Monday, December 14, 2015

Catering by Rebecca Jean Catering

Another year, another holiday party thrown at my apartment complex.  I've now attended at least 5 annual winter holiday parties, and each year has been quite different.  The first year was full cocktail attire, with extravagant food (it will take me a long time to forget that amazing carving station!) and live music (including a harpist!).  Every year since has been slightly less formal in all dimensions (dress, ambiance, cuisine, etc).  Last year I still wore a dress, and the catering included fairly decent passed appetizers and a serious (!!!) dessert station.

But this year, they told us it was going to be more casual, with a "Home for the Holidays" theme.  Given that I was on jury duty that day, and Ojan came right from the office, this was welcome, as neither of us had the energy to go home and get fancied up.  The food matched the far less formal attire.

There was no harp player, nor live music of any sort.  There were no passed appetizers, nor even a cold apps buffet.  Nearly every person I talked to said something about the lack of even a cheese and charcuterie station.  Most significantly to me, there was no dessert table, just a cake!

But, it was an opportunity to try a new caterer, Rebecca Jean Catering (previous catering was done by Peninsula Catering, JJardine, and Delessio.
Buffet Dinner Menu.
Dinner was served at a buffet, which the staff kept very well stocked.  In same ways, it seemed they were over-eager to take the serving vessels away, and had to kept interrupting the flow of the buffet to change out items, when, many times, they tray was still more than 50% full, and the lines were getting quite long.  I didn't really understand, and it wasn't that the food was getting cold, on the contrary, I actually burnt myself on one item.

Anyway, the theme of the menu seemed to be "generic and inoffensive"?

I went into it with standard expectations for a catering buffet, that is, probably mostly luke-warm, soggy, not very good.  As I mentioned above, food being luke-warm was certainly not a problem.  While most of it was lackluster, I did really enjoy one dish ...

Sides

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Walnuts & Pomegranate Seeds (vegetarian).
I heard several tables mentioning how tasty the brussels sprouts were as I walked by, so, I took a big scoop.

The sprouts were a cold dish, which I wasn't entirely expecting, but, I do like brussels sprouts salads, so I didn't mind.  The brussels were decently roasted, and mixed with bits of walnut and pomegranate seeds.  I don't like pomegranate, and the seeds didn't seem particularly ripe, but I did like the festive touch they added.

The parts of this dish I liked the most was some pieces of the sprouts where the leaves separated, and they were just super crispy, and well seasoned.  Perhaps a touch too salty of a dish, but I enjoyed at least the crispy bits.

Overall, a fine dish, and the only slightly original dish on the menu.
Prosciutto & Tarragon Mashed Potatoes.
The photo pretty much describes the potatoes.  They tasted exactly how they looked ... meh.

Kinda mushy, but creamy, but in a too-thinned-out-with-milk way, not an indulgent, rich way.  I didn't taste nor find any prosciutto, and it was only after when I re-read the menu to type this up that I realized the potatoes were supposed to have prosciutto in there somewhere.  I'm all for tasty meat bits, but, it seemed a bit sad for the vegetarians (if they noticed).  I'd never expect mashed potatoes to not be vegetarian, so I'd kinda imagine many didn't even notice.

Anyway, they weren't inedible or anything, just not very good.  Oh, and I totally burnt myself on my first spoonful.  I have no idea how they were so hot!

[ No Photo ]
Baby Spinach Salad with Bleu Cheese, Pickled Onions, Apples & Toasted Pecans. Served with a choice of Balsamic Vinaigrette or Roasted Garlic Buttermilk Dressing.

I somehow missed a photo of the salad, but it was decent, baby spinach, tart pickled onions, slices of apples, and pecans.  I went for the buttermilk dressing, which was creamy but not particularly flavorful.  Again, fine, but nothing special.

Mains

Rosemary Roasted Mary's Chicken.
I don't like chicken, so I moved right past the chicken main dish.
Grilled Bavette with Caper Meyer Lemon Salsa Verde.
The grilled bavette didn't look remotely tempting.  The meat was obviously well done, almost grey in color, and looked pretty tough.  I easily skipped it too.
Baked Rigatoni with Winter Squash, Kale, & Roasted Tomato Béchamel (vegetarian).
The final dish was the real winner, baked rigatoni.

It was cheesy comfort food at its finest.  The top was a generous, crispy layer of cheese that held the heat in.  Inside was well cooked pasta, in a very rich, creamy béchamel.  The béchamel infused the whole thing, filling the tubes of rigatoni, so it squirted out as you bit in.  I loved the béchamel.

There was also some small pieces of kale (greens! not totally unhealthy!), and medium sized chunks of zucchini (not the "winter squash" I was expecting given the menu description).  There was very small chunks of roasted tomato as well for a little additional flavor.  I appreciated the kale and tomatoes, but the zucchini definitely felt out of place.

This was my favorite dish of the night, no question.  Sometimes, I'm a sucker for classic comfort food, and this certainly fit the bill.  Was it amazing, worth seeking out, etc?  Obviously not.  But, I went back for seconds, and, at the very end of the night, for "one more bite", er, plateful.

Dessert

Vanilla Chiffon Cake with Eggnog Buttercream.
As I mentioned, this year, there was no elaborate dessert table, instead, just a cake.  One kind of cake, vanilla chiffon, with eggnog buttercream.

It wasn't very good.  The cake was dry and plain.  The buttercream did have a slight eggnog flavor, but it mostly tasted like, and had the consistency of, Crisco.  I'm never a huge fan of cake, but this was particularly not very good, and even the frosting couldn't save it.

Snacks

Aged White Cheddar & Cayenne Shortbread Crackers.
In a side room with drinks, they did have a snack table.  So when I said there was no appetizers, maybe this counts?  There were only two items though, one savory, one sweet, so, not really.

The savory was cheesy shortbreads, sorta a cross between a cracker and a cookie.  A bit crumbly, thick like a cookie rather than a cracker, slightly sweet, and, cheesy.  I didn't taste the cayenne at all.

An interesting item, and maybe a winner if you wanted a little something to end the night that wasn't really sweet?
Whiskey Caramel Popcorn.
Also on the table was ... whiskey caramel popcorn!

ZOMG.  So, I have an obsession with popcorn, sweet or savory.  Yes, my blog has a label for it.

There is a vendor at the farmer's market in my hometown that makes the most ridiculously good kettle corn imaginable.  My mother sends me bags of it via next day mail sometimes when she is feeling particularly generous.  I know how ridiculous this is, as it is huge in volume, but light, and costs a ton to ship like this, but, well, it is incredible, and I can't get it in San Francisco, so I don't give her too much crap when such a shipment arrives.  I'm also known for bringing entire suitcases of it back to San Francisco with me every time I visit, and my mom knows to always have a freezer full of it waiting for me (yes, a freezer.  My real obsession, is not just popcorn, but, frozen popcorn.  Try it sometime.  It gets crunchier.  I never want it hot and fresh, I always want it frozen!).

At my office, the catering team often makes popcorn for events.  Their savory version with parmesan and truffle is particularly addicting, as is the sweet brown butter version.  Whenever an event has leftover popcorn, you know who is there immediately, scooping it all up, and whisking it away to her freezer.

And then there is caramel corn.  Whenever I order from Munchery, I try to add on extra caramel corn, just to throw into my freezer, as the version they sell from time to time from Chef Allison Tom is also pretty great.  When I visit the ball park, I stock up on the warm, gooey version from Say Hey!.  I'll even stoop so low as to just eat Cracker Jacks (but only when I freeze them of course).

So to say I was excited about caramel popcorn is a bit of an understatement.  And, this was good.  I didn't taste whiskey, and it clearly wasn't frozen, but, it was good.  Sweet, a bit gooey, crunchy.  Some little chunks, some big balls.  I wanted nuts or something in it, but, for classic caramel popcorn, it surely was good.  I may or may not have gone back for a few more cups full throughout the evening, and perhaps I walked out the door at the end of the night with a final cup full in hand.  I mean, who would do something like that?
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