Here is a small, probably obvious rule for cooking for people:
Make normal stuff but make it just slightly fancy.
This is what most people really want.
Here, I took this frozen pizza and added pesto, or olive tapenade, or bacon!
Here’s my normal sourdough with everything bagel seasoning. I’ll serve it with butter that has bacon in it!
Make that macaroni and cheese and serve it in a muffin tin or, you know…add bacon.
(You sense a theme emerging.)
People, or the people I know, do not actually want a lavender shortbread cookie or a vegetable they cannot pronounce in some sort of a reduction, not usually. That might be fun to try sometime, could make them feel cultured. But what people will gobble with slightly embarrassed gusto is a classic with the slightest fancification.
Exception: if you’re trying to spoil someone under the age of, say, ten, then no steps up at all, honestly. Spoil them by serving it as a surprise, maybe, but don’t mess with success. Hummus dyed pink with roasted beets is beautiful, but not actually what a princessy three-year-old wants. It’s cool you’ve got a fancy smoked cheese for the macaroni and cheese but DO NOT DO IT. Trust me.
What are your favorite one step up successes?