For some upcoming events, Amy and I have had the pleasure to participate in one of the best perks of being an event planner – menu tastings. Not every client has the time or wherewithal to hold a menu tasting for every gala dinner they are planning and we’re no different. Unless a client or committee member requests it, we make recommendations based on hotel and event venue banquet lists and call it a day. But for the discerning palate, a menu tasting can be a great experience – and education.
First, a menu tasting is only available after you’ve booked the venue. The purpose is to find the menu options the venue’s chef does best, with the understanding that cooking for four people is much different than cooking for 400. Full-size samples will be displayed on the table so you can see what the plate will look like day-of and so you can talk about the dish after you’ve finished what’s on your plate.
Here are a few tips to make the most of your event menu tasting:
- Make sure the wine you plan to serve is included in the menu tasting and you try it with each menu option. That cabernet will taste different with the filet vs. the short ribs and their accompaniments.
- Be sure to get feedback from everyone at the menu tasting. The point of having more than two people attend is to reflect the differences of people who will be in the room on the night of the event. More opinions are a good thing, even if it seems the final dish may need to be decided by a duel.
- Keep the masses in mind. That scallop may be buttery-sweet but many people don’t eat seafood, particularly shellfish. If someone in your group is a traditional (aka picky) eater, you’ll be sure not to stray into food options that are too “out there.”
- Ask if the linens on the table in front of you are what will be used for your event. That potato leek soup may look amazing against pin-tuck chiffon but when your budget takes you back to ivory, the white on white could be a deal-breaker.
- Have fun! Whether you are seeing the venue for the first time, sitting at the right hand of the CEO’s wife or escaping the office for two hours just to have to work later that night, enjoy the experience of a fine dining three (or more) course meal!