Catering to Your Every Need

Sammy's Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Shrimp balls

It seems that with the coming of the summer season there is a huge increase in events for which one may consider the services of a caterer. Graduations, weddings, confirmations and the parties celebrating these social events can severely tax a normal household kitchen. It is always important for such special events the food be commensurate with the celebration, a special time requires special food and drink. It is at times like these that the hosts of these parties may look to the services of a caterer. The many facets of catering services go beyond food preparation; they can also include every aspect required to make the event a success, from table and chair rental to linens, glassware and servers. Opting to work with a caterer has the added benefit of allowing the host to actually enjoy the event without having to rush off to the kitchen to check on the tray of lasagna or scurry to the local mini mart to obtain more ice.

There are any numbers of caterers who can provide everything from basic box lunches to fancy feasts. Some caterers confine their services to specific halls and party centers while others are willing to take on the challenge of providing a banquet in surroundings which are not designed for food preparation or services. That can present a particular problem and requires a knowledgeable and seasoned veteran.

As the Lakewood Public Library planned its gala “Be the First to See the Best” to be held on June 23rd, it became clear that this once in a lifetime event required very special handling. The organizers realized that an event celebrating one of the country’s finest libraries needed to have food commensurate with that institution and despite my ongoing pleas for a demo kitchen to be included in the construction project, alas there would be no cooking facilities available. The Gala Committee examined the options available and turned to a caterer whose impeccable reputation for organizing such events in the most improbable places is legend.

Many may remember Sammy’s in the flats. During the 80s Sammy’s was the place to be, as after work patrons would line up six deep at the raw bar. It was a restaurant which can take significant credit for the re-birth of fine dining in Cleveland and one of which I have many fine memories. Alas Sammy’s has been closed since the turn of the millennium, but fortunately its excellence still survives in its catering; both in-house at such places as the Metropolitan (old Mid Day Club), as well as the restaurant at Severance Hall. It was with no small amount of excitement that I greeted the invitation of the Library Gala Committee to attend a tasting at Sammy’s headquarters in the flats of the planned menu for the June 23rd event hosted by Sammy’s Denise Fugo.

As I was escorted into what used to be the dining room of Sammy’s, it seemed as if nothing had really changed. The view was still spectacular and the space looked just as it had when my wife and I celebrated our anniversary there. Indeed, it was almost as if you listened closely enough, you could still hear the sweet jazz of Hank Geer wafting about the rafters. Except for special events and banquets, Sammy’s is no longer open as a restaurant; although interestingly enough, their reputation continues because not a week goes by that they do not receive a phone call trying to set up a dinner reservation. We discussed the Library Gala, as the server brought out plate after plate of items to sample and Denise made it very clear that, “the customers will remember the food they ate”. Good coordination is the key “make it memorable serving world class food and beverage” and, indeed, what the guests at the Gala for the opening for this world class library will experience is, undoubtedly world class food.

Grilled pork tenderloin topped with Granny Smith Apples and currants en croute combined the classic tastes of apple and pork contrasted with Sammy’s version of boardwalk fries, a paper cones filled with delicate pomme frites with a malt aoli. Tortilla crepes topped with a dab of fresh guacamole and sweet crab presented a study in textures while the succulent shrimp balls with a spicy sherry sauce woke up the palate. It was difficult to choose a favorite from among the offerings, but if forced to choose I think that the Vietnamese vegetable spring roll, crispy fried in rice paper with a honey soy sauce or the mini grilled chicken focaccia with roasted red and yellow peppers in a parmesan spread would top the list. There was no shortage of sweets on display with such favorites as the double fudge brownies and classic lemon squares, mini pistachio mousse horns, strawberries dipped in chocolate and the grasshopper parfait.

The presentation of the food we sampled was spectacular. Some items on the menu had previously been decided including some standards such as fresh vegetable crudités, domestic cheese, penne pasta and a variety of assorted focaccia pizzas. Cleary, the food offerings would be remembered by those who attend the gala. As we discussed the logistics of holding such an event in this magnificent new space and went over a variety of details from tables, chairs and linens, Denise and her coordinator, Kelly Stenger were absolutely unfazed when I asked her how they could possible deal with serving such a varied and creative menu without any kitchen access in a space which is designed for books and not diners. She smiled with a slight shrug and said “Sammy’s is here to make it all happen in unique locations”. My tastings of the Library Gala’s catered event left no doubt in my mind that this would, in fact, be a happening. In much the same way as the food at the Sammy’s Restaurant made it the place to go and be seen, clearly, that will be duplicated with the Library’s Gala event on June 23rd.

Read More on Chef Geoff
Volume 3, Issue 12, Posted 11:23 AM, 06.01.2007