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When you are hosting a dinner party, do you ask guests whether they have dietary restrictions, or preview the menu for them?

  • m

I've been struck by some recent discussions on this Board by problems that have arisen from guests vetoing or commenting in advance on the proposed menu.

Perhaps it's because most of our friends are omnivores (although we have some who are lacto-ovo vegetarians and pescatarians, as well as family members with diabetes and food allergies), but I do not view it as my role as the host to ask whether a guest has food issues. I assume that a guest, if I do not know him/her well, will alert me to any serious food issues (whether dictated by health, religion or ethics) and I will devise a menu that accommodates those constraints. But, unless the food restrictions were particularly unusual, I would not advise them in advance of the precise details of the menu.

My only exception on previewing the menu would be for a holiday dinner, where a guest may offer to bring a dish. In those circumstances, I'll tell him/her the menu and then typically ask, "what's missing that you'd like to bring?" In other situations, if a guest insists on bringing something, I'll let them bring nibbles/hors d'oeuvres but I don't tell them the rest of the meal.

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  1. I always do this. If it's a large gathering served buffet style, I will even put the title and all ingredients of the dish in front of each one. Having the paramedics come out once when we didn't have this info and I put a somewhat atypical ingredient in one of the dishes, was enough for me.

    Lesson learned. Now I always ask no matter what the occasion.

    1. I don't necessarily tell them what I'm making, but I always ask at the time I invite them if there are any food issues. That makes it much easier to put together a menu that everyone can enjoy.
      I don't mind the challenge of working around GF, vegan, etc.

      13 Replies
      1. re: kitchengardengal

        I would expect someone who was GF or vegan to volunteer the information, assuming that it's not someone already know to be in that category. I'm happy to work with guests dietary restrictions; I just don't feel that it's my role as host to seek them out.

        1. re: masha

          I would expect them to offer it up too, but I just hosted a BBQ last week and was surprised that two GF guests said nothing when they RSVPd (about a week in advance). It would have been the first time ever that I hosted a party with more than a few people where there were zero diet restrictions (no vegetarians/vegans, allergies, etc.).

          I was suspicious, so the day before the party I sent out an email saying something like "Just want to make sure everyone eats meat and there are no dietary restrictions." I got a response immediately that the one guest and his wife are 100% GF.

          This required me to (last minute) change almost every dish. Even the salad dressing I'd made had Dijon mustard in it, which apparently wasn't certified GF. Marinades for the meats and veggies too. Not to mention a separate dessert had to be made.

          The GF guests offered to bring all their own dishes, and I declined and was happy to accommodate them, but it would have made much more sense to just tell me from the start before I'd shopped and planned everything out.

          1. re: nothingswrong

            They are gf as a voluntary paleo/atkins/whatever diet or they are gf because they are celiac...?
            I have a lower tolerance for high maintenece guests with food "preferences" than i do for those with medical/ethical/religious lifestyles that affect food choices

            1. re: Ttrockwood

              I didn't ask up front, but at the party I asked more just because I was so hurried prepping everything by myself that I was worried about cross contamination. I grew up with a brother with deathly food allergies to many many foods, so I'm normally very careful.

              I served family/buffet style and as the GF guests walked up, I said "Celiac?" and the female said "No but I absolutely can't have gluten." I didn't press it further, as I was just meeting this woman, having known her fiancé for about 10 years but not seeing him in maybe 6. I assume she is "gluten intolerant" as so many people are these days.

              I don't mind accommodating one such restriction, but had it been a bunch of them I'd probably have just told them to bring their own food. A member of my bf's family is also GF to a neurotic extent, but I've never been able to get a straight answer from her about why... Not celiac, but vague "icky" symptoms. I respect her decision 100% but again, having grown up in a house with Epi Pens in every room, I have to do my best not to kind of cringe inside.

              1. re: Ttrockwood

                I think with GF at this point you have to ask to what degree - some who are GF as a medical need would need to have the dijon mustard out. Those with GF preferences, if asked, does every ingredient need to say GF on the packaging or is regular dijon mustard ok. You get a lot more insight when you ask for clarification.

                In my husband's family there are degrees of kosher, believe it or not. My parents-in-law will eat anything non-kosher outside of their house. My brother-in-law, though, won't eat non-kosher meat so for him we serve fish. But he's not fussed if I've put milk in the mashed potatoes if the milk is kosher or not. But there are distant relatives who would never eat in my house no matter what.

                Hosts can decide if they want to press for this kind of info or roll the dice, because a lot of guests really don't give the detail that's needed - either because it doesn't occur to them, or they are trying to appear to be polite and easy going when in reality it's going to make the dinner/event awkward if they don't pipe up.

                1. re: 16crab

                  Yes, I agree about asking for clarification on "levels" of gluten sensitivity. I didn't, and had to go out and buy certified GF mustard. I also checked online and even calling manufacturers of my sugar, chocolate, etc. to make sure they were indeed GF. I doubt many hosts would want to deal with this though.

                  1. re: nothingswrong

                    I just hope your guests realized and subsequently appreciated the concerned effort to accomodate them on your part.

                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                      Not a "thanks" or even an acknowledgement was uttered...

                      1. re: nothingswrong

                        Hhhhhmmm. If their thank you note or email "got lost in the mail" i would think twice before inviting again- poor manners (regardless of the dietary issue) are not endearing.

            2. re: masha

              This weekend's cookout includes three vegan, one multiple food allergies (poultry, eggs, GF, chocolate, peanuts, et al), one GF, dairy free, sesame allergy, one MSG allergy.
              Knowing all this in advance makes menu planning so much easier.
              Some of the dishes hubby and I have decided on - Cole slaw with vinegar dressing, wild and white rice pilaf with dried cranberries, vinaigrette dressed potato salad, pineapple almond/coconut milk sherbet, salmon. Still working on a meat for the carnivores. The vegans are bringing veggie burgers and vegan sides.

              1. re: kitchengardengal

                I don't doubt that knowing in advance makes meal planning easier. Just a question of who needs to take the initiative. Maybe it's just my social circle, but dietary restrictions are sufficiently unusual that I expect the guest to flag it for me in advance. I've hosted a number of events over the past several months that included people whom I did not know well enough to be sure they had no special dietary needs but I relied on them to alert me. None did and it turned out fine -- omnivores all.

            3. re: kitchengardengal

              I even ask something like if there are allergies, or things that you absolutely hate...

              Once I know preferences, I make a mental note and never have to ask again. (

            4. I don't ask. No one in our regular group of family/friends has a special diet or any food issues. I would try to be accommodating if a new guest let me know in advance about any dietary requirements but so far that has never happened.

              1. This subject has been beaten to death on this site. It usually doesn't end well, lol.

                The majority of our dinner parties, casual BBQ's, holiday dinners etc are with friends and family we know well so the menu is only really discussed if someone asks.

                Gone are the days of inviting the boss and his/her partner to dinner or the parents of new school friends.

                The rare times a complete stranger comes for a meal I do ask.

                1. I always ask. I don't see it as an obligation or a bother. I also don't change my menu much about it either. I typically add a dish or two if needed, rather than changing my entree or theme. I just want to make sure everyone has choices.
                  I regularly accommodate family that is gluten free, allergic to soy, some nut allergies, vegetarian and low carbers. We always make it work!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sedimental

                    Love the idea of amending the menu vs. changing it.

                    My guess is most guests feel the same way.

                    1. re: pedalfaster


                      My dinner parties are mostly friends or family or new people I've met to blend into some interesting conversations with people meeting each other for the first time.
                      I always ask people if they have dietary restrictions…I don't go over my menu but I would add something to accommodate them.
                      Recently, one of the people who I invited is gluten free. He asked if he could bring his favorite dish…he brought it, everyone liked it and now we all have a new recipe.

                  2. Preview the menu? Usually, No.

                    I might toss off a breezy "we're going Mexican" (or Thai, or Southern) in a casual phone conversation. Too many variables based on what is fresh and available.

                    Oddly enough I just ran tonight's dinner menu past my house-guest. Probably because she was standing in my kitchen as I was starting to prep (shucking corn etc).

                    If a guest has a life-threatening allergy, I expect they (or their parents) will speak up. I assume they are accustomed to dealing with such?

                    (As an aside, said Houseguest just gave me a KitchenAid HD mixer. I think I won the houseguest lottery.)

                    1. I pretty much roll the same way. Some holidays I host, I ask friends and family to bring nothing for a small gathering since I know them well and do not want a mishmash. They understand that I have put great attention into each course, and a bunch of desserts or apps will muddle the meal. Other holidays, I will share the menu, so they can come up with their own ideas of what to bring. If a family member or friend is bringing a guest, I'll ask them if their friend has any dietary restrictions, and will add a dish or two if need be, so they don't leave hungry, but I won't change the original meal concept.

                      1. Going through the menu line by line? No. But do I usually mention the menu and or sometimes ask in general? Yup. Some of it depends on the audience, sometimes it's just to set expectations.

                        Casual open house? "Hey, why don't you stop by - I'm having a chili bar with regular and chicken chili, chips, and fixings and cupcakes for dessert."

                        Casual dinner party? "Hey, why don't you come over for dinner Friday night? I'm planning on making enchiladas and have this great new recipe for tres leches cake I'm excited to try out."

                        Less casual dinner party for an occasion? "I'd really love if you would join us on Friday for Bill's birthday. I'm making all of his favorites."

                        Holidays? "Why don't we do the holiday at my house? I'll make ham and all the usual sides."

                        Reasonably close friends and family who I may know some, but not all of their food "issues"? "Is everyone good with pork? I was planning to make carnitas, but can pick up some chicken, too."

                        People I may not know so well? I generally serve basic recipes I'm very comfortable with and have generally been well-received by others and I may mention the menu casually and ask about general likes, dislikes, and allergies.

                        Generally speaking, when I'm inviting people over, it's because I like them and enjoy their company and want to spend time with them - not because I want to show off and have them shower me with compliments about my cooking prowess and imaginative recipes. So, I do accommodate to an extent or sometimes even plan the menu with them or just with them in mind. Sometimes my invitations are "This is what I'm doing, if you want to join us that's fine, but if it doesn't interest you, that's good, too." But otherwise, I'm generally cooking because I want them to have yummy food they will enjoy and don't just unilaterally make the menu without taking that into consideration. So I will ask and make small adjustments to what I'm making to be sure there's at least one thing my guests can eat. I'm happy to do it. And if I know my audience well enough to know that eggplant really isn't a favorite of one of the guests, I'll save that for a night when I'm cooking for myself instead and make something else we'll all enjoy.

                        1 Reply
                        1. I always ask when a person is over to my house for dinner the first time. I have a pretty casual social circle, so I usually email out invites. I include a line: "Let me know if you have any dietary restrictions or preferences." I would much rather know of someone's allergy/celiac disease/lactose intolerance/hatred of cilantro/whatever early enough that I can make my meal plan inclusive.

                          I am vegetarian, and I feel much more included and less awkward when someone asks about dietary issues than when I have to bring it up. While I do usually volunteer the information, it feels a little demanding, like "Accommodate me and my food preferences!" I usually say something like, "I'm a vegetarian and don't eat meat or fish. However, I like everything else and am happy to eat sides if you were planning on making something meaty."

                          I do often share the planned menu also. When people ask what they can bring, I respond with "We're making salad, pizza, and fruit tart. If you want to bring an appetizer, ice cream, or some beer/wine, feel free! Otherwise, just bring your lovely self :)" This depends a lot on how well I know the person, though.

                          1. If I am having a few friends over for dinner and I am not completely sure of their tastes. I tell them to not be shy and tell me a few things that they really hate. What's the point of serving scallops to someone who hates them or pasta to someone who can't eat it? I want my friends to have a good night.

                            For a larger party, I try to cover all the bases but don't cater to anyone in particular.

                            1. Here are 126 post that address that very issue. Hosts seem very gracious and accomodating.

                              1. I never used to ask but i do now, as food allergies seem to be more prevalent now, or maybe peope just talk about them more, or maybe because i have one now too. I never run the menu by people but I do ask about allergies/ diets. Guests might not mention it because they think I remember, but I probably don't!

                                1. I try to know my crowd and make a menu that makes sense - but I also assume that anyone with a serious medical condition, or deeply held belief, that yields dietary restrictions will either let me know in advance or plan ahead for themselves. If the crowd is an unknown will always make sure to have a vegetarian option but I do not feel the need to poll for each persons special requirements.

                                  1. We have a few regular groups that we entertain with, so I'm familiar with all of their requirements (celiacs, vegan, allergies, hatred of mushrooms), but if a new person is introduced, I will email or if someone Mr Autumn knows better, ask if there is anything they avoid. I usually mention a menu theme, Tex mex, pizzas, etc so I can plan a variety of related dishes that cover most requirements.

                                    I've found that anyone with true allergies/sensitivities (not the I'm avoiding x because it's trendy to not eat x) are very polite and proactive. I'm a parent of a child with a nut allergy. I don't want to have the paramedics crash your party.

                                    1. My memory and notes are disorganized enough that I like to ask guests for strong dislikes and sensitivities when issuing the invite.
                                      None of my own, slightly complicated, food issues are severe enough that I want to explain them to a dinner host. Usually I will just take a smaller portion of an "iffy" item, or avoid completely if possible. OTOH, one of my friends is a great cook, and I'll happily taste her baked goodies, and expect to be uncomfortable later.

                                      1. In the initial invite (which in my social circle is a group email of sorts most of the time) i note at the bottom

                                        "Please note any dietary restrictions or allergies when you rsvp"
                                        I don't send a menu to anyone, although if asked i would.

                                        I have been a vegetarian for more than 20yrs (also lactose intolerant) and i have replied to every last meal invitation by mentioning this and "i would love to bring a vegetarian dish to share". Few have refused the offer and many have graciously put aside a portion of broccoli salad without bacon or another easy modification to any side dishes with a meat/chicken/fish component.

                                        1. I don't invite people over to eat if they have major dietary restrictions, or request overcooked proteins. Cooking around somebodies request isn't a challenge, it's a waste of time in my eyes. I'm all for making challenging things and pushing my culinary boundaries, but cooking vegan gluten free food because somebody prefers that is just pointless. Unless of course that vegan gluten free thing is somehow super awesome, and original (as opposed to trying to imitate some non vegan, non gluten free thing), then of course I'd try it.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                            "overcooked proteins"

                                            Really? You wouldn't leave a steak on the grill for a few more minutes if someone asked you to?

                                            1. re: nothingswrong

                                              I'll accept that some people want their land animals cooked to medium. I only buy high quality meat and I feel like an asshole if I overcook it, no matter how much somebody claims to enjoy it.

                                              Wekick: Exactly. I cook for myself. Luckily my friends either enjoy what I make, or have learned to enjoy it. I mean I can make enough things that I could probably plan a large multi-course meal for nearly any person with any dietary restrictions. I just don't like to limit myself, when I could potentially add an ingredient to a dish, or a dish to a sequence of dishes that would improve the experience for myself. I know vegetarians (who do eat fish), and some people who can't have lactose, and that's fine to cook for them because it's easy to deal with, and doesn't really limit me too much. I guess I also don't really know any people with major dietary restrictions, if I did I'd probably just not invite them over for dinner.

                                            2. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                              Little do you know I don't invite people over if they demand undercooked proteins ;) It's the first thing I ask when I meet people, actually. Separates the wheat from the chaff.

                                              1. I don't ask up front. If an invited guest has dietary issues, I expect those issues to be brought up when responding to the invitation. I have both a vegetarian niece, a niece who is vegetarian with the exception of eating fish and a vegan niece. Since I know about these three, if they are invited, I will make sure there are plates made up especially for them (Dinner parties at the B House are formal, not served buffet or family style).
                                                OTOH if we are serving guests a casual meal that is buffet or family style (outside on the patio or around the pool for example) the serving platters, chafing dishes, etc. will have cards with the name of the dish and if it is vegetarian, gluten free, etc.

                                                Our invited guests know not to bring food items as host/ess gifts or to be consumed as part of the meal. Everyone has a different standard of what is kosher and this way we don't have to offend someone and say that the standard of your kitchen or the establishment you bought the item doesn't meet our requirements. In fact over the years we have developed a standard response if anyone asks can they bring anything: please stop and pick up a bag of ice on your way.

                                                1. No, I have never asked guests about food restrictions. Of course, I know of restrictions that a couple of regular visitors have and accommodate that. But, to be frank, I am not generally prepared to go much out of my way to accommodate a restriction someone may have - they will know, or assume, that we are omnivores and, if that is a problem for them, I am happy for them to decline an invitation. I am certainly not getting into a situation where we are having to prepare several dishes for one table of guests, accommodating their every preference - this is my home not a restaurant.

                                                  1. My younger sister and one of my good friends have shellfish allergies (anaphylactic shock for both of them), and one of my cousins is a vegetarian.

                                                    So for them I'll adjust the menu; but outside of them, I rarely concern myself.

                                                    I do have a good friend who regularly diagnoses herself with whatever the latest food fad/hype is supposed to fix (or not), but she's annoyed us enough with her silliness that we ignore her.

                                                    1. For a dinner party with a limited guest list, yes, always. For a bigger "feel free to bring a friend" party that doesn't revolve around the food served, no.

                                                      1. I always ask if anyone has any food allergies or intense dislike of any particular food. These are my guests that I am inviting into my home; I like to make them feel welcomed and comfortable. I do not preview the menu though.

                                                        1. I usually don't know until 1-2 days before a party what I'll be making. If I'm inviting over someone I know already, I usually already know what allergies they have of if they are vegetarian, etc. For new people, I do ask. For example, when I did my daughter's tea party for her birthday, I asked the invitees to let me know if there were any food allergies. One was allergic to blueberries, which was good to know as I was planning on putting blueberries on my rainbow fruit skewers.

                                                          I find it interesting that some don't think the host should ask if there are any allergies, but at the same time, others think the guest shouldn't say anything because it's rude to ask what's being prepared.

                                                          1. Hipster dietary restrictions are the sole reason that my wife and I will no longer entertain her family at our house. It got to be too expensive and too labor intensive to try and accommodate every paleo/not celiac but gluten free/Atkins/vegan/pescatarian/I only eat what I kill/South Beach/I just don't eat red meat for no apparent reason but I will eat pork in Chinese food/all organic/only locally sourced food preference. This shit is out of control.

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                                              I think it's so irritating because people feel the need to label themselves. When I was a kid, I was a super picky eater and that's what my family called me--picky eater. No one really made any special dishes for me, and if I didn't like something about every single dish at a gathering, then I didn't get to eat. Pretty simple. As I got a little older, my parents implemented a "You're going to sit at the kitchen table until your plate is cleaned, even if it takes til midnight" policy, and that sure got me eating.

                                                              What I find interesting these days is how entitled people seem to feel about their diets. With the exception of food allergies, I don't really understand the mindset of "Well, I don't WANT to eat wheat, fish, beef, corn, soy, sugar, peas, or bananas, but there'd better be some food at your BBQ that I can enjoy." I am still a picky eater and I would never in a million years expect a host to go out of their way for me, and furthermore, I'd probably just eat what they served me even if I don't like it because that's the polite thing to do. If it's not going to cause uncontrollable vomiting and/or anaphylaxis, just go for it.

                                                              Or, don't go out to eat at friends' houses.

                                                              Although I have to say, I don't see the big deal about being a vegetarian. I know 'hounds hate on them, but it's really not inconvenient for me as a host to provide food for them. Usually most of my side dishes are vegetarian anyway, if not vegan. It might be easier for all involved to just not invite vegetarians/vegans to, say, a crawfish boil or the ceremonial smoking of a hog.

                                                              1. re: nothingswrong

                                                                If it were just a single restriction I would have no problem with that. I could easily accommodate a vegetarian or group of them. Same goes for low carb dieters. The issue is trying to accommodate several diets at one gathering. I gave up.

                                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                                  exactly. i have no problem accommodating, say, vegetarian, or "basic" kosher (no meat+milk, shrimp, etc). it's when you're trying, in one meal, to accommodate a crowd combining kosher, halal, vegan, low-carb, gluten-free, soy free, raw food, paleo, low glycemic, dairy-free, primal, atkins, low-fat, south beach, weight watchers, pescatarian, engine 2, low-sodium, no-cilantro, shellfish allergy, nut allergy, fruit allergy, sustainable only, juice fasting, sugar-free, all-organic and locavore that my head explodes and i say "next time you pick a restaurant. better yet, let's just go to the movies."

                                                                  some friends i love as people and we were just not destined to dine together if i am cooking.

                                                                  1. re: chartreauxx

                                                                    I have to say in that scenario I wouldn't unleash this group of diners on a restaurant either... that's just cruel. Just make everyone bring their own food.

                                                                    1. re: Blueicus

                                                                      haha well i was exaggerating for the sake of making a point :-) most of my friends are actually pretty normal eaters. but with all the trendy food limitations out there these days, plus your more traditional kosher/nut allergy, vegetarian/halal etc set... boy! sometimes it all makes my head spin...

                                                              2. re: jpc8015

                                                                Makes me sad that it's come down to this in your family. I kinda know what you mean about the "fad eaters" .

                                                                Ironically, it has been my experience that those with actual medical conditions are often hesitant to speak up.

                                                                1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                  I have no issue with someone whose diet is limited by a legitimate medical condition. We regularly make a special dessert for our diabetic niece. It is the sister in law who won't eat red meat unless it is fried and covered in Chinese sauces. I also have a problem with the other sister in law who one day decided that she was going to develop a gluten intolerance but still drinks beer on a regular basis. Then there is the mother in law who decided that she was going to go on the "Bill Clinton vegan diet", but she only eats that way in our home as her house is still loaded up with beef, pork, eggs, cheese, and butter.

                                                                  I had enough.

                                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                                    Ha! I don't blame you! Sounds like a "we will have flatware and drinks, please bring your favorite dish to share" pot luck situation would be the only way to host such a diverse group without going broke and/or insane....

                                                              3. I'm fairly sure that nobody has an intolerance to soylent green. So I try to always have a vat of it at my parties.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Teague

                                                                  You jest, but it exists...


                                                                  I'm debating buying a 28 bag supply of Soylent for this very purpose.

                                                                  Plus I'll be adding it to my hunting/camping kit.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      That's alright, the lack of flavor will keep us from drinking it up.

                                                                      Plus when do our annual out of state hunting trip, we go really far off of the beaten path. So in case we get lost, I figure Soylent will make for good emergency rations.

                                                                      1. re: deet13

                                                                        that thread I linked has a whole side conversation about how it would be okay for emergencies, disasters, and famine...but yeccch.

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                          Yeah, I read that thread last night. Also I'm going to supplement my hurricane kit with Soylent also.

                                                                          Last time we dealt with the hurricane power outages, I was sick of grilled food for a while afterward.

                                                                          Personally I'd rather be turned off of drinking pancake batter than to hate having to use my grill.

                                                                          That said, I will now be handing out tall, frosty mugs of Soylent to my pickier friends. And if they gripe, I'll just tell them it was Teagues idea...

                                                                2. For a small dinner party, I'll ask new guests if there is anything they don't eat.

                                                                  For a larger party - buffet style open house, for example, I provide a variety of foods, will happily provide ingredient information, but I don't ask in advance, because I'm not necessarily going to be willing or able to accommodate all requests. For something like that, I would make sure that some of my offerings were vegan and gluten free, and not all contained nuts, which would cover most common restrictions.

                                                                  I will add that if someone is very high maintenance or annoying when it comes to what they eat, I'll switch to socializing in environments where I'm not cooking for them (or away from food altogether, depending on circumstances). That could be because of logistics (I can't prepare strict kosher or guarantee a peanut free kitchen), because their needs are so complicated (celiac vegan who is allergic to peanuts and soy), because they are particularly demanding (vegan - organic products only, and they don't like fake meat products. Oh, and onions make them gag, and they don't eat dried fruit, anything orange or purple, and spicy food gives them heartburn), or because they tend to change their minds about their dietary restrictions from day to day.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                    to a point...the only exception I make to that is that if any of my guests keep kosher or halal, I probably won't serve anything with pork.

                                                                    I'm the same way on the rest, though -- for a buffet, I'll try to cover the bases and have a few vegetarian alternatives, but I don't sweat the issues as much.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      Halal and kosher is a lot more than just not serving pork. My Muslim husband still wouldn't be able to eat your food if all the ingredients weren't halal.

                                                                      1. re: LMAshton

                                                                        oh, I know that ("I'll try to cover the basis and have a few vegetarian alternatives")...and I have in the past gone out of my way to enquire as to what is allowable for that particular family (because what's 'okay' varies from household to household) and do my best to provide for that need.

                                                                        But I wouldn't serve pork to the other guests, either (any more than I'd serve seafood if I knew someone had a seafood allergy)

                                                                  2. After reading through a lot of posts, I realize that I only invite people I actually like and that I know are respectful to my house. I can't remember the last time I had a party and extended the invitation to anyone beyond the invitee's SO. No "bring whoever" at my parties!

                                                                    1. While I don't preview the menu, I do ask if anyone has any allergies or major aversions - I had a guest who absolutely could not have any fat once and it made her very ill. I would not want that to happen.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                                        Like I mentioned up above (and almost word for word), I do the same as you do, @wincountrygirl. These are my guests and I want them to feel welcome.
                                                                        Why on earth would I invite friends to a sit-down dinner and serve something that one of my guests cannot stand and makes them physically ill to eat? I don't understand the responses that basically say, "well, it's up to the guest to mention it." As host, we have a responsibility.

                                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                          Thank-you - it can be awkward as a guest to accept an invitation and then be unable to eat the main course. My husband will not eat fish and I am allergic to lobster. This can be problematic living in New England where seafood is considered a treat.

                                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                            My responsibility is to serve good food. The guest know what they can not or, in most cases, will not eat. If they don't like what's being served, make up an excuse and do not attend the dinner.

                                                                            1. re: genoO

                                                                              "My responsibility is to serve good food."

                                                                              Yes, and to be hospitable and to be as welcoming as you can be to invited guests at your house.

                                                                              "If they don't like what's being served, make up an excuse and do not attend the dinner."

                                                                              Don't you like the people you invite? Don't you care about serving them something they may intensely dislike? Maybe a guest feels awkward bring up the subject. By asking, you are starting a dialogue. These are your friends, no? You make it sound like a chore.

                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                My main reason to invite people is for the social interaction. For me the food is to compliment that. I want people to feel I value their company and am doing something special-- for them. I like to see their eyes light up when I fix their favorite things. I just don't see the point if you are inviting people and then not considering what they like or need to eat.

                                                                                1. re: wekick

                                                                                  "I just don't see the point if you are inviting people and then not considering what they like or need to eat."


                                                                              2. re: genoO

                                                                                I think gracious hosting is part of it. If you don't want the guest at dinner, don't invite them.

                                                                          2. If I invite someone into my home, I regard it as my job as the host to be hospitable, which means to feed my guests, offer them drink and generally make them feel as comfortable as possible. I ask about dietary restrictions beforehand and do the best I can to accommodate them if it makes my guests feel at home.

                                                                            But good manners dictates that guests also not be unduly demanding. I have religious and personal dietary restrictions that I like to observe. But if it puts my host out, I don't bring them up. Good guests are as considerate as gracious hosts.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: JungMann

                                                                              "If I invite someone into my home, I regard it as my job as the host to be hospitable, which means to feed my guests, offer them drink and generally make them feel as comfortable as possible. I ask about dietary restrictions beforehand and do the best I can to accommodate them if it makes my guests feel at home."

                                                                              Exactly! Bravo!

                                                                                1. I try to remember to ask if they have any allergies, but I always expect people to tell me so. I have NO problem cooking for a specific diet, in fact, I welcome the challenge. We're dairy-free and gluten-reduced so we have that covered.

                                                                                  1. Yes. I grew up in a vegetarian family and have friends & family with different dietary needs from preference to allergy. I always try to make sure everyone has something. I do the same in regards to choosing a restaurant, too.

                                                                                    1. I always ask about any preferences or allergies and am honest about to what degree I can accomodate them.

                                                                                      I believe the role of a host is to ensure the happiness of guests and part of that is ensuring they can enjoy the food. in 99% of cases, some dishes can be added/modified with very little additional work. This is also why I tend to serve food buffet-style as well, it allows people to choose what they want to eat without having to worry about leaving a plate full of food they choose not to eat.

                                                                                      I personally believe hosts who refuse to adapt anything to their guests are most focused on the vanity of how they will be perceived that the satisfaction of their guests.

                                                                                      For those that refuse to make any changes, let me ask you something. would you be offended if some people come to your event and eat little to nothing.

                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                        I so agree. It seems that the issue is the problem of the host. There is a certain arrogance about it - sorry, I doubt the host is a master chef and if he was truly then changing something around to accommodate an allergy would not be an issue, or serving something else because of an aversion.

                                                                                        1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                          "I personally believe hosts who refuse to adapt anything to their guests are most focused on the vanity of how they will be perceived that the satisfaction of their guests."

                                                                                          You may be right, although I've never considered that I may be vanity that prevents me cooking several dishes to accommodate everyone.

                                                                                          "For those that refuse to make any changes, let me ask you something. would you be offended if some people come to your event and eat little to nothing."

                                                                                          No. In fact, it's regular occurance that one regular visitor eats very little because of their dietary choices. I'm sure he gets a sandwich afterwards when he's back at home.

                                                                                          1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                            If people come to my event and eat little to nothing, am I bothered? No. That's not my problem, that's theirs. Social events for me are about people, not the food. I've certainly attended parties where the food wasn't appealing to me for various reasons but I always happily survived on the drinks and still had a good time. I would consider it very rude to send the host/hostess a list of what I won't eat. It's their house, they're going to the time and expense of hosting a party, I'm happy to comply with whatever they've produced and even if the meal was terrible I will still lie and say it was lovely and focus on the social aspect of the event - the conversations and interaction with others.

                                                                                            I have one old friend who is lactose intolerant. When I am cooking and he's eating with us I do avoid dairy products in the meal, and make sure we have sorbet on hand if we're serving ice cream, but that's easy enough. We have other friends who don't eat pork, so I don't cook pork when we're hosting them, but that's also easy enough. Ditto for vegetarians.

                                                                                            Other than that I suppose my official line is that whenever I host a dinner party I leave it up to the guest to alert me in advance of any special dietary needs. But perhaps I'm lucky as I've never had a guest tell me in advance what he/she can't eat. My friends are very well mannered people.

                                                                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                              my experience is that folks who have genuine issues are the ones who won't speak up and just suffer in silence.

                                                                                              That's why I ask...it's usually no big deal to make at least one dish they can eat, and it's a far bigger deal for me to have everyone feel welcomed in my home and at my table.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                Actually, my experience is that those who have genuine issues don't speak up and Don't suffer. They make plans.

                                                                                                My nephew's wife is both vegan and suffers from Celiac disease. She prepares food that she eats just before arrival or after leaving. She may eat some salad or fresh fruit at someone's house,but would never impose upon a host to make her a special meal.
                                                                                                That said, as a close family member, I know what she can/will eat and plan accordingly. and as I've said before, dinner parties at the B house are served plated, not family style or buffet, so cross contamination is not a problem. Her meal is ready, plated and held in warming drawers or refrigerators labelled for her.

                                                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                  it's just so much easier to ask in advance and adjust accordingly.

                                                                                          2. I respect and accommodate any medical or religious dietary restrictions, and when I invite someone to dinner, I usually know them well enough to be aware of these things. If someone is bringing a date I have not met, I do ask about their requirements, but if they're vegan or vegetarian, there's always plenty of food, and something they can eat. I just don't prepare a special dish just for one person who has chosen to eliminate something from their diet. I am never offended if someone brings their own food. Its the pleasure of their company I hope for, not a debate on the merits or sins of eating something that once had a face ....

                                                                                            1. I've solved the problem by no longer having dinner parties :)

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: mwk

                                                                                                How sad! Unless of course you hated having dinner parties. If thats the case-bonus!

                                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                  I didn't hate having dinner parties. I hated having to deal with the people that I invited to said parties. :)

                                                                                                  With my group of friends now, food has become a completely joyless experience. One is Paleo, one is Gluten Free, one only eats raw food and organics, one is on a low sodium diet, one is Kosher. By the time they are through analyzing and picking apart everything that might possibly end up in their mouths, I'd rather just invite them for cocktails, or in some cases, bottled water.

                                                                                                  1. re: mwk

                                                                                                    "One is Paleo, one is Gluten Free, one only eats raw food and organics, one is on a low sodium diet, one is Kosher."

                                                                                                    Almost sounds like the setup to a joke! :)

                                                                                              2. Based on experience*, I always ask if there are dietary restrictions or preferences. I don't have a problem altering my menu if I know ahead of time. Anyone who responds "yes" and doesn't tell me they have a dietary issue is dealt with as best as possible.

                                                                                                *Situation #1: 30+ years ago I invited a friend and her boyfriend to dinner. I made quiche, she told me she didn't eat cheese (I don't remember if she was lactose intolerant or just didn't like it). Um, there wasn't anything I could do. Lesson learned!
                                                                                                Situation #2: I had a friend whose husband doesn't like vegetables. He was SOL for that, he could eat more starch or protein. When I mentioned I was making a dish that included raisins, she said he hated raisins. It was easy for me to make a small portion w/o the offending ingredient. He was very appreciative of that. She didn't like mashed potatoes; I never included them in my menu when they came for dinner.
                                                                                                Situation #3: I have a very dear friend who is deathly allergic to all fish/seafood, mushrooms and bell peppers. I always adjust my menu to make sure they are not included or have another option for her.

                                                                                                As for me, I have only one food allergy--to enoki mushrooms. Not deathly allergic, but my body reacts in a very unpleasant way. I make sure I ask wherever there is the possibility that item may be included in a dish.

                                                                                                1. If they are people I have known for some time I usually know their big likes and dislikes. If it is someone new I would usually say, hey, I'm thinking about making something like this ... bbq, lasagna, whatever ... is there anything you can't have or really dislike? No one enjoys watching their food being pushed around on a plate and not eaten. I'm usually the pickiest eater out of any group of friends, (altho I'm getting better) but I now have several vegetarian friends.