I take potlucks very personally.
Whether it's warranted or not, I put a lot of pressure on myself to "win". Maybe not in the potluck's spirit of sharing, but whatever.
What makes a good potluck dish? This is my internal calculus on the matter, told through the lens of our recent office Thanksgiving potluck.
1. Tastiness - Obvious. But not the be-all-end-all. (rookie mistake)
2. Table Appeal - This rainbow fruit salad was for 70 or so people. Your dish has to stand out on a crowded table. Some ways your dish can pop: color, height, an "action" (like flambé or a table-side activation like tossing or assembling).
3. Personality - Do potlucks normally have labels? I don't think so. Likely not in the spirit of sharing and collaboration? Anyway, to win the potluck the dish should be unequivocally you. If you eat healthy and clean, you should prepare something healthy and clean. If you wear dark colors, you should make something dark. Part of the fun of a potluck is guessing who made what, and this gives your dish something to remember and latch onto.
4. Comparison & Past History - What is everyone else bringing? Survey the field and know what you're getting into. I gambled that people who would be sick of pies, so made a refreshing fruit salad to counterbalance. I also knew last year's most popular Thanksgiving dishes were on the lighter side: kale salad, roasted cauliflower with buttered bread crumbs, green bean casserole.
So, did I win Thanksgiving potluck? Not sure. I got really worked up about before and after the dinner. But during? I just enjoyed myself.
Shown above: Kiwi, pear, orange, papaya, grapefruit, pomegranate in a light ginger lime syrup.