
                                          Grape Leaves for ~50
                                          Hummus with pita for 20
                                          Pita for ~50
                                          Rice pudding for 20

                                          This is even smaller than the original order you proposed. This might be enough for heavy snacks, but it won't be a full lunch for 55 unless 5 of them are children who only eat baklava and 10 are very light diners. YMMV. I sympathize with you: catering can be very expensive in New York. But even in a small city, and more so in NYC, $8-9 pp for Italian catering is not likely to be good. Even Domino's costs more than that. Several NYC hounds here have asked you which restaurant you are using and what is your price range? There may be better options out there for you. For instance, purchasing your hummus and tabbouleh from Costco would be significantly cheaper than catering. Hounds on the NYC boards can also make helpful suggestions.

                                          1. re: eateat22

                                            bagelman01 is giving you excellent advice and you really aren't listening.
                                            Nor have you learned from the famous New York party arranger, Jackie Mason.
                                            What is the primary goal of your thinking about the food for your party?

                                            1. re: eateat22

                                              Not enough. If cost is an issue, eliminate one of the desserts and one of the tabouli, and get something substantial for your guests. JungMann and Bagelman and Vinnie know what they're talking about. Nothing worse than running out of food.

                                              1. re: eateat22

                                                If people are arriving to this event and are assuming they're going to be eating lunch, they'll leave hungry and annoyed. Can you move it to mid afternoon and call it "light refreshments"?

                                              2. Folks, can you guys review this revised menu for 55 people?

                                                Mujadarrah 16 lbs
                                                Moussaka 16 lbs
                                                Tabbouleh 12 lbs
                                                Grape Leaves 8 dz
                                                Hummus 8 lbs
                                                Baklava platter with 60 pieces
                                                24 packs of pita bread

                                                18 Replies
                                                1. re: eateat22

                                                  This is a lot better than what you were doing before. At least you'll have enough food.

                                                  If I made any changes, it would be too reduce or eliminate the tabouli and go with a tzatziki style dip. That way people can dip their pita as well as their stuffed grape leaves. I've done middle eastern catering for my work and many people do not care for tabouli, or they take only a tiny amount thinking it's a topping instead of a side.

                                                  1. re: boogiebaby

                                                    Just go out and buy some containers of Greek (9-10%) yogurt, spread it all out on a plate or platter, drizzle with good quality olive oil and serve alongside your spread. The thick yogurt is not only tasty and refreshing on its own, but it goes well with nearly all of the dishes you're having catered. You could save a lot of money this way, rather than ordering the same amount from your caterer (assuming they don't alter the yogurt with other ingredients). I'm a big fan of garlicky labneh, but many Middle Eastern restaurants only offer plain, well-drained yogurt. Many of your guests may prefer it, especially if the other dishes are highly spiced (herbs, spices, garlic, etc.).

                                                  2. re: eateat22

                                                    boogiebaby has a good point about the tabbouleh...unless the guests know that it's good in the pita. Also, I hope it'll be made freshly for you. It keeps well, but it can get watery if it sits for a while.

                                                    Maybe stuffed cousa instead of the taboulleh, if it's not too expensive? It's heartier than grape leaves, can be totally vegan, and they're usually good sized (as opposed to thumb-size grape leaves).

                                                    1. re: eateat22

                                                      Who do you think can give you an opinion about tabbouleh by weight particularly when they don't know how it will be made?

                                                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                        If the caterer/restaurant is figuring not true weight, but volume...e.g. one gets 4 side servings from a one pound deli container than 12 pounds is more than ample for this group. In fact, unless you have a group who are very famikliar with Lebanese food and tabboluleh lovers, this is probably twice as much as you need. Most people would use the tabbouleh as a condiment adding a bit n top of other food. A few diehards would eat it straight as a dish.
                                                        I for one, love Lebanese and middle eastern food in general, but don't like tabbouleh.

                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                          I didn't think boogiebaby was serious when she said people think tabbouleh is a condiment. What are people who aren't familiar doing with it??

                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                            I think people see the parsley as more of a condiment, like chimichurri or pesto. They don't realize it's meant as a side. I found that out when I was asking some of my coworkers when we brought in middle eastern food.

                                                            FWIW, Im not a fan of it either. I don't like raw tomato, so that rules most tabbouli out for me. Out of this menu, I'd take the rice, a small spoon of moussaka, hummus and 2-3 pita quarters, and several grape leaves.

                                                            1. re: boogiebaby

                                                              Yeah, I thought tabbouleh was something to put on meat or rice and I happily did so until told otherwise.

                                                              1. re: Hobbert

                                                                I have Japanese friends in the restaurant business who immigrated in the 1970's. Their family was given coffee after by an American. They put it on rice.

                                                          2. re: bagelman01

                                                            bagelman01, What is it about tabbouleh that you don't like? I didn't like broccoli either, until one day......

                                                            1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                              I don't like tabbouleh either. I made it a few days ago to see if my tastes had changed. They hadn't.
                                                              It's the mouth feel and mint in salad.
                                                              If I were at this lunch, I'd fill my plate with moussaka and grape leaves and leave the rest.

                                                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                  Even in the Middle East, tabbouleh can be a sensitive topic, particularly when it comes to what "authentic" tabbouleh should be. You can get into a heated debate about how much parsley and bulgur should be in the salad. I generally don't like tabbouleh, but when it's made right -- that is to say, made the way I make it with plenty of mint, less parsley and chunks of good tomatoes -- it can be great. I also add a bit of spice to my salad.

                                                                  1. re: JungMann

                                                                    Tabbouleh is definitely one of those dishes where personal preference of bulgar, parsley and mint definitely factor into the ratio. Personally I prefer it with a huge amount of parsley and very little bulgar - but definitely get that it isn't for everyone.

                                                                      1. re: almond tree

                                                                        Pinch of cumin and more of allspice or I'll just use 7 spice.

                                                                      2. re: JungMann

                                                                        I can see why many don't like tabbouleh. It's very herbaceous. I'm the person that will eat a parsley garnish, so tabbouleh is enjoyable to me, except when it's drowning in liquid ingredients and gets mushy. I don't care for sumac, especially in quantity, so I prefer tabbouleh to fattoush. I do, however, think that tabbouleh makes a refreshing side to the other options at the buffet and should not be eliminated from the menu. You could probably drop the quantity to 8 lbs and add 8 lbs of baba ganoush. In my experience, the dips are winners with most. They may be the only dishes the kids take. I commented above about adding labneh or just buying a few large tubs of Greek yogurt to serve alongside. Consider too adding a crudites platter (which you can make yourself). For those that a) want more veggies and b) want to consume less pita (since the meal is already grain and legume laden), the crudites are a nice (and cheap) addition. They make nice finger foods for the kids, too. I hope the restaurant/caterer is throwing in the pickles that typically appear on a table in a Mid-East restaurant. To me, they'd be conspicuously absent from a table with the items you've outlined.