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Birthday dinner: pizza, paella, or malaysian

My birthday dinner is coming up, and I'm having 12 people over, give or take. I want the dinner to be elegant and organized around a theme, but also inventive enough that the menu feels creative and not predictable. It's also important to me that it's visually striking, with particular focal points.

Last year I did:
Lemon thyme lemonade
Kale Caesar with crispy chickpeas
Ratatouille arranged in a spiral
Roast chicken
Fresh pasta with clams, chorizo, white wine
Homemade ice cream sandwiches

This year I'm trying to decide between Malaysian, organized around pineapple fried rice served in a pineapple; Italian organized around pizza done on the barbecue and arancini; paella and tapas; or Mexican with homemade tortillas and carnitas for tacos and different homemade salsas.

Any thoughts or ideas for sides and menu planning?

Many thanks!

asked by Imogen 2 months ago
2 answers 252 views
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Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 2 months ago

IMHO, the Mexican meal you outlined sounds most coherent. Add margaritas to start, beer with the meal, flan for dessert.
For Italian, pizza and arancini sounds too heavy on starch. Choose one or the other as your centerpiece, add proteins and greens to round out the meal. Maybe have individual-sized pizza doughs and toppings ready, then let people build their own. Finish with something chocolate or lemon.
For a Spanish meal, do paella (very big and dramatic) or tapas. If tapas, that makes a lovely casual meal for long easy chatting. Serve a wide range (seafood, cured meats, beans, vegetables) and a selection of different style sherries.
Don't know enough about Malaysian food to suggest a menu.
Whatever direction, happy birthday and have a wonderful time!

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added 2 months ago

If you want to make a paella it always looks dramatic and tapas can be as simple as ham, cheese, and olives to nibble on while the paella is cooking. Red or white Spanish wine depending on your paella ingredients. Serve with green salad and bread. Fresh fruit and/or one of many desserts. You can make it as complicated or simple as you like.

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