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Wedding help needed!


sara
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Hi,

Well, I'm engaged! LiamDC and I will be getting married next June. So, we need some help. We'd like to get married in Philadelphia, either in or very near the city--and we want great food & wine, of course!

Couple of questions--does anyone know of caterers or locations that allow us to either provide our own wine or request specific wines? What are your thoughts on the best (meaning creative food- no stuffed chicken breasts or salmon), but also reasonably priced, caterers in the area? Do you have location ideas (think 100 people, red wine allowed, a/c, not costing more than a few thousand, no hotels)?

Thanks--we appreciate it!

Sara

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Hi,

Well, I'm engaged! LiamDC and I will be getting married next June. So, we need some help. We'd like to get married in Philadelphia, either in or very near the city--and we want great food & wine, of course!

Couple of questions--does anyone know of caterers or locations that allow us to either provide our own wine or request specific wines?  What are your thoughts on the best (meaning creative food- no stuffed chicken breasts or salmon), but also reasonably priced, caterers in the area?  Do you have location ideas (think 100 people, red wine allowed, a/c, not costing more than a few thousand, no hotels)?

Thanks--we appreciate it!

Sara

Congratulations Sara! May I wish you both every happiness!

Call Feast Your Eyes and/or Peachtree Catering. They can give you a list of venues where they are "approved" (read: insured) to do business. I've worked for both companies in the past and they do very nice work. Peachtree Catering If you call Feast, ask for Lynn or Skip. Feast Your Eyes They are the owners and a pleasure to deal with. MANNA (Metropolitan Aids Neighborhood Nutritional Alliance) also has a catering arm that does very nice work and supports their very worthy cause. MANNA Catering.

Due to PLCB liquor licensing requirements, the caterer HAS to provide the wine for the event. However, I'm certain they'd be happy to serve whatever you ask them to, or purchase the wines (and then mark them up outrageously) wherever you ask them to. Moore Brothers is very good at pairing wines with the menu for you. I just solved this problem for another soon-to-be bride (see the Wine Forum) who's getting married at the University Museum. The caterer will want to please their client, so if you want a different wine that costs the same retail price as the not-so-great stuff the caterer is offering, all you should have to do is ask.

I'd suggest finding a caterer soon, as June is high season for weddings and the best caterers will have been booked fairly far in advance for every weekend that month.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Sara, I thought you were getting married later this fall.

Congratulations!

Okay, unless things have changed drastically since I left regular catering in 2002, the top of the heap in terms of caterers without a specific site (University Museum @ Penn has Museum Caterers, Franklin Institute has Frog Commissary, which brings in everything from outside) is:

(in no particular order )

Max and Me

Peachtree and Ward

Culinary Concepts

Feast Your Eyes

[rant]

Not to disparage or sully too much the reputations of these caterers, but I've seen a marked decline in the quality of the food and service put out by Philadelphia area-caterers in general since 1996. They're still putting out good stuff overall, but depending on your nitpickiness quotient, you may or may not be satisfied.

I obvviously have a high NQ. [/rant]

[disclosure]

In the past I have worked for, in reverse chronological order, Peachtree and Ward, Restaurant Associates, and Frog Commissary. [/disclosure]

I don't know much about MANNA as far as catering goes. I may have a bias here,

but I doubt their level of food and service can be as high as the places I've mentioned. That said, they are likely to be cheaper.

Katie, correction about alcohol.

Actually, at locations with a in-house caterer, alcohol will be provided by the caterer after the bridal party chooses from their list.

At locations without an in-house caterer, including those with a list of approved outside caterers, the caterer is not allowed to provide alcohol. What often happens in this situation is that the caterer will recommend particular wines and retailers where said wine can be purchased. Sometimes the caterer will pick up the wine for the client, but this is technically illegal.

So you should be able to provide your own wines anywhere in the area.

My wedding recommendation would be to decide which is most important to you, and let that lead. In other words, if the site and its architecture is most important, then make sure a particular caterer can be allowed at that particular place.

If the food is the most important thing, then let the quality of the chef and the ability of the kitchen to produce good food lead you.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Sara-

I would suggest that you check out PartySpace.com which has a great, comprehensive list of venues in the area. Most listings indicate whether they have a list of preferred caterers, an exclusive caterer, etc.

PartySpace.com

I agree with Herb that the caterers previously noted to be the top notch caterers in the area have slipped in the past few years. And the one caterer I was fairly impressed with (I'll decline to mention their name), sent my husband reeling with a case of food poisoning that same night. Keep searching through word of mouth-- you'll be amazed at how many brides-to-be and newlyweds you suddenly find when you start planning your wedding. If someone has a good suggestion, you might be prepared with additional questions (like "what is your favorite estaurant?") to help gauge if their definition of a "good" caterer is likely to match yours.

Good Luck!

"Love and cook with reckless abandon" - Dalai Lama

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Thank you all. Party Space does seem to be a nice site, pretty useful. A little corporate tho, and I'm sorta hoping for something less pricey, maybe off the beaten path a beat.

Does anyone have any thoughts on Bartram's Garden in West Philly and/or Shackamaxon Catering? Perhaps someone has attended a wedding at the Garden in the past?

Thanks!

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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I don't even know if he'd travel that far, but if you want something off the beaten path, Fink's Funky Chicken & Ribs (in Bergen County NJ) just changed exclusively to catering. His food is great, you could do a whole pig roast picnic type thing, although he also does more elegant food (link to menu, but I'm sure the one that isn't online is more extensive). Worth a call at least, because his food is excellent and his catering prices are reasonable.

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Does anyone have any thoughts on Bartram's Garden in West Philly and/or Shackamaxon Catering? Perhaps someone has attended a wedding at the Garden in the past?

thoughts on bartram's:

1. it's one of my favorite places in the city.

2. they do weddings there.

3. depending on your crowd, where they're from and what type of environment they're used to, getting there might be kind of off-putting for them. you go through kind of a rough neighborhood getting there.

but overall it's a great idea. you could look into awbury or curtis aboretums as well, for a lesser-known but still very pleasant arboretum/garden (i.e. not morris). i've been to a wedding at curtis, and it was really nice.

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Hey, Sara,

I'm doing a rehearsal dinner this month for a couple who are having their ceremony atr Bartram. I would be happy to try and put you in touch with them (they live in UCity). They seem pretty happy with their choice of venue thus far. Not sure who they're using for food, but I think it's between Feast and Peachtree.

owner, Rx

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Thank you all. Party Space does seem to be a nice site, pretty useful. A little corporate tho, and I'm sorta hoping for something less pricey, maybe off the beaten path a beat.

Does anyone have any thoughts on Bartram's Garden in West Philly and/or Shackamaxon Catering?  Perhaps someone has attended a wedding at the Garden in the past?

Thanks!

I attended a charity party once at the Horticultural Center in Fairmount Park. It was a very cool venue for an event and since all the guests got styrofoam pith helmets at the entrance it was very "Dr. Livingston, I presume?", all evening, :biggrin: Check out all of the possible public venues with the Fairmount Park commission. In addition to the botanical gardens there's the Japanese House and Garden, Memorial Hall (probably too big and expensive for your purposes, but who knows), the Morris Arboretum and I believe the Philadelphia Zoo is technically a part of Fairmount Park as well. It is the largest urban park in the country (possibly in the world), so there's probably a whole mess of other venues that I don't even know about like the various mansions, other gardens, etc. At a minimum, any of these locales are available as a spectacular backdrop for your wedding photos if you request and pay for a $20 permit at least two weeks in advance from the Fairmount Park Commission at 215-685-0060.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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A very good friend of mine has cooked at Andalusia for a while and they have that beautiful garden space if you are looking for outdoors

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Where is Andalusia?

Can anyone else think of restaurants in Philly that could hold a reception of 75-100 people, have good food, and won't cost a fortune? I know of Davio's and Brasserie Perrier, and some hotel restaurants, but don't like those ideas...

Another question--any experiences with the catering at Cibucan?

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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More thoughts on Bartram's Gardens...

I have catered several weddings there and always LOVED the space. My favorite was a progressive event that started with pre-wedding champagne cocktails in the grove of trees, a waterfront ceremony, a oyster/vodka cocktail hour in the outdoor courtyard, and finally a regular old provincial-style hoe-down in the barn, complete with acoustic band. It was a great use of everything that Bartram's has to offer.

My only experience with Shackamaxon was with its previous owner and it was not impressive. Perhaps they have improved though?

You might check into Hope Lodge & Mathers Mills in Ft. Washington. I have also catered there and the Mill is a beautiful creekside location. It is very inexpensive and they are easy to work with, but it might too tight to have 100 for a seated dinner. It would be more appropriate for a cocktail-type reception.

You might also look at The Highlands in that area, which has great outdoor space.

"Love and cook with reckless abandon" - Dalai Lama

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Thanks so much! Bartram's does sound great; still waiting to hear about rental prices tho. :wink:

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Where is Andalusia?

Sara:

Andalusia is a lovely mansion on the Delaware River, about 20 minutes north of Center City off I-95.

I worked a wedding there when one of Ted Kennedy's boys married the local heiress to the Pep Boys fortune and it is a glorious space. They had a tent outside with lumineria candle-lit walkways, Waterford crystal, bone china, real silver place settings and crystal chandeliers and more flowers in the tent than I've ever seen in my life. It was breathtaking, although obviously cost was no object for them. It really is a pretty space with lovely grounds, though.

Another pretty space that isn't far from the city is Merion Tribute House in Wynnewood. It's off the lovely tree lined road behind the Saint Joseph's seminary off City Line Avenue. I played sommeliere for a winter wedding there and they had the fireplaces going and the bride wore a beautiful white cape over her gown and it was just gorgeous. I'm certain it's very pretty in warmer weather as well, as the landscaping outside looked pretty too.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Hi

Oh, it all sounds so lovely. Unfortunately price IS an object. :unsure:

Merion Tribute is $3000 for an afternoon. Bartram is $2200.

Has anyone been to an event at the Print Center? They appear to be relatively inexpensive--$500 for 4 hours. Their caterers include FYE and Frog.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Sara,

My wedding was at Jack's Firehouse in 1992. The restaurant shut down Sunday brunch that day and we had the whole building. We were married in a room upstairs and had the reception downstairs. We had walking appetizers in the bar, and a sit down meal in the restaurant area. Jack was easy to work with in selecting the menu. The only appetizer that I can remember was a rock shrimp ceviche that was fabulous. The other appetizers were great too. We had a cornmeal crusted rainbow trout stuffed with crab and spinach for the first course, we had a choice of free range chicken or salmon for the entree. At the time Jack had a wine manager named Frederick who helped us select the wines. He also had his own pastry chef who made a grandmarnier cake with chocolate ganache between the layers and marzipan and glaze for the frosting, and that cake rocked!

We had about 90 people and we couldnt use the outdoor space because it was raining. It was a little tight in the back where the tables were, but the space worked for us.

You might want to think about other restaurants that dont usually do weddings but might be willing to do one at a time that they are not otherwise open or at a time they would be willing to close for a private party.

The price wasnt bad compared to our other options. We didnt have to pay a rental fee. We did have to rent chairs for the ceremony upstairs. I think we paid Jack $6000 for everything.

I do think that your wish to spend a few thousand dollars on a meal and wine for a hundred people is a little unrealistic unless you are planning to do something ethnic like maybe Chinese. Places like HK Golden Pheonix do weddings all of the time. I have a friend who got married at Kingdom of Vegetarians and the food was amazing, but that space wouldnt hold a hundred people.

We just attended a wedding at the College of Physicians catered by Peachtree and Ward. The food was great. The setting is a bit bizarre. I have only attended weddings of physicians at that space. Who else would have their guests tour the Mutter museum and ponder a toxic megacolon prior to dinner?

Jennifer

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Jennifer,

Thanks so much. This is just the kind of thing I'm looking for. To clarify--I'm not saying I'll only spend a few 1000 on food/wine-- but rather I'd like to save most of the money for those items and not spend it on location. 6000 ten years ago sounds like a GREAT deal. Very cool--I will check it out. Did you contact Jack directly to arrange something they don't normally do there?

Sara

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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They definately didnt normally do weddings there at the time and I'm not sure how many they have done since. We contacted the restaurant and I talked to the manager first and then we met with Jack. When he did the wedding, he said it had to cost above a certain amount to make it worth his while to shut down brunch.

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Has anyone been to an event at the Print Center? They appear to be relatively inexpensive--$500 for 4 hours. Their caterers include FYE and Frog.

I don't believe the Print Center can be used for weddings with much more than 50, but I've only been there once for a small reception, and I've never been upstairs.

I do think a restaurant is probably a good option.

But yes, you'd need one willing to close down that night just for you, so a Sunday is probably better than a Friday or Saturday, and someplace towards the fringe of Center City, like Jack's, would be best.

We just attended a wedding at the College of Physicians catered by Peachtree and Ward. The food was great. The setting is a bit bizarre. I have only attended weddings of physicians at that space. Who else would have their guests tour the Mutter museum and ponder a toxic megacolon prior to dinner?

There are a lot of wedding receptions at the College of Physicians. I don't believe they're all physicians' weddings, but I suppose that's possible.

IIRC, the "sponsored wedding" a few years ago where many products were donated (vodka by Absolut, etc.) and every sponsor listed with their product in the wedding program was at the College of Physicians.

Then of course, a little birdie had their wedding at Drexel's Hospitality School.

Although most campus events are university-related, you can also have a wedding on Penn's campus, if you pull the right strings.

I remember doing an anniversary/birthday party/wedding in the Hall of Flags.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Then of course, a little birdie had their wedding at Drexel's Hospitality School.

:tweet:

The only reason I hadn't mentioned this sooner is because I sort of had an "in" at Drexel. One of the culinary professors there was the former chef at my very first restaurant job, in addition to being dearest of friends with another friend that suggested my wedding reception be one of perhaps two or three non-school related events that were taken on there annually as a "project" for the culinary students. That being said, they did a phenomenal job with the food and service. A five course sit down meal with wines matched to each course, a wedding cake brought in from outside and an hour of delectable butlered hors d'oeuvres during cocktails came to less than $6000. Frugal but top notch classy. I'd like to think it was a reflection of the bride :biggrin:

Perhaps you could contact some of the culinary schools in town and ask if they cater "outside" events. Certainly any of the four restaurants at The Restaurant School of Walnut Hill College might be worthy of consideration.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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More good suggestions..

Ok, how about Passarelle? I've not eaten there--but the catering LOOKS good, at least... http://www.passerellerestaurant.com/

Passarelle is very pretty. Somewhat of a "package deal" wedding kind of place since special events catering seems to be what their business is mostly about (when's the last time anyone you knew said, "I went to Passerelle for dinner last night"...) but that can be a good thing if you want to have a "wedding planner" thrown in as part of the cost. It seems they'd cover everything from A-Z, have pretty grounds for photos, etc. The cost may be high but you have to think about what else you won't have to sweat about if you were to choose a full service establishment such as that.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Passerelle is under the same roof as indoor tennis courts, but it is attractive with nice grounds. I haven't eaten there in years, so I can't comment on the food.

You may want to check 333 Belrose, with a lovely patio, up the street.

Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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Congrats! The catering arm of Manna did our wedding last year. They were super nice and professional, the food was great, and affordable, and for a great cause to boot. They were as good or better than any caterers I've tried in Philly. (I used to hire caterers for events at my old job, with lots o' funding). In any case, definitely worth checking out.

As far as spaces, take a look at Fleisher Art Memorial in South Philly. They have a nice rentable space, (at a good price) which we were considering but couldn't use for completely unrelated reasons. Here's the link, with picture:

link

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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Perhaps you could contact some of the culinary schools in town and ask if they cater "outside" events. Certainly any of the four restaurants at The Restaurant School of Walnut Hill College might be worthy of consideration.

Great suggestion, Katie. I believe the Restaurant School will only do a few weddings a year, but their rates are supposedly very reasonable. Plus, the would probably be more willing to work with you on a personal and creative menu, since wedding catering is not their normal schtick. But if interested, I would contact them soon.

On another (kind of off-beat) note, you might consider the gallery space at the Painted Bride. Their rental rates are super reasonable. The space is unique-- but I would be sure to inquire what the installation would be ahead of time and not something too graphic. They also have an adjacent open room with a bar, but that would have to take some fixing up to make it suitable for a wedding (I recall it being black concrete floors?).

"Love and cook with reckless abandon" - Dalai Lama

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