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Truly excellent caterer for Alexandria, VA party?

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After reading 10+ pages of "catering" search results here, I've decided just to post for some up-to-date ideas for a local caterer.

We are having a very small (<20 people) party for my Mom's 60th birthday - it's a big milestone for her, and we want an absolutely wonderful, special day in her honor. I love to cook and usually do our special events myself, but for once I'd like to mingle with everyone and be able to enjoy the day without keeping one foot in the kitchen... (plus, this year the family has a new baby and it's too hard to stay away from him for long).

So - we're thinking of having the party catered here in Alexandria at the house. I've never done anything like that before, partly because I can't imagine *testing* the quality of a service for the first time during an event I actually care about. I'll take the plunge only if I'm totally sure it will be an exceptional spread!

Anyone know of super-reliable, truly superb caterers that might be up to the job? We like all cuisines and are adventurous eaters - the only requirement is that the food be really exceptional and feel special (elegant, delicious, etc.). If you have a recommendation, please share. And if you have the time, I'd also love to know what you think about the following issues:

- What do you estimate the per person cost would be? What's a reasonable range? (we don't need any plates, glassware, alcohol, utensils, etc. - everything for entertaining is already here)

- Do you think 6 weeks is enough notice? The birthday is the first week in May.

The boards say glowing things about Susan Gage catering, so I'll check that out tomorrow, but I thought I'd ask for other enthusiastic rec's as well.

Thanks SO much for any help - any advice is really appreciated. (Yay for great moms!) :)

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  1. Just wanted to add that so far, in addition to Susan Gage, I'm considering Capitol Catering (they're so close it's crazy) and Windows - anyone w/ experience with any of these three, it would be great to hear your impressions!

    (Well Dunn looked great on-line, but not really the vibe we're going for...)

    1. I am totally allergic to catering. Really, I can't stand it. It all tastes like food that even a mediocre restaurant could never get away with serving. I've tasted meals from all the places you listed plus many more.

      So, what to do? Your group sounds rather small... couldn't you get a favorite restaurant to provide the food? Or are you looking for the meal to be served?

      Anyway, here is the phone number I have for Khadija Banouas, the proprietress of the late lamented Pyramids. She makes wonderful Moroccan food: 703-998-2306. I haven't used this number in the last year or so, so I'm not sure it's still good. But her food is better than any 'catering company' I've ever had.

      1. http://www.maineventcaterers.com/

        I just went to a wedding reception brunch in DC on Sunday catered by Main Event. Truly, truly fabulous. My friend planned this wedding less than 6 weeks out, too. Fresh, inventive passed appetizers, and the buffet brunch was to die for. Like Steve, I'm generally less than excited when it comes to catered events, but this food really blew me away.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Trixie Too

          Thanks for the feedback! I'm not in any way a food snob, but as someone who cooks a lot I definitely have pretty high standards for paying someone else to do it...

          We are a really small group, and I can't think of any restaurant in particular that would execute party food in the way I'm picturing - I wanted lots of gorgeous, elegant, insanely tasty things. It's not so much that we want dinner brought in, but variety... something really memorable.

          I'll follow up w/ Main Event, and thanks to you both for your input!

          1. re: Oobay

            Oh wow, I found this board with your search for a fab caterer in the DC/Northern VA areaa and I just had to write. We are having a birthday party for my mom who turns 70 and we are in search of something really wonderful for the occassion. I would love to know who you eventually ended up using for your event and if you were satisfied.

            1. re: twoodson

              Twoodson, I just noticed your post here. I never did end up doing catering because it was easier to pull things together myself (even with all the cooking - less mental energy somehow!). I wish I could give you up-to-date feedback but I've yet to take the catering plunge. Best wishes to you for a memorable celebration.

        2. Check out Bittersweet catering. They're on King. St. in Old Town. I've eaten at the cafe, and food has been good. Their catering information looks delicious.
          If you weren't going for elegant, I'd recommend Dixie Bones for a Southern-themed event.

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