Vanessa from the group Amateur Gourmet asked me to cater a dinner for her foodie group… I almost said ‘no’ because I’m really not at that level. But she was quite nice and persistent and so I relented and agreed to make a Southern menu.And kicked the prep off by ordering Potts Design Smart Conversation menu cards from minted.
Starting with Mint Juleps (left) and Sweet Tea Vodka (right).
You can tell I’m quite sweaty!! The hardest part was running the food down from our apartment in a taxi and then running it all the way up to the group’s space… and then I had some oven challenge as the oven is an Asian sized oven and wasn’t big enough to fit all that it needed to: crabcakes chicken pot pie, ham, potatoes…
In hindsight, with only a mini-oven and just with regards to the size of people’s stomachs, the menu over-reached. I would definitely do less courses next time. And having menu cards is awesome, but means you can’t drop an item if you’re behind schedule… so that makes things tough, too.
My personal highlight from the menu was the broccoli salad — the recipe is from my friends John & Nancy. It’s awesome so I uploaded it here. I think the guest’s highlight were the cheddar and chive biscuits, although they did finish all of their chicken pot pies (below).
The difficult part of an event like this is that you’re not the host, but also not just hired help… and the kitchen was part of the dining room so there was no where to hide or to sneak a bite to make sure something was edible before it went out…
I was quite pleased with how Nigella’s coca cola ham turned out… I modified it slightly and used whole cherries in the glaze.
So all is going pretty well at this point… not every dish was exceptional, but I was relieved that most of it was being eaten and people were enjoying themselves… and then I got out my coconut cream pie. And went to cut it. And it was a pile of mush. Apparently in the rush to get it all done (including two separate crust attempts–the first failing because I had converted the butter wrong) and then the rush down the hill (riding on my lap circling about the Peak in a taxi (below) along with 12 other dishes, pitchers of cocktails, steaming cabbage, etc.) it had not set properly… and there was nothing that could be done. Talk about wanting to stab a fork in your eye!!! I have made this pie several times and every other time people literally RAVED about it. And now it had let me down. Or rather I had pushed it’s limits…. really, I had no one to blame but myself. I had considered making it the night before but was worried that then the crust would be soggy… and then really didn’t start it early enough. Whenever making any complicated dessert you really need to leave time for mishaps…. It’s so painful to end on not a positive note! I always think that if the dessert is good, no matter what the guests will think the food was good. But what could I do? You can’t end a Southern feast with no dessert. So I served it up calling it a “hot mess of coconut” and dug deep for a big smile. I SO wish I were serving friends and not paying guests at this point and swore in my head that I would NEVER do anything like this again.
I’ve now had two days to “recover” from the trauma and am starting to “see the positive.” The truth is that this really put me WAY outside of my comfort zone and if I were to do something like this on a regular basis I would become a much better hostess and cook. It’s good to really push yourself, but you need to realize your own limits, keep things as simple as possible, and stick close to tried and true dishes when working in a new environment. AND I will never ever, mark my words, make a dessert day-of again. Lesson learned. I also have so much more respect for wedding caterers… it is SO hard to cook not in your own kitchen!!