No matter the reason for celebrating, springtime offers a variety of festive, on-trend entertaining options—all of which are completed by their scrumptious menus. We asked area professionals to discuss what dining ideas will make a party stand out this season.
Paul Azkoul, chef/owner, Eclectic Cuisine
•A light menu featuring fresh ingredients is best, as it appeals to the health-conscious guest. Serving meals that are made from scratch using fresh, locally grown or farm-raised ingredients should be more of an expectation instead of a trend, and your spring gathering is a great time to make the switch.
•To avoid feeling overwhelmed during pre-party preparation, stick with familiar ingredients.
•If you’re preparing a well-known recipe, add some flair in the presentation. My Gazpacho in Cucumber Cups is a great example, as it pairs a few sips of a tried-and-true favorite into an entertaining experience. Guests will surely enjoy the unique presentation—who doesn’t want to eat the cup in which the food was served?—and you’ll enjoy one less dish to wash.
Prosciutto Wrapped Figs (from Eclectic Cuisine)
•4 figs, cut into sixths
•8 slices of prosciutto, sliced vertically into thirds
•2 T blue cheese or Gorgonzola cheese
•Balsamic vinegar syrup
•3 basil leaves, sliced thin
•Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each fig.
•Crumble cheese on top of the prosciutto-wrapped figs.
•Drizzle balsamic vinegar syrup over each piece.
•Garnish with basil.
Ann Lemcke, owner, The Art of Entertaining
•Pair springtime’s freshest ingredients, like berries and herbs, with your dinner. From there, think about what other flavors pair nicely; a salad with a citrus dressing, a light shrimp appetizer and grilled vegetables complement the seasonal flavors without leaving the guests feeling stuffed.
•Use decorated cookies as favors and table décor. Sweets in spring-like shapes, such as flowers, bring joy to the table scene, while giving your guests a piece of the party they can take home.
•Keep everything from the menu to the décor “sparse and pretty.” If dining outdoors, try adding a few simple string lights between trees and lightly pepper the tabletop with paper butterflies; the end look is entirely festive without trying too hard.
Grilled Chicken with Fresh Berries and Balsamic Glaze served with Angel Hair Pasta (Serves 4, from The Art of Entertaining)
Ingredients for chicken
•4 chicken breasts
•2 T olive oil
•2 T soy sauce
•2 T lemon juice
•1/2 t dry tarragon
•1/2 t dry oregano
•1/2 c blueberries
•1/2 c raspberries
•1/4 c balsamic vinegar
•1/8 c red wine vinegar
•1/8 c + 1 T brown sugar
Directions for chicken
•Marinate chicken breasts with olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, tarragon and oregano.
•Grill chicken until cooked in middle.
•Mix berries and 1 T brown sugar, then place on grilled chicken.
•Separately, bring 1/8 cup brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar to a boil on stove, then reduce heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes until thickened.
•Drizzle glaze over chicken and berries.
Ingredients for pasta
•1 lb. angel hair pasta
•1/4 c olive oil
•1/4 c chopped fresh basil
•1 T seasoning salt
•1 c of shredded Asiago cheese
Directions for pasta
•Cook pasta by directions on packaging.
•Mix olive oil, basil, salt and cheese with cooked pasta.
•Toss together and serve with chicken.
Richard Nix, president, Butler’s Pantry
•The use of local products is not only increasingly popular, but it is something guests will truly enjoy. This doesn’t mean only looking for Missouri-grown produce, but also serving local beers, wines and cocktails.
•Offer one great dessert served warm at the table, as opposed to having a dessert bar. Not only does this allow you to focus on the one amazing treat, but it keeps guests from having to take the sometimes uncomfortable walk from the dinner table to the dessert table.
•As opposed to having an entire bar available, stick with two wines and three or four great cocktails. A ‘signature cocktail’ can read as passé, so travel back in time and serve some retro favorites. Vodka gimlets, Old Fashioneds, Tom Collins and Manhattans all are in style again.
Shaved Raw Asparagus, Spring Greens, Goat Cheese and Walnut Salad (from Butler’s Pantry)
•1 lb. large asparagus
•6 c mixed spring greens (such as red oak, mache, frisee, butter)
•1/2 c toasted black walnuts
•1 package Baetje Farms Coeur De La Crème plain goat cheese, crumbled
•1 c fresh sprigs of spring herbs (chervil, flat leaf parsley and dill)
•Zest and juice of one lemon
•Zest and juice of one lime
•1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
•Salt and white pepper to taste
•Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into long thin strips.
•Combine with the greens, toasted walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and herbs.
•To prepare the dressing, combine the juice and zest of the lemon and lime and mix with the olive oil.
•Toss the salad with dressing to coat, season to taste with salt and white pepper and serve immediately.