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Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Feast

We had our tasting/planning meeting with our reception venue tonight. It was so much fun. They were so much better to us than we ever expected them to be.

Driving to the meeting, I was so nervous. I actually felt a little bit sick to my stomach. Ever since our reception coordinator left the country club, we've been dealing with the general manager. My interactions with him, leading up to that point, had left me very worried that things were going to fall apart for our wedding reception. He didn't seem to have much attention to detail, forgot things I would tell him, gave me "attitude" (all caps) in an e-mail, etc. My expectations of him were really low. I was dreading that my suspicions would be proven true at the first meeting--that this guy was really going to suck at this.

When we arrived, there were a lot of cars in the parking lot so we expected it to be crowded. When there aren't weddings in the ballroom, it serves as a restaurant for country club members. When we walked in, however, we learned that we were the only ones in the ballroom. Apparently all the cars were for some member event happening downstairs that evening, so the ballroom was all quiet. We were seated at a six-person table even though it was just the two of us--they said it would be easier to have more room for the tasting. The waitstaff got us drinks and said that the general manager would be with us in a little while.

Prior to the meeting, the manager had asked me to pick out four meals that we wanted to try. I was expecting them to bring us out little sampling portions of stuff. But boy, was I wrong!

First, they brought out the salad course, and hot rolls fresh out of the oven. This was our first surprise; I hadn't expected them to go all out and present everything to us as it would appear on our wedding day. The salad and rolls... delicious.

Next, they brought out the meals. SO. MUCH. FOOD. Every dish was a full meal. We dug right in. I actually wish I had thought to bring a camera, it was all so impressive.

We get three meal choices to offer our guests, in addition to meeting any special dietary requirements (vegetarian, gluten free, etc.). These are the ones we tried:

1) Chicken French. From the beginning of our planning, this had been one of the dishes we expected to definitely end up serving at the wedding. It turned out to be served over pasta, which I was surprised about. All chicken french I've ever had has been served with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Anyway, it was good, but not really my thing. The sauce over the whole thing was supposedly a "lemon sherry" sauce, but it tasted like a butter sauce. And the noodles were pretty much drowning in it. I felt like it was messy (easy to splash the sauce on yourself), and I am not a fan of noodles in butter. But we put the plate aside knowing that it was still a contender.

2) New York Steak Diane. This was a N.Y. strip steak seared, and then simmered with a brandied dijon demiglaze and mushrooms. It was served with potatoes and vegetables. Steak is not my favorite, but I'll eat it in limited amounts. And it has to be cooked right (well done), and lean (fat on meat totally grosses me out).

I tried a couple of bites of this from the outside of the steak. It had good flavor, but was too pink for me. When Michael got further into it, the middle was RED. It was so gross. Michael and I started discussing how steak could be a difficult thing to serve--people like it cooked so differently. I argued (and he agreed) that half of the steak lovers wouldn't even like that steak the way it was served because it was too rare.

Ultimately, when we talked with the manager, he advised against the steak, too... for the same reasons we had already discussed amongst ourselves, and also because he said it doesn't hold up well. At such a big function, they obviously need to prepare much of the food in advance, and he said steak is best when it's right off the grill. So we decided against serving steak.

3) Grilled Honey Mustard Salmon. It was served over wild rice and looked good. But, I can't speak for this one because I don't like fish or seafood. Michael, however, thought it was great. We never planned to serve this one--they didn't have the shrimp or halibut available to make what we really wanted to offer, but we figured Michael may as well try one of the seafood dishes just to get a taste of it.

4) Chicken Marsala. This was also served over pasta. Soooo good. This was a last-minute addition to our tasting menu. At first, I thought we only got to choose three meals to taste, so we were going to do a chicken (chicken french), beef, and seafood. When he told me four, I added the chicken marsala, just because I wanted to be able to try something else (since I don't like seafood and don't really like steak). Well, I am so glad that we were able to try this, because as soon as we tried it, we knew we wanted to offer this to our guests instead of the chicken french. The sauce was so tasty. I don't even like mushrooms (can you tell I'm a picky eater??), but I still eat marsala and just pick around them.

After we were finished eating, the general manager came and sat with us and we discussed many of the details for our reception. I hadn't expected him to ask us so many questions and take so much info down this far in advance, but I was happy he did. It really reassured us--as he was taking notes--that he was going to be able to give us what we originally wanted when we signed the contract with the place. He asked us if we had made menu decisions based on the tastings, and after a little further discussion, we settled on these options for our guests:

1) Chicken Marsala, which is chicken cutlets sauteed in a mushroom marsala wine sauce, served over pasta (This is the one I will be having! Yum!)
2) Spicy Chipotle Grilled Pork Tenderloin, which is served with a pineapple, roasted red pepper, and black bean salsa
3) Alexander Shrimp, which is jumbo shrimp filled with feta cheese and spinach, wrapped with smoked bacon, and baked in shallot butter with white wine. It is served with rice.

For guests who are vegetarians (I'm not aware of any, but who knows), we will serve Ravioli Au Gratin, which is cheese ravioli baked over creamy alfredo sauce and topped with asiago cheese.

Doesn't everything sound so delicious?

I just hope that when the big day comes, we actually have the chance to eat it.

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