Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2000 | 8:56 a.m.
Now more than ever this city abounds with outside catering facilities -- private kitchens, restaurants and even hotels that will come to your house, office or selected venue and throw a party.
Many of us are familiar with hotel catering, weddings and large events, but those are almost always on site. Outside caterers are flexible and will travel. Rainbow Caterers recently did a private barbecue in Newport Beach, Calif. Another, Affairs to Remember, took a crew of 17 to Hiko, Nev., 120 miles north of Las Vegas.
When you deal with an outside caterer, the best strategy is to be clear and specific about budget and group size. Generally, you can plan the menu yourself, or the catering service can do it for you. The options are endless.
Here are a half-dozen local outside caterers, and a short peek at what they do. One of them should be right for that special anniversary, event or party you are planning. But if not, you'll find dozens of other choices in the local yellow pages:
Wolfgang Puck Catering
Don't expect the superstar chef to show up at your function, even though he will do so for a hefty fee, schedule permitting. This company does anything from intimate groups of 10 to events for more than 1,000. What's more, menu items from Puck's diverse local restaurants -- Spago, Lupo, Chinois and Postrio -- make it a versatile option indeed.
At Links for Life, a charity golf event, dishes from Chinois such as pot stickers, Szechuan beef and Chinese chicken salad were featured. At a party for Virgin Atlantic, the stations were stocked with British and American dishes.
Director of Catering Kimberly Gora says lunches generally run from $25-$50 per person, dinners from $50-$150. The company teaches cooking classes and arranges special wine dinners, with Master Sommelier Greg Harrington in charge of wines. Gora says she is about to cater a posh affair at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. If you can dream it up, Wolfgang Puck Catering can probably put it together.
Piero Selvaggio Valentino Catering
Here is one more prime example of a top chef expanding into the catering business. That would be chef Luciano Pellegrini, who cooks some of the best Italian food in town at his restaurant in the Venetian, and who often comes to his events personally.
This isn't an inexpensive option, but as the chef himself says, "everything is negotiable." He recently did a deluxe wedding dinner for 30 guests at $150 per person. The menu included everything from truffles and foie gras to lobster and caviar.
But that's the high end. A $50 Pellegrini lunch might include two or three hors d'oeuvres, his famous grilled pizzas, bruschetta or stuffed zucchini flowers, a salad course, a simple pasta such as rigatoni with a tomato basil sauce, and then a main course like chicken rollatina or striped bass with an almond crust.
Dessert might be tiramisu, and the restaurant's manager Arturo Nieto, an Italian wine expert, will be happy to provide the wines in any price range, though preferably ones from his native Italy. The above prices, incidentally, do not include labor, rentals or gratuities. Whenever you arrange an outside caterer, be sure to iron out these details in advance.
Ed Baba, one of the owners, is quick to point out that his business is the oldest established catering company in town, aged 22 years. He refers to his business as an upscale one that has flourished because of referrals, word of mouth and consistency.
Baba and his chef, Tom Gehringer, do just about anything. Says Baba: "We aren't limited to any type of menu -- if we don't know it, we'll ask the host for a recipe, or consult a cookbook."
Breakfast in bed for two starts at $250 and features champagne, fresh-squeezed juice, New Orleans-style beignets and several other goodies. A deluxe dinner for two is a heart-stopping $675, perhaps seafood bisque, lobster under glass, abalone and other super luxury items.
But you don't have to go the highroad with Rainbow. Prices vary, but generally start at around $75 per person, with a minimum of eight guests. Ask for the whole roasted beef tenderloin, one of their enduring specialties.
Rosie's Catering and Private Parties
This fledgling operation belongs to Michael and Wendy Jordan, chef-owners of the excellent Rosemary's Restaurant. Says Wendy Jordan: "We get lots of request for pass-around cocktail parties, but if you want ribs in the backyard, we'll do that as well."
They just did a grand opening for a shop at Bellagio for $275, where they served such goodies as preserved lemon shrimp salad, new potatoes with chive cream and caviar, seared New York strip steak and a variety of pastries.
There is no real minimum, so be prepared to negotiate. "I've done sit down dinners for couples," Jordan says. What's more, she is almost always on site, rare for a chef of her stature, doing most small parties with the aid of nothing more than her trusty Ford Bronco. Signature dishes include Texas barbecued shrimp with Maytag blue cheese slaw and marinated lamb with black olives.
Affairs to Remember
Chef-owner Mike Whitesides is a full-time, on-site chef who says jokingly, "I never feed less than one person at a time." He is also quick to point out that the smaller the group, the higher the price per person. Nonetheless, he will cater an event for as little as $15 a person, and his prices usually go no higher than $100.
A sample $25 lunch from him might include a green or Caesar salad, angel hair pasta with buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil and a boneless chicken breast finished "any way the client prefers." For a little extra, he'll throw in a dessert such as bananas Foster, one of his specialties.
"Every menu I do is a custom menu," he says, "but the customer is welcome to write his own menu." That's flexibility.
Regent Las Vegas
This hotel just recently expanded into the outside catering field, and Associate Director of Catering Paul Moss says he thinks that it is the first hotel in this area to do so.
"Our off-site catering is intended for a 10-mile radius of the hotel property here in Summerlin, sort of a jewel in the crown here," Moss says. "The idea is to do high-end in-home, in-business catering and to become an integral part of the community here."
The operation will do two styles of catering. The first is a custom-designed, food, equipment and staff operation where everything is done for the guests. The second is what Moss refers to as "drop and go," where food is delivered to the door and the client sets everything up himself.
Regent Executive Chef Joseph Mulligan is at the helm, and a few of his signature dishes are pistachio-crusted sea bass, Moroccan lamb chops and filet of venison. The custom designed catering ranges from around $50 to $150 per person. The drop-and-go catering will run from $25-$75. It's a win-win proposition, if you ask me.