Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Camp -- Post-camp Menu Evaluation

Four large cucumbers, sliced on a mandoline, fit into a 2-inch, half-sized hotel pan.

With camp over, I still have a few post-camp tasks to get done before I set it aside for the better part of eight or nine months. In the week following camp, I like to evaluate the menu, review purchases and analyze the end-of-camp inventory while my memory of camp is fresh.

In past years I've focused my attention on lunch and dinner entrees and the Thursday night banquet. Most campers have accepted these meals. I don't think there's really an issue of running the same meals year after year.

This year I need to focus my attention on the salad bar. I've been unhappy with my reliance on tomatoes and cucumbers for a couple years.

Tomatoes will remain popular. The Northern California FC Camp is always scheduled when the tomato crop is in full "bloom." Camp staff savor tomatoes marinated in an olive oil based vinaigrette with a chiffonade of basil. Tacos, salsa and hamburgers are also well complimented by fresh tomatoes.

So I plan to serve tomatoes on the salad bar in some form each day, even though consumption varies from year to year. This year we only used two and one-half flats (2 layers packed 5 by 6 each). We've used up to five flats in years past.

Cucumbers, more than any other produce item, tends to be inventory driven. Each year I've purchased one flat of 36 large cukes. To exhaust a seemingly endless supply, I push cucumbers on the salad bar each lunch and dinner. The two cucumber salads that were moderately popular were traditional cucumber and onion and a cucumber and tomato salad with a creamy Italian dressing. But four cucumbers will last two or three meals.

Next year, I plan to reduce my purchase of cucumbers to a dozen and run a cucumber salad twice during the week, not daily.

My current task is to get out of this salad rut and locate a few kid friendly salad ideas. Until now, many of our salads were placed on the menu to please the adult staff. Traditional salads like cole slaw, potato and macaroni salads work well in the camp setting. My task now is to menu several kid pleasers, while satisfying the tastes of the adults.

More to come in the weeks ahead...

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