Tasting. Early last week i was contacted by a client, actually a former boss here in Brazil. She knew i was into different food and asked if had any gigs yet for exactly two weeks out. I didn't. Great! Her cousin needed a caterer for her 40th birthday party for seventy people. Luckily, standing room cocktail. I cannot cook dinner for seventy people, but i can do appetizers. The only requirement was that I offer a tasting of all the possible choices. Tastings make perfect sense, especially when you are going to be spending a lot of money on large quantities. I know tastings are common place, but for a cocktail party--less usual. But i saw it as a perfect way to try and really impress. Dinner-time cocktail parties should offer at least ten appetizers per person along with non-numerical snacks. So, projecting ten different appetizers, i decided to offer fourteen during the tasting. It will be easy I thought, i only need to make two of everything. My appetizer ark, however, turned out to be quite the task.
The tasting was last Thursday at 9pm. I started prepping my menu items that morning around 9:00. My tasting menu was split down the middle between Asian flavors and more classic Italian. To bore you with a list I presented: green papaya salad with fried plantain, tandoori chicken in mint sauce, curry tea sandwiches, Vietnamese pork spring rolls, tomato bruschetta, tartines with homemade ricotta, honey and bacon; spinach and gouda arancini di riso (fried risotto balls), sesame salmon lollipops, zucchini panzanella, fresh pea salad with apple and mint, creme brulee, dark chocolate truffles and a few other things that are slipping my mind. Damn it is a lot harder to create two of each in one day than i had thought it would be. I am continually underestimating how difficult it is to prepare such a variety. The greatest thing about this tasting was that literally it was a "run through" for the event, which give me more of an idea the time needed for each component.
I admit, I was extremely nervous when i arrived at the tasting (the venue of the party - a gorgeous apartment in one of the fancier districts of Sao Paulo). Luckily, my lovely clients offered me a glass (or two) of wine. Getting two women to eat fourteen small dishes in a timely manner after 9pm proved to be somewhat a difficult task. I felt like an Italian grandmother shoving pasta down their throats. Eat this one now, it's hot, stop looking at it, eat it! I jest, we took our time. The tasting lasted two hours and though i was exhausted, i was thrilled. They loved each and every dish. We decided they would look over their notes and decide which dishes to put on the party menu by Monday. Fabulous. They chose seven of the fourteen and I will be serving them this Saturday night. I also took charge of the party rentals - no paper or plastic forks at this gig. Ceramic plates, forks, wine glasses and serving trays. I will be hiring one waitress to serve the hot appetizers throughout the party - yes things are getting serious! Let's hope it all goes as planned.
The day after the tasting I had to start preparing for my third run at the Sao Paulo Night Market which was held on Saturday from noon until 9pm. I usually make savory food for the market as i honestly believe it sells better than sweets, however, this time around the market organizers asked me to do sweets since there were already three other food vendors and only one dessert vendor. I took it as an opportunity to advertise dessert tables for parties, so i set my display as top priority. I made a 4 layer ombre cake, creme brulees, cheesecake squares, brownie cake pops, Irish cream chocolate truffles, sandwich cookies and chocolate chip cookies. All of this in one day? Let's just say my kitchen was a sticky, sugary disaster by the time i left for the market.
I didn't sell out. The creme brulees did sell out though -- torches usually draw a crowd. Usually not selling out isn't a problem as i view the market as more of a publicity event than anything else, so i usually just aim to cover my costs. Unfortunately this time the registration fee to sell at the Market was more than double the usual price since the event was celebrating it's one year anniversary and offered free admission to market goers. Was a bit more of a stretch to cover the costs. But on the bright side i've already been contacted by two possible clients i met at the market, so definitely worth the investment. And! i won a giant basket of New Zealand kiwis! Random? Yes. But so is a Sao Paulo market organized by gringos. My caipirinhas are set for the week.
That's all we have for now, I must be off to bake white fish for dinner (St. Peter to be exact, which is in the tilapia family. Did you know there are more than three hundred types of tilapia? Now you do.) We hope to be back here promptly with the results from the cocktail event this Saturday -- hopefully good results. Until then, wish us luck. à bientôt.