A few weeks ago my friend Jessica texted me: "My team will be in Columbus! Any idea of some hosts that could host a team of 15 bikers? Our places fell thru! :(" Jessica, you see, is biking across the country, from Seattle to New York City, with an expedition tour company. They are bunking down in schools, churches, and gyms along the way. I couldn't pass up a chance to see her, and to cook for a group of hardcore bikers!
I wanted to share the menu with you, because, as it turned out, the group reminded me of many of the questions we get here at The Kitchn about what to serve a crowd with mixed dietary needs. Here's what we had...
There were about 15 people, and they rolled in in the late afternoon, out of the scorching Midwestern heat, running in front of a late storm. I had been on the phone with their support driver earlier in the week. They had a van and trailer that carried their gear and stored their bikes at night. I was a little apprehensive about space for so many — we certainly didn't have enough beds for them all! But they assured me that they carried bedrolls and sleeping mats, and they were used to much less luxurious surroundings than our living room floor.
I had to think carefully about what to feed them, too, because there was a range of dietary needs. Here's what I was looking at:
- 3 gluten-free
- 2 vegetarian
- 1 severely allergic to dairy
Fortunately for me, the vegetarian and gluten-free eaters didn't overlap! Personally, I find the vegetarian/gluten-free combo the toughest to cook for, although of course there are so many things you can make.I planned for a lot of food, as they had ridden 113 miles that day! Here's how the menu shaped up, with recipes linked where I can.
The overflow table in my office.
- Roasted Chicken Thighs with Garlic & Lemon (gluten-free, dairy-free)
- Gnocchi with Basil Pesto (vegetarian)
- Drop Biscuits with Chives
- Green Salad with Pistachios and Homemade Ranch Dressing (gluten-free)
- Lentil Salad with Zucchini, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Dressing (gluten free - recipe will be in the September issue of Vegetarian Times)
- Fresh Watermelon
For the dairy-free eater I set aside some lentil salad without cheese, and green salad with an olive oil dressing instead of ranch.
And then... we went out for ice cream for dessert. (A nice thing about biking across the country, everyone told me, is that they could eat absolutely anything they wanted every day.)
The whole menu worked well for us, and everyone got plenty to eat. The dinner menu also didn't take terribly long to pull together; I got back from the grocery around 4:30 and we ate at 7:30, with appetizers coming out much earlier. For breakfast, I prepped the scone dough and oatmeal the night before, and made the egg casseroles in the morning.
I know that many people deal with mixed groups of eaters, especially for big summer meals like these, and so I wanted to share the menu as one example of accommodating a pretty varied range of dietary needs.
Headed back out early the next morning.
My friends are now safely on their way to New York City — if you happen to pass a convoy of bikers on the back roads of Pennsylvania this week, be sure to wave!
(Images: Faith Durand)