Guest Blog: Jeff V. Our friend and regular customer.
Sitting on my shelf is my Pinewood Derby car. It was never a winner but it brings back fond memories of my years as a member of the Boy Scouts of America and some great Award Banquets.
Well I say great award banquets because it was a time when all the Dens would gather together to celebrate the work done for and present the Merit Badges, as well as the grand trophy for the Pinewood Derby winner.
In hindsight, I may not use the word ‘great’ when it came to the food.
The food was never an important part of the event and perhaps that’s why it was always the same. In fact, it seems like whenever we attended any event at Roma Hall (RH), the food was always the same. I guess having consistency in your life is not a bad thing, or is it?
RH events were held in a large hall with tables and chairs, and a small stage. We may have had linens on the table but, if my memory recalls, the napkins were paper and the chairs were folding.
The self-service buffet was set up against one wall which folded open for larger events. Each table in turn would line up, grab a plate and begin down the line. It was the same every time:
- Bread Basket including Italian bread, some type of muffin and (my favorite) breadsticks - breadsticks are the best to dip into the butter dish on the table
- Salad including the usual set of vegetable characters - I’d tong around the tomatoes, not my favorite food item at the time, thank goodness I grew up
- Pasta pans with a choice of Spaghetti or Lasagna - did I mention I didn’t like tomatoes? That also meant at an early age no tomato sauce.
- Chicken, sometimes Roast Beef, in some type of sauce and still on the bone - Chicken on the bone is awesome and at 10-ish years of age, I hadn’t attended an Etiquette Banquet and learned how to use utensils to pick the meat off the bone. I used what God gave me: hands and teeth.
- Desserts offering a grand selection of cookies, and the most recognized and talked about item for RH, the Cannoli.
For years, this is what I expected a banquet menu to contain. Whether it was an Award Banquet, Wedding Reception, Anniversary Party or other event RH served us the same bread, salad, pasta, meat entree and dessert. They cornered the market on American-Italian cuisine in bulk.
Today I do realize that your menu courses should include bread, salad, pasta, entree and dessert. Therefore, the RH menu wasn’t off, just bland.
Finding a banquet hall or meeting space that can provide a variety of food options is a blessing. Your Bridal Shower, Birthday Party, Retirement Celebration, etc can have your own personal flavor - literally.
Breads don’t have to be served with just butter. Choose to offer olive oil, hummus or taramosalata as a dip or spread.
Salads can include more than just the locally grown greens. Forego the iceberg and use Romaine lettuce or some organic greens mixed with walnuts, cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette. In fact, salads don’t have to include greens at all, make it seasonal and in the autumn select something with beets, arugula and herb goat cheese.
Pastas are a great dish to serve because MOST everyone loves spaghetti (and yes, I have learned to love dishes with tomato sauce as well as tomatoes themselves). Pastas come in a multitude of varieties from lasagna to ravioli to penne and more. Ask your Event Planner to provide you options and then select the best one that melds well with the rest of the menu and the event. Pasta can be served as an entree’ but is a great course on it’s own, just think Orzo or Risotto.
Meat offerings should go beyond the usual baked chicken, grilled fish or sliced roast beef. Find menu items that provide a great blend of the meats selected with wonderful flavors of a region, like the Mediterranean. Here are some examples:
- Chicken Mediterrano - Artichokes, mushrooms, lemon, capers, cream, housemade Greek yogurt, basmati rice
- Loup de Mer - Grilled whole sea bass, orzo, peas, cherry tomatoes, scallions, lemon zest
- 10oz Beef Tenderloin - Fried fingerling potatoes, asparagus, spring onion-marsala jus
- Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb - Israeli couscous, peas, carrots, roasted cauliflower, pomegranate molasses
Finally it’s Dessert and there is NOTHING wrong with a good Cannoli. In fact, of all the menu items served at RH and even above the fun of the breadsticks, the Cannoli was King! It was always a great treat when the parents would come home from an event at RH and bring a box of some Cannolis. My mouth is watering today.
You do have options, check with the Banquet Hall or look online at some reviews to see what others have said about the location to get your own mouth watering.
(Note: this is no reflection on the current Roma Banquets in Garden City. Roma Hall no longer exists and had been replaced decades ago by Burton Manor)