Monday, January 14, 2013

Catering by JJardine

For our annual Winter Solstice Party this year, my apartment complex hired a new caterer: JJardine.  I had high expectations going into the event, as we have had some pretty spectacular food (and drinks!) in the past, including a particularly memorable carving station one year, and plethora of amazing desserts.  This year however, I was a little shocked when I walked into the room.  The bar was offering a single white wine (a Beringer Sauvignon Blanc that was really bitter and acidic, and really not good at all), a single red wine (Beringer Cab, that wasn't exactly good, but wasn't bad), and a single beer (Anchor Steam, I didn't try it).  This was a major step down from the open bars we have had in the past, or passed speciality mixed cocktails.  On the plus side there was a really talented harpest playing traditional carols at the start, and as the party livened up, a jazz band came out.  The entertainment was far, far better than years past, and certainly the highlight.

But, this is "Julie's Dining Club", so you aren't here to read about the talented musicians, you are likely more interested in the food.  I was really, really disappointed.  There wasn't a single thing that was even remotely good.  We had a buffet of cold appetizers, a bunch of passed warm appetizers, and a measly cold dessert station.  I do not recommend a single item.
Cold buffet spread.
The cold buffet looked nice, with little candles, flowers as garnish, and decent enough plating.
Pear and camembert quiche with roasted onion jam.
So, I dislike quiche (and all variants of it).  But I like camembert, and when I first walked in, I thought the cold hors d'oeuvres were the only food being offered, so I had to try them all.

This was ... quiche.  I didn't like it.  I didn't taste pear nor camembert, mostly just some eggyness, topped with very tart, vinegary onions.  I kinda liked the onions.  But meh.
Vietnamesse Spring Rolls, filled with smoked tofu, sei fun noodles, crisp vegetable chifonade.  
Totally unremarkable spring rolls.  Mostly just filler rice noodles and some veggies.  The tiny dollop of peanut sauce on top was completely insufficient.
Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, smoked salmon, roasted and grilled vegetables, olives, roasted peppers, garlic mushrooms, with bread basket on the side.
With so much on these platters, there had to be something good right?  Not really.

The cheeses were all from Cowgirl, which sounded promising, but they were pretty generic.  There was some of the Devil's Gulch, a creamy soft cheese with spicing on the rind that I tend to love, but unfortunately, it wasn't ripe enough.

The marinated and grilled vegetables were all also fairly boring.  Even the pretty looking purple cauliflower and the romanesco were lacking any real flavor.  And the roasted squash were completely inconsistently cooked, with some parts raw, and others mushy.

The smoked salmon had a lovely color to it, but it too was lacking much flavor.
Serrano Ham & Fontina Risotto Croquettes.
Next, we moved on to passed hot appetizers.

This was the best bite of the evening.  A nice crispy exterior, gooey, cheesy inside.  Not too oily, nice cheese flavor, little bit of salt and flavor from the ham.  Not wonderful, but the best thing I had all night, by far.

I raved about these to others, and was surprised when they had some, seemed totally unimpressed, and didn't ooze cheese everywhere like mine had.  I went back for another later on in the evening, and like everyone else's, mine didn't leave with me strings of cheese hanging out of my mouth.  The second one was mediocre at best.  Sigh.
Niman Ranch Sliders with Bleu Cheese & Caramelized Onions.
Little sliders!  These seemed to be a big hit.  The servers could barely take two steps before the platters were emptied.

I gleefully joined in the attacking of the servers as they walked in, and scored my very own slider.  It ... wasn't good.

The brioche bun was a nice touch, but the meat itself was very overcooked, barely warm, and had a really strange taste to it.  Not gamey exactly, but something just wasn't right.  The blue cheese was pretty lost in it, and the few shreds of onion that existed weren't particularly caramelized.

This *could* have been good, it certainly had the pedigree of something tasty, but it fell very short.
Wild Mushroom Empanadas baked in gorgonzola pastry with red pepper chimichurri.
Another hot passed appetizer.

Unlike the croquette, this was super oily.  All I could taste was the oil.  The filling was mushroomy, but not particularly well seasoned.  And the shell, ugh, seriously, so oily.  And like the spring rolls, the tiny bit of sauce (in this case, red pepper chimichurri) was totally insufficient.

[ Not Pictured ]
Papas Bravas with meyer lemon aioli.

Meh.  Just slices of potato, on a skewer.  Slightly spicy.  I rubbed mine in the aioli on the platter, but it didn't really taste like anything.  Noticing a theme here?
Mini Pecan Pie with Vanilla Bean Mascarpone.
Once the dessert station was set up, I eagerly approached.  Even if the rest of the food was pretty bad, I'm a bit of a dessert slut, and can pretty easily be satisfied with even mediocre desserts.

Not in this case.

The tart shell was soggy and flavorless.  There was barely any pie filling in it, just a few pieces of chopped up pecans with a tiny bit of slightly sweet filling.  Sigh.  I didn't taste a hint of vanilla in the mascarpone, nor could I have told you it was mascarpone rather than whipped cream.

Even the dessert-o-holic in me couldn't find a single thing good about this, and I tried several, even scooping out just the insides in order to get a tasty bite.
Chocolate Truffle Cups with Crystalized Ginger Macadamia Praline.
I usually skip chocolate in the evenings, but I was pretty desperate for something to be good at this point.  Chocolate seemed hard to screw up.

The shell was unremarkable chocolate.  The filling, not creamy, nor chocolately, nor notable in any way.  The topping ... was just soggy.  I had no idea what it was.  I didn't taste ginger nor macadamia.  I laughed when I went and read the catering purchase order later and saw the description.  I'd have never, ever guessed what the topping was supposed to be.  As you can probably guess, I was not impressed.
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