If you’re in the position of either hosting or cooking for a D/s event, the starting point for good food - assuming you’re not putting out platters of sandwiches and crudités (which is perfectly okay) - is in the menu planning.
There are a few ways to take menu planning - but my best advice, work with whatever ingredients are in season at the time. If that is not an option, for whatever reason, frozen is the best alternative.
So, the next consideration is theme. The theme can be a cuisine, or a colour, or perhaps the theme can basically be the season. Keep in mind, even though the theme might be a certain cuisine, which might be very exotic and technically challenging, it is possible to take certain recipes or techniques and apply them to what you are comfortable with.
Now, once you have a theme, the next consideration is the event. Is it a sit down event, is it a full meal, what time is the event being held? All of these factors will contribute to dictating the menu. While this might seem limiting, the type of event can actually be an opportunity to be very creative. A stand up event is the perfect setting for what I like to term a walk about meal. A walk about meal is a number of appetisers served to guests, that actually equate to a full meal, served in bite sized pieces from trays that are circulated around. Dishes that might be considered as only served as main dishes - such as Beef Wellington, or stew, can actually be transformed into hors d’oeuvres.
The last part of deciding the menu is allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. It wouldn’t do to make any of the guests ill - that just makes for a bad time - so it’s good to ask beforehand who will be present, and to ensure any special needs are sent to you. Even if someone has a number of intolerances, that doesn’t mean they can’t participate. It is possible to make someone a special plate that resembles the plates of everyone else, because you want to make that guest comfortable and not stick out like a sore thumb, if you know ahead of time. In a largish group, it may be impossible to know everyone’s intolerances and sensitivities, so it is good to post ingredients if it is a buffet, or if items are passed around by servers etc.
Now that you have all of this information, it is time to do some research. The internet - specifically Pinterest, is a great place for fast research. There are a few books that are my go to for recipes - The Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. These are fantastic resources for just about any dish you want to serve, and more importantly, if you want to impress. My other favourite for appetisers is Martha Stewart’s Appetisers. Other than that, cooking magazines and cookbooks from other cultures are always a great resources. Don’t discount some books from say the 50’s or 60’s - some of them are gold. Granted, there isn’t much call for Jello salad these days, and you’re not likely to find onion juice in the grocery store, but some of those cookbooks sold by the ladies’ auxiliaries, they have time tested advice on basic and usually local cooking techniques.
Planning a menu to me is like telling a story, or playing a piece of music. Do I want to make a loud and strong impression right from the get go, do I want to build slow and lingering until the end, do I want something in between? With a multi-course meal, perhaps you want to interject something like a palate cleanser, depending on how long of a time frame you are given.
For all appetisers, you might want to reserve your heaviest apps until the end. For a sit down meal, you need to decide how many courses to serve, how, when, and how you want the meal to unfold.
For a walk about meal, it’s good to have at least 6 or 7 appetisers. There should be a little of everything - such as - one cheese, one veg, one beef, one pork, one seafood etc. If there are any allergies, such as seafood or shellfish, it’s best to double up, or of course, is there a strong vegetarian attendance, it’s best to focus on cheese, legume dips, veg etc. All items should be handheld, and bite size, because if folks are standing or walking around, there’s really no place for cutlery, or plates etc. Be sure to have plenty of napkins as well.
For a full multi-course meal, the basics are starter, main, dessert. There can be variations on this, such as an appetiser or amuse bouche, a soup, salad, main with meat, fish course, dessert, cheese plate. A sit down meal can also involve a series of one bite delicacies - a series of paired down versions - a soup in a shot glass, an herb salad wrapped with a long slice of cucumber, a slice of baguette spread with roasted garlic Camembert topped with mango salsa etc.
One last note, the menu should also keep in mind what the events of the evening might be. For instance, if the aim is play, the menu should not be carb heavy, in case folks end up in a sugar coma in the corner. If the meal is the event of the evening, go balls to the wall, pull out all the stops, and make the meal entertainment. Keep in mind aromatics as well - onion, garlic, curry - these are all tasty, but can leave one with bad breath, or body odour - which might put a damper on the evening.
There are a number of factors that go into planning a menu for a D/s event, but rather than seeing them as limiting, these factors can actually be the catalyst for creativity. With a bit of planning, research, and thinking outside the box, it is possible to have a delicious and very smoothly flowing D/s event. Rather than dreading the next gathering, you will be looking forward to entertaining and eager for the opportunity.