How to Throw a Dinner Party

I have a wonderful neighbor who needed some help.  She purchased everything for a dinner party through our “Pantry”.  When she came to our home to borrow some soup bowls, she was nervous.

I sent some instructions home with her.  She said the evening was magical!

Bread Service:
Sprinkle a litte water on the top of each baguette and put in oven (any temperature) for 3 to 4 minutes.
Leave whipped butter out at room temp and transfer into little plates or bowls to spread around table.

Chicken and Mushroom Soup:
Combine three quarts of soup and bring to a simmer in a sauce pan. Garnish with parsley.
Soup spoons are in this bag.

Feta and Beet Salad:
Toss Arugula with diced red onions and 1/4 of the Citrus Vinaigrette. Arrange on the bottom of the plates or 2 serving platters. Just two pieces per order.
Arrange the two different colored beets on top. Wash your hands after adding the red beets or everything will be red.

Top with the Feta. Drizzle remaining Vinaigrette over beets.
This dish would be great family style. I would recommend 2 platters for this.

Beef Tenderloin:
This beef is just seared, completely raw inside.
Remove plastic wrap and put the three pieces on a half sheet pan. If you have a rack that fits, you can use it, but not necessary.

Leave at room temp for 30 minutes if possible
Place in a warm 350 degree oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Insert meat thermometer (included) into center of each tenderloin.

Rare: cold red center; soft 125–130 ̊F
Medium rare: warm red center; firmer 130–140 ̊F
Medium: pink and firm 145 ̊F
Medium well: small amt of pink in the center 150–155 ̊F

I think you want to cook to 130 for mid rare. You’ll have to gauge how much longer to cook in your oven to reach this point. One tenderloin is a little bigger, so if someone wants rare, you could cook them all the same time and this one should stay 125-130 while the others are med rare.
You must let them rest after coming out of the oven for 5 minutes before you slice to let the juices come back into the meat.

I would slice them ½ inch thick and arrange on a two platter. Then people could choose what temp they prefer when they see the platter. Put a serving fork on each platter. Sprinkle with gorgonzola, unless someone doesn’t want cheese. But there is cheese already in the sauce

Gorgonzola Sauce: Heat in a small pan on stove until simmering.
Either pour over sliced steaks or pass in a separate dish.

For Cauliflower. Reheat in microwave until hot and put in serving bowl.

For Green beans: have a medium size pot of boiling water going on stove. Drop beans in, till they are hot. They are already cooked. Drain off water and toss with the shallot herb butter (room temp) and put in serving bowl.

This is how it should go…
1. Have butter for the bread and the shallot butter for the green beans at room temp. Arrange butter for bread how you want to serve it on the table 30 minutes before guests sit down.

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3. Have pot of water ready to simmer for green beans.

4. Have cauliflower in a microwaveable dish.

5. Put soup in pot on stove.

6. Put Gorgonzola sauce in small saucepan.

7. Pull tenderloin out of fridge 1 hour before sitting down to dinner.

8. Lay baguettes out and sprinkle with butter.

9. 10 minutes before dinner. Turn on Soup, turn on water for green beans.

10. 5 minutes before dinner – put bread in oven and beef tenderloin too.
Turn on Gorgonzola Sauce (low heat)

11. Toss feta and beets, but hold on the final amount of dressing until you bring it out of the kitchen.

12. When beef is ready, and resting, you could heat up the veggies and turn your oven off and put in the oven with the door ajar.
You may want to slice the beef, arrange on platters and cover with foil. Put in a warm spot, but not in oven.

13. Serve Soup

14. Bring out feta salad, add remaining vinaigrette.

15. Bring out meat platter, sauce, veggies, garnish with cheese.

Mid July

  • Getting ready for the Gift Mart this weekend.
  • Training a new busser/hostess.
  • Setting an interview with a second hostess.
  • Searching out new chairs for the deck.
  • Ordered a new Sonic Wall Router which I will have to figure out how to install.  $1050.00, just because the other one was too old to be “supported”.
  • Balancing a new food cost spread sheet.
  • Finding a new hand soap.  Company is watering down the old product.  Drips out of the dispensers onto the floor.
  • Tweaking website
  • Re-review in the Atlanta Journal Constitution coming out Friday. Nervous.
  • Counting glassware and planning orders for next week’s sold out Low Country Feast.
  • Looking at calender to plan August and September events.
  • Planning trip to Athens, Georgia for my daughter’s college orientation next week.
  • Foraging almost everyday for fresh chanterelles that are growing all over Atlanta this year.  Dog loves this project.
  • Need the rain to stop long enough to paint the new handrail on the handicap ramp. Damaged by contractors who installed the new gutters.
  • Replacing CD/DVD rom in computer at home.  Waiting on order from Amazon.


The price of China

I bought new appetizer plates this week.  Actually, the color was a little off and I wanted to send them back.  Was told I would still have to pay the original shipping charge of $30.00, the return shipping charge of $30.00 more dollars and a restocking fee of $25.00.  Damn, they only cost $120.00 in the first place.  Needless to say, the plates were put into service.

While looking at options, I had several salesmen come in to meet with me.  I asked them what some of the other restaurants in the area were using.  I got several options, and then a recap of how much such and such restaurant spent on their initial order.  Several were close to $200,000.00.  Yes, that’s two-hundred-thousand dollars.

I bought a restaurant (now Babette’s) for $80,000.00 in 1992.  The salesmen got very quiet after hearing that.

The truth about Scout Mob

A few months ago, I posted a note about how Groupon wouldn’t work for Babette’s, but now we are signed up for Scout Mob.  What’s the difference?  Well, almost 25%.  Unlike Groupon, with Scout Mob, the customer comes into the restaurant and pays their 50% directly to the restaurant.  If the customer brings in a text or a printed coupon with the same text number, the restaurant is charged $.50 (that’s 50 cents folks) by Scout Mob.  Those codes are only available on the one day the restaurant is featured by Scout Mob.  After that, the discount is available on Android phones through the Scout Mob App.  When the Scout Mob App is used at the restaurant, the restaurant is charged $3.00.

If the discount is $25.00 Scout Mob takes either $.50 or $3.00.  For the same discount, Groupon takes $12.50.  That’s it folks.  That difference of $9.50 is enough to cover food cost, labor, linen and to even to put some money in the bank.  The difference is just easier to swallow in principle as well, Groupon making just as much as the restaurant from the customer?  One restauranteur only made money from Groupon because so many who had purchased the coupon did not use it.

I’ve spoken with other restaurant owners.  Most are happy with Scout Mob, some are not.  We have been very happy.  We did not raise our prices to cover some of the discount.  (I love my regulars.)  We are not charging a split plate charge. (We never do.)  We scheduled this promotion to run during the summer months, which are our slowest and when I can hire some part time students for the summer and be able to let them go before school starts.  We staffed up. Production and purchasing has been the greatest challenge.  We upped our pars for food and liquor, ordered more linen, glassware and china.

We’ve seen customers back that haven’t been in for a while.  We’re seeing new people who haven’t tried us before.  So far so good.

It hasn’t gone off without a hitch.  On the first weekend, one table printed the feature page without grabbing the discount so they didn’t have the “code”.  I didn’t honor it and probably should have.  Last night someone forgot their printed code.  I asked them to call us back at the end of the night from home with the code and I would credit their charge card $25.00 after verifying it in our book.  I don’t know if they called.  We’ve been so busy, a ticket was missed in the kitchen with a birthday note, so a dessert went out without the proper fanfare.  Customer was not happy.  A few tickets are running a little long in the kitchen, but customers have been very understanding on that issue.  I think.

It’s hard.  Babette’s is closed on Mondays and both my Front of House Manager and my Sous Chef came in to finish their ordering then when they had a moment of quiet.  Mondays have been my only day off. A fellow restauranteur whose spot is open seven days a week is thinking of closing some Mondays just so he can get caught up on production. The cooks are getting a workout.  The servers are soaking their feet at the end of the shift.  And we’re all hungry.  I’ll have to buy some Stouffer’s lasagna for the staff meal this weekend.

I recently received an email from a representative from Groupon who after reading my post, told me they had restructured their promotions.  Each deal program works differently for the various kinds of businesses.  To business owners, look at the details and know your cost of sales.  For customers, go for it, there are some great deals out there.

A Perfect New Year’s Eve

   We had a terrific December, a record actually, and it was capped by a New Year’s eve with nary a one NO-Show.  Yes, we had some last minute cancellations.  People do get sick after all, but each party called us and we were able to rebook their spots.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  This is a restaurateur’s dream night.  A couple of parties had to wait a bit after their reservation time and though they got a little restless, they were very kind to me and my staff.

Thank you everyone!


Another Monday

My daughter, a friend of hers and I drive up to Lake Hartwell.  We have some wonderful friends who let us visit.  The lake water is beautiful, warm and quiet during the week.  Friends come over, I drink vodka and play scrabble.

The next day we take their pontoon boat out and go to an island with a lovely sand beach.  My husband has come up for the day.  Now I’m feeling a bit cocky and decide to swim across to a point, about 600 yards.  Even though I have taken a swim noodle with me in case I get tired, and the people with us include two firemen and one police officer, my husband is planning my funeral and all the changes he is going to make to the restaurant when he becomes the owner.  It takes me 40 minutes.  It feels great.

A much better Monday.