From Aperitif to Digestif
A cute little idea finally grows up. What caterer hasn't served an hors d'oeuvre in a martini glass? Some have been so bold as to even use other glassware. After being kicked around, overused and abused, this simple idea of serving food in a glass, combined with a play on the words "Bar Food", morphs into a sophisticated, innovative concept. "From Aperitif to Digestif", guests revel in a totally new "fine dining" experience. Not only is each course offered in the appropriate glassware associated with the alcohol-turned-ingredient, but is also served in the order it would be at a formal dinner. Whew!
Okay, open your mind. Ready? We have a question to pose. At an event, what if the bar and buffet traded places --- not just location, but basic concept, function and presentation? Talk about instant challenges! For a casual, end of the year, drop-in-after-work, celebration party for a small company, that's just what happened. The invite said stop by for drinks and "Bar Food". With guests eager to pat each other on the back for a wonderful year and brag a bit about themselves, toasts were definitely in order. So why not make it both the focus and theme for the evening?
Contemplating the celebratory nature of the gathering, we began to think about the bar, the glassware and just how many types of drinks you could serve. And then it happened - the shift in thought from alcohol to food and the realization of the connection between the two. Let's use all glassware to serve a fun menu from start to finish --- "From Aperitif to Digestif". And while we're at it, let's design each menu item to include an alcohol related ingredient served in its proper glass. As if that is not challenge enough, let's present the courses in the order the beverage would be served at a formal dinner. Are you still with us?
In a chic, little jewel of a venue with a hip nightclub ambience, a sleek bar commands attention with its rich mahogany wood front, subway tile boarder and black marble top. Behind the bar, four sets of mod chrome and glass shelves beg to be included in the concept. With five shelves per unit, a different glassware is showcased on each shelf in the order it will be presented. As a guest comes up to place an order, the chef "bartender" grabs the appropriate glass from the shelf and begins blending the ingredients.
As guests arrive, a hand passed tray of Sherry glasses filled with a warm creamy Lobster Bisque laced with actual Sherry (often used as an opener to sharpen the palate), welcomes all in from the cold. Used as our "Aperitif", the fortified soup sip sets the stage for what is to come.
Because of the small number of guests arriving in a slow, steady stream, staff could offer some direction to this fun, innovative concept. Staged on the bar as if announcing the available beverage choices for the night, a menu lists the various courses to be served along with the evening's glassware paired with its appropriate alcohol. Chefs suggest that the courses be enjoyed in sequence, but quickly add to order whatever you like. If you want dessert first; do it. We're all adults here.
On the top shelf, salt-rimmed margarita glasses wait to be snatched. A dollop of just-made guacamole splashed with aged Cabo Wabo Tequila fills the well of the glass served with in-house made chips and strips of Jicama. Like a margarita cocktail enjoyed before dinner, this guacamole appetizer becomes the first savory course offered from the bar.
For the second course, an old fashioned champagne glass serves up a festive Beet Salad with Citrus Champagne Vinaigrette. Often served before dinner, champagne pairs well with this fancy dressed up the salad.
A martini glass provides the ideal vessel for Penne Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce made with top-shelf Grey Goose --- a clever tie in with a vodka martini.
Presented in a white wine glass, a chardonnay reduction beautifully compliments this Greek Chicken Roulade on a skewer with Rice. For this dish we paired it with Beringer Chardonnay.
Reserved for our most hearty course, we select 2008 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon to create a savory red wine sauce to top Braised Beef served over Truffle Mashed Potatoes presented in a grand red wine glass. Sommeliers everywhere would be pleased.
But there is something missing. Since the chefs have claimed the bar, then what are these people drinking? On the other side of the room, we've set up a mock buffet with an assortment of beers, wines, sodas, ice and glasses for guests to help themselves. Staff, of course, are there to assist with service as with any well maintained buffet. The banquet tables, grand centerpiece, linens and risers offer a convincing argument that this set up is indeed a buffet. With the switch complete, guests have no problem falling into this new reality. The invitation said stop by for Drinks and "Bar Food". Little did they know the culinary treat awaiting them. This concept elevates "Bar Food" to a whole new level.
Behind the bar, chefs work at self-contained stations hidden from view to quickly fill a request no matter what the selection from the menu. With these easy to assemble courses, some can even be staged on the bar for quick access such as the guacamole and salad. Requests for hot items come together quicker than ordering a drink.
When it comes time for dessert, the bar traffic is now light enough to free two of the chefs to open the "Specialty Bars". Cherries Jubilee gets all the attention as the brandy in the sauce ignites and then subsides leaving a wonderful warm syrup to pour over cubes of freshly baked, buttery pound cake. With a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry on top presented in a delightful little brandy snifters, this dessert follows theme in grand fashion.
Ready for coffee? Try a cup of Chilled Coffee Eggnog splashed with Irish Whiskey to warm the soul. Finished with a sprinkle of chocolate covered espresso beans, our in-house made holiday eggnog needs a spoon for guests to enjoy the cappuccino ice cream nestled at the bottom of the cup.
And just when you think there is not another piece of glassware to be had, out come chilled Limoncello glasses filled with Semifreddo Limoncello Gelato --- a sweet reminder of a favorite Italian Digestif.
Special thanks to The Atrium for being our host venue! Check out their website to see more photos of this stunning event space!