F&B That Surprises and Delights

The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, culinary staff, led by Executive Chef Dwayne Edwards, was so relentlessly clever in its F&B presentations for the recent Ritz-Carlton Insurance Advisory Council meeting, that it was a great reminder to the corporate meeting planners in attendance about how working with chefs and event staff can yield some fantastic creativity for conference meals and breaks.

Here are some of the ways they went beyond the traditional banquet menu:

  • An airline-themed break featured one banquet serve outfitted as a pilot and another as a flight attendant alongside two aircraft service carts filled with beverages, tins of roasted and spiced marcona almonds or honey-roasted peanuts, baguette slices served with tubes of pate in paper boxes (with the local airport code stamped on top), plus homemade cookies in rustic paper packaging labeled with handwritten tags and tied with twine.
  • A golf-themed break featured a spread of snacks in the back of a beverage cart. These included grilled shrimp on chopstick “tees” and beef tartare in savory cones, all popping out of a “grass”-lined tray, teed up for guests to pluck out and enjoy. If that wasn’t enough for guests to talk about, the break featured golf games such as a putting contest as well.
  • At breakfast, individual cereal servings were packaged in reusable Mason jars. And in addition to the expected omelet station and plenty of crispy bacon, there was also a smoothie station. A variety of healthy, colorful, “power shots” of pureed vegetables and other ingredients were arrayed in shot glasses for attendees to mix and match with fresh juices into customized smoothie blends.
  • A baseball-themed lunch featured burgers, brats, and braised meat sandwiches, but the real “wow” offerings were the desserts in disguise. What looked like miniature corndogs with a side of ketchup actually were batter-dipped chocolate dogs with raspberry sauce. Mini hot dogs in buns were actually red-colored chocolate ganache dogs in macaroon cookie buns. And the sliders were in fact macaroon buns with sesame seeds, hamburger patty-shaped chocolate ganache, mango jelly (shaped to look like a slice of cheese), and corn flakes dipped in green-colored chocolate (very convincingly playing the role of lettuce).
  • Signage sealed the themes. At the airline break, the snack station labels were typed onto a sheet of paper that looked like an aircraft passenger manifest or stock list; at the baseball lunch, food items were identified by labels written on baseballs; at the golf-themed break, the food descriptions were written on score cards from the nearby golf course.

– Alison Hall

From “F&B That Surprises and Delights.” MeetingsNet/Corporate & Incentives Sept. 2013: 12. Print.