Monday, March 10, 2014

Catering by Dobbs Ferry

First, let me explain something.  Dobbs Ferry is not a caterer.  They are a regular full service restaurant and bar located in Hayes Valley, open for happy hour and dinner, and weekend brunch.  But, at my office for the past month, we've been getting catering once a week from Dobbs Ferry.  I'm not entirely sure why, I think it was a bit of a promotion for the restaurant, and a chance to just give us something a bit different.  I'm not sure how much catering they normally do.

I was intrigued by the name, so I looked it up.  It turns out, Dobbs Ferry is the name of a village in New York, the hometown of the owner.  Thus, the restaurant concept is Californian bistro, with east coast influence.

So, I'm not reviewing Dobbs Ferry the restaurant.  I've never been there.  And I know judging a restaurant based on its catering is not fair.  Catering is rarely that good.  But I did try a lot of their offerings, and I cannot recommend it, at all.
Brussels Sprouts Salad.
On the first day of catering, they provided a salad, and a choice of two entrees, one vegetarian.

The salad was just a mix of brussels sprouts and artichoke hearts, with very mild, olive oil based dressing.  The vegetables were cooked well enough, not mushy, but no flavors really popped here.  The dressing really needed ... something.
Pete's Meatballs & Conchiglie
For entrees, we had the choice of Pete's Meatballs & Conchiglie or Vegetarian Stuffed Shells. I like both of these dishes, so I was hard pressed to decide.

In the end, I went for the meatballs.  Described as "pork and beef meatballs braised in tomato sauce", they are available on the menu at Dobbs Ferry in various forms, as a meatball sandwich, or over orzo.  In our case, they were served over cute little conchiglie.

The meatballs were a large size, very moist, a mix of beef and pork.  Not bad.  Not earth shattering meatballs, but solid enough.  But the pasta was overcooked and mushy.  Perhaps a side effect of being left in a hot box for catering service?  I could overlook that, except that the "signature marinara sauce", that appears in many of their dishes was not very flavorful, and really no different than canned tomato sauce.

I kept wanting to like it more than I did, since the conchiglie were just so cute, but besides the decent meatball, it was a pile of flavorless mush.

(The other option was stuffed shells: "pasta shells filled with spinach, ricotta and parmesan
cheese, baked in marinara with a parmesan crust."  I decided against this because they looked soggy, and given my experience with conchiglie, I rather expect they were, and it used the same bland sauce.  I think I picked the better choice ...)
Garlic Bread.
On our next catering day, we had garlic bread as the side dish, again with a choice of entrees, one vegetarian.

The garlic bread wasn't bad, for what it was.

The bread itself is from La Boulange, and it was a brioche-like baguette.  Nice level of crispiness.  Great choice for garlic bread.  But, it was covered in oil, on all sides.  When I picked it up from this napkin, it had soaked through all layers!  The topping was butter and garlic, and quite good.  Very oily, but the flavor was there.

For this particular style of garlic bread, it was good, but I didn't want more.  Really, just far too much oil for me.  But I did enjoy scraping the garlicky topping off, and I appreciated their bread selection.
Eggplant Parmesan.
For entrees, we could select between sausage & peppers, or eggplant parmesan.  One of my co-workers beat me to the pickup spot, and got the sausage & peppers: "Italian sausage seasoned with fennel, caramelized onions and roasted red peppers."  He took one bite, and declared it horrible.  He is someone who we make fun of for liking EVERYTHING, so to hear him say something negative about food was enough to convince me to go no where near it.  Plus, it was pork sausage, something I'm never a fan of, and was covered in their same marinara as the last dishes.

So I got the eggplant parmesan, which is offered on their regular menu: "breaded eggplant filled with spinach, ricotta, and parmesan cheese and baked in marinara with a parmesan crust" 

This dish reminded me exactly of the meatballs, in that the dominant flavor was the sauce.  And the sauce was not very good.  Really, most canned tomato sauce is tastier than this.  I don't understand it, as this is their signature sauce, and is an integral component of many of their dishes (in fact, part of every dish they offered us).

The eggplant was soggy, the breading oily and mushy.  Yes, it was catering so it was just sitting in a hot box, so I can't expect it to be crisp, but it was really quite bad.  Just like the pasta in the previous dish, a pile of mush.  And just like the garlic bread, way too much oil.  And you already know how I feel about the sauce.

The congealed cheese on top didn't help things.

Did not like.
Potato Salad.
The final dish I tried was the side of potato salad.  I love my deli salads sometimes, and I was really in the mood for potato salad when I tried this.  But ... I didn't like it.  The potato was overcooked, fairly mushy.  This time I can't blame the hot box for the pushy product.  The dressing was creamy, but far too heavy on the mustard for my liking.  There was a lot of raw red onion bits in it, too sharp.  Celery for some crunch was nice, bits of egg also good.  But overall, not a winner.
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