We have a new sort of review for you today. This weekend, Higgins and Willamina had the pleasure of attending a posh wedding reception in the Milwaukee area. For reasons related to our mundane jobs, Higgins and Willamina receive many such invitations every year. We rarely attend. In this case, the location was stunning, the couple was fun, and the food was supposed to be fabulous. How could we refuse? The entire event was arranged/catered by a company called Gracious Events. The bride just raved about the simplicity of using them. They coordinated the rental chairs, the flowers, the drinks, the food, and all the other details that make receptions so entertaining (and difficult to plan.)
Short Take: Gracious Events serves GREAT food. Wonderful service. Some trouble with other details, however.
Long Take: Gracious Events will plan your event as large or as small as you like, apparently. This wedding was an outdoor wedding with a reception in a nearby hall. The couple chose to go with Gracious Event’s “Small Plates & Serving Stations” for their reception. This set up entails a modified buffet table set up. Rather than having one table where people serve themselves, there are 3-5 “stations” where people are served a specific entree (with its accompaniments and garnishes) in a small bowl or plate. Guests can visit as many stations as they wish as often as they wish. As the dinner stations are being set up, there was an appetizer station and servers with trays of appetizers circulating around the open bar on the patio. Lovely, really.
DRINKS AND APPETIZERS
Peach Bellinis – Higgins and Willamina had never had a bellini before. Our tastes in alcoholic beverages being what they are, we weren’t as impressed. The sparkling wine they used was too dry for us. Then again, that may be exactly how they are supposed to be made. They did look pretty.
Wisconsin Market Station – This station had individual white ceramic plates with a nested dish. The plate contained Truffled Chevre, Aged Irish White Cheddar, and Sage Derby cheeses. The dish contianed roasted pistachio nuts, a cranbery compote, and brioche toast points. The cheeses were some of the best we have ever tasted. Not too strong– but extremely flavorful. The taste combination with the cranberry compote and nuts was amazingly good. We started off sharing a plate and ended up getting a second one anyway. (Shame on whoever poached the toast points off of the plates remaining.)
Passed Hors d’ Oeuvres – As we were marveling at the cheese plate, smiling servers were passing by with trays of small mini samplings. We had a shrimp cake (very tasty), a chicken samosa (quite good), and an Irish cheddar toast (which was our favorite.) The servers were very efficient and friendly and the appetizers were plentiful and flavorful.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin station – Glazed grilled pork tenderloin served over a crispy mushroom potato salad with fried leeks as a garnish. The tenderloin was perfectly cooked and went very nicely with the potato salad.
Corriander Chicken station – Slightly spicy chicken pieces served over a sweet corn risotto garnished with creme fraische and white scallions. This dish had a little heat from the chicken and the risotto, but the creme fraische kept it to a manageable, enjoyable level. The rice is prepared partially before the event and then the risotto is completed right before serving– it was quite good.
Soy Grilled Salmon station – Soy grilled salmon served over wasabi mashed potatoes and garnished with a gingered mustard sauce. Higgins and Willamina, as you may have surmised, have sensitive taste buds (wimpy, really) and so we skipped the wasabi mashed potatoes. Unsure of the gingered mustard sauce, Higgins asked for a serving without the wasabi mashed potatoes and with the sauce in a separate bowl. The server didn’t even pause to blink. With a smile, a fresh dish to match my request was prepared and handed over. Wonderful service. The salmon was perfectly cooked. (Our unfortunate experience earlier in the week was just highlighted by the flavor and texture of this salmon. One does not expect catered food to be better than restaurant food. In this case, it very much was the superior of the two.)
Asian Trio station – This station was the most whimsical. On the right, trays and trays of freshly rolled, sesame sprinkled California rolls awaited guests. On the left, skewers of indvidual plum glazed shrimp layed out in a wheel pattern. And in the middle, Chinese take-out boxes filled with a sobe noodle salad. The rolls were delicious, the shrimp sweet and tangy, and the sobe noodles were cold and spicy. Chopsticks were available for those brave enough or skilled enough to want them.
There was also a kid’s station that served fruit on a stick (melon cubes and strawberries) and chicken strips and one other offering (we apologize for not remembering– Higgins and Willamina were a little distracted by the other offerings.) We didn’t taste any of these offerings, but the children seemed to thoroughly enjoy them.
There were three desserts at the dessert station.
Mini Chocolate Cupcakes – Very rich, moist chocolate explosions.
Mango Tapioca Parfaits – Mango pieces mixed with exceptionally large tapicoa pieces in what appeared to be a simple syryp solution. Covered with whip cream and coconut shavings. The taste was OK, but not worth seconds.
Chili Chocolate Shake – An unpleasant surprise. Served in a small glass with a straw. Sipping a taste, the first flavor is an unusual chocolate. The second flavor is an intense heat on the tongue. We very much did not care for this. (In fact, we would appreciate it if people would stop mixing odd spices with our chocolate. It is very disturbing whenever we encounter it.) To be fair, the four-year old and his father sitting next to us enjoyed the shake immensely, having seconds and thirds.
This was, without a doubt, the best meal we have had at a catered event. It was good, it was fun, and it was interesting. No rubber chicken to be found anywhere. On the food and the service, we would highly reccomend this company.
That being said, a couple of other details outside of the food preparation/service did seem to be troubling. The chairs for the event weren’t set up until 20 minutes before the wedding was to start– guests had already started arriving. The same chairs were needed for the reception, but no one was available to move them, so dinner service was delayed by 45 minutes or so. Most troubling, the flowers for the service and for the wedding party were not delivered until 5 minutes before the scheduled start time of the wedding. This pushed the wedding start back by 15 minutes. Not a disaster, of course– but the event planners/caterers should never be the cause of a late wedding. We can only guess at the cost of the service Gracious Events provides, but we assume it doesn’t come cheap.