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Quick menu review for a dinner TOMORROW. Needs to impress with what I have.

I've not usually been in need of menu advice, but I have a last minute business dinner tomorrow that needs to go well. I've on-the-fly come up with what I could, and might need to have some opinions on what I'm missing-not-thinking-of-being-obtuse about. All allergies and food-averseness has been addressed, so we're okay on that. My husband will be arriving from work with the two guests. I need to be as ready as I am able to be to start serving.

Here's the menu as it stands:

Apps: olives, hard salami, and glasses of the gazpacho we've got in the refrigerator.

Main, served family-style (I am told this is a casual group, so I'm running with it.):

14/16-ish oz. NY strips on the grill (I love that my neighborhood butcher counter will cut thick steaks for me if I ask at the last minute; both guests are steak-centric, so this helps)
Patatas bravas, or in that realm - I've got a ton of new potatoes, a lot of garlic and my sweetheart-forevermore: pimentón. Something crispy sounds good.
Some sort of chopped salad that uses up the pile of zucchini, tomatoes, onions and herbs that the garden is belching forth. I'm thinking on a bed of spinach, with the aforementioned diced and dressed. I always go for a vinaigrette, but can entertain the notion of other mayonnaise-type dressings

Dessert: A cheese plate with local apples and local honey. The cheeses in house right now are a 3-year Gouda, chèvre, and a two year Tillamook white cheddar.

So: what am I missing here? What missteps might I be making that I am not seeing? Any add-on that is readily gotten with zero-ish time? These are garden writers, and my cooking/prep time is going to be truncated with my yard-readying time for a dinner outside in the garden. Baking is not on the table for dessert, as I am still relearning baking due to gluten-free issues.

Any tweaks you CH folks can give me to make this work on the fly? I usually have much more time to come up with biz dinners, and I'm feeling a little blindsided by this one. Any suggestions welcome, as this is one I don't want to shrug off.

Thanks all,
Cay

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  1. I think it sounds fabulous as is, within your parameters.

    Since you're leaning towards sort of Spanish-y, might you have the fixings for Sangria in the house?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Violatp

      Oh, I am skewing as I often do toward Spanish and I do have the makings for sangria. Pluots it'll be for sangria! What a great idea. Thank you!

      1. re: cayjohan

        I made this white peach sangria recently and it was lovely, taste wise and eyeball-wise :)

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4171...

        1. re: c oliver

          Sounds so refreshing for what we need...thank you for the inspiring link!

          1. re: cayjohan

            My pleasure. When Maria Lorraine speaks, I listen :)

    2. Everything sounds good. But ONE POUND steaks? And STRIPS? That sounds awfully big and personally I'm no fan of strips. Just a thought. Oh, wait, that was two :)

      4 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        Yep. BIG meat eaters at the table tomorrow. Hub wanted porterhouse, but I prefer serving boneless steaks. Well, to strangers with whom I have not gnawed bones With F&F who want to gnaw, I'm okay. Both guests have housekeeping suites and can take leftovers back with them, but I don't think that would be a problem with one, from what I hear. Btw, the strips are amazing looking. Please dawgs, I do them justice!

        1. re: cayjohan

          Personally I'd go for boneless ribeyes. And as violatp said below, sliced and served family style really sings.

          1. re: c oliver

            We've already got the beautiful strips (our butcher does a wonderful job with them, so we roll with it). But oh, c oliver, how we love our butcher's boneless ribeyes. I'm still struggling with the serving, and I may lose this battle: my hub knows the guests' preferences and I do not as much. Sliced sounds good for me, and how I like to serve strip, but whole seems like what I will have to serve. But...a whole strip would not be bad, right?

            1. re: cayjohan

              IMneverHO, the chef makes the rules. Tell him to step aside :) Y'all could go to a steakhouse and have the same ole same ole. As a friend said "my roof, my rules." What you do will stand head and shoulders above a restaurant!

      2. A cheese plate is not a dessert that appeals to a majority of Americans. I would add some of the cheese to the appetizer plate (and crackers or nuts if you have them) and rethink dessert. I suggest baked apples or using the apples along with honey, dried fruit, and wine to make a compote. The compote works just as well in the microwave as the oven.
        If you make baked apples, you can dress them up a bit by making a caramel sauce to drizzle over, or melt vanilla ice cream as an instant creme anglaise.

        15 Replies
        1. re: greygarious

          Ya know, I've kinda surprised myself a couple of times by how well a cheese dessert as gone over with folks I might not have thought would love it. Is that a confusing sentence?!?

          1. re: c oliver

            I love cheese for dessert because I'm not a big fan of sweets particularly with some sliced meats if you need something for variety although I have noticed some don't really associated savory with post-dinner eats.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              I like cheeses with some honeycomb and maybe some kind of little fruit paste.

              1. re: c oliver

                Maybe a walnut or an almond...

                I remember way back when, the first time I ate, all at once, Gouda, dried apricot, and walnut.

                It was a revelation!

                1. re: Violatp

                  Or a walnut or an almond. Maybe especially a Marcona almond! I never knew you could eat honeycomb til I was presented with it.

              2. re: fldhkybnva

                I never knew I loved a cheese and fruit plate until I had one. I think it's a great idea!

            2. re: greygarious

              You know, I'd be perfectly ok with a cheese plate, too!

              And, for the steaks, I'm picturing them served pre-sliced on a big platter, surrounded by the potatoes. 8 ounces, give or take per person?

              1. re: Violatp

                Ah, yes, that presentation for the steak totally works.

              2. re: greygarious

                Good idea on the compote! I'm heating up the kitchen anyway, and the warm apples/cold apples/cheese would be very nice. Thank you for jogging my thinking! Our guests are cheese lovers by all account, and I am hoping our mix will be good, but I LOVE the melted ice cream idea for the compote. Easily accomplished during timeline; thank you!

                Thank you all so much for the input!

                1. re: greygarious

                  I disagree. We serve cheese often as dessert and people are always thrilled.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    This sounds like a fairly sophisticated group that would enjoy the cheese plate. In my opinion baked apples are a very autumnal dessert It depends where you are, here it was 98 degrees today, its still summer everywhere no matter what the temperature.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      i dislike serving or eating cheese as a starter -- it dulls the palate and is very easy for people to overeat, leaving less room for the main event.

                      while sliced steak looks nicer, it makes the meat cool off far too quickly and i don't like that. a compound butter with garden thyme would be nice over top though.

                      baked apples or any kind of compote seem terribly autumnal to me. don't know where the op resides, but it's over 90 degrees in my hood today. it does sound like the op has stonefruits (at least pluots) available, so i'd offer those sliced with some cream to those who want sweets and still do a cheese platter for those who don't. (like me.)

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Agree re the cheese. You're the one who pointed this out to me a while back and I've been pleased with that. I now do a little tapenade, maybe some nuts, etc. Just enough to tide people over while having a cocktail and finishing up prep for dinner.

                      2. re: greygarious

                        I've been amazed with how well cheese plates have gone over as dessert when I've served them. Even with my more "I must not eat any differently than I was raised" friends.

                      3. "Any add-on that is readily gotten with zero-ish time?" Especially since these are garden writers...
                        Do you have fresh mint leaves? I bet you do. They make a cheese plate look so pretty. And especially if you're drizzling with honey, the leaves are very handy for mopping and enjoying. :) I went and picked extra mint one night just for this purpose and we kept adding honey to the cheese board. It was great! I like dried apricots as dippers, too, but that's just me. Have fun!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          kattyeyes, you make me think, um, fresh thyme, maybe. I, in a fit of madness over mint-overlords, unearthed the 20 feet of mint I had ten plus years ago since...it was Just Too Much. Poor me. <grin> But I've got thyme aplenty, and that sounds spot-on with honey (buckwheat).

                          1. re: cayjohan

                            I'm much more the thyme, tarragon, etc. than mint. Got all the mint out of the 30'+ planter but will never get it out of the grass so just mow it down. Use it occasionally in a G&T. Not much else.

                        2. Here's an idea for the salad... http://www.recipething.com/recipes/sh.... I think I would skip the cheese and add onions and an herb that compliments the steak and potatoes. I love zucchini done this way!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: firecooked

                            I think I am indeed going to go for the ribbons, is for no other reason than the aesthetic. I tend as a matter of course for a standard chopped salad for expediency, but I think this is a good idea. Helps me with prep tomorrow. Xxxooo for that thought.