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Entertaining 411

The number one question we get from our clients during the event planning process is how much food and beverages they need to serve their guests. The most important factor you need to consider is the type of event; formal (sit down), buffet (self served) or passed (Hors D’oeuvres).

For formal or sit down events, the amount of food is pretty much determined by the number of place settings. However, if you are planning a self served buffet or passed Hors D’oeuvres, there some other basic factors you need to consider.

  • Day of the week – as a general rule; people are more relax during the weekend so they tend to eat more and try new things.
  • Time of the event – the closer to a meal time, the more people will expect.
  • Length of the event – the longer the event, the more you will need.
  • Age group of people – this is a very important one and one most people over look. Single and young people will always eat more. Married couples (especially with kids) are on a daily schedule and they always plan for the “what if”; so there’s a very good chance they will have a snack before showing to your event. The same with the elders; they are on the clock and have a daily plan for their meals and snacks.
  • Type of food – this is a critical one. Themed events, as well as ethic food can turn into a disaster. You know your guests more than anyone else so run down the list to get an idea if a themed event will be a good idea. If so, try to stay within the most popular ones; like Mexican, Italian, Caribbean or American. Combining a couple of them is not a bad idea.

Here are some other tips,

  • Always round-up your estimates.
  • Anticipate which food selections will be most popular and serve more of them than the general portion guidelines suggest.
  • The more choices you offer, the smaller your calculation of individual portion size should be.
  • Assume your guests will taste everything on a buffet, but the tastes will be small. However, overall consumption per individual will be greater than if there were fewer choices.
  • Add “bulk” items to your menu such as bread, crackers, nuts, olives, cheese, etc.

What about individual serving size? Here is basic guidelines caterers use for various foods. Multiply these estimates by your number of guests and, once again, always round-up your estimates.

Portion Size Per Person

Hors d’oeuvre

  • 6 bites when preceding a meal.
  • 4 – 6 bites per hour when hors d’oeuvre are the meal.
  • The longer your party and the larger your guest list, the greater the number of selections you should offer.

The Main Meal

  • Poultry, meat or fish – 6 ounces when you have one main dish, 4 ounces when you offer two or more main courses.
  • Rice, grains – 1.5 ounces as a side dish, 2 ounces in a main dish such as risotto.
  • Potatoes – 5 ounces
  • Vegetables – 4 ounces
  • Beans – 2 ounces as a side dish
  • Pasta – 2 ounces for a side dish, 3 ounces for a first course, 4 ounces for a main dish
  • Green Salad – 1 ounce undressed weight


  • 1 slice cake, tart or pastry
  • 4 ounces creamy dessert such as pudding or mousse
  • 5 ounces ice cream
  • When serving two of the above, reduce each by half.


  • 1 drink per person every ½ hour for the first hour, then 1 drink per hour for each additional hour.

General Beverages (coffee, tea, juice, water) – 1 gallon = 128 oz or 16– 8 oz cups in a gallon (2 cups per person)


  • 1 case beer serves 24-12 oz bottles
  • 1 keg beer serves 165.3 –12 oz beers or 15.5 gallons
  • 1 keg = 7 cases of beer
  • 1 pony keg (1/2 keg) serves 83-12 oz beers or 7.5 gallons


  • 1 bottle of wine serves 5 (5 oz glasses)
  • 1 case of wine = 12 bottles of wine serves (60-5 oz glasses)
  • 1 bottle champagne serves 6 (4 oz glasses)

A Few Other Menu Planning Tips

  • Don’t repeat a main ingredient. For example, don’t serve a shrimp appetizer and shrimp main dish.
  • Consider the colors of the food that will be served together and make sure there is variety.
  • Offer both hot and cold foods on a buffet.

Tips when hiring a caterer,

  • Big is not always better. Some big companies sub contract their work to smaller ones. Verify this is not the case with yours.
  • Ensure they have a cancellation policy.
  • Find out when is the last day to provide a final count.
  • If they are serving the food, ask them about their left-over policy.
  • Ask for references.

We hope these tips have been helpful. For more information, please visit us at http://www.piscolabiscatering.com.


Tres Leches cake – If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Seriously, if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I think that, whom ever invented the Tres Leches cake, had only one thing in mind. And that was to deliver heaven’s sweetness; not that it would become one of the most varied and controversial dessert known to mankind. And there’s no reason for it. It is a simple one with three basic components; cake soaked in a liquid mixture of three different milks (evaporated, condensed and heavy cream) and a creamy topping. That’s it; nothing more, nothing less.

It’s origins are in dispute as the combination of all three of these milks was not available until the 1920’s and 1930’s when the evaporated milk began to be widely commercially available. However, yet today, many Latin American countries claim this dessert as their own. And that’s fine with me. Regardless of the thousand different variations you can find (over 380,00 in google alone), still in my opinion, the best dessert there is and the most popular on our menu.

So here is a basic Tres leches recipe made from scratch that will deliver heaven’s sweetness as it was originally intended; without any additional bells and whistles.

Total time – about 9 hr – 45 min. prep time, 25 min cook time and 8 hr inactive (to allow the liquid to soak evenly across the cake)

Yields – a 13 x 9 cake


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  •  10 maraschino cherries (optional for presentation purposes)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter and flour bottom of a 13 x 9 inch  pan.

Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar until light in color and doubled in volume. Stir in milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until firm but not dry. Fold egg whites into yolk mixture. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely

Do not remove cake from pan. With a regular fork, pierce surface of the entire cake. This is how the cake is going to absorb the liquid.

Mix together condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/4 cup of the whipping cream and pour milk misture slowly across the entire cake until completely absorbed.

Whip the remaining whipping cream until it thickens and reaches spreading consistency.

Frost cake with whipped cream and garnish with cherries.

Cover and refrigerate (overnight for best results, trsut me….)

Serve chilled

Note: This cake must be kept refrigerated at all times.

Shortcuts – you can save a lot of time by using boxed cake mix. My suggestion is that you avoid using store branded mix and stay within the popular brands. Also, you can us Cool Whip to frost the cake. Again, skip the store branded one.

Variations – these are some variations I have used in the past with very good feedback from clients.

  • Using french vanilla cake mix
  • Adding almond flavor to the cake mix
  • Adding brandy or cognac liquor flavor to the cake mix
  • Replacing the evaporated milk and heavy cream with coconut milk and coconut cream

My suggestion is that you start with the basic one first and then start experimenting with different flavors. Just remember to stay with the three basic elements of the dessert.

Buen provecho!

For great party tray and dinner packages ideas visit us www.piscolabiscatering.com

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