Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Exquisite Catering @ Asbury Hall

Over the summer, I attended a wedding held at Asbury Hall, in Buffalo, NY.  It is a really fascinating venue, originally a Methodist church, constructed in the 1800s.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  And it is owned by Ani DeFranco.  Random, yes.  But a really great venue for a wedding, with a big stage in front, plentiful space in the hall, and even a balcony level.
Wedding Hall.
In the middle of they hall they set rows for the seated ceremony.  They were quickly cleared away after dinner and turned into a dance floor.

Dinner was a seated tables around the room.

Anyway, this isn't "Julie's Architecture Review Club", so, I'll stop talking about the venue, and instead focus on what you are here for: the food!

The catering was done by Exquisite Catering, and, assuming it would go the way of pretty much all wedding catering, aka, totally disappointing (like even at the famous Parker House), I didn't take notes, nor did I ever intend to write a review.

But, the quality of the catering was so impressive, I am compelled to write this up.  You know, just in case any of you need to throw a wedding in Buffalo, NY and are looking for a caterer.  If you are, I highly, highly recommend Exquisite Catering!  The summary?  They used quality ingredients, the food was well prepared, and shockingly, even for catering, it was served hot, and the veggies were perfectly crisp.  I was honestly stunned.

Our friends choose a wedding package featuring an open bar for four hours, a champagne toast, a cocktail hour with fruit, cheese, and antipasto displays plus three passed hot appetizers, and then a seated dinner with a salad and three entree options.  I'll review both sections of the night.

Hors d’Oeuvres

The evening started with a cocktail hour, which included both stationary cold appetizers and hot passed appetizers.

The bar was well stocked, and the bartenders very friendly.  Great service from the staff.
Hors d’Oeuvres Display.
"Salami, Marinated Artichokes, Pepperoncini,Assorted Olives, Roasted Red Peppers,
Sopresetta and Capicola, Seasonal Fresh Fruit, Domestic Cheese, Imported Cheese, Crackers."

All wedding packages include cheese and fruit at this station, and our hosts upgraded to include antipasto for $2/person.

The cold apps were an array of antipasto, cheese, and fruit, arranged on platters spiraling around a center piece.  The staff kept this area replenished nonstop.

This was the weakest part of the meal though.  I didn't try any of the fruit, didn't love the charcuterie, and thought the brie was flavorless, but I did really enjoy the smoked gouda.  That said, I wasn't trying to fill up on these items, when there were far better things to come.
Hot Apps: Duck Confit, Spanikopita, Spring Rolls.
For passed apps, our hosts were able to select 3 items from an extensive list, which had a number of tempting options, like mini crab cakes, fried ravioli with dipping sauce, crispy risotto bites, bacon wrapped scallops, even chicken and waffles!  They selected:
  • Duck Confit on Brioche Drizzled with Truffle Honey
  • Mini Spanikopita Quiche Cups (vegetarian)
  • Spring Vegetable Roll with Sweet Chili Sauce (vegetarian)
The apps were brought around by servers circulating the room throughout the cocktail hour.  I didn't take any photos during that time, again, not planning to write a review, however, they placed a plate of them on our table afterwards to continue enjoying alongside our meal, which is what you see pictured above.

I don't really like duck, or crostini, so the duck confit wasn't a winner for me, just an item I don't really care for on top of crispy and oily bread.  Others enjoyed it.

The vegetable spring rolls were good, a little oily, but far better than expected.  They were served piping hot and fresh, quite rare for catering.  How often is catered food actually hot?  I did of course love the sweet chili sauce served alongside.

The spanikopita quiche cups were the hands-down winner.  They too were hot and fresh.  The inside was cheesy and creamy, and the crust was flaky, buttery, and quite tasty.  This was a unique form of spanikopita, no phyllo dough involved, but I really enjoyed these.  Warm, cheesy, comfort food, how do you say no, particularly when they keep coming to you, delivered with a smile by very attentive serving staff.

The staff did a great job here, circulating the entire room effectively (how frustrating is it when the platters of apps never make it more than a few feet into the room at large events?) and the food flowed steadily (again, how frustrating when it runs out after 10 minutes, or the lag between rounds is crazy long?).  We wanted for nothing, and it was one of the most successful cocktail hours I've ever seen executed.

Dinner

Beautiful Tables.
After the ceremony, we moved to seated tables for the main meal.

All dinner packages include salad, rolls, and coffee/tea service, in addition to the choice of 3 entrees.
Mixed Berry Salad.
"Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries tossed with mesclun greens and topped with a berry vinaigrette and garnished with gorgonzola cheese".

Our hosts had the choice of 5 salads for everyone to receive to start.  I really applaud Exquisite Catering here, as not a single option was just a standard garden salad.  The most run of the mill choices were the Caesar or Caprese, and the other three included more interesting ingredients like pears and candied walnuts, fennel and oranges, or, in our case, mixed berries.

The salad was actually really quite good, almost awesome even (aside from looks, that is).  The lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the spinach in particular really shone.  The berries were all quite flavorful, fresh, and perfectly ripe, a great seasonal choice.  Gorgonzola went nicely with the berries.

But ... it was inconsistently dressed, and overdressed in places, and the dressing was just too powerful.  The half of the salad I had without much dressing I actually really loved, but the center with all the dressing I couldn't quite handle.  A shame, as the ingredients really were spectacular.

Overall though, for mass wedding catering, the quality of the ingredients and freshness were very impressive.
Filet Mignon (8oz).
"Seared filet topped with a merlot reduction sauce along with red bliss potatoes and green beans
almandine."

Moving into the entrees, our hosts were able to pick 3 selections for us to pick from in advance when we RSVPed.  They selected one beef, one chicken, and one seafood option.

For beef, they could select between the NY Strip or Filet Mignon, and luckily for us, they went for the filet.

Ojan picked this for his entree, since of all items, steak is the one that catering tends to do the best, particularly because it is less temperature sensitive at serving time, and can hold its heat a little.

I tried a bite and it was good.  Obviously he had no choice in how it was cooked so it was more cooked through than we'd prefer, but it was decent quality, nicely seared, he polished it off without trouble, a bit remarkable given how much we'd already had to eat at this point.

The beans were unremarkable, I really think just beans, not almandine as described on the catering menu.

The potatoes were well roasted and seasoned, but not particularly interesting.  Ojan didn't bother take a second bite, and left the potatoes and beans virtually untouched.  But he enjoyed the steak, and was more than satisfied with his meal.  Again, we had feasted on the passed apps, since they were so shockingly good, and we weren't expecting stellar entrees.
Seared Swordfish.
"Topped with a crab and tomato butter along with herb risotto and asparagus."

I opted for the seafood, even though I knew this was a risky move.  But I really like fish!  Our hosts had the choice of pecan crusted salmon with a honey beurre blanc, panko crusted roasted mahi mahi with a basil butter sauce, or this swordfish.  They all actually sounded great to me.

The swordfish was actually really quite nice.  It was moist.  Yes, seafood served en masse, and it wasn't dried out.  It, like the apps, was piping hot.  Not just warm, actually hot.  A bit hard to see due to the sauce, but it had lovely grill marks on it, and a slight smoky flavor.  I was stunned at how well the swordfish was prepared.

Under the swordfish was asparagus, also quite good, nicely roasted, fresh, seasonal, flavorful.  No token generic frozen vegetables on the plate.

All of this was atop a risotto.  It too was quite good, flavorful, creamy, and nicely cooked. Not a pile of mush.

And, the best part, the tomato butter with crab.  This was truly delicious, and everything was smothered in it.  It went well with everything on the plate.

The portion was huge, and I'd already had quite a few of the appetizers, but I couldn't stop eating this.  It wasn't just good for catering, it was just really, truly, delicious.  I finished every last bite, even knowing how full I was, and that there was of course a dessert room to follow.  Too good.  Shocking.

No one at our table opted for the chicken selection, so I don't have anything to say about that.
Desserts!
After the meal, a back room was transformed into a dessert mecca.  I believe the desserts were prepared by someone other than the main caterer, but I'm not positive.

We had an assortment of cupcakes in fun flavor combinations, topped with fondant dinosaurs (the wedding theme).  The cakes themselves weren't great, but the frosting flavors were all tasty, and I loved the cute dinos.  There were also some lackluster mini pies and really excellent chocolates.

This was all served with coffee and tea.  The decaf coffee was very drinkable, a nice surprise.
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