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6. The Food

This essential guide to ball food and drink should give you an idea of your options for food & drink and also has some tried and tested menus for you to see. Many of your options may be shaped by what the venue can offer, but it’s still a good idea to get a feel for the things you should consider. If you wish to use outside caterers, check this is permitted by the venue.

Buffet or Meal?

The first decision that you’ll likely be faced with is whether to have a full sit-down meal or simply to have a finger buffet for your guests. If you’ve got particularly tight budgetry constraints or you’d like to spend your money on other aspects of the ball then a buffet could be the way to go. If you decide on a sit-down meal, allow at least 45 minutes from the guest arrival time to the seating time, preferably an hour. If you are having a buffet only, you may wish to hold your event later so that guests can eat before they come.

Canapés & Hors d’œuvres

You may wish to serve Hors d’œuvre at your Ball before the main meal while guests are arriving or during a drinks reception. Canapés can be brought round by butlers or venue staff and are usually salty or spicy & go well with many wines and champagne. Vol-au-vents will appeal to many people, as will Barquettes. If you’d really like to get people talking though, why not consider a caviar based food? It’s probably not as expensive as you might think.

Alcohol

If your guests are over 18 then chances are at least some of them will want alcohol. If you’re buying wine for the tables, 1 70cl bottle between 2 or 3 is usual. It can work out much cheaper if the venue will allow you to provide your own wine for this purpose, check local trade stores, cash & carry and supermarkets for good deals. You may also want to consider a champagne reception (at extra cost – ask your venue) – if you do have a champagne reception, make sure a non-alcoholic drink is available too – venues will typically supply orange juice.

Vegetarian Options

Before deciding on a menu you should find out if any of your guests is vegetarian, has nut allergies or has other special dietary requirements. A good way to do this would be to have a column on the signup list or section on the table plan where they can indicate what food is suitable. The venue may ask for the vegetarian numbers up to a fortnight before your ball – if you’re selling tickets late or don’t know your numbers, 10% is a good estimation.

Sample Menus

Before getting into the details of what to have on your menu, check to see if the venue you’ve chosen already has any set menus.

Menu 1

Starter
Chef’s Homade Soup of the Day or Creamed Garlic Mushrooms
Main
Breast of Chicken wrapped in Bacon or Cheese Filled Pasta Bound in a Wild Mushroom Cream (Vegetarian)
Dessert
Profiteroles with Homemade Butter Sauce or Fruit Topped Cheesecake on a Fruit coulis
Coffee

Menu 2

Starter
Homemade Minestrone Soup or Tomato Basic and Roast Red Pepper Soup
Main
Seared Fillet Of Salmon or Loin of Warwickshire Pork or Basket Of Ratatouille (Vegetarian)
Dessert
Orange & Chocolate Delice (with Apricot Sauce) or Glazed Lemon Charlotte (with Raspberry Coulis)
Coffee

Menu 3

Starter
Fan of Galia Melon or Chicken Liver & Armagnac Parfait
Main
Leg Of Lamb or Traditional Roast Turkey or Cheese Filled Pasta Bound in a Wild Mushroom Cream (Vegetarian)
Dessert
Homemade Blackberry & Apple Pie (With Chantilly Cream & Vanilla Anglaise)
Coffee

Menu 4

Starter
Fine Highland venison broth
Main
Fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef, oxtail & woodland ragout, potato pave & whisky ‘café au lait’ sauce
Dessert
Saint Domingue 70% chocolate terrine, rhubarb & vanilla pod compote, Atholl Brose shortbread
Cheeses
Cheeses served with quince, chutney & oatcakes
Coffee

Menu 5

Starter
Pressed terrine of chicken livers, potatoes and serrano ham or Profiteroles of goats cheese and celeriac with tomato coulis
Main
Slow braised shank of lamb in vegetable gravy or cold Scottish salmon salad with dill mayonaise or Candied sping vegetable ragout with raisins. All served with hot new potatoes
Dessert
Black forest arctic roll
Cheeses
Coffee & after dinner mints

The Bar

Many venues have a bar that they’ll open once the night begins. So as to avoid any surprises, check to see when the bar will be open from & until, check the prices of the drinks to see that they’re not unreasonable (hotel bars in particular can be very expensive) and see what drink availability there is; there should be a good selection of soft drinks, cocktails, wines, lagers and speciality beers.

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Tags: non alcoholic beverage to go with vol-au-vents