Commonly served dishes at ladies’ luncheons usually include fingers foods for appetizers, light salads, sandwiches or baked and steamed entrées, and very light desserts. Although hostesses sometimes serve wines and spritzers at luncheon, it’s more common to serve teas and flavored coffees.
Historically, the fare for ladies’ luncheons was similar to that at a tea – dainty finger sandwiches made from cream cheese, watercress and cucumbers; perhaps a light chicken or fish dish; and cookies, pastries and other light, fruity desserts such as strawberry shortcake. Although considered somewhat conservative now, such a menu is still appropriate for this kind of event.
More contemporary menus for ladies’ luncheons include bigger, bolder flavors, more color and more protein. In addition to the usual canapés, many luncheon menus include prosciutto and melon, toasted ravioli and roasted asparagus. As a substitute for crackers or a more traditional bread course, for instance, in “The New Ladies’ Lunch,” “Southern Living” recommends serving cheddar biscuits. Soups include chilled gazpachos and creamy tomato bisques, while traditional tossed salads have made way for goat cheese, balsamic vinegars, fennel and other fresh herbs.
Entrées and desserts are both heavier in texture and richer in protein. In addition to tea sandwiches, lighter favorites include skinny chicken salads and seafood pasta salads, while warm dishes include quiches. While shortcake with fruit is still a favorite, expect heavier desserts such as cheesecakes and iced layer cakes.