A Mediterranean theme for your next dinner buffet requires some planning and preparation, but the time-honoured regional menu carries universal appeal and is sure to delight your guests. Following a Mediterranean theme involves careful selection of food dishes to authentically represent the cuisine of the country or region of choice. In addition to the menu, the Mediterranean theme can be expressed through decor, the style and colour of dinnerware and table coverings, the garnishes and the centrepieces. Creating a Mediterranean feel throughout the eating and gathering areas is important to the experience.
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Select a single country's cuisine for a thematic focus or broaden the scope by incorporating dishes across several national cuisines. Italian, Spanish, Greek, Turkish and Lebanese menus are popular and combine well with each other. Planning a Mediterranean menu across multiple cuisines is possible because the Mediterranean climate produces ingredients commonly utilised throughout Mediterranean countries.
Create an ambience reflective of Mediterranean countries through use of colours specific to the region: for example, rustic reds, terracotta, warm golds and forest green. Incorporate colour through dinnerware, table coverings and groupings of fresh eggplant, whole and sliced lemons, olive branches, bottles of olive oil and bundles of grapes.
Feature the Mediterranean theme throughout the buffet service room as well as the eating and gathering areas with strategically located prints of Mediterranean scenes, tapestries and groupings of Mediterranean-coloured accents.
Include popular regional dishes such as cilantro pesto, rice with lentils, baba ghanoush and flatbread. Splurge on a variety of cheeses to set the tone of your event and arrange in bowls for crumbly cheeses like feta and on platters for sliceable cheeses near the breads.
Set generous assortments of fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, mint and basil throughout the buffet, which adds colour, flavour and interest to your Mediterranean presentation as well as supplying the fresh greens that are typically eaten with breads and yoghurts in Mediterranean countries.
Order the food platters and dishes by size: main dishes first, followed by side dishes and vegetables. Position any accompanying sauces and condiments such as yoghurts or pickled vegetables near their respective food dish. Follow up the side dishes with salads, soups and breads.
Include fresh cut vegetables such as cucumber, fennel, carrot, endive and peppers throughout the buffet table. Set crostini and flatbreads like lavash, focaccia and pita, along with varieties of hummus, yoghurt and other traditional dips and spreads on the perimeter of the buffet table; such food items tend to result in second or third servings and should offer easy access.
Set stacked or pre-filled groups of additional serving-sized dishes conveniently near any salads or side dishes that guests may want to keep separate from the main courses and off the dinner plate.
Tips and warnings
- Prepare appetizers, food dishes and drinks well in advance; avoid cooking until the final minutes before guests begin to arrive. Sitting time can actually enhance the flavours of precooked Mediterranean dishes.
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