Caterers


Last night, D. and I met with Nicole from Events of Excellence to finalize the last few details. We picked out linens, china, and flatware.

This linen is called Tatsu Dragon Celadon. The caterer showed us the reverse of this fabric as the right side, and we liked it. The background will be celadon, and the dragon and swirl details will be in gold. All of our guest tables will be covered with this linen. We’re pairing ivory cloth napkins with these linens. The food tables will be covered in a solid celadon linens with either ivory or gold accents.

This linen is for our cake table. We figured with the blue “Such Great Heights” themed cake we should have a blue, whimsical tablecloth to match.

We decided on the square plates instead of standard rounds. For some reason, the square plates work better with the asian fusion theme. Plus, they were only 5 cents more per plate.

We decided on the Torino flatware because the squared handles pair well with the square plates and remind us of chopsticks.

But the best news of all? Nicole will most likely be there at the setup and the beginning of the reception to supervise. Yay! She’s great.

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I don’t want to do this anymore. This whole bridal industrial complex driven process is overwhelming, and the results are underwhelming. If I survive this, you better believe I’m going to post all my negative experiences with vendors here and any where else I can review vendors.  I’m calling you out. There is no reason to be condescending. There is no reason to take advantage of your customers just because the event is a “wedding.”

Vendors, you’d ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Nope, I’m very much alive. Unfortunately, I’ve been very very busy and stressed for the last several weeks, so wedding planning was placed on the back burner.

Last week, D. and I went back to Amphora Catering for our second tasting. After our first tasting, we wanted to tweak the menu a bit and try different flavors. I expressed all of my concerns and ideas to Jade via email, and after a few weeks of no response, I called Amphora to speak with her. The reason why I hadn’t heard from her was because she left the company to go back to school. It’s admirable to pursue higher learning, but jeez, an email or a courtesy phone call to tell who my new event coordinator will be would have been nice.

Anyways, I was a bit leery after that snafu, but all my fears were allayed by the great service and food at the second tasting.

I brought the camera with the intention of taking pictures, but I was so focused on the food that I forgot to take pictures until halfway through the tasting.

Chicken Skewer and Grilled Vegetables

As you can see, I decimated the Pineapple Chicken Skewer once again. It wasn’t as flavorful and juicy as the Pineapple Skewers from the first tasting, but I still liked it. Also in this picture are the grilled vegetables. D. and I weren’t pleased with our vegetable option at our first tasting, so the chef at Amphora prepared three different options for this tasting: grilled vegetables with zucchini, squash, and roasted red peppers; traditional steamed vegetables with carrots, broccoli, and turnips; and something we’re calling Asian vegetable slaw (pictured below).

Asian vegetable slaw

The marinated Asian vegetable slaw, I believe, is comprised of red cabbage, carrots, and zucchini. It was delicious.

Chimichurri steak

This is Amphora’s take on a flank steak with chimichurri sauce. It tasted good, much better than the Asian flank steak from the previous tasting. Unfortunately, I despise onions, and this chimichurri sauce seems onion heavy.

Rice salad

The chef wanted to give a rice salad another go. I still wasn’t a fan. It looked really pretty with the blackberries, strawberries, and mango, but I didn’t like the texture or flavor.

Jicama Salad - Southwestern

We sent Amphora a jicama salad recipe to reproduce, and the chef came up with the above southwestern version and the fruit version below. D. and I preferred the southwestern version. The only adjustment would be to eliminate the red onion from the black bean/corn relish.

Jicama - Fruit

The fruit version wasn’t bad; it was different. I’m not a fan of the cilantro and scallions.

Balsamic pasta salad.

Not only did the chef prepare this balsamic vinaigrette version of the pasta salad, he also made a sherry vinaigrette version (not pictured). I still prefer the first version of this pasta salad from the first tasting, but I’m afraid it doesn’t go with the other food we’ve picked.

After tasting all this food, Bobby, the head of catering, came out to brainstorm menu ideas with us. He was great. We really want to figure out a way to serve duck in some form at the reception, but we don’t know how. He said he was going to toy around with some ideas and get back with me. Of course, all the brainstorming led to D. and I rethinking the entire menu. I need to discuss this with Bobby, but we’re now pondering a mini surf and turf entree with angus beef sliders and some kind of grilled fish. Craziness. Hopefully, we’ll have our menu nailed down sometime this year.

(BTW, if you’re in D.C. and desire amazing sliders, forget Silver Diner, go to Matchbox. Trust me.)

I was so excited yesterday for this tasting. The afternoon felt like it was just dragging along because it *knew* that there was someplace I wanted to be in the evening. Finally, it was 5:15 pm, and we could leave work to head out to the caterer. We arrived on time, but we were a little confused as to which house was the catering building. (You see, Amphora has a bakery in a small strip mall, a free standing restaurant next door, and a house behind the restaurant out of which the catering business operates. )

I was a little nervous standing at the door with cake books and Battlestar Galactica action figures in hand. I’m standing there thinking, “She’s going to think we’re total dorks.” Jade, our event designer, answered the door, and I was relieved. She was young, personable, and appeared to be pretty hip. Yay!

We walked through the foyer of the house into a dining room with a sweetheart table set up just for us. (Yes, I know it wasn’t “just” for us. Other tasting couples get the same treatment, but I appreciated the fact that we weren’t tasting in a kitchen or in a busy restaurant.)

Ok, on with the stuff you really care about: the Food.

First plate: Bow Tie Pasta Salad with asparagus, fresh mozzarella and basil
Bow Tie Pasta Salad
This was very good. However, for this tasting they used a mayonnaise/mustard/possibly horseradish based dressing, which was tasty, but I believe it would be too heavy for an outdoor June wedding. I was expecting their vinaigrette version. The chef came out and explained that they can adjust any of the dishes to better suit our palates, so please feel free to express likes and dislikes for each dish.

Second and Third plates: Char Grilled Spanish Style Skewers featuring marinated and grilled chicken, turkey sausage, and shrimp AND Pineapple Chicken Skewers (not pictured)
Spanish skewers
These skewers were good and light. The turkey sausage had more flavor than I expected. (My skewers don’t have shrimp because I don’t eat shellfish.) However, in my opinion, these skewers couldn’t hold a candle to the Pineapple Chicken Skewers, which I forgot to take a picture of. Unfortunately, some of the chicken on D.’s Pineapple Chicken Skewers were underdone (as in pink and squishy), so it put him off a bit of the Pineapple Chicken Skewers. 😦

Fourth plate: Wild Rice & Currant Salad
Wild Rice Salad
Isn’t it pretty? It looks like it’s going to taste good, right? Unfortunately, it didn’t. The Wild Rice Salad didn’t taste bad; it had no distinguishable flavor. D. came to the same conclusion as well. There were chickpeas, zucchini, and peppers, and what are supposed to be currants. (D. and I believe those are just yellow raisins.) I was anticipating an earthy, but sweet flavor.  The chef offered a suggestion of maybe swapping out some of the vegetables for some fruits like kiwi and strawberries and adding a touch of honey to make it lighter and sweeter. That’s an interesting thought, but I think having two starch based salads and no green salad is a bit much. I think we may opt for some fun Asian vegetable salad instead… ooh, maybe a fruit and jicama salad… that would be tasty.

Fifth plate: Herb Marinated Flank Steak and Roasted Seasonal Vegetables (not pictured)
This ended up being their Asian Marinated Flank Steak. I wish I took a picture of this. The flank steak was great. The only change we’d want for the flank steak is to cut back on the cilantro. However, the roasted vegetables were not pleasant at all. The vegetables had this “I was overcooked and over-seasoned earlier in the day” wilted look. They weren’t pleasing to the eye and unappetizing to me. I’m a big fan of steamed, crisp, just barely cooked, vegetables. Also, since we’re going with more of an Asian inspired BBQ, we may want a mixture of Asian vegetables served instead. (Jade packed up a to-go box full of extra flank steak for us to take home. Guess what I’m going to have when I’m done typing this.)

Cake Tasting:
Days before the event, we had gone through Amphora’s list of cake and filling options and chose the flavors in which we were interested. Unfortunately, instead of providing a platter of cake and filling samples, we were brought a collection of four cake squares.

Chocolate chiffon cake with chocolate Frangelico bavarian cream filling.
Chocolate Frangelico
D. and I want a chocolate cake for our Groom’s Cake. This chocolate chiffon cake, I believe, is the driest cake I’ve ever had. I had to ask when this cake was prepared, and Jade didn’t know. The chocolate cake D. and I sampled at Cakes Plus blew this cake out of the water.

Yellow chiffon cake with Grand Mariner filling.
Grand Mariner
Also surprisingly dry, not quite the flavor profile I’m looking for.

Yellow chiffon cake with espresso buttercream.
Espresso
At first bite, it was really good. After the third bite, it was cloyingly sweet.

Yellow chiffon cake with white chocolate mousse and raspberry preserves.
White chocolate
This cake had the right moisture and the mousse wasn’t too sweet. I didn’t really like the raspberry preserves, but we talked with Jade, and this mousse cake can be made with a layer of sliced strawberries instead of the raspberry preserves.

While we were stuffing our faces, I showed Jade some ideas for our “Such Great Heights” cake. We would like to have a cake shaped and airbrushed similar to this cake.
Fishcake

But instead of the fish details, we’d like white chocolate clouds, similar to this cake.
Cloud cake
However, we don’t want the freehand piped clouds.

Unfortunately, (I’ve said “unfortunately” far too many times in this review.) the minimum for a tiered cake is 80 guests. That’s twice as much cake, at twice the cost, than I need. However, if we book our catering with Amphora, our wedding cake is 15% off. I was trying to broach the idea of a covered styrofoam layer to create the illusion of height, but we never got around to discussing it as an option.

So, to sum up:

Catering:
Service: 4 out of 5 stars (Jade was very personable, and the chef is amenable to tweaking the menu to suit our palates.)
Quality of Food: 3 out of 5 stars (If D.’s chicken on the Pineapple Skewers were cooked a bit more and the roasted vegetables were cooked less, we’d be much happier.)
Value: 5 out of 5 stars (The cost is extremely reasonable for the Washington D.C./Northern Virginia area.)

Bakery:
Service: 3 of 5 stars (We weren’t happy about the way the cake tasting was done. We feel like we’ll need to schedule multiple tastings to try the combinations we want. Also, the limitation on tiered cakes makes me sad.)
Quality of Food: 2 out of 5 stars (We really were not impressed with the textures and flavors of the cakes and fillings. Part of me feels that we’d just be settling if we got the yellow chiffon, white chocolate mousse and sliced strawberries filling. Based on the cake we tasted, we’re are not inclined to order our Groom’s Cake from Amphora.
Value: 3 out of 5 stars (The discount on the wedding cake is nice, but the quality of the cakes are not up to my cake snob standards.)

I’m planning on giving Jade our honest feedback, and hopefully, she’ll be able to work with us to iron out some of these wrinkles.  Also, I may request duck proscuitto served over melon with microgreens as an additional cocktail hour platter, or maybe a shitake mushroom appetizer of some kind.

Tomorrow, D. and I are going to our first tasting at Amphora Catering. Not only will we be tasting our potential reception dinner, we will also be tasting cake as well. I’m really excited! (D. believes that I’m more excited about the cake tasting than I am about the rest of the meal.) The wedding ball is starting to roll.

The proposed menu Jade at Amphora put together for us consists of:

Cocktails Hour:
Fruit and Cheese Platters

Entrees:
Char Grilled Spanish Style Skewers featuring marinated and grilled chicken, turkey sausage, and shrimp
OR
Pineapple Chicken Skewers (At the tasting, we’ll figure out which one we’re going to go with.)
AND
Herb Marinated Flank Steak

Sides:
Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
Wild Rice & Currant Salad
Bow Tie Pasta Salad with asparagus, fresh mozzarella and basil
Assorted Country Dinner Rolls

We won’t be tasting the fruit and cheese platter, but we will be trying everything else (and taking pictures along the way). I’m a little bit nervous about the cake. I’m a serious cake snob. For my birthday cake last year, we scouted out and tasted cake at 3 different bakeries before I found the right cake. It’s not about appearance; I’m all about the taste and texture. I’m also not a real big fan of fondant. I promise to report back with all of our findings.

I paid the first deposit for the wedding today. It was for the ceremony/reception location. I put it on my credit card only to earn miles. I’ll be transferring money out of my wedding kitty to pay for it right away. I don’t want any part of the wedding to be on credit. I want to have the cash available before making any decision/payment. It’s too easy and too tempting to put something financially out of reach on a credit card, and say, “I’ll pay for it over time. It’s no big deal.” Well, it is a big deal. Finance charges are of the devil. The next major deposits will be for photography and catering. I still need to decide on a caterer though.
I’ve narrowed it down to R&R Catering, Rocklands, and Amphora. I had high expectations for R&R, but my last few interactions with them has left me disappointed. Also, the price quote is $1000 more than I wanted to spend. I spoke with Jade from Amphora yesterday, and she will be getting a proposal to me in the next day or two. I also submitted an online proposal request to Rocklands yesterday, so I should be hearing from them soon too.
It’s one thing to plan a wedding; it is another thing all together to pay for a wedding. I’m definitely starting to get nervous.