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Experiences with Abigail Kirsch or recommendations for other large event caterers?

c
cimui Sep 28, 2009 12:24 PM

If anyone who's hired Ms. Kirsch to cater a large event (or eaten food at an event she catered) has any comments on the experience, I'd love to hear them! How was she to work with?

Any other excellent caterers out there who can handle about 150-200 guests I should know about? (I've heard some good things about Creative Edge...)

Thanks, 'hounds.

  1. fat parish Oct 18, 2009 04:38 PM

    Hope I'm not too late to the party here. Ck out Great Performances. I have been to several Abigail K catered events...they're fine. Not great. Not bad. GP is much better. They've come through for us on events from 50-300 ppl. I was referred to them by another hound, then a friend who has great taste. I like them--good service, very accommodating, and better than usual (for large events) food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fat parish
      c
      cimui Oct 18, 2009 05:03 PM

      No, not too late at all, fat_parish. I appreciate the rec. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that I won't be using AK unless I'm forced to because they exclusively cater a space I want. If I go with a space that doesn't tie me to a particular caterer, I'll check out Sterling Affairs, Great Performances and Creative Edge first, most likely, and then others if necessary.

    2. k
      kissmygrits Sep 30, 2009 03:00 PM

      Great thread (I need it too). If people posting can ballpark prices, that would be great!

      2 Replies
      1. re: kissmygrits
        c
        cimui Sep 30, 2009 09:01 PM

        I'd also love to hear other people's numbers, if they don't mind sharing. As I begin to meet with people, I'll post any numbers I get, as well.

        1. re: kissmygrits
          c
          cimui Oct 7, 2009 03:13 PM

          The price quotes I received for the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, an exclusive Abigaile Kirsch space, ranged from about $175 / person for day-time, middle-of-the-winter events to $275 / person for peak season (autumn), evening events. The price breakdown isn't given for food versus space or setup.

        2. n
          nattie23nyc Sep 30, 2009 11:39 AM

          I used Sterling Affair caterers for my wedding of about 200 people, www.sterlingaffair.com, 212-686-4075. My husband is a chef and I just love food, so like other posters, the food was extremely important to us and we considered all the top caterers in NYC (price was not an issue). Ari Starkman, the banquet manager I worked with, was awesome -- they do only off premise catering at any venue you choose, so they know what they are doing and I didn't even have to hire a wedding planner because they took care of everything. Some stand-outs from the menu:

          - Cocktail hour included Andalusian gazpacho shooters, a ceviche bar, and fois on little toasts with fig jam (I admit, I was busy getting bustled and whatnot, so I didn't see much of the cocktail hour but I'm told it was phenominal).

          - Dinner started with an heirloom tomato salad with French feta; then guests chose from a duo of beef (braised short rib and a filet) and, by my request because it's my favorite, a miso glazed black cod with braised baby boy choy and rice noodles.

          - The pastry chef is amazing, as was the dessert bar and the wedding cake, which had alternating layers of vanilla/chocolate chip cake layered with fresh bananas and banana cream (hubbie's) and layers of pumpkin spice cake with prailine frosting. We just ate the top layer for our 1-year, and it was still amazing (bananas didn't even turn colors)!

          P.S. for what you get in food and service, I thought they were extremely reasonable. I think if you Google you'll even find an interview with Ari on Brides.com, the company gets fantastic press. I know the Rockefeller family uses them for all of their events.

          Good luck!

          9 Replies
          1. re: nattie23nyc
            c
            cimui Sep 30, 2009 08:59 PM

            This name keeps popping up in my (real life) circles, too. I'll check them out, thank you!

            BTW... it's probably a really difficult thing to put into words, but if you can verbalize it, how did you evaluate your caterers? I know it's common to go in for a sample meal -- but how in the world do you translate a highly controlled two person meal experience into a meal experience for 200 guests? Or did you base it more on reputation?

            1. re: cimui
              n
              nattie23nyc Oct 5, 2009 10:53 AM

              As you said, cooking for 2 is not cooking for 200, and this is more true in terms of entrees than cocktail hour (trust me, the lobster roll you try at your tasting will be just like those served during your cocktail hour). As long as you can tell from the tasting that they are capable of producing delicious food, I would say they next key to success for a sit-down dinner is the service. I noticed right away that Sterling doesn't skimp on that; nothing worse than being at a wedding and you can't find a person to bring you a fork, or a drink, or your entree because there's not enough servers. There is always a tasting, and that helps, but I would say reputation and service are most important after food (especially when it's your own wedding!). Example: I was very impressed with the word-of-mouth Sterling gets; I also know that they are the caterers for all Rockefeller family events including weddings (and that says a lot -- I mean, money's clearly not a deciding factor there, they can afford whoever they want); when I would call, I would get a return call within 24 hours max (I've heard of brides having to call their caterers several times over a matter of weeks to get some attention, and pulling their hair out in the process); I had heard other brides and moms-of-brides rave about the service, and how calm Ari is under pressure -- this is obviously a great asset day-of, when you don't want to surround yourself with a basket case who can't get their job done without looking like they are freaking out; service was in fact impeccable, everyone was served seamlessly; oh, and I almost forgot, you can totally sneak into a wedding they are catering (and you're in luck since the season is starting up again) to witness their skills first-hand.

              To answer the ballpark question, I would say about $175 a head, give or take.

              1. re: nattie23nyc
                c
                cimui Oct 5, 2009 12:38 PM

                What a fantastic, thorough and informative answer, nattie23nyc. I really appreciate you taking the time.

                From the numbers I've heard from others, prices sound about on par with Abigail Kirsch, too.

                1. re: cimui
                  n
                  nattie23nyc Oct 5, 2009 02:24 PM

                  I would say that's true. IMHO, the only reason to go with Kirsch is if you absolutely fall in love with a venue she has an exclusive at and are willing to suck up using her for the sake of the venue (and many people do this). She's definitely not the top in food or service, and I don't think anyone really says as much (except maybe her). I wasn't into any of her venues (in fact, had something very specific in mind myself) but from talking with other brides and caterers I think you get a lot better, more creative food and more accommodating service for your money out of Sterling. Happy venue/caterer hunting!

                  1. re: nattie23nyc
                    c
                    cimui Oct 7, 2009 03:54 PM

                    Thank you, nattie!! You've been so helpful! Right now, the hunting isn't so fun... who has *time* to visit all these places... grr.... but I bet once the food sampling begins I'll start getting into it a lot more. :)

                2. re: nattie23nyc
                  s
                  SportEater Jan 21, 2010 02:01 PM

                  nattie - would you mind saying where you wedding was? We're looking at Harold Pratt House and Wave Hill and Sterling Affair is an approved caterer at Pratt. Thanks!

                  1. re: SportEater
                    m
                    ManhattanLawyer Jan 22, 2010 10:10 AM

                    Sporteater, my wedding reception was at the Harold Pratt and we used Creative Edge. They were wonderful. Highly recommend them. Food was delicious. All our guests are foodies and said it was the best food at a wedding they've ever had.

                    1. re: SportEater
                      n
                      nattie23nyc Jan 26, 2010 02:41 PM

                      I don't want to say, because we kind of strong-armed our way into the venue letting us use them. That said, you shouldn't let an official "approved list" deter you -- if you want a caterer, ask the venue and you can probably get them in (unless it's an exclusive like AK has all over the place). Sterling has all the necessary insurance, etc., caters at some of the most high-end venues (NYPL comes to mind), so I wouldn't be surprised if you could get them in to a venue you wanted.

                      1. re: SportEater
                        u
                        uwsister Jan 26, 2010 11:13 PM

                        We had our wedding at Harold Pratt House last year and we used Tip of the Tongue, who was not initially on the approved caterer list but was approved after our nomination. If you really love a caterer and the caterer is good and experienced, you probably won't have a problem getting them approved (though don't take my words for it!) We LOVED Tip of the Tongue guys' food AND personality (SO important when you're organizing a wedding, which is super stressful as everyone knows, so you want someone you really get along with) and highly recommend them. We also did a tasting with Seasons catering and found their food to be excellent though we ended up not going with them. I've also heard great things about Creative Edge and Sonnier & Castle. All of them, of course, are approved at Harold Pratt House. It's such a lovely venue, great choice!

                        BTW I've been to AK-catered events and found their food to be decent, even good, but was never impressed. They tasted like catering food, albeit good one.

                3. bobjbkln Sep 30, 2009 08:46 AM

                  Another caterer to check is Charles, Sally and Charles which does the catering at the Palm House (Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and now does off-site catering as well. I've been to a number of events at the PH over the years and both the cocktail food and the sitdown dinners have usually been excellent. Service is terrific, too.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: bobjbkln
                    c
                    cimui Sep 30, 2009 08:53 PM

                    Thanks, again, Bob. Haven't decided on the venue, yet, but if the food is great at PH, I'll definitely factor that in. :)

                    1. re: bobjbkln
                      c
                      cimui Oct 18, 2009 12:07 PM

                      Bob, I met with Charles the elder last week and found him almostly comically brusque and impatient, even for a busy New Yorker. While I loved the space and thought the lunch we had in the cafe at the BBG was fair, I'm frankly a bit turned off by the idea of having to work closely with someone so impatient on an event that will take months to plan.

                      But I do appreciate the recommendation. The site was certainly beautiful.

                      1. re: cimui
                        bobjbkln Oct 18, 2009 08:37 PM

                        Sorry to hear that. As a guest (i.e. not a host) at the BBG events I have interacted only with the staff and not the owner/managers, so I have no experience with either Charles. Staff have been lovely though.

                        1. re: bobjbkln
                          c
                          cimui Oct 25, 2009 10:08 PM

                          Yeah, I don't think there's any way you could've deduced that as a guest. I really do sincerely appreciate the recommendation and the valuable info. And who knows -- maybe the guy was just having a very bad day. Thanks, again!

                    2. c
                      cimui Sep 29, 2009 08:24 PM

                      Thank you all so much for all of your highly informative, helpful posts! Now I have an excuse to go do a lot of first-hand research--hahah. They all sound so good.

                      1. owlwoman Sep 29, 2009 11:45 AM

                        I've attended numerous events catered by Abigail Kirsh, they have all been fabulous, really creative food with interesting combos and found their staff to be very professional. Would not hesitate to recommend them.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: owlwoman
                          c
                          cimui Sep 29, 2009 08:35 PM

                          They are creative, aren't they? I think I got hooked -- on paper, at least! -- when I read a sample menu that made use of tomato powder.... I am the worst sucker for ingredients I've never tried.

                        2. t
                          tkm616 Sep 29, 2009 11:45 AM

                          i've never worked with creative edge but one of the main guys from urban events, justin jones, is over there now so it should be a good option. otherwise, food in motion, canard, or robbins-wolfe (although, christopher robbins is sort of an a**) are all ok.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: tkm616
                            c
                            cimui Sep 29, 2009 08:28 PM

                            'preciate all the names, tkm (and the inside dish! very important!). if you *had* to rank these, what'd be your order of preference?

                            1. re: cimui
                              t
                              tkm616 Sep 30, 2009 01:49 PM

                              1. creative edge (by reputation alone)
                              2. canard
                              3. robbins-wolfe (more of a classic menu)
                              4. food in motion (maybe not as refined as you're looking for)

                              also, look up serena bass. i remember her being pretty good but it was quite awhile ago.

                              is this a corporate event, gala, wedding, party?

                              1. re: tkm616
                                c
                                cimui Sep 30, 2009 08:50 PM

                                You rock, tkm! Thanks so much for the ideas!

                                (It is for a wedding.)

                          2. m
                            ManhattanLawyer Sep 29, 2009 11:30 AM

                            I used Creative Edge for my wedding. Husband and I are huge foodies and selecting our own caterer was extremely important to us. After looking at all of the "high end" caterers in the city, we chose Creative Edge. Could not be happier.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: ManhattanLawyer
                              c
                              cimui Sep 29, 2009 08:30 PM

                              Just the kind of insight I'm looking for! Which other caterers did you consider and why'd Creative Edge edge out the others for your wedding? (How many guests if you don't mind me asking?)

                              1. re: cimui
                                m
                                ManhattanLawyer Jan 22, 2010 10:11 AM

                                We had 100 guests and also considered Olivier Cheng, Callahan, and Great Performances. We were blown away by the service and accommodating nature of Creative Edge. My husband and I created the first course ourselves and Creative Edge did a special tasting for us so that we could see how they interpreted our ideas.

                                1. re: ManhattanLawyer
                                  c
                                  cimui Jan 22, 2010 11:50 AM

                                  This is wonderful information, ManhattanLawyer. We actually sampled around quite a lot, but then ended up having to go with Abigail Kirsch after all because of the event space we chose. (Pain in the ars, really.) I don't think AK is as good as Creative Edge, but their food is fair -- better than average, probably, for the genre.

                                  Again, I appreciate everyone's suggestions. This thread was just incredibly helpful to us.

                                  1. re: cimui
                                    Miss Needle Jan 22, 2010 02:18 PM

                                    Hey cimui, is this for your wedding? If so, congratulations! Big hugs and kisses from me! : )

                                    It seems that you're a bit bummed out about using AK. Somebody I know used AK at the Bronx Botanical Garden and she was thrilled beyond belief. She's pretty picky about her food (graduated from French Culinary Institute). So I'm sure it will be fine. I know that most Chowhounds want the food part of the wedding to be absolutely perfect. The thing is it won't be, but that's OK. I know all of your friends and family will still be so happy to partake in the occasion, whether you serve AK-catered food or Cheez Wiz on a Ritz.

                            2. n
                              nycb beth Sep 29, 2009 09:54 AM

                              There's also Robbins-Wolfe Eventeurs and Great Performances. I'm hard pressed to decide who's food is better.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: nycb beth
                                c
                                cimui Sep 29, 2009 08:33 PM

                                Yeah, one of my colleagues recommended Great Performances, too. I plan on talking with them and RWE this weekend.

                              2. bobjbkln Sep 28, 2009 07:45 PM

                                I've been to a number of AK events, a few (fund raisers) at the Steiner Studios and a wedding at the Chelsea Piers. IIRC, the appetizers were quite good and the sit down was a cut above normal event food, but far from spectacular. But what I remember the most is that at all the events they had a policy against serving straight (neat) drinks. Since I am of Medicare age, I don't think, I was a threat of becoming a troublesome drunk, but they had their bureaucratic rules. I've never seen this before or since, and, as I said it dominated my memory of the catering at those events.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: bobjbkln
                                  c
                                  cimui Sep 28, 2009 09:06 PM

                                  >>Since I am of Medicare age, I don't think, I was a threat of becoming a troublesome drunk, but they had their bureaucratic rules.

                                  That's very funny. I'll have to ask about this rule... I just checked and it looks like Pier 60, where I've attended fund raisers, might be an exclusive AK venue. I do seem to recall getting a bourbon on the rocks before dinner, but maybe the drinks were catered by someone else... or maybe the bartender just mistakenly tagged me as a non-troublemaking type. ;)

                                  1. re: cimui
                                    s
                                    small h Sep 29, 2009 05:31 AM

                                    "Neat" means no ice, so your bourbon on the rocks was not a rule-breaker. I don't use "straight" and "neat" interchangeably, as bobjbkln does - to me, "straight" means no mixer, not no ice.

                                2. j
                                  JMJD Sep 28, 2009 07:09 PM

                                  Also have been to a Kirsch wedding (outside of the city) and found it to be OK. If I recall, I also found it strange that for the dinner at the wedding, whatever the fish was mentioned on the menu was not what was served. Happens a lot at weddings I think but I remember being surprised considering the reputation.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: JMJD
                                    c
                                    cimui Sep 28, 2009 09:12 PM

                                    That's a bummer! Based on everyone's comments, I'm not thrilled about using Kirsch, but it seems to be really hard to find really great caterers for events with this many guests. If I do go with them, I may just request non-fish seafood entrees. (IIRC, a shrimp or lobster appetizer I had at a Chelsea Piers was pretty good.) Hopefully that would get around the problem.

                                  2. m
                                    meinNYC Sep 28, 2009 05:57 PM

                                    Manna Catering is really good and very pleasant to work with. He does kosher, but very trendy and imaginative. Dan is in charge.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: meinNYC
                                      c
                                      cimui Sep 28, 2009 09:13 PM

                                      Thanks, me. I'll take a look. :)

                                    2. tastyeating Sep 28, 2009 02:08 PM

                                      I also have been to a wedding that Abigail Kirsch has catered. I thought that the hor deuorves were good. But the sit down dinner was just okay.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: tastyeating
                                        c
                                        cimui Sep 28, 2009 04:30 PM

                                        Thanks, tastyeating! Do you remember what you had?

                                        1. re: cimui
                                          tastyeating Sep 29, 2009 12:13 PM

                                          For hors deourves, I had:

                                          Peppercorn beef
                                          Crab Salad
                                          Portobello Fries
                                          Duck Taco
                                          Something with Pork
                                          Fancy hot dog
                                          Mini burger

                                          There were 2 buffet stations: one Asian, one Italian. Both were okay. Food tasted good but didn't amaze.

                                          For sit down dinner we had:
                                          Lobster and corn souffle
                                          BLT Caesar Salad
                                          Choice of Steak with grilled vegetables and potato gratin or Seabass with spinach and potatoes
                                          Contemporary Chocolate Fondu

                                          I have a post on the blog going up on Oct 9th about it. I took a lot of pictures of the food! So if you can wait that long, click on this link: http://tasty-eating.blogspot.com/

                                          1. re: tastyeating
                                            c
                                            cimui Sep 29, 2009 08:14 PM

                                            PHEW, I was about to be very alarmed at your photographic memory -- but thank goodness I can just be impressed by your thorough, informative blogging. This is super helpful, tasty -- thank you!

                                      2. i
                                        illya Sep 28, 2009 01:16 PM

                                        We've used Canard before and thought they were excellent, a pleasure to work with (the event was for 400). also cleaver co - delicious, sustainable/locally sourced.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: illya
                                          c
                                          cimui Sep 28, 2009 04:21 PM

                                          I really like the Cleaver Co. and have enthusiastically recommended the restaurant (Green Table) in the past... but as much as I like Green Table, I do think it can be sort of inconsistent. I've had horribly overcooked scallops and oversalted food, there -- as well as a grilled cheese sandwich that seemed divinely inspired. :)

                                          Will definitely look into Canard, as well -- thank you!

                                        2. k
                                          kathryn Sep 28, 2009 01:14 PM

                                          I had some of Abigail Kirsch's food at a wedding before. It was OK. Stage 6 at Steiner Studios. It might be more helpful to search for the venue names of places she does exclusively?
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4732...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: kathryn
                                            c
                                            cimui Sep 28, 2009 04:18 PM

                                            Kathryn -- good suggestion and I appreciate your prior review!

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