How to be the Martha Stewart of Every Potluck and Support Local Businesses

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Thursday, November 19, 2015, 7:00 am
Ann Nichols

Sometimes it’s delightful to get an invitation that says “bring a dish to pass.” It’s delightful if you like to cook and you’re confident that you can make something other people will willingly eat. It’s delightful when you have lots of time to shop for ingredients, putter in the kitchen, and create something delicious for the family Thanksgiving or a neighborhood holiday gathering.

Even if you are love to cook, though, the whole thing becomes significantly less delightful if you are busy with work, holiday shopping, finals, concerts at school, programs at your place of worship, and everything else that falls on our heads at this time of the year.

All of which is to say that I am not judging you if you have “made” a dish to pass by running to the grocery store for several plastic bags of salad, frozen mashed potatoes, or a pie-in-a-box. You’re only human. But consider options that are just as convenient, taste infinitely better, and support local businesses.

Woody’s Oasis will make catering trays of cheese pies, kibbee balls, or hummus and pita bread to take as an appetizer, Hashwi and cabbage rolls as a main dish, or Lebanese Rice as a side dish. If you’re a vegetarian, you can pick up some mujadara and guarantee yourself some quality protein if you’re skipping the turkey. Even if you’re attending a fairly traditional sit-down holiday meal, you’re safe with a bowl of Greek or Chickpea-Feta salad.

For a more eclectic potluck, look to any of the local sushi restaurants to make up a tray of rolls for you. Some (such as Sansu) specifically offer catering, but it’s likely that any local favorite sushi place will work with you to come up with the right kind and quantity of rolls if you contact them during a relatively quiet time (by which I mean not during the dinner or lunch rush).

Another choice that says “East Lansing” is El Azteco, which offers a catering menu with online ordering. You can choose an appetizer like guacamole and chips, or something heartier like a tray of tacos or enchiladas. And yes, you can order a tray of Topopo Salad.

Lou & Harry’s also offers an array of catering options including salads, side dishes, main dishes, and desserts. Their catering menu includes items that would be at home on the most conventional holiday table, including baby potatoes, corn, green beans, and macaroni and cheese.

For dessert, A Piece O’ Cake bakes a variety of cupcakes, including red velvet and salted caramel, as well as several cakes designed for Christmas, a Thanksgiving turkey-shaped cake, and two cakes featuring snowmen. If you need your desserts gluten-, nut-, or allergen-free (or vegan), you can order pies, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, tarts, cake pops and more from Sweet Encounter.

If you’re asked to bring something spirited to drink, Tom’s Party Store is an East Lansing tradition. (This reporter was going to Tom’s to buy soda and gum in 1972.) Located at 2778 E. Grand River Avenue, Tom’s isn’t the kind of place that has a website, but it is the kind of place that has a serious variety of beer, wine, and hard liquor as well as staff that can help you make a wise choice.

Oh, and if you decide to put some Lebanese Rice from Woody’s in your own casserole dish, pile your biggest serving bowl full of Lou & Harry’s potatoes, or transfer the Sweet Lorraine’s Four-Cheese Mac into an unmarked foil pan to take over the river and through the woods?

We’ll never tell.

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