How to Get the Most from your Tasting
You’ve picked a date, found a venue, booked the band and now it’s time to turn your attention to the food. Perhaps you’ve already selected a caterer or maybe you’re trying to decide between your top two or three and you’re wondering when or even if if you should ask for a tasting. In most cases, answer is, YES! Food is the most expensive line item on any event budget, and for many, the most important.
The Tasting isn’t just an important step in the process it is also, unequivocally, the most fun. I’m not just saying that because I’m a caterer. I have years of experience sitting at tasting tables with brides and grooms, bar and bat mitzvah families, gala chairs and fundraising committees and they’d all say the same thing……. On a scale of one to ten with a one being creating your guest seating chart, the Tasting is a definite ten!
So, whether you are scheduling a tasting with your selected caterer to try to zero in on a final menu or are visiting a handful of caterers to help you select the perfect fit for your taste and budget, here are some do’s and don’ts to help you get the most from your experience.
DO try to be flexible with your day and time. Most caterers will only schedule tastings on weekdays as the kitchen’s focus on the weekends should be the booked events that are taking place. At Catering by Seasons we always try to make allowances for clients who live out of state or have other special circumstances, but in general, we request that you book your tasting for weekdays during business hours. On the flipside, you can feel confident that on your big day, we won’t shift attention away from your event for someone else’s tasting. Seems fair, right?
DON’T expect to taste every item on your menu. Pick a representative sample from your proposed menu and trust that if you like the taste and style of the items presented at the Tasting, your final menu will be just as delicious. Often it doesn’t even make sense to taste some of the items from your final menu – the ingredients for the dish you plan to serve in August, may not be in season at your February Tasting.
DO find out if there is a charge for a tasting. Often a caterer will charge for a tasting if you haven’t already booked their services and then credit that back to your event if you do choose to book. At Catering by Seasons, we offer clients and prospective clients alike, one complimentary tasting for up to 4 guests and your planner. (Please, please, please bring your planner if you are working with one – it’s their job to remain objective and to help with the decision making process!)
DO ask questions. This is your opportunity to meet the chef and culinary team that will be responsible for the food at your event. Take note of flavor profiles, seasoning styles, garnishes and presentation. The team at Catering by Seasons wants your event to be perfect and we can tweak or customize any menu item to your specifications. The chef assigned to your tasting will come in as each course is served to answer any questions. And, your catering manager will take careful notes of all discussion points and adjustments requested and photograph the dishes as they are presented to ensure continuity from tasting to table.
DON’T schedule more than three, four at the most, tastings. If you ate the same foods at different restaurants every night for a week, at some point they would all blend together and you’d have a hard time recalling any highlights. Instead, if you haven’t already selected your caterer, narrow the field down to a chosen few based on the criteria most important to you: reputation, creativity, price, etc. Then only schedule tastings with the caterers who meet your standards in those areas.
DO come hungry. If you’re planning a large event, it’s likely that you’ll be tasting a large amount and variety of food in a short period of time. We don’t want you to tap out before tasting everything we’ve prepared. So, don’t worry about leaving that last lamb chop or ahi tuna appetizer because you’re trying to save room for dessert – we will send you home with any left overs. And, there’s a good chance you’ll be too busy greeting guests or working the room to eat at your own event, so this is your chance to really enjoy the food that your guests will be served.
DO be on time and DON’T show up with fewer or extra guests than your caterer is expecting at least without providing a least a few minutes warning. We want you and your guests to fully enjoy your tasting experience and that means serving the right amount of food at the right time and temperature. Don’t worry though, if there is a last minute change to your plans, caterers are used thinking quickly and making Plan “B” look and feel like it was the “A” Plan all along.
DO think outside the plate. Taste and presentation aren’t the only factors to consider when making your final selection. If you’ve done your research and you’ve narrowed the field, presumably all of the caterers on your short list have excellent reputations and are in your price range. Remember that planning for a large event can often take 12 – 18 months, sometimes even longer. The dynamics between you and your catering manager and how that catering manager works with the rest of your vendor team should be a consideration when making your final decision. At a certain level, all of the caterers on your short list can deliver an outstanding food experience – we all have talented chefs and culinary teams, creative and innovative menus and any of us would be able to closely replicate a dish you’ve sampled someplace else. But, it’s not just about the food! I think of planning for an event as a journey, a really long and sometimes stressful and exhausting journey – you should choose carefully the people you want to take along with you for the ride.
At Catering by Seasons we want your tasting to be a fun, informative and delicious stop on that journey.
We look forward to meeting you!
I can’t say enough great things about our entire experience planning our daughter's Bat Mitzvah with Glynis Keith, Catering Manager, with Catering by Seasons.
Alberto is the best catering manager ever!! Everything about working with Catering by Season, from the planning, communication, to the execution was phenomenal!
Stefanie was such a huge help! Everything was smooth, she helped us find ways to cut costs and advocated for us with our venue.