by Beth Buehler
There is a meeting to be planned and food is involved. No need to panic. The Colorado venue where you are meeting determines if catering is handled on-site (at a hotel, resort, restaurant, and some venues like Colorado Convention Center and Denver Center for Performing Arts where there is an exclusive caterer), if a client selects from a list of preferred caterers or if the meeting planner decides on the food arrangement.
The type of cuisine needed (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or reception appetizers) and how it will be served are the next things to consider. Will it be a buffet, sit-down, box lunches or breakfasts, food stations, classic Western barbecue on a patio or passed hors d’oeuvres? Budget typically helps determine the answer to both of these considerations.
After attending numerous conferences and meetings in Colorado and helping plan a few of my own, here are five tips for making the catering stand out.
Novelty and variety – Most chefs and venues like to show off their creativity. Novelty and variety doesn’t always have to be expensive. Variety could be as simple as having dinner on the patio overlooking a cityscape or mountain vista and moving inside for dessert and a coffee bar or having a meal in an orchard. Novelty could be tapping into one of the latest trends like ice cream sandwich mania or serving brunch mid-morning.
Be thoughtful – Not everyone likes heavy, calorie-laden foods and there are several dietary needs that must be considered these days such as gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan, kosher, etc. If possible, ask guests in advance.
Make it look nice – Add a few special touches to a buffet or reception table, versus the same old chafing dishes and boring platters, and you will catch the attention of many attendees. At a VIP reception in Denver a few years ago, I remember classic marble cutting boards with big rounds of cheese with the type of cheese written on small cheese-shop-style signs. Finally, I knew what type of cheese I was eating and it looked attractive. The hotel also did a nice job of elevating some dishes to create visual interest. Western-style meal? See if you can get your hands on some speckled metal dishware and think of new ways to use burlap and colorful bandannas. Host it at one of Destination Colorado’s member ranches and mountain hotels and no need to worry about finding Western accents.
Add a local touch – My favorite conference meals and receptions involve locally harvested or products foods. If it is peach season, peaches from the Grand Junction or Palisade area are a must perhaps in the form of a salsa, signature drink or cobbler. Olathe sweetcorn is another popular summer treat to include roasted or in soups, for example. When writing an article about Telluride, I found out about an outdoor farm-to-table reception at Madeline Hotel and Residences that featured area farmers representing their foods such as Colorado lamb.
Don’t forget the drinks – Okay, so pitchers of water, lemonade and tea are inexpensive and work for many occasions. However, if you have the budget or feel innovative, seek out Colorado producers of juices, sodas, spirits, beer or wine to partner with and perhaps gain exposure for their products if you have a large enough group. Big B’s in Hotchkiss makes fabulous juices, and Rocky Mountain Soda Co. creates all-natural sodas in Denver. There are too many distilleries, breweries and winemakers to mention, so plenty to choose from.
Make every sip and bite memorable with these fairly easy considerations. Bon appétit!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.