Between searching for the best caterer in Indianapolis to throw a grand party; or exploring wedding catering options for your own or your best friend’s upcoming wedding, you may want to host a little at home soiree of your own. You’ve likely heard a lot of hype about ‘seasonal eating’ in your dinner party recipe hunt. What is this trend, exactly? What are the advantages?
Here’s the basic idea: you prepare and eat foods that are appropriate and that grow best during a particular season. In the summer, for instance, offer sun-ripened fruits like blackberries and cherries with cheeses and wine pairings. In the fall, use gourds like pumpkin and squash to bring a healthy and savory element to your meals.
While it might seem like this philosophy is trendy, we actually evolved to eat this way. In fact, only the last 150 years (give or take) have we have the luxury to eat ‘non-seasonally’ to our local area because of growth in transportation, refrigeration and international commerce – all of which allow us to defy nature.
But there are some very good reasons to return to a seasonal eating paradigm and to consider sticking with it when you invite guests to dinner.
- You can find the freshest, most flavorful ingredients at great prices.
Perhaps you are fond of eating local strawberries in the summer months. The farmer’s markets in Indianapolis have bountiful selections. You’ll get a far better and more affordable selection in the summer months than in the middle of winter – regardless if you are at the farmer’s market or the grocery store. The foods you eat seasonally will have been freshly plucked from the vine instead of shipped from elsewhere and refrigerated in a warehouse.
- Eating seasonally is in line with what our bodies evolved to do.
Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables are more nutritious when grown in season as they don’t lose any vital nutrients during travel. When we focus on eating real food at the right times, we are ultimately eating healthier.
- You will delight your palate with diversity.
It’s frankly boring to eat the same foods, day in and day out. Visit your local farmer’s markets to see the variety of produce that’s available to you. You just might be surprised. By varying the composition of your diet, you’ll also be more likely to get key micro nutrients you need.
So how does all this play into offering a seasonally appropriate menu at home? Quite simply – fresher ingredients, more flavor, and an opportunity to cruise through your local markets for inspiration.
Entertaining at home is a daunting task for many people. There is much to be planned and prepared, and sometimes just the thought of the shopping list can turn off even the most determined of us.
Hosting a dinner party is made instantaneously less stressful however when you embrace seasonal eating. Not only is it often much easier to source the food, but eating foods in season ensures freshness, quality and a taste profile that simply cannot be beaten. The flavors really speak for themselves, so simple preparation goes a long way when it comes to taste.
Here are some tips to help you host a successful seasonal dinner party.
- Plan ahead
You may not know what is considered ‘in season’ in Indiana at differing point of the year. Use this website to help you. A quick walk through your farmer’s market is an easy way to do this as local grocers receive shipments from various parts of the world to provide the wide array of offerings they have. Take seasonal produce into consideration when planning your menu.
Next, check out recipes that involve that produce. Try to find dishes that feature your produce as the main taste so you can plan your meal around that one flavor.
Once you have a date for your dinner party, and have planned the menu accordingly, determine where and when you can shop to ensure you get the best ingredients. For example, if your dinner party is on a Thursday, but your local farmers’ market is only open on Wednesdays, get as much produce as you can on the Wednesday, then complete the shop on the Thursday with any leftover things you may need.
Remember, quality trumps quantity here, so buy the highest quality produce you can afford.
- Read the recipes
Read your planned recipes from start to finish. If you are attempting a particularly tricky dish, it may pay to try it in advance of the dinner party, to see how it turns out.
With full knowledge of what you need to cook, you may be able to prepare many of the elements ahead of time, which will save you extra stress on the night. Things that can often be made in advance are sauces, dressings and some desserts. As you are cooking a seasonal meal, it is best to keep your menu light, so you should be able to put together the remainder of your menu relatively easily in the hours leading up to your guests’ arrival.
- Don’t over complicate
Seasonal eating is about highlighting the natural flavors of food. This means that you don’t need to cover food in heavy cream dressings, marinades or batter. Use the juiciness of tomatoes to your advantage, or the sweetness of strawberries to enhance a dessert, instead of sugar.
- Choose your drinks
Seasonal entertaining doesn’t stop at the food. When you know the dishes you are preparing, you can plan the drinks menu also.
If you’re unsure about which wine goes with which dish, don’t be shy and ask our experts at Vine and Table. As a general rule, the lighter the meals, the lighter the drinks. For spring and summer, think light summary cocktails or aperitifs to begin, followed by white wine or rose. If you’re entertaining in winter, try red wines and heavier dessert wines.
- Think outside the food
Seasonality also extends to other areas of your dinner party. Think about the flowers for your table setting. In spring, peonies make the perfect bouquet, whereas carnations are a lovely choice for the colder months.
- Remember to have fun
As much as hosting a dinner party is about the food, it is also about having fun! Spend time with your guests, engage in conversation and have a few glasses of wine. After all, what’s the point in slaving away in the kitchen if you can’t enjoy it?!