I was asked by my dear friend Lisa if I would be willing to provide food for the California reception for her daughter Kate who was getting married in Chicago. It was a tricky time of year (December 22nd), but after a few days of thinking about it, I agreed. Lisa is a gem, and I wanted to bless her and her family.
Now the greatest thing about providing food for a gathering at Lisa's is that she is not a micromanager. She chooses people she trusts, and she lets them go. I had a budget, I knew the food needed to be finger food, but other than that I was free to choose. Very fun!! She did not ask me what I was serving until I arrived at her house the morning of the 22nd. She really is trusting!
I'm not sure how anyone planned these kinds of events before the internet, and I am well aware of how much Pinterest came to my rescue. I spent a few relaxed evenings obsessing over possible menu items. Finally, just a few weeks before the event, I had the menu plan.
Here is what I was working with:
100 ish people
Not a ton of room to work in the on-site kitchen
She was hoping to stay under $1400 for all the food and drink (I was not doing desserts or drinks)
Here is what I came up with:
Ham and cheese sliders: followed the recipe. I will make these over and over. I cannot emphasize how incredibly easy and tasty they are. We premade them, wrapped them in foil, and then just kept heating up new batches until they were all gone. Lisa has a lot of football players and their families in her circle of friends. Those boys were very happy with piles of sliders.
Pork tacos with lime slaw
By far the biggest hit. This was the recipe, I believe, that caused two people to ask for my (non-existent) catering business card. The flavors are so good. I served leftovers at church the next Saturday and our friend Greg said it was the best taco he had ever had.
Grapes, a hard cheese, a goat cheese, brie, pickles, nuts, bread and crackers. Beautiful to look at, flavorful to taste, easy to assemble.
Cut veggies in cups with ranch dressing at the bottom of the cup (didn't start getting eaten until everything else was gone. Poor veggies.)
The tray is the larger one in this picture from Pier One (fortunately I have a friend who works there and was able to use her 40% discount. Not an inexpensive purchase, but I know I will use it over and over.) I did line it with parchment paper, as it is not a food-safe surface.
I purchased skewers, ziploc bags, foil and food. The final cost: $500 for 110 or so people. There was just enough left over for a few meals for Lisa's family. All in all: a great success. I did my shopping at Grocery Outlet and at WinCo.
A few notes: I did make an orzo salad and a green salad, but I realized as I was doing the final preparations that they were totally unnecessary. I was right. I deducted the cost for those items from my bill, and brought them home to enjoy. I think I was just nervous about amounts, but we were spot on with how much we served.
For the prep:
I had two friends who came and chopped and sliced for me the night before, plus my son Brennan came along and emptied the trash, the dishwasher, and swept up my messes as we went along. While they did those things, I put the pork on to cook, made chicken salad, and packed the boxes for travel. I could not have done this without their help.
The day of the event I had help from one friend of Lisa's who was incredible. She powered through prep and I ended up having an hour to put my feet up before the event began. My husband was our server, while the two of us just kept prepping and putting things out from 6:00 - 9:00. John had so much fun serving, he is suggesting we do this when we retire. That makes me smile.
May the marriage of Kate and Adam be as joyful, as beautiful, as full of love as the evening of December 22nd. It was an unforgettable night to be a part of.