A rave for Market Hall Caterers [Oakland]
Market Hall Caterers doesn't seem to ever come up in the budget wedding caterer discussion, and it should. We'd looked at a few other caterers - perennial CH favorite Ann Walker (I liked the food at my friend's wedding, but they literally served every item I would have been interested in and I didn't want to duplicate their menu), Le's Kitchen (possibly the most intriguing menu I'd seen, modern Vietnamese cuisine similar to that of La Vie, but they were not available the day of our wedding, and anyway they would have needed a full kitchen, which we our venue did not have), and Daniel Ripley (was not able to work with a number of our limitations).
We had quite a few conditions and were really grateful Market Hall was able to accommodate:
1) The kitchen at our venue only had rewarming equipment, so we had to think about food that tastes good precooked and rewarmed - one of the things that sold me on Market Hall was the inclusion of a braised chicken with bay leaf and figs dish - obviously a brown, mushy looking dish that would be delicious. I loved that they were willing to prioritize taste over looks.
2) For cocktail hour, we wanted to bring in tacos and ceviche from Taqueria Sinaloa and Korean fried chicken and kimbap from Koreana Plaza. MHC was not only willing to let us do this, but they helped us with the plating, serving, and clearing.
3) We wanted to stock the bar with our own alcohol - this was not an issue for MHC. They were also able to make a champagne punch for us from ingredients and a recipe that we provided.
Another giant plus - once I had given up on the idea of modern Vietnamese cuisine, I decided I really wanted Acme bread at the wedding - this was actually how I came to consider MHC in the first place, as they have the largest selection of Acme bread I've seen outside of Acme itself. We were able to specify which types we wanted.
Things I loved about them:
1) The extensive cookbook collection in their meeting room - a lot of the catering menus I looked at were mind-numbingly similar - MHC's menu is extensive (email them for the whole thing, the samples online barely scratch the surface) and while they can do food from a lot of different cultural traditions, Cal-Mediterranean is pretty dominant, and they offer a lot of dishes I didn't see on other catering menus. We ended up serving a baby green salad with Asian pears, dried cranberries and candied walnuts, the above mentioned braised chicken dish, tri-tip marinated in pomegranate molasses with rosemary reduction sauce, cannelloni filled with balsamic butternut squash and spinach, truffled potato and porcini gratin (tasted more of good dried procini than of fake truffle oil).
2) Their cake selection. We actually ended up having friends do the buffet table, but every cake we tasted was really good - they don't do standard large cakes, they'll just stack a small, medium and large cake on top of each other, and provide sheet cakes for the rest - I don't particularly care for wedding cake, so this would have worked for me.
3) They itemize everything, so that food costs are separate from service, linens, china, etc. With a fixed cost on service and rentals, it made it much less stressful to manage the last minute cancellations and additions, as only the food costs had to be altered. Their literature states the average cost usually runs between $30-70 pp if you get full service with linens, but if you wanted to go super-budget, you could just order the food (which is *very* reasonably priced), pick it up yourself, and serve it on your own dishware,
4) Great vegan items. They have an extensive, separate vegetarian/vegan menu - I got a taste of the peppers with quinoa, the cauliflower with capers, and the smoky roast blue lake beans with shallots - everything was really, really good.
5) The food at the wedding tasted better than at the tasting. Not sure how this is possible. This was especially true of the cannelloni.
6) Service was outstanding - these are not college kids cater watering on weekends for extra cash. Servers and bartenders were warm, friendly, professional, and efficient. And our coordinator, Matthew, was super-organized and helpful through the entire process.
So - yeah, we were really happy with them. I wonder if they don't get mentioned much in the catering discussions because they do so many different types of catering jobs people don't consider them as much for weddings, but they did a really great job.
I experienced their catering as an eater at daveena's wedding, so only impressions are from taste of the food and not the negotiation, menu selection, or admin side.
The fare was really impressive--I think I had seconds of everything, and the chicken and pasta in particular were great. To say it was the best wedding food I've had would not emphasize enough the huge gap between this and typical "wedding chicken," but, considering the chief critic, negotiator, and menu selector, that probably wasn't surprising.
The Sinaloan truck also did a great job by paring down their typical truck menu and offering a short list of 5-6 tacos during the post-wedding cocktail and photograph session.