March 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts March 1998 Current Issue
March 1998
Slice of PieShort Cuts:

The appetizers may be amazing, the salad succulent and the entrée enticing, but the course that really counts -- to at least 99 percent of us -- is dessert.

Why bother with all the preambles? Why not plan a party that goes, so to speak, straight for the icing?

"Dessert parties are a great way to bring people together later in the evening, after the theater or a dine-around," says Susan Gage, owner of an eponymous catering firm in Oxon Hill, Md.

While it's hard to foul up a menu in which sugar is the main ingredient, there's definitely an art to selecting a palatable mix of sweets. The buffet should include items of different tastes and textures, says Gage. "Since most people are apt to take a little bit of everything, the offerings should complement each others' flavor and appearance."

Her rule of thumb: "Have something creamy (mousse, crème brulée or trifle, a layered pudding), something fruity (pie, tart, poached pears or fresh berries) and, of course, something chocolate." If budget allows, she says, a savory, non-sweet offering like sliced cheese will nicely balance the plates.

Simplify self-service buffets with finger foods like minipastries, tartlets, cookies and sliced fruit with toothpicks, advises Tom McCartney, general manager of Englewood, N.J.-based Gourmet Home Cuisine. For larger cakes and pies, preslicing keeps mess to a minimum.

When ice cream is part of the smorgasbord, Gage recommends having servers prescoop it and pile the scoops (called quenelles) in a serving bowl.

To dress up traditional coffee and tea service, place bottled liqueurs like Kahlua, Grand Marnier and Bailey's near the coffee urns, inviting guests to give their cups a little kick. Self-serve bowls of whipped cream add a Viennese flair, adds Gage. And for those guests who just can't get enough of a sweet thing, offer a bowl of chocolate shavings, to be sprinkled decadently on top of the cream.


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