People: do not sleep on the vegetarian option.
The invites are out and reply cards are coming in. Chicken, beef. Beef, Chicken. I get it. I don't think I've ever requested the vegetarian option at any wedding, and I'm semi-vegetarian.
I love all our entrees, but I'm most excited about the vegetarian option. At least consider it??
OKAY. Now that that's out of the way, onto our tasting with Birchtree Catering! We chose Birchtree because this is the type of food we love to eat: seasonal and local, expertly prepared, with clever flavors and textures.
A couple days ago, we went to their awesome kitchen in Philly for our second and final tasting. Here's what we had...
Pumpkin agnolotti with nutmeg chili cream, frizzled sage, and toasted hazelnuts
This isn't really a summer bite. But in autumn, oh in autumn it's gonna kill. The house-made pasta is rolled to a millimeter's thickness and barely registers on the tongue. Sage, pumpkin, and toasted nuts are a nod to the season, while the chili's bite and the sage's fry steer it away from cliche.
Mini crab cakes served with guests' choice of house tartar, cocktail, and malt vinegar aioli sauces
Crab cakes were a must for us. We always order them and have strong opinions on what makes a perfect specimen. We loved this version: low filler, high crab meat, and because it's pan- and not deep-fried, the interior herbs and veggies retain their freshness.
Prosciutto rolls stuffed with arugula, pecorino, drizzled with olive oil
This bite reminds me of a perfect picnic. Elemental, unadorned, and very good.
Tomato bisque with mini grilled cheese bites (above) -- I mean, come on. Every element here is a star -- the aromatic bisque, the heady blend of cheeses, and the house-made enriched sandwich bread, soft on the inside and skillet-seared on the outside.
Solstice salad -- hearty local greens with frizzled shiitakes and shallots, asian pears, black sesame seeds and apple cider vinaigrette
This is going to be a super local salad -- everything down to the apples in the apple cider vinaigrette. I loved how this salad has depth from the mushrooms, sesame seeds, and dressing while also being quite light (which is a good thing, because there's a lot more food coming...).
Seared skirt steak served at a perfect medium with chimichurri over confit potatoes, slow roasted local tomatoes
At our last tasting, we had the more traditional version of this with demi-glace. It was the type of dish you'd have at a Parisian bistro -- homey but elevated. This time around, we wanted to sample a dish with more pow. This is a meat-and-potatoes dish, yes, but the vibrant chimichurri also has kale and the roasted local tomatoes are bursting with sweet and savory juices. This is like the jock who you later learn plays the oboe and volunteers at a community garden.
Short rib bricks braised and roasted in bourbon, spice, herbs, with herbed shaved tuscan kale and delicate squash planks, house steak frites
Surprising, right? You expect the short-rib-and-fries dish to be served with a rustic plopping. But I love the how this is so tidy, a present that you just want to rip open. The short rib was super tender and, because it wasn't on the bone, you could simply knife your way down to the plate and get a perfect bite.
Wild mushroom manicotti with leeks, house ricotta, three basil béchamel with rainbow chard and hickory nuts
This. This was so good. Like so good I was way stuffed by this point, but I still ate all of this. This might be my favorite pasta dish of all time. It's earthy, rich, creamy, bright, crunchy (those chard stems still had some bite to them), and nutty. It was like a dish engineered to make people swoon.
To guests: get what you want. But consider the vegetarian dish, too! I wouldn't give you a perfunctory meh vegetarian dish. You know that, right?
Anyway, this is NOT the final menu, just a peek at what we had the final tasting. I'll leave the actual menu a surprise.
I will say that I think we built a menu of delicious crowd-pleasers. It's like a playlist. This is not the time to show off your esoteric musical taste. Give the people Livin' On a Prayer.
The Birchtree kitchen is in an awesome building filled with other artists and makers called Global Dye Works. The space used to be a yarn-dying factory and still retains much of its equipment.
The area on the way to the kitchen and tasting room has a sort of cartoony industrial quality. Think: the factory in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but less frightening. Birchtree is transforming the space into an official event venue and we're going to try to go to a supper club there once things calm down.