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wedding food that worked

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I'm planning a wedding in or very near San Francisco and need help finding a caterer. We can't afford to spend more than $60/person and are hoping against hope to spend less, but we don't want to settle for a generic meal or worse. One site we're considering is the Berkeley Faculty Club, where you have to use their in-house caterer.

Any recommendations or warnings about SF-area caterers in general, or the Berkely Faculty Club in particular?

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  1. The wedding hasn't happened yet, but other than that we've been very happy with Rising Sun Catering, and have heard good things from friends who have used them before. The only negative is that they're completely unresponsive to phone calls, and it sometimes takes three or four attempts to reach them. Other than that, the food is great, the people are nice, and the prices are reasonable.

    Most of the other companies I spoke with were either ungodly expensive or had served questionable food at other weddings I'd attended.

    Link: http://www.risingsuncatering.com/

    1. The city of Oakland parks and rec has some very nice venues that are reasonably priced and they don't require you use one of their approved caterers.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Please tell me more about your experience, Ruth, and the experience of other Chowhounders. I found good reviews elsewhere online, and they seemed really nice and ready to work with my ideas on the phone. In fact Culinary Excellence was one of my top choices until I read this. Please tell me about your experience!

        1. re: katya

          Even though I can't answer your questions about Culinary Excellence (I saw your post below), I can say that if you want a caterer who will work with you and maybe do something a little untraditional, my sister had an excellent experience with Jimmy Beans (the catering branch of the Lalime's empire). My sister talked to a lot of caterers, and they were the only ones willing to work with her on all her requirements (family style, mostly vegetarian, diabetic-friendly (she wanted the recipes in advance so she could precalculate her insulin needs)). And the food was great (one meat-and-potatoes type guest said afterward the food was so good he didn't even think about the fact there was no meat served).

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Sorry, I meant to reply to another post, but I really appreciate your advice.

            Unfortunately, since my wedding is at the Brazilian Room I have to go from a list of about 12 approved caterers so I can't use Jimmy Beans. But it's good to know about them anyway. I've never been to Lalime's but was considering it for a rehearsal dinner... or is it too small?

            1. re: katya

              Wow, congrats on snagging the Brazilian Room. Maybe if you listed the approved caterers, people would have more specific feedback.

              I don't know how big your rehearsal dinner will be, or what part of the restaurant they use for private parties, but Lalime's is not particularly small.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Thanks! I was really lucky to get the day we did. I've looked up all the caterers we're considering on Chowhound already and found posts on all of them, but I may post again to get some added feeback.

                1. re: katya

                  We got married at the Brazilian Room in 2000, and we used Shai's as our caterer. If they're still on the list, I'd recommend them highly. They were one of the less expensive choices and the food was great.

                  1. re: chompy

                    Thanks for the recommendation!

                    I tried Shai's food at a Brazilian Room wedding fair, loved it and loved their hummus artwork even more. A good friend was very happy with the food Shai's catered to their wedding as well. Unfortunately, I called Shai's yesterday and found out they're considering taking a week off right around the day of my wedding to go to Hawaii. No! And my other top choice, Serves You Right, is booked the day of my wedding, too. I'm hoping Shai's decides to take their vacation later!

                    1. re: katya

                      Yeah, I can't remember all the details of the food at our wedding because I hardly ate (probably the only time in my life that I've had that happen!) That hummus "painting" is nice, isn't it - I think we actually had baba ganoush, which looked beautiful and was really tasty. We also had a whole poached salmon with some kind of sauce I can't remember, roasted green beans of some sort, an excellent salad...there was other stuff but I can't remember what it was. My overall feeling about the food was that it was fresh, unfussy and very flavorful.

                      Hopefully they will change their vacation plans...good luck.

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          In regards to city of Oakland venues--- I'm getting married in April at the Sequoia Lodge. It's lovely; indoor space with hardwood floors, big enough to accomodate ~90 people, wrap around deck, surrounded by redwoods. Cheap (~300), and you can use whomever you want for food. The rose garden in Oakland is also quite nice for a wedding, and I'm assuming pricing is similar.

          1. re: Hunicsz

            Sequoia Lodge is where my sister got married -- it is really nice. The City of Oakland Parks and Rec has all their rentable venues on their website, with pricing.

            1. re: Hunicsz

              My daughter was married last summer at Sequoia Lodge. The site is quite suitable for a good party, and the price won't break most people's bank.

          2. This is just my own personal opinion and does not reflect the opinions of this Website or it's owners.

            DO NOT go with Culinary Excellence Catering in Concord. They've ruined 3 weddings that I know of already. Including mine own. Terrible service and lousy food. One couple is taking them to court.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Homecookin'

              I couldn't tell on my computer last night whose post was whose. Can you please tell me, Homecookin' more about the problems you experience with Culinary Excellence?

              Feel free to e-mail me if you don't want to discuss them here:
              kmikulis@gmail.com

              1. re: katya

                Katya, were you able to find out from Homecookin' what her issues were about Culinary Excellence? I would love to know what she said since we're considering them for an October wedding at the Brazilian Room. If you prefer to contact me offline, I'm at karen8330@yahoo.com.

                Thanks!

                1. re: kediamond

                  I didn't find out, and with this version of Chowhound, our e-mail addresses don't seem to be listed so I couldn't contact Homecookin' that way.

                  Our August wedding is at the Brazilian Room. Our first tasting is this weekend, and we're looking into Ann Walker, Shai's, Schumann's, and Blue Heron. From the Brazilian Room catering list, Ann Walker, Shai's, and Blue Heron all have many great reviews on Chowhound. (Schumann's has some good reviews, too - no bad ones, but they're harder to find.)

                  Culinary Excellence is catering a wedding fair at Dunsmuir in Oakland on March 4th. They just sent me an Evite - I'm not sure if I'm going to go yet. I think they might be the only caterer there. I'm sure if you contact them they'll add you to the list. You have to RSVP by Feb. 26th.

                  If you want to contact me offline, I'm kmikulis at gmail.com

                  1. re: katya

                    I'm not sure if the venue has restrictions on caterers they allow, but I heartily recommend California Rose Catering, based in Berkeley. They have done two friends' weddings, both of them excellent, and doing my wedding in April. Their food is unique and extremely tasty, their prices are very fair, and they are very professional and easy to work with.

                    1. re: chaunceymo

                      Thanks for mentioning California Rose. Unfortunately the Brazilian Room has a list of preferred caterers and California Rose is not on the list. However, this information will undoubtedly be helpful to someone else looking to cater a wedding in the Bay Area.

                      1. re: chaunceymo

                        chaunceymo, how did California Rose Catering do at your wedding. We are thinking of hiring them for a heavy outdoor hors d'oeuvres standing reception in August. Like to hear your review on them. Thanks.

                2. re: Homecookin'

                  I'm interested in them for a Brazilian Room wedding as well. What were your issues with them?

                3. hello! congrats on your upcoming wedding. i dont know if this is anything your looking for- BUT, i got married on a boat in the bay right off of tiburon and then after the ceremony we all walked up the boat dock up to servino ristorante and had the upstairs to ourselves. the room was beautiful ( just small enough to not be a typical banquet room ) and the whole wall is glass overlooking the bay. the service was GREAT. they have a different staff for upstairs functions then their regular wait staff downstairs. the food- the food was REALLY GOOD. our party was small, only 47 people total and everyone raved about the food. we had 3 cold passed apps, 3 hot passed apps, a sit down dinner with 2 choices for main- we had sea bass piccata & pork stuffed with spinach and veggies. the salad was a spinach salad with gorgonzola, cranberry, walnuts...there is a whole menu to choose from. out price was $45 a head, not including booze...the lady who organized the whole thing, AWESOME. just a really really good experience there. the night was flawless.

                  1. Try the wedding forum on Craig's List - many caterer reviews there. Having gone through the usual suspects recently (Rising Sun, Living Foods, Culinary Excellence, Grace Street, etc) I was very unimpressed with them in general. They run their businesses as if they were dry cleaning shops rather than a complete service experience that will cost you many thousands of dollars. Many don't return calls, not to mention treating you like a client. Out of the above caterers, Grace Street seemed like the best-run *operation* - don't know about food.

                    Oh and last I looked at having a small party, these "high-end" caterers were more expensive per head than a 4-star restaurant (with all expenses included). One of the reasons people hire caterers is that they think renting out a restaurant is going to be expensive but that may not be true. It all depends on the size of your party and whether the restaurant of your choice will have the space (NOT entire restaurant) to accommodate you.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Mr Smart

                      totally agree on this. you are practically guaranteed good food when you go with a restaurant plus you dont have to rent tables, chairs, linens, etc etc.

                      Farallon was the wisest decision we ever made.

                      1. re: itsolivia

                        We're planning a wedding a Farallon too. Any advise?