A Tasting Marathon
Many of you know that I am a distance runner. Last week, though, I completed a marathon that didn’t involve my legs – a tasting marathon!
The tasting at Radisson Blu Mall of America for Courage Kenny Foundation’s upcoming gala included eight hors d’oeuvres, four soups, three salads, five entrees, and six desserts. Pacing was a challenge, but we crossed the finish line with a menu we are confident is a winner!
During this season of menu planning for fall events, we wanted to share insights for getting the most mileage out of a tasting experience.
Never Turn Down a Tasting
Early in my event planning career, I didn’t always think it was necessary to do a tasting. I have learned, though, that in the interest of making the culinary experience at your event the best it can be, a tasting is super important.
Most caterers we work with offer tastings at no charge. If your caterer has a tasting fee and isn’t able to waive it, the small financial investment is worth absorbing into your budget.
Here are the steps we take to ensure the best possible menu outcomes:
- Ask for recommendations on what should be included on your tasting menu. The caterer’s perspective on what items are most popular is always helpful.
- Be strategic in building your tasting team. Tastings typically have four to six participants. Invite key staff and committee members who will be most helpful in making food decisions on behalf of your guests. We find it helpful to have a mix of foodies and tasters who are less adventurous.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for more. Caterers typically specify how many menu items you can choose to taste for each course. If you are having trouble narrowing down your choices, it is likely your caterer will be willing to let you expand your tasting options.
- Customization should be an option. If your event has a theme that lends itself to a specific menu focus or there’s a dish you are interested in offering that isn’t on the printed catering menus, ask the chef to create some custom offerings.
- Be open to being surprised. One of the beauties of a tasting is you may end up with some choices you wouldn’t have selected based on the written menu description.
- Request printed menus. Make sure your catering contact plans to have a printed menu for each person at the tasting. This helps facilitate note taking and decision making.
- Take photos! Snap photos of each plate that comes out of the kitchen. We also like to capture a photo of the tasting team. Photos will help you remember the presentation of each item. And, consider leveraging your tasting and menu on social media.
- Include vegetarian and gluten-free options. Given the importance of having vegetarian and gluten-free options at your event, make sure you include these types of items in your tasting.
- Create an experience! Explore options for making the food not only delicious, but also an experience.
Ann Plans is honored to be embarking on a partnership with the College of Saint Benedict in producing a series of capital campaign events. The $100 million Illuminating Lives campaign will be publicly launched in November.
May the remainder of your summer dining experiences be filled with the freshest of local ingredients. Bon appétit!