Thursday evening was my second event since taking some time off, and what an experience it was!
Suzy Harper hosted about seventy (plus) Main Street Managers from all over our great state at their beautiful farm off 195.
Earlier that day the weather looked menacing, but late afternoon brought sunshine and the ideal conditions for dinner to be served outside against a backdrop of a gently rippling lake and rolling green lawns.
A tent that had been previously set up in the walkway between the farmhouse and bunkhouse was being taken down as my staff and I drove up the newly graveled drive. Tables were set out back with simple but gorgeous country floral arrangements and white candles in huge clear globes. The deck was readied for our Italian buffet.
We were good to go on our part by arriving and setting things up right on schedule for the guests' 6:15-6:30 expected arrival time. Ovens were preheated and filled with pastas, breads, dip: menu items that needed last minute cooking or just kept warm.
On the buffet, our standard chafing dishes were then lit and loaded with Rustic Marinara with chunks of Chicken Italian Sausage and Pepperoni over Penne Pasta, Roasted Chicken and Sundried Tomato Spring Rotini, and Artichoke Dip. Fried Jalapenos were piled into a serving dish. Suzy's antique wire egg baskets held my Herbed Bread and Seasoned Crostini, and her huge white salad bowl was filled to the brim with fresh greens, tomatoes, black olives, romano and feta, red onions, pepperocini, and tossed immediately before the predetermined service time in my signature Italian Vinaigrette. Garlic Parsley butter logs were sliced and artfully arranged in clear ramekins then placed on each table. And glasses were filled with ice and Almond Lemonade Tea, and set out right on time.
All we were waiting on were the hostesses to arrive, so that the proper channels were gone through before inviting guests to line up for service.
And then the wind began to blow, gently at first. Ripples on the water soon turned to mini wakes as its speed picked up. The delicate glass globes, arranged just so on the tables, toppled over, breaking into hundreds of sharp pieces. The candles they held were laying sideways, their flickering flames dangerously close to the tablecloths. Then, a large white umbrella lost its bid with the strong force, and the tall wine glasses quickly followed suit. Guests were holding onto their hats or flying skirts, and helpers were scrambling to repair or retrieve fallen objects.
From our end, chafing dishes weren’t keeping the food warm enough. Napkin lined bread baskets couldn’t withstand the breeze. Ovens inside were turned up and culinary creations brought back and popped in. And my neurotic preoccupation with all things being absolutely perfect was being challenged as I counted the seconds my tossed salad was sitting there, in my mind, wilting away. The fact that I had meticulously chilled both the huge bowl and serving utensils was lost at the minutes ticked by.
A decision had to be made quickly: bring everything inside. Thankfully, I have an amazing staff that works hard, smiles through it all, and conducts themselves professionally as we do the only thing we can do: roll with it.
Folks were so gracious, laughing as they all helped carry in glasses, candles, dishes, napkins, etc. Pastas, breads, salad, artichoke dip, and my signature fried jalapenos- all of it was organized in quick fashion. Hostesses arrived and welcomed everyone, I explained the menu, and guests lined up to enjoy each selection.
Desserts, having already been cut and plated, were garnished: Fudge Walnut Cranberry Cake and Citrus Angel Food Cake with Lemon Custard and Fresh Whipping Cream lined the bar. Chocolate lovers were thrilled, and those with a taste for the tangy were also satisfied.
Compliments were overheard as each dish was dissected, gushed over, asked about, and enjoyed. My fears about the salad abated as I watch the immense amount diminished, not only from the serving bowl, but from dinner plates as well. Fried Jalapenos disappeared at an even faster rate as folks delighted in their spicy, crunchy perfection.
And I had the pleasure of visiting with so many of the guests, signing several copies of “Cooking With Polly~ The Food Snob”, and explaining that the majority of the recipes for the dishes they enjoyed that evening were available in my recently published cookbook.
No matter what you do, being prepared for the unexpected is vital for success. I want to thank my amazing staff for contributing to the success of this particular evening. I could never do this without you!
And, as I always say, it’s an honor and a privilege to be asked to take care of special events, and so I also thank Suzy Harper and Cheri Bedford. Your trust and patronage is appreciated far more than I can express.
Happy Eating- good OR bad weather!
Polly~ The Food Snob