“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”
- James Beard
This week we attended a menu tasting at our venue, The Royal Park Hotel, to suss out what we’ll serve at our reception. It also turned out to be an opportunity to get to know the venue coordinator better and clue her into our tastes and overall style. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that we had the entire Conservatory to ourselves for the private tasting, which was great for marking out the space and brainstorming a preliminary room layout!
The tummies in attendance: BM Laura, BM Tanya, Mr. Tartlet, and Miss Tartlet. This was taken prior to the fabulous suggestions from the Hive on how to counteract our glow!
Each of us sat down to a beautiful place setting, complete with a personalized tasting menu:
A blissful sigh escaped my lips at this point, because going into this meeting I had no idea how much we would be sampling. We had requested to taste three appetizers, a salad, and three entrees. As you can gather from the ample text on the menu, the chef gave us so much more. My friends, you’re in for a virtual gastronomical treat (cue a ridonk number of food pictures). We began with the cold hors d’oeuvres:
Left: Brie cheese, shaved radish, and basil aioli all on a toasted baguette
Right: Pancetta, celery root and ricotta stuffed endive
From left to right(ish): Tomato bruschetta with fresh basil and chevre on herb crostini; hoisin Kobe beef-wrapped asparagus tip; roasted artichoke bruschetta with chevre on herb crostini; smoked salmon roulade; smoked whitefish canape; antipasti skewers
Of these cold apps, the tomato bruschetta was a huge hit, as were the beef-wrapped asparagus tips and the antipasti skewers. On to the hot hors d’oeuvres:
From front to back(ish): coconut shrimp with Thai chili sauce; spinach and feta spanakopita; duck Wellington with wild mushrooms; baked brie, apricot, and pecan en croute; chicken satay with cucumber wasabi dipping sauce; crisp vegetarian spring roll with sweet and sour dipping sauce
Left: smoked chicken quesadillas with pineapple cilantro salsa
Right: white cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese spoons
The baked brie received a unanimous vote, even from BM Tanya who dislikes pecans. It really says something that she tried it—and loved it! The classic spanakopita also made the cut. Tentatively we picked 5 favorites to serve to our guests during the cocktail hour. However, we may end up cutting back if our quote is over budget. The dinner proper will get started with the house salad consisting of baby greens, artichokes, cucumber ribbon, grape tomatoes, shaved red onion, and a cherry balsamic vinaigrette (which was by far one of the best dressings I’ve ever tasted):
You can’t forget the assorted rolls, of course. Gotta love bread.
In anticipation of the main course, our guests will be served a sorbet intermezzo:
This scoop is lemon sorbet, and was so refreshing!
We chose to give our guests their choice of three different entrees. Keep in mind that not all caterers include this variety in their reception packages! Our “starting” package only included a choice of one entree, and we have to pay extra for the additional options. Hopefully our guests will appreciate the flexibility!
Beef: an 8 oz bistro steak with baby leek and wild mushroom ragout; accompanied by dauphinois potatoes and hericot verts (these were so, so buttery and delicious)
Fish: sesame salmon served with a soy coriander reduction; accompanied by a shiitake asparagus stir fry and scallion potato puree (Mr. Tartlet liked this, and he’s not a fan of salmon)
Chicken: roasted breast of chicken stuffed with Michigan greens, local caciocavallo cheese, roasted cipollini onions, and an apple demi glace; accompanied by herb roasted fingerling potatoes and broccolini
We were really pleased with the size of the entrees. Our goal is to not only serve tasty food, but also make sure our guests don’t go home hungry, so the generous portion sizes were noted and appreciated. We also sampled four of the house wines, whose subtleties were unfortunately lost on our untrained palettes. If there are any wine connoisseurs out there, we tried a Verdelho, Chardonnay, Malbec, and Cabernet. Any thoughts on those wines and how they pair with the food we selected are most welcome!
Finally (yes, there’s more), they wheeled in a dessert table:
So. much. sugar.
Complete with personalized plates from the pastry chef!
Seriously, this was the most food I’ve ever had at one sitting, and they ended up boxing up most of the desserts on the sweet table for us to bring home. I believe my dinner later that evening consisted of a lemon tart and a couple of cream puffs. Nom om om.
Now that I’m ravenously hungry, I’ll leave you with some tasting tips while I scurry off to raid our fridge:
- This is a personal preference: don’t arrive at your tasting famished. This might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but when I’m extremely hungry, everything tastes amazing (even that two day-old cold pizza straight from the fridge). Taking the edge off my hunger helps me get a clearer perspective on what I actually like.
- Take notes! After a few samples, tastes and flavors can start to get muddled. Right after you take a bite, jot down a couple of words next to the item so you can go back to it when it comes time to review your impressions.
- Pay attention to the presentation. Visual cues are incredibly important when eating, and you want to make sure your food looks good when it comes out. For example, I’m incredibly picky when it comes to my veggies, and I was really pleased with how bright and crisp their vegetables came out.
- Especially with the hors d’oeuvres, consider how easy it will be for your guests to chow down. If you’re having a more formal event and your guests will be dressed to the nines, eating an overly saucy app could spell disaster requiring a rescue squad composed of Tide sticks.
- Think seasonal (and support local!). Food always tastes better if it’s in season, and if you have your menu tasting months in advance, keep an open mind to the ingredients changing for your event.
Be our guest! What would you like to see on your plate at our reception?
- Rochester, MI
- Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
- Wedding Date:
- May 2011
- The Royal Park Hotel