F&B Column: Fast Food

Originally published April 1, 2006

When the planner of Cleveland-based law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey's partners' retreat approached the culinary team at the Columbus Renaissance Hotel, in Columbus, OH, she didn't know exactly what she wanted. "She knew she wanted the dinner to be creative, to be something different from what you'd see at a normal dinner, and to have a 'wow!' factor," recalls Sales Manager Daniel Whitt. "The only real parameters we had were that they didn't want pork, and that they only had an hour to eat." The rest was left up to the culinary team.

They devised a compact, three-course menu that would offer as much variety as possible as quickly as possible. The first course was fairly straightforward: a mesclun salad with poached pear, candied walnuts, and blue cheese, served with a walnut vinaigrette, and paired with a Trimbach Pinot Gris.

Next, the team served a combination entrée that was likely to please as many palates as possible: beef and chicken medallions with asparagus risotto, dressed with roasted red pepper cream and a Merlot demi-glace, topped with sautéed jumbo scallops, and finished with a squash medley. "The time allotted for the meal was very limited, so each of the 30 guests could not order an entrée individually," Whitt explains. "So we tried to include something for everybody."

This rather diverse main dish was paired with Saintsbury Pinot Noir, chosen for its ability to complement the variety of flavors and textures. "For the richness of the risotto and the roasted red peppers, along with the chicken and beef and the more delicate scallops, we needed a red wine with a bit of brightness that wasn't too overpowering or too full-bodied," says Rodney Flores, restaurant manager and resident wine expert. As for the old rule of thumb that white wines go with chicken and fish and red wines are reserved for meats: "That's out the door," says Flores. "Nowadays, it's all about preference."

And since most people prefer chocolate, the culinary team concluded the meal with a flourless chocolate cake with white-chocolate mousse and a raspberry coulis, topped with fresh raspberries. "After such a hearty dinner," says Whitt, "we didn't want anything too heavy for dessert, but we did want to incorporate the chocolate."

Cost per person: $60, plus the cost of wine
Trimbach Pinot Gris: $36 per bottle
Saintsbury Pinot Noir: $35 per bottle