Posts Tagged ‘entertaining’

Catering For a Crowd

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Having a party, function or friends over? Cooking for a crowd can be very stressful and can even take the fun out of entertaining. It is important to have nice foods that fit the occasion but your personal enjoyment is also important. To ensure you don’t spend the entire duration of the event in the kitchen, here are some tips and ideas on catering for a crowd.

It goes without saying, if you are cooking for a crowd of people your menu should be as simple as possible. Choosing a simple menu with simple recipes goes a long way in reducing your stress levels and allowing things to run smoothly.

Finger Food

Finger foods are ideal for the start of an event. They allow guests to mingle and get settled whilst having something to snack on. They also take the edge off of guests hunger, so that they are not waiting for the main course to be served. They can be used as food for an entire evening if there is no main course planned. Finger foods come in many forms and it is important to choose the right type of food for the occasion. Ideas such as chicken kebabs, sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, chips (either cooked or crisps) and veggies such as carrot or celery sticks with dips, are all wonderful finger food.

Antipasto Platters

Another great idea for catering for a crowd would be to serve an antipasto platter as an appetiser. These platters are great because they are a light hearted casual meal for your guests to nibble on while mingling and settling in to the event. The mixture of meats, cheeses and vegetables are a light food with subtle yet delicious taste as to not interrupt the flavour of the main course.

Main courses

When it comes to the main course, as the host, it is easy to become caught up in the production of the meal and results in you missing out on your own party. To avoid this but still serve excellent food, follow these simple rules:

  • Choose recipes with minimal preparation time
  • Include dishes that can be made in advance and frozen
  • Focus on favourites such as chicken, pasta, potatoes and green beans
  • Choose foods that can be reheated and/or held at temperature while still retaining taste, texture and visual appeal.

Meals such as curries are great for entertaining a number of people, as they can be cooked in advance and frozen, or even slow cooked to avoid a frantic rush when your guests start arriving. Curries are versatile and come in many different flavours to suit all pallets. Served with rice (which is also easy to make large quantities of) and a choice of salads and condiments which compliment the meal.

Another Idea would be to serve a baked meal. Foods such as pies and bakes are delicious and can be prepared before the event begins. It is also easy to make large quantities of the meal as they can all be cooked at the same time in separate dishes.  While you are welcoming your guests and enjoying the start of the party, simply put the dish in the oven and let it cook by itself.

The best advice for catering for a crowd is to enjoy it, by serving simple, yet elegant meals. It is also always acceptable to ask your friends to bring a simple salad or desert with them to take some of the stress off of your shoulders!


Easter Entertaining Ideas

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Easter is upon us yet again which gives us another opportunity to host a get together with family and friends over the long weekend. Much like Christmas, the thought of Easter Entertaining can be frightening. Let Simon’s take the pressure off you, read on for our Easter Entertaining Ideas.

Planning ahead is the best way to get on top of your Easter entertaining. A great starting point is to get out a pen and paper then read through this post, making a list of ideas of what you’d like on your Easter menu to include and also what you don’t want to do. For example, why not skip lunch and have a brunch instead. You can begin cooking the day before the event and still have the morning of, for preparation, leaving the afternoon free for relaxation. If lunch is more your thing, why not make it a late laid back BBQ.

Good Friday is the one day of the year where seafood is a must-have, with even many non -religious people, preferring not to eat red meat and settling on seafood instead. Who can blame you? There is nothing better than salt and pepper squid, creamy garlic prawns or crispy skin salmon! Having seafood does require some planning though as a majority of stores are closed Good Friday. Be sure to check out Simon’s range of Seafood, such as Noosa Seafood, Harris Smokehouse Salmon and Segreti’s Seafood Antipasto range.

Easter is well known for it’s sweet treats. Easter eggs, chocolate bilbies and hot cross buns, what more could the kiddies ask for?! Simon’s has an amazing Easter egg display, be sure to check in when you are next in store as the display begins early and is best-in-best-egg!

Easter Sunday is fast becoming the traditional family feast over roast lamb. Why not give this Easter Sunday a twist, try BBQ grilled lamb chops or slow cooked lamb shanks. Which then brings us to Easter sides! Yummy lemon roasted potatoes, garlic rosemary sweet potatoes or dutch carrots marinated in honey, there is a endless amount of ideas for salads or vegetables for side dishes this Easter.

We hope we have taken some pressure off you and helped you begin your Easter Entertaining Ideas.

Click here for our Roast Lamb recipe.

Click here for more information on our Noosa Seafood range.

Wild Hibiscus Flowers in my champagne, please

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Host a cocktail party with drinks that’ll keep your guests talking about for weeks!

Place a wild hibiscus in a champagne flute or wine glass, add about a tablespoon of the rose syrup from the jar, top off with your favourite sparkling wine or champagne. For a sweeter and more blushed drink, simply add more rose syrup from the Wild Hibiscus jar.


The Wild Hibiscus can be added to desserts and non-alcoholic drinks–lemonade would be ideal as the bubbles in the drink simply add a magic touch to the flowers. Imagine the bubbles slowly fizzing from the hibiscus and gently floating to the top…presenting an elegant mini fireworks display erupting in slow motion in your champagne flute…your guests will be mesmerized!

Spring Entertaining Ideas

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Here’s one of our favourite spring entertaining ideas to get you in the mood for spring: Simon’s (edible) Echidna!

We made two combinations of pinchos (pintxo) for the echidnas’ ‘spikes’:

The first: sundried tomato, half a feta olive and a cube of cheddar (pictured below)

The second: pepperbells stuffed with smoked salmon, a cube of cheddar and a silver of watermelon (pictured below) — the watermelon brings sweetness and moisture to the combination.

We  took about 15 – 20 minutes to put together the echidnas. The platter cost about $15 – $20. Get creative and entertain effortlessly this spring at an affordable cost.

p.s. Once your guests are done picking away, simply take the fruit stand (the pineapple halves) back to the kitchen, slice them up, and serve as a palette cleanser.


The Vintage Gold Cheddar is a 42-month-old cheddar with a very sharp taste and is locally produced by King Island Dairy. Cheddar is simple to present as it holds its shape when cut. The Vintage Gold Cheddar is great in sandwiches. With matured cheddar, our Delicatessen Manager advises to indulge and enjoy the cheddar by itself, having it with fruits or antipastos that complement its distinct flavour.

If you have any other spring entertaining ideas that you’d like to share, tell us on our Facebook page–we’d love to hear from you!


Simon’s Gourmet Gallery Celebrates Ten Years at Chapel Hill

Thursday, June 21st, 2012


Yes—it has been ten years since Simon’s first opened in Chapel Hill as some customers had playfully insisted otherwiseWe celebrated our 10th birthday on the 16th of June in fashion of our passion for food, having an open day of taste tests, bringing in boutique and family-owned food merchants, to add a touch of gourmet into everyone’s Saturday.

Thankfully, the weather was on our side–as it was cloudy and rainy the Saturday before. We started off the day with a fresh fruit platter followed up by biscuits from Mamma Marilena’s kitchen.


Mamma was popular with the crowd with her sweet demeanour and display of enthusiasm for her products. Mamma Marilena herself was in store to generously offer everyone a taste of her biscuits, macaroons and nut bread. She proudly exclaimed her nut bread won Best Bakery Product at Fine Foods Australia 2009. Well done, Mamma!

Over at the deli section, we had a nibble at Brubecks Boutique Foods homemade, preservative-free dips, which got everyone picking at the basil & parmesan, whipped feta & beet and roast vegetable dips—yum!

The butchers added to the festive feast with their favourite party finger food—Italian meatballs, sausage rolls, classic meatballs and sausages—all prepped by the butchers and cooked on the spot but our amazing kitchen crew.

Just as we thought we were about to go into a food coma, Carina, co-founder of Lick ice-cream set up her gourmet Dry Roasted Cinammon ice-cream, a flavour especially created for the cool season, up for a taste test. Some say that Lick’s ice-cream should just lose the ‘ice’ and be called ‘cream’ instead due to its smooth, creamy texture. Here’s a little trivia for you, chatting with Carina on the day, we found out that she started the business with her brother, who is a qualified chef. They even create customised flavours for restaurants to match their menus—how cool is that!


Not to be left behind, the deli put up a beautiful party platter to amp up the festivity. Smoked Dutch beef, ham, prosciutto, three-milk cheese, which was a hit with cheese lovers—a cheese made of goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and cow’s milk), camembert, double smoked chicken, chorizo and plenty more…We spotted a few people coming back for thirds!

Steve from Pukara Estate of the Hunter Valley treated customers to a gourmet selection of flavoured oils and balsamic vinegars—think fig infused balsamic, lemon infused olive oil—with traditional dukkah and Turkish bread.


Just at the entrance/exit of the café, for those people who thought they made it out of the food taste tests maze, there was Debbie from OMG It’s Gluten Free, a family-owned business, who put up pistachio, chocolate and berry cakes up for tasting—and they tasted absolutely divine…you wouldn’t even be able to tell that there wasn’t any gluten in them.

The taste tests open day came to an end at 4pm, with the ballot box full of entries for the *$500 shopping spree at Simon’s. It was a big day for all of us at Simon’s—filled with food and nostalgia. Here’s to another 10 years of building memories together!


Special mention:

Halfway into the day, we had a pleasant surprise…Glenn, owner of Simon’s, pointed out that our first ever customer, Ann Holt, who walked through the doors ten years ago was in store! Intrigued and excited, we rushed up to Ann for a chat.

Picture: Glenn Brown and Ann Holt

We asked Ann what brings her back to Simon’s throughout the years.Her reply:

Oh, the customer service definitely…I get all my gourmet speciality products here…Simon’s has gone from strength to strength…so they must be doing something right all these years.”

We were over the moon to hear such kind and encouraging words. Thanks, Ann! What a privilege it was to meet you on the day.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers—whether you have been shopping with us since day one, or newly acquainted over the weekend—from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all your support.

Congratulations to Simon’s Gourmet Gallery customer, Chris Byrne. Her name was randomly chosen from 100s of customers who participated in our lucky draw on our birthday open day. Chris won a $500 shopping spree at Simon’s Gourmet Gallery.

Thank you to everyone who participated on the day! Stay on top of future competitions and specials by following us on our Simon’s Gourmet Gallery Facebook page.



Party Essentials: How to Entertain with an Easy and Cost-effective Gourmet Cheese Platter

Friday, June 15th, 2012

There’s only one thing we love more than good food—good company. As much as we love creating in the kitchen, we love watching the expressions of our guests as they tuck into the food and, of course, compliments are thanked with more food!


In this blog post, we’ll show you how to entertain the gourmet, fuss-free, and cost-effective way with a cost-effective cheese platter…shining the spotlight on Pastore Sardo Pecorino—a cheese made from sheep’s milk. Pecore is Italian for sheep.

Pecorino sheep's cheese

The Pastore Sardo Pecorino comes from the Sardinian region in Italy, hence the name of the cheese. This particular cheese is a semi-hard cheese.

In general, a cheese platter should have three main cheeses:

  • a soft cheese—camembert or brie
  • a cheddar
  • a goat’s or sheep’s cheese for guests who have an intolerance for cow’s milk

In this cheese platter, we used a soft cheese, Simon’s Select vintage cheddar and the Pastore Sardo Pecorino. We added some muscatels, Hungarian salami, South Cape Water Wheels Crispbread, fresh strawberries and salad to bring colour to the plate and to complement the cheeses.

The total cost to make this cheese platter was about $25. The platter serves approximately five people. Prep time was less than 10 minutes. Our Deli Manager’s time saver tip: try to visualize the platter before platting up.

Here are a few combinations to try with the flavours and colours on the platter:

Crispbread/water cracker topped with a generous slice of strawberry and a cube of Simon’s Select vintage cheddar







Crispbread topped with camembert and salad leaves





Open hot Hungarian salami with salad, camembert and muscatel


We call this a baby in a blanket–cute, no? Same ingredients as the open Hungarian salami with soft cheese, salad and muscatel–folded and held together with a toothpick. A great idea for a cocktail platter. 


Top tips:

  • Three basic cheeses–a soft cheese (brie or camembert), cheddar and goat’s or sheep’s cheese
  • Serve cheeses at room temperature to get their full flavour
  • Don’t be afraid to play with your food and experiment! You’ll be surprised how certain unusual combinations may sound ‘odd’ at first, but you’ll be glad you gave it a go!
  • Lastly, have fun and enjoy with good company–be it your friends, family, or your favourite bottle of wine.


We hope we’ve inspired you and added some gourmet to your day! Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more tips and inspiration. All the ingredients featured in this post can be found in our Chapel Hill gourmet food store in the deli and fruit & vegetable section.

Melbourne Cup Cheese Platter Tips

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Melbourne Cup — a time to be merry and extra jolly on a weekday, and we can’t complain — fancy hats, tasty nibbles, some bubbly, and an extravagant meat and cheese platter ought to get us in Brisbane into the spirit of things! For Melbourne Cup this week, we’re sharing some crash course tips on serving up an amazing cheese platter to answer questions that we’re frequently asked in our Chapel Hill store — what to serve with cheese, and how to serve cheese?


Melboune Cup cheese platter tips: preparation 

Remove cheese from fridge 30 minutes before serving. Cover cheese loosely with a damp towel or plastic wrap until serving time. For whole wheels or large wedges of cheese, just cut how much you think you’ll need and put the rest back into the fridge. In general, allow 30 grams per cheese per person, but no more than a total of 120 grams per person — the more types of cheeses you serve, the smaller the portion each person should get.

Serve cheese with accompaniments on the side, do not let them touch the cheese to avoid mixing the flavours. Cheese is best served on a large platter to give your guests more room to manoeuvre  around the cutting board.


At the party, you can’t go wrong with these classic cheese companions

Fruit — pear, green apple, grapes, apricots (fresh, dried or glace), figs (fresh, dried or glace), dates, dried muscatel grapes, quince, fig, pear or plum pastes (we have a lovely range of Maggie Beer pastes at Simons to match your taste!)

Bread — crusty bread, sourdough, almond bread, fruit bread, and olive bread

Nuts — walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashew, and smoked almonds

Pickles  —  Gherkins / cornichons, and pickled onions

Scented honey or truffle honey

Try a combo and layer the ingredients mentioned above. A slice of cheese on a pear slice, topped with some fig paste!

And if you’re out of cheese ideas, check out our award-winning cheese range at Simon’s Gourmet Gallery in Chapel Hill for some inspiration. To find out more neat tips and recipes on cheese, check out Naomi Crisante’s ‘Cheese Matters exploring, cooking and enjoying cheese’ cook book at Simon’s Gourmet Gallery.