Do you ever struggle to come up with ideas or themes for a dinner party menu. We have all struggled from time to time. When you are challenged go back to these 5 sources and you will come up with a winner.
Great meals at a restaurant have been a source of inspiration with me for years. Susan and I used to live in Dover DE and our routine was to go out to dinner with Marc and Debby Waldman on a Friday night and then I would reverse-engineer a menu the following night. The restaurant gave me the ideas and an appreciative audience gave me the encouragement. While there were probably a few meals that didn’t stack up to the previous nights fare, we always managed to have a good time.
Whether it is business or vacation travels you get to try different foods. There is nothing more inspiring than true authentic cuisine. It is amazing how different native cuisines can be versus imitation cuisines around your home market. A great example of that is REAL Mexican food. Mexican food in Mexico is really different than the refried beans and rice fare we get in the States. We took a trip to Cabo a few years ago and had several meals that were really inspirational and nothing like the Mexican at home.
If I am ever struggling to come up with an idea for a dinner party I take a walk through a local market. When I am in Memphis it will be a trip to Costco, Fresh Market or Kroger. In New York we have made stops at Arthur Avenue in the Bronx that have given me ideas for years. Past the great ethnic areas, local markets in the New York area have really stepped up their culinary offering. The fresh produce, meats and seafood are really good. More and more retail markets are selling really high quality culinary fare. Markets are a great source of inspiration and not a bad place to buy ingredients to go with the ideas.
- Cook Books & Magazines
A Chef friend of mine collects cookbooks. He claims that he doesn’t look at the recipes, but he does look for inspiration from the pictures. Photography in books and magazines are a great source of ideas. I find that a picture will generate ideas that don’t always follow the recipe in the book. You can adapt a recipe to something you know will taste great or to a menu item that you know you can get high quality ingredients for.
- The Internet
The easiest thing ever is to Google fall menu ideas. You get all kinds of stuff from Martha Stewart, Epicurious, Bon Appetit and on and on. This is a great source, but something’s are too easy and you don’t want to be overly dependent on the internet. It is sort of like someone asking you how you met your wife. “We met on the internet” has a certain negativity to it. It’s a reality today, but sometimes it is in your best interest to make up a story that sounds better. “These menu ideas are from a chef I met in Tuscany” sounds a lot better. And, as I tell my wife, you don’t always want facts to get in the way of a good story.
Follow one of these ideas and I am sure you will come up with a great idea, or five.
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