Our camping trip meal for over 100 took quite a bit of planning to make our dinner hosting possible. I have never assembled dinner for this many people before, but acting as an impromptu helper at a friends wedding wetted Sweets and my appetit for the job!
Our group of motorcycle friends we held this event with assembled a crew of bosses to help organize our group camp. For example, one boss was needed for supplying ice daily. Another boss role is emptying the trash containers. As my friend Shasta and I were new to this level of feeding, our menu idea was submitted to an email list composed of all the bosses and helpers to review for camp-worthiness.
In email discussions, we decided that this crowd is traditionally one that requires meat at a dinner, so no all-vegetarian meal like I would have liked in a camping situation. Grilled meat was going to be a center piece to the meal. Also, we wanted a meal that would be good to stomachs that have been in the heat all day and will be out riding their bikes all the next day.
Inspiration: antipasto dishes, light foods for picking at in warm weather, easy to eat with one utensil, good items for individually building a huge glorified salad. Good items with grilled meat.
We submitted to the email list our menu of
- grilled chicken
- grilled beef
- tofu veggie kabobs for the vegetarians
- green salad
- marinated onions
- pinenut topped hummus
- sliced cucumbers
- marinated olives
- sliced bread
- roasted peppers with artichoke hearts and feta
Two previous suggested items I struck from the menu for lack of inspiration on my part were tabouli and a marinated cucumber salad. The inclusion of tzatziki, a traditional yogurt, garlic, cucumber dip, was suggested by one of the email participants who was particularly craving it. My co-boss added a selection of cheeses and roasted garlic as part of a pre-dinner platter we could set out on the tables before the service line was put into service.
Dessert was already in the mind of my co-Boss and she took to the assignment of making baklava like a duck to water. We were told of an attendee who was sensitive to walnuts, so two sheets of cashew cayene baklava were made as well. Additionally, we were craving a dessert we had tasted at a previous motorcycle party that was a coconut milk and cream based panna cotta that was also low carb. We easily added that item on to the menu, with the aggreement from the dessert creator to prep it for us, and were ready to roll with the next step of planning!
Serving Sizes and Consumption Estimates
Our next step in planning was paying attention to serving sizes in a recipe. This is a detail to pay special attention to, as when a meal is ramped up to serve 100, serving size can become a huge issue. I made small versions of some of the recipes, the Marinated Onions being an example, and then measured how many servings I could get out if it. Making this item up ahead of time alerted me to two good points: 1) serving utensil often dictates the serving size, and 2) some items are better prepared at home and brought already made.
Presenting the menu items to the email list gave opportunity for the next round of feedback: consumption estimates for each menu item. This assumes that not every person in attendance is going to want 2 slices of bread, or 2 Tbs of tzatziki. Here are the estimates for the side items in the menu:
- sliced grilled chicken: ~30% consumption, serving size: ~3/4 breast
- sliced grilled beef: 75% consumption, serving size: 1/3 lb
- tofu veggie kabobs for the vegetarians: calculated, serving size 2 skewers
- green salad: 60%, serving size: 1 cup
- marinated onions: 40%, serving size: ~ one modest tong grab
- pinenut topped hummus: 40%, serving size: 1/4 cup
- tzatziki: 40%, serving size: 2 tbs
- sliced cucumbers: 40%, serving size: 3 slices
- marinated olives: 40%, serving size 1 oz
- sliced bread: 100%, serving size 2 slices
- roasted peppers with artichoke hearts and feta: 30%, serving size: 2.4 oz, one moderate serving spoon full
- dolmas: 30%, serving size 2 dolmas
- roasted garlic: 30%, serving size 1/4 bulb.
One of the planners for this event has access to using Costco’s business ordering to submit our whole trip’s food order to a local Costco for our ingredients. Each recipe was scaled up, our friday night dinner scaling up to serve 115. A shopping list was created, listing food items in quantities that corresponded to the units on food packages (oz, liters, etc). Also determined at this point is which items Costco may carry in their store, but not offer through business ordering. Our meal required picking up several items from different srores (dolmas, roasted peppers, pinenuts, greek yogurt, specialty cheeses).
As a just in case measure, written out preps were created for each side dish. They included the folowing categories:
- serving size
- serving utensil
- serving container
- preparation details
- preparation tools needed
To facilitate the actual prep, I gathered all the ingredients, service containers, and preparation tools in groups by dish on the working tables available at the camp site. Each area also had with it the written prep instructions.
My written prep instructions from the meal area available here, as a Word document.
Things I wish I had done for my crew:
- given them a family meal from the line before service.
- had a separate group of volunteers to be servers on the line.
- assembled a separate group of volunteers to be cleaners.
Estimates on consumption:
We were close! My co-boss upped her amount of meats at the last minute being afraid we would run out of food. We ended up having alot of leftover meat, even after ransacking it for lunch the next day. The original meat amounts (as included in the spread sheet) would have been sucifient. As far as the sides went, we had extra: bread, salad, cucumbers, and tzatziki. We could have used more: hummus, dolmas, marinated onions. We had extra baklava too, but then again, that is never a bad thing with regard to camping munchies!
Having a good bunch of volunteers made this meal work out really well. Our planning paid off and we were able to easily prep our menu items with out being rushed. It was fun- as feeding hungry people generally has been in my experience.
I look forward to doing another meal of this size. Now what to put on the menu for next time? Hmmmm….