Planning the Perfect Party

October marks the onslaught of holiday festivities. Caterers weigh in on how to make yours a success.

A popular dish is seared salmon with parsley gremolata, farro and root vegetables. Photo by Jessica Tucker Photography, LLC

Whether they’re celebrations of weddings, holidays, friends or family, the cooler weather brings with it endless party options. Before driving yourself up a wall with the planning, take a moment to consult catering experts.

With many diets and the possibility of picky eaters, Maggie Howell at Aunt Pittypat’s Catering in Oklahoma City says a few choices can work well for everyone.

Try citrus shrimp cones with mango salsa and frissee at your next party.
Photo by Jessica Tucker Photography, LLC

“Both low carb and gluten-free options are very popular for many types of diets right now,” she says. “So avoiding heavy breads and starches is something we accommodate by offering skewered and mini versions of items presented in fun vehicles like jars, ramekins and even shot glasses.”

Liz Woodson of the Red Rooster Bistro and Bakery in Wagoner also recommends keeping the appetizers portioned – and champions sit-down dinners – because variables can cause a party host undue stress.

“You don’t have any control over how much people are grabbing, and you may have only allowed four appetizers per person,” Woodson says. “There’s a greater chance of running out of food. So, what we do are grab-and-go veggie cups – a quarter-cup of ranch dressing with veggie sticks in it. This helps the buffet line go faster. It’s a little more work on the preparation side for us, but, when someone’s on a tight budget, that’s a great way to save money and do some portion control.”

A popular dish is seared salmon with parsley gremolata, farro and root vegetables. Photo by Jessica Tucker Photography, LLC

As for what to serve, the upcoming months provide opportunities for squash and gourds, warm soups and bisques, grilled cheese and other comfort foods. Woodson enjoys throwing a Thanksgiving twist on some of her popular dishes.

“For an event in November, we’re stuffing chicken breasts with pecan-and-cranberry dressing,” she says. “It’s festive, zesty and seasonal.”

When choosing foods for your event, Howell says knowing your audience creates the best results.

A healthy holiday option from Aunt PittyPat’s is caesar salad cones with shaved parmesan and preserved tomato.
Photo courtesy Aunt PittyPat’s Catering

“Matching your menu to your crowd is a must,” she says. “If you have a room full of foodies, let your caterer’s creativity and trendy ideas shine. If your guests are less adventurous, stick with well-executed, fresh, seasonal items.”

Regardless of the event, Woodson and Howell agree that communication and trust are key ingredients to a great gathering.

“You need to let the caterer lead the way – we understand the business,” Woodson says. “Communication with your caterer is also important; I need to know what’s expected of me and what I need to supply.”

 Howell says: “Let your experienced caterer guide you to a well-balanced event. And don’t try to please everyone. Decide on a direction and stick with it. Otherwise, too many choices – from food to bar options – can become muddled and overwhelming.”