Man, has my schedule been jam-packed. Between dog-searching, wedding planning regular life, goddess only knows when I even have time to sleep let alone much else. I’m still making my regular fitness routine work, so that’s something! But I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were MANY nights I wanted to skip the gym and just go home and lay on the couch. I’ve resisted the urge.
Besides, I have too much stuff to do to let my routine/schedule fall apart! Last week we had the opportunity to taste the food for two of the caterers we are considering hiring for the wedding.
The first caterer was Claey’s Catering. It’s a family owned and run business that’s been open for at least 20 years. I didn’t see anything negative online when I was initially researching and liked their customer service and quick response. This is a huge thing for me because half of the caterers I contacted were flaky and never even responded to me or just DISAPPEARED!
Michael and I got off work early and drove 30 minutes west of Portland to North Plains. We arrived to their location and they had a table set up for us to start tasting. (Sorry that some of the photos are a little blurry.)
The passed appetizers for cocktail hour were the lemon olive oil marinated zucchini and chevre roulades. I was not a fan and we asked to switch those to bacon wrapped dates. The other appetizer was herbed profiterole with spinach dip–basically a little puff pasty filled with spinach dip. It was AWESOME. My favorite thing of the menu.
The last appetizer was mini crab cakes with a spicy jalapeno aioli, which was good. Michael remarked that it wasn’t the best crab cake he’d ever had but it was good. I loved the jalapeno aioli. It was fantastic. I’d put that sauce on everything.
The salad was a green salad with strawberries, toasted hazelnuts and goat cheese. Michael asked if we could do a salad with bleu cheese, toasted walnuts and pears instead. I liked the strawberry salad but it was more “summery” than fall, that’s for sure.
For the dinner we’re having garlic mashed potatoes with roasted asparagus with slivered almonds and a balsamic reduction. I liked the asparagus and the mashed potatoes were DELICIOUS. They were over-whipped and the caterer agreed, said they usually weren’t that whipped. Not sure what happened there. He said they can do them whatever consistency we wanted. The flavor was amazing–pretty sure there was a gallon of butter and cream in there.
The first entree was a cedar plank salmon with another spicy aioli (which I loved). The chicken we did NOT love and asked for tri tip steak instead. We had apprehension about chicken before we even tasted it–most chicken is dry and bland. So steak it is!
I was impressed with the food at Claey’s; I appreciated that they didn’t charge corking fees (flat fee instead); I appreciated that they also didn’t add the gratuities to the bill–they believe they should be earned not demanded. I also appreciated that they offered the tasting (for free too! Some places didn’t allow tastings or charged $50 each!).
The next week we got off work early again to go and meet the people at Grand Cru Hospitality. The menu from Grand Cru was my favorite on paper. I was excited about tasting the food. Right away I liked the atmosphere and the personalities of Alex (the owner) and his head chef.
The first two appetizers were the Dungeness crab cakes with a celery Remoulade and toast topped with a mushroom fricassee, sherry and goat cheese cream. Now, I absolutely loathe mushrooms. The taste, the texture, the smell, all of it. BUT I can get passed all of that if the mushrooms are diced so fine I can’t tell what it is in a sauce. Unfortunately, these were big chunks of mushrooms. But I ate it! It was SO GOOD. The sherry and goat cheese cream sauce was outstanding. We compromised and asked them to do half with the mushrooms and half mushroom-free (like maybe with some onions or beef instead).
The salad was romaine lettuce with chunks of apple, toasted hazelnuts and bleu cheese. The light balsamic dressing was very subtle and the whole salad was light and fresh. It was that perfect blend of end-of-summer-start-of-fall kind feel. Michael asked if they’d do a mixture of spinach and romaine (he loves spinach salad). So that was a minor change we asked for.
The next dish was the basmati rice pilaf with orange, saffron and pistachios. It was good! I was a little weary of the orange because sometimes that flavor overpowers a dish but this was very balanced. The whole time we were tasting I felt like I was a judge on Top Chef.
Next was the roasted green beans with sweet corn and garlic with pickled turnips and red pepper flakes. The beans were the perfect “crunch.” While I wasn’t blown away by this particular dish, I still enjoyed it and liked how healthy it was. It wasn’t dripping in oil.
The entree was cedar plank Bristol Bay Sockeye salmon topped with Walla Walla sweet onions and a tomato relish. The fish was seriously a color I rarely see. I know the Costco salmon is probably farmed–and certainly not fresh–but this stuff we had look magnificent and like it had been caught that morning. The relish on top was so good I could have eaten the relish on its own.
The other entree was the slow roasted tri-tip with a chimichurri sauce. That sauce was to die for. I tasted the subtle garlic and lemon in it and honestly wished there was more of the sauce. Michael told me after the fact that once he tried the steak with the chimichurri sauce he was sold. We were both so impressed with the food, presentation and the personalities of the chefs that we made our decision before even leaving.
I got a good feeling from Grand Cru. The head chef had been cooking for 20 years and that also included some time at the Four Seasons hotel and restaurant. I’m not sure where but I’m guessing in Seattle because he mentioned catering events for Bill Gates. They also currently work with one of the big advertising firms here in Portland, Weiden & Kennedy. I liked how honest and relaxed they were and the fact that they weren’t nickel-and-diming us to death like several caterers I spoke to. It felt like some of them would charge us for the air our guests were going to breathe if they could.
I feel good with our decision and even happier that it’s something BIG to cross of the “to-do list”!