A Bite Worth a Thousand Words
By Amy Richards
Whether you are throwing a b’nai mitzvah party or a wedding reception, food plays an important part in any Jewish celebration. It doesn’t matter if you are planning a huge bash or an intimate one, a casual reception or a black-tie affair, a daytime party or an evening event, food sets the tone and can make or break a celebration.
For many parties, it is important to taste test what you will serve to your guests. But how should you approach planning a taste test for catering or desserts? Three local professionals tell Celebrations how to get the most out of your tasting experience.
Bon Appétit Management Company is the exclusive caterer for the Cleveland Museum of Art.
“We offer full-service, on-site catering and have a full on-site culinary team,” says Rachel Rosen, director of catering sales for Bon Appétit at CMA. “Our tastings operate a bit differently as couples are trying the items that they will be serving at their wedding, rather than narrowing down options, as we do not offer tastings prior to booking.”
Tastings at the museum, located in Cleveland’s University Circle district, usually take place four to 12 weeks prior to the event to take advantage of seasonal offerings.
“We want what they taste to be as close as it can be to what they will receive the day of the wedding,” Rosen says. “For example, squash in July will taste much different from squash in September.”
The venue offers full-course tastings for weddings – starting with “a sparkling toast, as it’s a wonderful way to start a fun tasting,” Rosen says.
“This is followed by the passed hors d’oeuvres,” she says. “We then move into the salad course and wine selections, followed by the three entrées that will be offered. We finish with our mini pastries and coffee. Our catering and pastry chefs come out and speak with the group, answer questions and give recommendations.”
While Bon Appétit has standard catering menus and packages, customization is also an option, Rosen says.
Although Bon Appétit at CMA mainly caters weddings, “If someone were to host a bar or bat mitzvah, a tasting would be available to them with a similar format,” Rosen adds.
For catering that highlights an assortment of deli meats, fish, cheeses and handcrafted baked goods, look no further than Davis Bakery and Delicatessen in Warrensville Heights and Woodmere.
To taste those items, just wander in and have a nosh, says Jayson Davis, one of Davis Bakery’s owners. Davis Bakery also bake cakes for all special occasions and will arrange a special tasting, especially for wedding couples.
“Our hope is to simplify the process,” Davis says. “Selecting the cake is one of the facets of a wedding that is supposed to be fun, not an arduous task. We set up a time to meet, ask the couple their desired flavors to taste, and procure the samples.”
Davis says the bakery listens to the customers’ ideas and he suggests they bring photos of what they envision along for the taste test. “Then, we do our best to make their vision a reality,” he says.
A mainstay in the Northeast Ohio Jewish community since 1939, the bakery’s motto is “The taste tells the story,” Davis relays.
“Our hope is that the food will leave a lasting impression on the event’s attendees,” he says. “It all starts with the bride and groom during that tasting. We want to hear them say, ‘Wow, that’s delicious.’”
Davis also encourages customers to consider practicality as well as budget when deciding what they want to taste and eventually serve.
“If you’re planning an outdoor event in the middle of July, you may want to avoid a whipped cream cake,” Davis adds. “Do you want a
formal meal for guests to eat at a table, or hand-held items that can easily be consumed while mingling? Also, expenditures add up, so make sure that your desires are in alignment with your pocketbook.”
LUNA BAKERY & CAFE
Along with its popular cakes for weddings and other formal events, Luna Bakery & Cafe offers a full selection of mini pastries. Those are popular options for parties with kids, says Brynn Keefe, cake shop manager at Luna, which has locations in Cleveland Heights, Moreland Hills and is opening a new shop in downtown Cleveland this spring.
The hits for events tend to be mini cupcakes, custom sugar cookies and bars.
“We also have a selection of breakfast pastries, full size and minis, which are great for a busy morning with house guests or family and friends gathering before the celebration,” Keefe says. “They are available for purchase in our cafe for you to taste.”
For Luna’s specialty cakes for any celebration, including b’nai mitzvahs and weddings, there is a process for taste testing where customers can sample flavors and share what designs they like.
“We have a cake tasting box available to order for individuals looking to sample cake,” Keefe says. “They pick a day and time that works best for them. Once they sample the box, they pass along the flavors they enjoyed most, along with their design ideas. From there, we provide a quote and design sketch.”