Saying “I do” to our caterer

Three cheers for the winning caterer!!!

We’ve chosen Berghoff—a candidate we almost overlooked because we assumed they were all about beer and brats (although, as you can see from the menu, they go far beyond that). Thanks to an event at our gorgeous venue, we  were able to sample a few of the preferred caterers—including Berghoff. We also came to find out that one of Dave’s former high school classmates worked there—Kelly’s thoughtful and detailed proposal reinforced my warm and fuzzy feelings about Berghoff. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start from the beginning …

Tasting #1: Calihan Catering

The appetizers were pretty good overall. Standouts: butternut squash pizza, artichoke puff, brie and pear quesadilla, and the shrimp in a cracker cup. Nicole, the sales rep we met with couldn’t have been nicer and the service was great.

Each of the three caterers interpreted our theme differently: two buffet stations (long, drawn-out seated dinner is not our style), one Italian, one Latin/Mexican/Southwestern. The main courses were OK, but I didn’t see any cohesion, and the proposed menu was pretty minimal. In the end, the food just wasn’t “us.”

The jibarito (bottom row, middle) was really good, but it was more of an appetizer than an entree.

Tasting #2: Food For Thought

Food For Thought was great. Delicious food, great service and lots of nice, sweet personal touches. They were also extremely professional and seemed to really know what they were doing. Our sales rep Linda was great—a seasoned veteran of the catering biz. The beef beignet (first row, second from left), brie and pear quesadilla (yes, another one), crispy ravioli (first row, far right) and falafel skewer were my favorites of the hor dourves.

The pastas were really, really great—especially the wheat mushroom ravioli with cream sauce. YUM. I felt like I was at an upscale Italian restaurant. The stuffed pasta bar was great too. The Mexican portion of the meal was good, but again, the items seemed better suited as hor dourves. Mini ice cream cones and macarons were a sweet end to the meal. I knew Berghoff was going to have a hard time topping this …

Tasting #3: Berghoff

Berghoff started of on a very promising note: a Berghoff beer flight, house root beer and not one, but two Better-With-Butter-featured specialty cocktails (the Blushing Bride and the Green City Gimlet):

Then the hor dourves…

We loved everything (except that grape/cheese/nut ball in the bottom right corner—hey, you can’t win em all). As you can see, we’re going for the “gourmet comfort food” vibe: mac and cheese, grilled cheese, mini baked potatoes, paella bites, crab cakes—the stuff people stand outside the kitchen door and stalk the cocktail servers for. Kelly assured us they would pace the hor dourve service to avoid a feeding frenzy.

Then the buffets …

There’s something to be said for do-it-yourself “Food-Name-Here” bars. Pasta and salad bars? Pretty great. Tamale and a risotto bars??? That’s taking things to a whole ‘nother level. And this did. Tender carnitas, perfectly cooked flank steak and shredded chicken in red sauce on top of soft, moist tamale cakes or taco bowls with all the fixins, including an out-of-this-world avocado and black bean salad. YUM. Ooey, Gooey risotto with bacon, mushrooms, peas, asparagus and tomatoes; crispy, surprisingly delicate parmesan chicken; caesar salad; and Italian-style breads (including a phenomenal potato focaccia). DOUBLE YUM.

And as if we weren’t about to explode, cake tasting was next (a huge plus for Berghoff—their in-house pastry chef is great and can do just about anything. Not having to choose a baker: Just one more thing I can cross of the list).

So many amazing flavors and fillings, why choose? So we didn’t. Mini cupcakes for everyone!

So thanks Kelly and Berghoff—we are beyond thrilled to have you as our caterer!

Nothing’s better than Effen on a rooftop

OK, so I stole my post title from the concept for Effen’s new cheeky ad campaign. I’m sure they won’t mind.

Recently, I had the pleasure of enjoying some “Liquid Luxury”—courtesy of Effen and the Effen awesome folks at Zocalo Group—while contemplating sustainable design, really cool succulent party favors and apple and bacon pizza.

And let me tell you, the chefs and mixologist at ROOF at The Wit aren’t Effen around (OK, I’m done with the Effen jokes, promise). The food and drinks were fantastic. And the bottles of Effen (again, courtesy of Zocalo and Effen) we got beforehand weren’t so bad either. Who gets a bottle of vodka messengered to their office?? This girl. I may or may not have gone home and immediately poured myself a stiff, impossibly smooth screwdriver.

Anyway, back to the party at the Wit, where copious amounts of vodka cocktails on a Tuesday were unabashedly encouraged.

We had more than our fair share of Sustainable Sours, Green City Gimlets, Chicago Caipiroskas and Second City Sparklers (recipes below for your imbibing pleasure). The general consensus was that the Green City Gimlet was the frontrunner. And the food, ohhhhh the food. Most of it didn’t live to be photographed, unfortunately … Funghi pizza with roasted oyster mushrooms, mozzarella and thyme; Salsicia pizza with house-made sausage, cured tomato fennel and havarti cheese; Apple and bacon pizza with sliced apple, smoked gouda, cobb smoked bacon and rosemary; Roasted sweet pepper and goat cheese crostini; Marinated rock shrimp crostini with white bean puree and parsley salad; Grilled cheese panini with tomato fontina soup; and PLT: Crispy pancetta, arugula, cured tomatoes, lemon aioli …

It was all soooo good. So, so, sooooo good. Or maybe it’s just the fact that my pre-wedding diet and workout regimen has exponentially intensified my cravings for anything cheesy and carby.

Once I’d settled down from the pizza frenzy, I was able to focus (using the word focus very loosely, as I was at least three cocktails deep at this point) on a presentation on the past, present and future of sustainable architecture and design in Chicago from Jonathan Boyer of Farr Associates, and one from clever ROOF mixologist Jonny Abens on the night’s libations. And let’s not forget the fabulous view:

I’ve always loved Effen, but after this event, I had a newfound appreciation. As a matter of fact, that bottle in my freezer is calling to me right now …

Sustainable Sour

You’ll need:

1 1/2 oz. Effen Vodka

1 oz. St. Germain

1/2 oz. simple syrup

3/4 oz. fresh lemon

Pour ingredients over ice, shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon and cherry.

Green City Gimlet

You’ll need:

1 1/2 oz. Effen Vodka

1/2 oz. Cointreau

3/4 oz. fresh lime

2 basil leaves

Muddle one basil leaf and add remaining ingredients over ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf.

Chicago Caipiroska

You’ll need:

1 1/2 oz. Effen Black Cherry

1 oz. brown sugar

2 lime wedges

2 dashes cherry bitters

Muddle lime wedges and add remaining ingredients to shaker. Shake all ingredients and pour over ice into a rocks glass.

Second City Sparkler

You’ll need:

1 oz. Effen Black Cherry

1/2 oz. Domaine De Canton

1/2 oz. fresh lemon


Pour first three ingredients over ice, shake and strain into a champagne flute. Top with prosecco and garnish with a lemon twist.

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