The rule of thumb in large event planning has always been that men prefer beef, women prefer salmon, and Italian is the preferred ethnic dish for both groups. It took all the guesswork out of whether or not you should serve duck or venison at a dinner event of more than 20 people. Don't.
Today I had a conversation with a catering manager who told me that the rule of thumb needs revising. She said she's willing to speculate that Asian and Indian dishes have now surpassed Italian as the preferred ethnic dish. "More and more, people are asking for things like samosas and pork dumplings," she said. I know that I am one of those people. I fell in love with Indian food while planning a Hindu/Jewish wedding two years ago, and I have added some element of Asian and/or Indian food to almost every event I've done since.
However, I now want to add my own speculation for the hottest food trend of 2008: VEGETARIAN! At least I plan to make it one. This past holiday season, I planned a party where the menu was all vegetarian. It was a cocktail reception with stations of vegetarian (including seafood), lacto-ovo vegetarian and vegan food. Who knew vegan food could be so tasty? who knew a vegetarian based menu could be so frustratingly expensive? Still, for the great big hugs I got from the vegetarians at the end of the night, I think I'll do it again.
Okay, so here's my revised version of the rule of thumb: men still prefer beef, women prefer vegetarian, and Asian and Indian are the preferred ethnic dishes for both groups.