all Arts in Taos means lots of receptions, big and small. Usually, too, it means many different people preparing and serving foods for the receptions later in the day or evening. A few reminders here will keep hands and foods as clean as possible when volunteers, typically nonprofessional food servers, prep and serve hors d’oeuvres to reception masses.
Do buffet or butler
The more formal way to serve food at a reception is butler service, which means passing food on trays. Clean trays are a must. A quick wipe of soda water cleans spills. Stabilize passed hors d’oeuvres and dipping sauces with a thin citrus slice under the sauce cup, or use rock salt, sesame seeds or dried beans as a bed to nest the hors d’oeuvres plates.
Easier and more the norm in Taos is setting up food buffet-style. Guests help themselves, which is optimal, as long as they observe food-handling safety rules (see Glove-love below).
A round central table as the one-and-only food station is best for tight spaces. Where there’s plenty of space, spread food out on smaller tables, preferably within easy reach of the kitchen.
If you have some pricier items, you can keep costs down by combining services, presenting most of your food buffet-style and passing the pricier items. Passing hot foods is a great way to keep hot foods hot (see temperatures below).
That hilarious “Seinfeld” episode where gorging George contaminates a whole bowl of dip is a keeper (hard to ever get it out of your mind anyway). Tests done on chips dipped, bitten and then dipped again, show unequivocally that the bitten-dipped-again items do indeed leave bacteria in the dip, and the little buggers just multiply on and on and on.
If you see double-dipping, tell the host or hostess. Throw out the contaminated dip and create a “spooned” dip station. Just safer that way (but no way as funny as “Seinfeld”).
Glove-love: Don’t barehand it
State law prohibits barehand contact with ready-to-eat foods. So, preparing a tray with lots of sushi or stuffed parchment squares, cold cuts, crackers and cheese, prepped fruit or veggies (i.e. sliced, chopped etc.) and the like, need gloved hands or utensils to prep the serving trays.
Use spoons, forks, tongs, spatulas, or serving paper on any food that will not be thoroughly cooked or reheated after it is prepared. And that also means when prepping or selecting prepped food, place it on a plate or napkin. Anything that has touched skin or saliva (fingers, napkins, plates, utensils) gets washed or goes into the recycle or wash bin.
Do wash – often
On the subject of food servers, washing before and during food service is mandatory. If a glove rips or tears, or if the server’s glove touches bare skin, change gloves, washing again if skin-to-skin contact has occurred.
Good hand-washing means rubbing lathered hands and forearms for 20 seconds or more and rinsing with clean water. Wash before starting work; before putting on single-service gloves; after touching raw, fresh or frozen beef, poultry, fish or other meat; after mopping, sweeping, removing garbage or using the telephone; after using the bathroom; after smoking, eating, sneezing or drinking; after touching anything that might result in contamination of hands.
Do mind temperatures
Keep hot foods hot (140 degrees F or above) and cold foods cold (40 degrees F or below). Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them often.
Never leave meat, poultry, eggs, fish or shellfish (raw or cooked) at room temperature for more than two hours. If it’s 90 degree Fahrenheit or above outside, refrigerate within one hour. Chill or discard leftovers. Do not reheat food that is contaminated. Reheating does not make it safe.
If you are not sure how long a food has been in the refrigerator, throw it out. If you are not sure if food is safe, throw it out. Throw out foods left unrefrigerated for two hours or more.
But be sure to have fun and come out to all the receptions, support the artists and enjoy Fall Arts, every single bite of it.
For more information and to stay up-to-date on food safety, see foodsafety.gov.