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Dinner party- vegetarin, gluten free and picky eater?

Hello! This i my first post!

My fiance and I are hosting our first grown-up dinner party for 4 other couples, but I am totally at a loss of what to make. I am someone who enjoys cooking and eating adventurously, but I am stumped based on our guests. The reason is... one guest is a vegetarian and one is gluten free; a problem that I am sure is found elsewhere on the board. However two of the other people are just picky eaters- nothing crazy, nothing adventurous, would be happy eating steak and potatoes nightly. What do I make? I was thinking I could make two main courses, one with meat gluten free and one vegetarian, but with the same style (such as chicken parm and eggplant parm.) Anyone have any suggestions for me? Thank you in advance1

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  1. How picky are the picky eaters? I would go the Asian route (if picky eaters would be OK with it), as you can use soba noodles (buckwheat = gluten free) or rice as your base and have an infinite number of protein/veg combos from there, with an equally infinite number of sauces. For instance, soba noodles topped with veg and a spicy peanut sauce. Offer two choices of proteins for the meal- crispy fried tofu or grilled chicken (or something like that).

    1 Reply
    1. re: mels

      Just a word of caution about soba noodles - although buckwheat is gluten free, most of the brands of soba noodles in our stores in Alberta do contain gluten (wheat) along with the buckwheat. In fact, I the only "safe" brand was found in our local health food store. Hopefully it is different where you live. So, make sure to read the labels! :)

    2. How about polenta with mushroom bourguignon (or roasted vegetables, if mushrooms are considered a no-go) and a green salad or buttered steamed sugar snap peas on the side? Here is a good recipe for the mushroom dish: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/0... (you would probably need to substitute a gluten-free thickener, like cornstarch, arrowroot, or rice flour for the regular flour.


      You could also go the route of making risotto- stir ins could be green peas, mushrooms, roasted butternut squash cubes....

      If you think that you want some meat on the table, simply sauteed herb-marinated chicken breast sounds pretty simple and non-offensive, but can be really delicious when done well (and fits with many menus).

      You could also go in a very adventurous but picky-eater friendly route and make tapas. Spanish tortilla is just potatoes and eggs....sauteed greens....roasted asparagus....roasted potato wedges with romesco on the side (skip the bread in the sauce)....roasted garlic and bread.....garlic shrimp....sliced cured meats....just probably a matter of making sure things that are gluten-free are clearly designated, and that there's extra portions fo the vegetarian dishes to make sure no one goes hungry because of other guests' choices. :)


      3 Replies
      1. re: 4Snisl

        4Snisl, are you camped out in the back of my brain? Polenta with mushroom ragout, risotto with butternut squash & mushrooms, and a frittata or Spanish tortilla were going to be my top suggestions :) So I second all of them!

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          What a fun place to camp out....and a great compliment to match your ideas! :)

          1. re: 4Snisl

            Aww, you're sweet! But I don't know how much fun it is back there these days unless you like dust & cobwebs ;)

      2. Paella--one w/ meat, one w/o; some good bread and a simple green salad.

        5 Replies
        1. re: gourmanda

          some good bread...GLUTEN FREE?????????????
          sound like an oxymoron

          1. re: bagelman01

            calm down. There is such a thing as gluten-free bread.

            1. re: gourmanda

              yes there is gluten free bread, I just have a problem finding GOOD gluten free bread in the USA.

              Most non-wheat grain breads (rye for example) still are made with some wheat flour.

              1. re: gourmanda

                i've never tasted a GOOD gluten free bread

              2. re: bagelman01

                gluten free person might be able to just avoid the bread...

            2. I just did this but with vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and regular foodies. I did a leg of lamb for the regular folks, grilled portobellos for the vegans, vegan tsaziki, a side of quinoa & kale (vegans need some protein) with a mediterranean flair, an arugula/basil/tomato salad, and roasted potatoes & vegetables. The key is isolating the types of ingredients so that people can pick and choose according to their preferences. The great thing about roasts/roasting is that they don't need a lot of attention so you can focus on other things.

              1. If it's not too cold out to use the grill, you could make lamb, chicken and vegetable kebabs.
                Some vegetables that we like on the grill: asparagus, green beans, eggplant, sweet potato, mushrooms, onion and peppers. We do all of those in one meal with friends sometimes. Everyone loves the array of vegetables.
                Serve with a big pile of basmati rice and a salad, and some good bread or GF cornbread.

                  1. re: raytamsgv

                    Exactly! Tell those who have food 'issues' to bring along what they'd like to eat. Simple.
                    Went to a wedding last summer. There were a couple of tables set aside for those with food 'issues' While about fifty of us gnawed on rib eyes and baked potatoes and salads the people at the tables collectively glared at us while picking away at their tofu dogs etc. They actually came across like we ought not to be eating what they couldn't. BTW no one was smirking at them or anything.

                    1. re: Puffin3

                      I agree that it can be easier for those of us with food restrictions to bring our own food. At least for me it is. There are no cross contamination issues to deal with. But I do not draw attention to it as it robs others of their enjoyment.

                      In fact, when we are invited to a social event the food we bring is so delicious that we are asked to bring food for everyone (other than large gatherings such as weddings which is a different issue). Not sulk worthy. :-) Gluten-free definitely need not be boring!

                      1. re: Puffin3

                        why were the vegetarians quarantined? it's not contagious. however if you were gnawing on bones at a wedding i might look askance!

                        i was a vegetarian for years and never liked being made anything "special", or to have my dietary habits made noticed.

                        an array of dishes makes for a leisurely meal and nobody feels like an oddball. when i entertain you'd be surprised how many avowed carnivores hoover the veg dishes.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          The wedding dinner sat about seventy people. Of those about ten had 'food issues'. What would you have rather happened? The servers coming out with 'special meals' attempting to locate the 'special diners' scattered throughout the tables? "I have a tofu burger here. Who does it belong to?"
                          It wasn't my decision to serve 'bone-in' rib eyes' but they sure where tasty.

                          1. re: Puffin3

                            didn't people pre-order their meals and have assigned seats? there should be no auctioning off of food. sorry, i was an event planner for a long time.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Our son is celiac BTW.
                              Yes those with 'food issues' did pre-order. The 'planner' decided rather than make each of these people possibly uncomfortable ie: Server: "This is seat number thirty? Are you Bill Jackson? If so here's your specially prepared meal. We wouldn't want your neighbor here to go into shock LOL. You're not Bill Jackson? Excuse me everyone. Is Bill Jackson here? We have your special meal for you".
                              Instead she wisely IMO sat those with 'food issues' at their own tables. (At least they had something in common to talk about.)
                              It's not those who have no food issues fault some others do.
                              I did notice none of them appeared to had any aversion to the free flowing bottles of wine.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                When does a guest pre-order a wedding meal? Every wedding I've ever attended was either a buffet with an array of dishes, or guests chose their meal from a menu of 3 or 4 selections when they took their seats. There has always been a vegetarian (usually vegan) option.

                                1. re: phofiend

                                  Really? A majority of weddings I attend include an entree choice on the response card. Maybe a regional thing?

                                  1. re: phofiend

                                    my work and personal experience has been unless it's a buffet, most times people pre-order when they rsvp. i've worked hundreds of weddings.

                                    even if people are ordering when they sit, there should be no problem which plate is theirs, with no auctioning necessary.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Interesting. I've never seen that. Hobbert must be onto something. I'm in NY. Where are you located?

                                        1. re: phofiend

                                          i grew up with family in ny/nj and have worked in boston over 20 years.

                              2. re: Puffin3

                                If I am having guests to a meal I want to pamper, not marginalize them.
                                I like the mushroom ragout over polenta or rice, roasted vegetables and a huge leafy complex salad.

                                1. re: magiesmom

                                  thing is, if you have only 1 veg-head out of 10 guests, and you, the host, are not one, an all-veg dinner seems... weird.

                                  when i was a vegetarian people made mushroom dishes all the time as a "meat sub" for me. i don't really like mushrooms all that much, lol, so it was mostly wasted effort.

                                  sounds like the op might be on the younger side, so food specificities and a spread of plates are both "normal".

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    There are so many vegetarian dishes that are delicious and not aggressively vegetarian, that I just don't get the problem.

                            2. I made this (vegetarian gluten free) and stuffed into roasted acorn squash halves for a gorgeous presentation. You could add in chopped sausage or bacon for non veg, and serve with a fall salad

                              This hearty stew is would also work (veg and gluten free) and serve with gluten free toast or sub crackers for serving

                              1. You guys are great! These are all delicious sounding things! I am deciding between:

                                Huge pot of risotto with stir ins for various tastes
                                Fritattas with meat and/or veggies and salad
                                Fajita bar with grilled chicken/veggies/beans and flour/corn tortillas

                                That way the vegetarian can feel included and the gluten-free guest (who I support fully in her choice to be gluten free after years of ill-health) can participate and the picky eaters won't have anything too crazy.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: saccebers

                                  risotto doesn't "sit" well, it needs to be finished and served, otherwise it gets all gummy.

                                  the fajita bar sounds great so everybody can have a bit of everything! even carnivores will sometimes eat beans!

                                  1. re: saccebers

                                    I love the fajita bar idea.

                                    I totally spaced on the mention that this was your first post, so welcome to Chowhound! And please don't take it personally that we sort of ran off the rails with some off-topic "discussion" about picky eaters and food allergies. Happens all the time around here - you'll get used to it :)

                                    1. re: saccebers

                                      Oooh, fajitas are always great! And a homemade pico de gallo and guacamole are perfect to go with. The picky eaters can just skip the good stuff :)

                                      1. re: saccebers

                                        Along the same lines, how about a baked potato bar? That will give you room to make abunch of toppings that should be able to accomadate everyone.

                                        1. re: EllieS

                                          Along the same lines is doing a polenta or grits bar. A few years ago, this was done at a wedding. There were 3-4 flavors of grits (herb & roasted tomato, smoked gouda, etc) Then there were a ton of add in's that guests used to customize their grits like blackened shrimp, spinach & feta, etc. You get the idea. It was a smash, in fact, at the end of the event, there were no more grits.

                                          1. re: Cherylptw

                                            Now, that sounds good! I love the choices of add-ins. Thanks, Cherylptw, I just need an occasion to use this idea.

                                      2. Gods above, I wish you good luck with that, truly.
                                        Cooking for picky/diet specific people is a hill I'm not really ready to die on. I'm sorry, but I'm fairly old, and though I hate to admit it, a little reluctant to completely reexamine my culinary repertoire. I'm not so meat-centric, either.

                                        1. What about steak and potatoes, then, with grilled portabello mushrooms as a vegetarian option? Do baked potatoes, with toppings that the guests can add themselves, a nice garden salad with home-made vinagrette, and a side of steamed vegetables with herbed butter. You could do home-made cream of tomato soup as a starter, if you wanted to, and ice cream with fresh fruit as a dessert.

                                          A mushroom lasagne with gluten free noodles could also work.

                                          It does matter if your friend actually has celiac disease, or is doing gluten free as a fad diet. The former requires a very high level of vigilance, as gluten can crop up in very unexpected places (soy sauce, pickles, salad dressing, mustard, tomato paste, veggie burgers, sausages, oats and barley). (And note that if you're making parm, you'll need gluten free bread crumbs, and be careful with pre-grated paremsan).

                                          1. And, for future reference, don't invite this group together again. A wise host only choses one battle at a time.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              the op has gotten plenty of productive suggestions on how to host her friends. this is hardly difficult.

                                            2. This is my yearly Super Bowl party (vegan friends, SIL with celiacs, my husband who wants Meat! at his party), only it's nut free too:) for my daughter.

                                              What I tend to do is pick a flavor profile/cuisine and build around that. Last year I went Mediterranean/Greek so we had gyros, falafel, quinoa salad and the required fixings. The year before it was Ethiopian with W'et (2 different) and injera. I've done fajita/taco bar as well. THinking I might go Indian this year, but we will see.

                                              I find that by picking your meat and vegetarian options from the same culinary background, it makes the meal feel more complete, and less I made this special for you cause you are weird food wise. For serving, if you are having some gluten containing items on the menu, plate or let the person with gluten issues go first, to minimize cross contamination.

                                              It's not as hard as it seems, and I kind of enjoy the challenge.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: autumm

                                                it's really not hard and is becoming more common that varying needs be accommodated. people stuck in a meat and sandwich mind-set need to come into the 21st century. :)

                                                while my place can fit lots of people, my dining table only seats 4, so mostly i do buffet type meals. this provides ample variety to cook and eat and doesn't pinpoint a plate for those with special requirements.

                                              2. I have a vegan friend, when having them over I generally make larger sides and no main. That way every one can choose from a variety of options.

                                                1. There's a Vegan&Vegetarian Board where people with special expertise in this type of question will be sure to see it.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                    What do you feed a 'Level Seven' vegan?
                                                    They don't eat anything that casts a shadow.

                                                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                        saccabers, has this taken place yet? your original idea was pretty good but make sure you know what kind of vegetarians they are cuz it would be a bummer if you made eggplant parm and they don't eat cheese! Lasagna works well too for 2 types at once.. Or a nice stew in two pots, one with meat and one without

                                                  2. is the vegetarian a lacto-ovo vegetarian or a vegan?

                                                    if milk and cheese is ok, you have a ton of choices.

                                                    keep in mind that scalloped potatoes, polenta, rice, quinoa, are all gluten free (according to my GF girlfriend).

                                                    almost any kind of bean soup made omitting the dead-animal-stock will work: minestrone, curry, etc.
                                                    fwiw, many italian soups work well because they are easilyadapted to meatless fridays.