Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christmas on Carnegie

Christmas came early for me this year and a few select others. We were invited to holiday party preview at Verve and though the calendar said autumn, the interior of the downtown Cleveland restaurant was decked out in ornaments, sleigh bells, baskets of poinsettias that looked remarkably real, and stacks of beautifully wrapped gifts. And I was told on good authority that Santa had left the building just moments before I arrived.

The prompt for all this December style cheer was Chef/owner Brian Okin’s new partnership with experienced event and food professional Nancy Yetman and their recent launch of Verve’s Art of Catering operation. They’ll gladly prep the buffet and bring it to you but with the restaurant now open only for breakfast and lunch, it can accommodate private shindigs at night. It’s a great place for a special gathering and the pair decided to demo the concept, showing the kind of spread- and creative presentation- they can produce for festive occasions.

Irresistible house made sweet and savory “cracker jacks” were heaped in the center of paper-topped tables. A line-up of really delicious hors d’oeuvres that were cleverly named and conceived was prettily arrayed on the bar. Okin’s version of Pigs in a Blanket consisted of trotter croquettes with apple mostarda. Quackers was a tart made with duck confit and cherry onion relish. For his Cape Cod Shooters, he served a bite of pasta in clam sauce in a shell. Tastebuds was a combination of sweet potatoes, figs, goat cheese and pistachios. The Turkey Napoleans featured layers of bread pudding, bird, and cranberry raspberry compote. There were velvety squash soup shooters garnished with candied nuts, endive leaves filled with crab salad, and ratatouille inside crisply fried wonton skins. Servers passed miniature ice cream cones filled salmon mousseline or beef tartar.

It was an impressive performance and the team gets my endorsement. And it’s straight up cool to have a whole restaurant just for you and your guests. Those with holiday entertaining responsibilities would be wise to contact Nancy immediately (216-577-3663, and get your date on her calendar. Tell her Laura sent you.

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