the gaylord kitchen tour that opened my eyes

behind the scenes kitchen tour

When I was in Nashville a few weeks ago for The Special Event conference, I had the opportunity to go on a behind the scenes tour of the Gaylord Opryland Catering Kitchens. I love behind the scenes anything, but especially things related to hospitality. Even though I’ve been a planner for years and I know more about hospitality than the average person, I love every opportunity I get to see “back of house.” So naturally, I jumped at the chance to see the kitchens.

I was one of the few planners on the tour – mostly it seemed to be catering professionals from other (smaller) hotels or banquet facilities. Many of them ooh’d and ahh’d at the sheer scale of the Gaylord operation since it was noticeably bigger than their own. Several asked questions about procedures or logistics that I didn’t really understand, comparing their protocol to the Gaylord’s.

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office holiday party at top of the town

holiday party at top of the town in arlington, va

A few months ago I featured a site report on Top of the Town, just outside of Washington, DC. In December, we used Top of the Town for an office holiday party for about 150 people. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the venue and how the party worked out, as well as share some of the ideas we used for decor and the menu. We also had some entertainment for the evening, but I will feature that in a separate post.

I’ll start with a disclaimer – my photos are terrible. We didn’t have a professional photographer at this event so it was just me and my decent camera in poor lighting conditions during set-up. So, please forgive me!

The Venue

The selling point for Top of the Town is its view. It’s right outside DC (in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington) so it has magnificent views of DC and the monuments. It was actually a gray, rainy day on the night of the party, so I wasn’t able to take any good shots of the view but you can see some here. Luckily it cleared up enough by the time the party started that the guests were able to marvel at the view.

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champagne cocktails for your new year’s eve party

champagne cocktail ideas for your new year's eve party

You can’t have a new year’s eve party without champagne. Well, you probably could, but I wouldn’t come. I absolutely love champagne and most sparkling wine. Champagne cocktails, or cocktails where champagne is an ingredient, are my favorite.  While most people include a bottle of champagne in their New Year’s Eve plans to pop the cork just before midnight, there’s no reason why you can’t include champagne throughout your evening. A champagne cocktail is a great way to add something fun and interesting to your party, and you can also save some money by buying a lower quality sparkling wine since you’ll be mixing it anyway.

Here are some ideas for champagne cocktails that don’t take too many crazy ingredients. You might have these ingredients in your home bar already, or you may only have a few things to buy. There are so many delicious cocktails out there, there’s no need to try the ones that have really obscure ingredients.

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how to make your office holiday party less of a disaster

how to make your office party less of a disaster

As I’ve mentioned previously, office holiday parties have a bad reputation. They are either terribly boring or so boozy that it’s an HR nightmare. If you have any pride as a planner at all, you will try a little harder this year and try to prevent both scenarios. While we are well into December and many holiday parties are already planned, here are some suggestions you can try to work in at the last minute, or just start taking notes for next year.

Order more food than you think you need

Food is where most parties try to skimp and the result is a bunch of super-drunk employees who haven’t had enough to eat. That’s not to say that by providing food that people won’t still overindulge, but at least they won’t just be getting tipsy because of drinking on an empty stomach.

Think about the makeup of your employees. If your group is heavily male, order more.  Especially if they are youngish and male. (Sorry to stereotype but it’s true). Do you have interns that will attend the party (you should probably rethink that if you do)?  Triple or quadruple your food order. Interns that are either unpaid or underpaid will consume “free” food at an incredible high rate.

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it’s time to add soup to your parties and events

Now that the weather outside is frightful (read: winter), but the fire is so delightful…. Ok ok, so our new house has a real wood-burning fireplace and I’m really excited about it! But since it IS winter, you’re starting to see soup everywhere.  But it’s not always the easiest thing to serve. Since I love soup (especially the really bad for you kinds with lots of cream – like broccoli cheddar or tomato bisque), I thought I would share some ideas and suggestions for how to incorporate this cold-weather treat into your parties and events.

If you are on pinterest and you follow anyone who posts catering or event photos, you have probably seen this guy (via United with Love):

 catering soup ideas - tomato soup shooter with mini grilled cheese

The tomato soup shooter with a grilled cheese bite. I’m going to go ahead and declare this the soup trend of 2013. It’s all over the place and people love it. Who doesn’t love grilled cheese (unless you are lactose or gluten intolerant you have no excuse!)? This is one of those trends that is clever but with mass appeal. But it is on the verge of being overdone – to the point where I was choosing a menu for a holiday party and I almost didn’t select it as one of my passed hors d’oeuvres because it’s overdone, but then I realized that most of the party guests were not crazy like me and A) would actually consider something so delicious ‘overdone,’ B) would care that something is overdone anyway.

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friday favorites – best event ideas of the week

Welcome to week three of Friday Favorites! Let the grab bag begin!

#5 – Old photos as placecards

This was done for a styled wedding shoot, but you could do this for a dinner party. I love the idea of old photos or old postcards. If you know everyone at the dinner party very well, you could even find old photos of the guests to use.  Photo by Cyrience Photography via Every Last Detail:

old photos as wedding and event placecards

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