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Shifting Gears But Avoiding Reverse



by Linda Abbey

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure a year?”

Seasons of Love from Rent

Well for me the year 2020 was measured in long walks taken, “Schitt’s Creek” episodes binged, fancy cocktails shaken, Sam Sifton recipes cooked, and in shepherding clients to safely enjoy hospitality in intimate groups under the weight of COVID restrictions.

One such opportunity presented itself earlier this year – the retirement of a firm’s CEO involving a multi-media program with virtual and in-person elements, and necessitating hospitality in tandem with their intent to strictly adhere to the COVID gathering parameters in place at the time.

We needed to:

  • Observe six feet of social distancing between attendees
  • Limit attendees to 50% of the location capacity
  • Provide take out style food preventing interaction between guests
  • Require masking unless eating or drinking
  • Ensure that guests were seated while eating or drinking to prevent clustering at a bar or buffet

The location was the firm’s place of business in a classic upper East side town house. The guest count was limited to 24, falling well below the 50% capacity of the space.

For this milestone occasion, champagne and elegant hors d’oeuvres were the order of the day. The challenge presented was how to provide white-glove service, without providing service in the literal sense of the word.

To simulate a take-out scenario, and to ensure the highest food quality, our Chef arrived several hours prior to guest arrival. Working solo in the pantry area, he prepared and assembled an array of savory bites in a pressed bamboo box with personalized labels for each guest, departing before the event began.

A front-of-house customer service professional was also on site, in advance, to set up the seating tables and position the food boxes at each place.

To fulfill the 6’ social distancing mandate, eight 72” round tables (typically used to seat twelve) were set to accommodate but three guests per. Since fire code was 150 guests, the meeting set up was well within the approved gathering parameters of 50% capacity.

As guests arrived, they were able to help themselves to splits of chilled Brut Rose from hammered silver tubs, and then immediately take a seat where their box of bites, secured with purple ribbon to match the anemones in the centerpieces, awaited them.

The Artisanal Box

  • Lobster Roll
  • Hudson Valley Succotash Tart, Sunchoke Puree, Crispy Kale
  • Smoked Salmon Napoleon
  • Goat Cheese Bon Bons
  • Organza Sachet of Roasted Mixed Nuts
  • Smoked Turkey Aioli, Cheddar Biscuit

And thus the meeting kicked-off with camaraderie and a sense that coming together, in even small groups with restrictions, was a glimmer of things to come.

A packaged take-away treat, our signature Chili Chocolate Bark, brought the afternoon to a close. The gathering lasted merely one short hour but, after a much too long hiatus from in-person events, was as sweet as the chocolate bark.