Here in Minnesota we’re hunkered down for the winter. But that doesn’t mean our taste buds are frozen. I ventured out into a snowstorm last week to attend a chapter meeting of the National Association of Catering and Events (NACE). I’ve been attending NACE meetings for quite a few years. The company is great, and the food is fantastic, as the venue always pulls out all the stops to impress this elite group of hospitality professionals.
Last week’s meeting was held at the Crowne Plaza by the airport. Chef Jay Claro from Hawaii’s Big Island and Sous Chef Dave Gruenke teamed with NACE planners to bring us a celebration of the seasons through inspiring cuisine, while Sheree Bochenek of Apres Party and Tent Rental provided gorgeous tablescapes that transported us to summer, fall and spring settings. Imagine Lights provided the perfect touch of lighting and music to enhance the mood.
We started with winter appetizers, including awesome bacon-wrapped figs and mini Reubens on picks. A spring Caprese salad with cucumber and mint-infused water started off the courses, followed by a summer grilled salmon that tasted like it had just come off cedar planks. Pear and quinoa couscous was especially good. The evening was finished off with to-die-for roasted apple dumpling that brought back memories of autumn leaves and trips to the apple orchard.
A special shout-out goes to server Simeon Escobar, originally from El Salvador. While all the service staff was outstanding, Simeon personally thanked every guest as we were leaving and invited us back for more special treatment. Simeon has been at the hotel since 1981, and has served in almost every capacity starting with back sink and moving to the pantry, line cook, laundry and bellmen/driver. His warmth and hospitality gave me the fortitude to face the blustery freezing rain and snow on the trip home, content and full.