Sunday, November 9, 2008

Food tasting!

About a month ago, Eric came to visit and we had our tasting with the caterer. At that point, we were pretty sure we were going to hire Chardeau's Classic Catering, because Michelle Pendleton was so great to work with and their prices were very reasonable, but we wanted to taste the food first to make sure. Some caterers I talked to wouldn't do a tasting until after we had signed a contract, and that really rubbed me the wrong way, so I appreciated that Michelle was totally happy to do a tasting for us.

Disclaimer: I only took one picture, at the very end. It's at the bottom of this post. It's not the best food picture in the world, so don't be disappointed once you get down there.

Here's what we tasted:

Appetizers to be passed during cocktail hour on the roof:

  • Eggplant and roasted red pepper bruschetta
  • Potstickers with ginger soy dipping sauce
  • Gorgonzola and caramelized onion crostini
All of them were delicious, although I thought the potsticker sauce was a little thick and sweet, so I am going to ask them to adjust that for us.

We will also have, but did not taste:
  • Vietnamese summer rolls (goi cuon) with nuoc mam (fish sauce) and nuoc leo (peanut sauce) for dipping -- one of my favorite appetizers ever.
  • Grilled chicken satays with chili garlic peanut sauce
  • Possibly a crudite station, but we'll see
Ahead of time, we decided on two different salads:
  • Arugula salad with lemongrass vinaigrette
  • Insalata misto (mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted almonds, gorgonzola cheese) with a balsamic-based vinaigrette
At the tasting, we just tried the salad dressings with a little bit of fresh baby spinach. I ended up not liking either vinaigrette very much. The lemongrass one was very smooth but was missing something that I couldn't pinpoint, and the balsamic-based vinaigrette had WAY too much balsamic vinegar in it. And for me to say that something has too much vinegar... well, that takes a lot. We couldn't really decide what to do about the salads anyway; we are having a buffet dinner, but I like the idea of having a plated salad served at the table to start dinner off. With two salads, the best Michelle could suggest was to simply alternate the salads so every other person would get the same one. I didn't love that idea, but I still didn't like the idea of having the salad on the buffet itself -- you either need another plate, which is awkward to juggle, or you put salad on your dinner plate and leave less room for "real" food, which would annoy me.

So now we're thinking of just one salad, something along the lines of the insalata misto, with one dressing, probably a balsamic vinaigrette, as long as Chip can make it a little less... tart.

For the dinner buffet we will have:
  • Grilled lemongrass chicken
  • Seared tuna topped with a blend of fire-roasted Italian plum tomatoes, olives, capers, and basil
  • Risotto Florentine (spinach)
  • Spicy eggplant, asparagus, and broccoli in ginger sauce
Well, we ended up scratching the veggies in ginger sauce. You see, we had an initial attempt at Asian + Italian (a nod to my heritage and cuisines we love), which works well for a mixture of hors d'oeuvres or two different salads, but the ginger sauce just competed with everything else on the main dinner plate, and on top of that, I didn't like it.

So on the spot, Chip whipped up some extra sauteed veggies in a little olive oil and garlic, and it was scrumptious. Decision made!

The lemongrass chicken was amazingly succulent, moreso than any chicken breast I've ever had. It wasn't an authentic Thai lemongrass chicken, but it used lemongrass in a very subtle way that I appreciated. I actually don't much like the authentic dish, because I always feel it to be too dry and the lemongrass flavor too strong, so this was perfect.

And the tuna... DELICIOUS! It was a huge tuna steak smothered in tomatoes, olives, and capers. It was cooked well done, but we decided as a group that medium would be a good compromise between our personal preferences (medium rare) and the good of the group (well done) for the actual dinner. And while neither Eric nor I likes olives, we decided to be grownups and believe that they serve a purpose in the dish and leave them in. Aren't you proud of our maturity?

The risotto was probably my favorite thing (have I said that a million times already?), and carbs or no carbs, I will be eating a ton of it for dinner on May 24.

What's that? The picture I promised? OK:

I totally forgot to take any pictures while we were at the tasting, but Michelle and Chip sent us home with all of the leftovers, and I finally remembered to take a picture when we opened them back up at home. The tasting was enough for lunch for both of us, and the leftovers were a great snack a few hours later! On the left you can see the new version of the sauteed veggies, and on the main plate are the remains of the tuna (right next to the fork), the chicken (on the right side of the plate), the creamy risotto goodness, and a pile of tomato-olive-caper topping. I know it's not the most appetizing picture, but it honestly looks just as delicious as I remembered and I cannot wait for more!

So that's that; the deposit is put down, we're sending in the contract this week, and one more vendor is crossed off the list!


Blablover5 said...

Congtrats on finding a caterer.