Fast Track to Fine Dining
      How To Use

How To Use Fast Track To Fine Dining

The goal of Fast Track to Fine Dining is to provide you with all the tools necessary to plan and prepare fabulous dinner parties. The timeline, which is included with each menu, is the key to success. The timeline indicates how and when to prepare each food item. It also reminds you to focus on what I like to call Creating the Ambience, which is a checklist for decorating the home and table.

In total, there are 16 menus, four in each season. The seasons are only a guideline. Feel free to make any menu at any time. Each menu includes a listing of the courses and wine pairings for that menu. Of the 16 menus, 14 include a Champagne aperitif, appetizers, a starter, a salad, a palate cleanser, a main course, a dessert, and an after-dinner sweet. The two exceptions, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are served buffet-style.

Following each menu are the recipes for that menu. You will see that almost all the recipes have information on how to prepare a particular item ahead. Where applicable, I have included some handy tips and substitutions which I have found helpful. In addition, many of the recipes include a presentation tip, providing advice about how to serve a particular item.

The timeline for each menu follows the recipes. I use the timeline as my indispensable guide, as it outlines the steps you need to accomplish in order to complete, garnish, and serve a particular course at the right temperature and at the right time. If the timeline says “Prepare ahead,” go to the recipe for that item and read the “TO PREPARE AHEAD” instructions. If the timeline says “Finish,” go to the recipe for that item and read the “TO FINISH” instructions. If the timeline says “Plate according to the Presentation Tip,” go to the recipe for that item and read the “PRESENTATION TIP.” Follow the timeline, and you shouldn’t have any surprises on the day of your party.

The grocery list for each menu follows the timeline. The grocery list is broken down by day and is tied to the order of the timeline. If it says to buy something a week ahead on the grocery list, generally you need that item for something you are preparing a week ahead. In addition, I have broken the grocery list down into pantry items, alcohol and drinks, produce, dairy, freezer, meat, fish and deli, and bakery. Hopefully, this will help to streamline your trip to the store.

So, how do you proceed?

Look over the menus and find one that appeals to you. Once you have picked a menu, look over the timeline for that menu and make sure it works with your schedule.

If you have time, try a few of the different recipes in the menu for practice. For example, try making the main course or the soup or the dessert. Although I’ve tried to make the recipes as clear as possible, there is nothing better than firsthand experience. You don’t have to try all the recipes (once you’ve made one sorbet, you can pretty much make them all), but see if you can try some of them.

Remember-- if you follow the timeline, you’ll get everything done.

Note that I use a 7:30 PM start time for all of the dinners except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Obviously, you may want to start your dinner at a different time. If so, adjust the times accordingly. And, be flexible! People might be late. The different times are a guideline. If you get the soup on the table 15 minutes late, don’t worry. I’ve tried to organize the timeline so that you put things in the oven and take things out at natural breaks. If the timing does change, make sure that you look over the timeline to see how you will have to adjust various items. And, if the courses are taking longer than expected to eat, don’t worry. It probably means that people are having a great time.

If you make all of the recipes in a menu, it will take about 5-6 hours of total preparation time. However, because you are making several items ahead, you will be dividing this up into much smaller and more manageable segments of time. The timeline indicates how much time you will need on a given day excluding buying groceries and creating the ambience.

Now it’s up to you! If you go to the Menus/Recipes tab, you’ll see a sample menu along with its recipes, timeline and grocery list. This should give you a clear idea of how Fast Track to Fine Dining really works. And, if you’re curious about the other menus in the book, click on the different seasons to find out what they are all about.

A Step-By-Step Guide To Planning A Dinner Party
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