Experience your Event with a Tasting
If you want to [partially] experience your event before the big day, request a tasting with your caterer. More than just tasting food, tastings allow customers to see the table set up and the food presentation, smell the delicious aromas and enjoy the wait staffs’ service from a guests’ perspective.
Tastings are not always offered by caterers, and if they are, there are usually caveats; some charge a small fee, limit the number of attendees and or request a signed contract. These are reasonable expectations, especially if food, beverage, service and rental selection are important to you and your guests.
Since you’re still reading my blog, I assume that catering is important to your event. Therefore, I’m sharing my experience and notes from my tasting yesterday at Occasions Caterers in NE Washington, DC. My Occasions colleague, Emily Petro, prepared menu options for my client’s memorial celebration at DAR in 2 weeks. Occasions was selected because my client wants a fine dining experience (she has good taste!). The tasting allowed her to taste the food, of course, but also to see what food was described in the proposal, evaluate presentation, change selections, pair wines and sit at a table set for 8 vs 10 people, as well as finalize the linens, china, stemware, flatware and floral selections. Yes, we had a very productive one hour (and tastings usually last much longer)!
So let’s dissect the tasting … to make your tasting just as productive:
Sit at the table. Eight (8) guests at a 5’ round table is comfortable; 10 is cramped. Set the table per the proposed specs (including complete place settings) to truly feel how you guests will enjoy (or not enjoy) their meal.
See what the food looks like. This may sound like a no-brainer but let’s be real; caterers are clever writers. Sometimes, it’s hard to envision the description. For example, we were surprised by one dessert option and decided the best option was a simple chocolate mousse-like dessert, especially after a light but flavorful entrée.
See the food presentation. Again, it’s easy to read a proposal but it’s not until you see the food on the plate, course after course, that you clearly understand the presentation. For the first course, we tasted a Maryland Crab Ravioli; it was absolutely delicious but too big and with too much carrot and fennel sauce. We agreed that two smaller raviolis with a small dollop of sauce were preferred.
Taste food with wine service. I learned something yesterday about wines. It’s the sauce that determines the wine selection. For example, a vinaigrette dressing will pair differently than a cheese sauce. Further, you’ll want a bland wine when eating flavorful food. Long story short, work with the chef and sommelier to determine your wine selection and then sample.
Enjoy the wait service. Wait staff are amazing, especially the ones who have been trained and love the art of hospitality. They help you with your napkin, serve from the left and remove from the right and just do everything with a smile. Anything less is a concern. Wait staff will spend more time with your guests than you will. Therefore, they are your ambassadors. That’s a pretty powerful position. The Occasions staff was superb; they expedited service without rushing us.
See the table decorations. Along the lines of sitting at the table, see the decorations – the linen and centerpiece as well as china, stemware, flatware and votive candles. If you’re not crazy about an item or two, then play around. Emily was so kind to have 2 tables completely set – one for 8 guests and one for 10 guests. Each table had a unique look and then, there were extra samples. So we played … with colors, with flowers, with napkins as flowers and many votives later we decided on a green apple pintuck linen with banded china, thin gold banded stemware, ivory napkin and clear votive (seen in photo above) with a small, tight, European centerpiece. Lovely!
Solidify relationship with caterer. Last but not least, leverage the tasting as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with the catering team. Again, catering is an important element of most events, the wait staff will spend more time with your guests than you will, and most importantly, guests always remember what they ate (or didn’t eat)!
What is your experience with tastings? What would you add? Has this article helped you prepare for your tasting? Please leave me a comment to let me know!