Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lay off me, I'm starving: Part II

So, we left off with five caterers down, five to go.

Two of the caterers who made it to round two were not on the preferred list at Puritan Mill, and they were both pretty great. However, the more proposals and price quotes we looked at, what had initially seemed like the be all and end all of hip delicious wedding catering turned out to be not much bang for ones buck. Out.

Another caterer had to cancel a tasting we had arranged weeks prior. You know what? They didn't look that great anyway... cross that one off the list. (These things happen for a reason!)

A third caterer was the only one with whom we had prior hands-on party experiences, all of which had been very positive, so we considered them a front-runner. Before my mom left for her Russian adventure, we spent a full hour in the caterer's office talking with the company's co-owner about the formality of the event, what sorts of foods we liked and didn't like, linens, seating and all of that. We left with the assurance that I would have a proposal in the next few days. Mom was leaving the next day, so we tentatively scheduled a tasting about two and a half weeks later.

I suspect that since this caterer knew my mom would be away, she took her sweet time pulling together a complete proposal. I waited, I emailed. Nothing. Finally she responded, saying she was just about to send the proposal... nope. More waiting. At long last, it arrived in my inbox just before midnight of the day we had originally scheduled our tasting (which had in the meantime been postponed).

I was surprised to find that the proposal had little to no bearing on the hour-long meeting we had weeks earlier. I'm quite certain we had indicated we were headed in a generally Southern direction with this menu, and all of a sudden we had spring rolls and chicken satay in the mix.

Strike one: late.
Strike two: random Asian appetizers!
Strike three: this may be petty, but MAN do I hate the font these people use on their menus. You're out.

The last decision came down to the slow-foodie Avalon Catering and Bold American. I had a great meeting with Cathy Conway at Avalon -- we talked for nearly two hours about all sorts of things, some wedding-related, some not, and really enjoyed each other's company. She was nothing but delightful, and her menus looked delicious. Her detailed proposal showed me right away that she puts a lot of thought into what will work for her clients and potential clients. I really liked the focus on local and organic foods as well.

A couple of days later, Jon and I met with Jacqui Carlyle from Bold American at Ecco, one of the Fifth Group restaurants under the B.A. umbrella. Although Jacqui was tied up with her own wedding when I initially contacted her, she assured me she'd be in touch as soon as she returned from her honeymoon, which she did. She made a great first impression! Turns out she and her husband had also retained Jesse & Whitney from Our Labor of Love for their wedding (see ridiculous wedding photos here), and I learned via their Smilebooth photos that we have a handful of friends in common, so we had plenty to talk about in addition to food when we met up. Jacqui ordered a meat & cheese plate for the three of us to share (score) and we got down to business.

I've enjoyed meals at some of the Fifth Group restaurants before, so I knew everything would be delicious. The real selling point for us is that Bold American will bring their own ovens and stoves to wherever your wedding is, set up tents so they can do their thing, and cook everything on site. No prep-kitchen warming up -- everything is prepared for you the day of at your venue. Their pricing was comparable to everything else we had seriously considered, but no other caterer offered on-site preparation.

Ultimately, the decision was pretty easy after that meeting. Bold American had caught the eye of everyone with whom I was analyzing menus, and Jacqui seemed really sharp and fun, so we signed a contract a few days later. It was such a relief to get that big-ticket item out of the way! I'm really looking forward to working with Jacqui, Jesse and Whitney -- from what I can see, they make a pretty kickass team.

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