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Have you been to a wedding/large event at any of these venues? How was the food?!?

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_cjw_ Dec 10, 2013 06:58 AM

Hi, Chowhounders! My partner and I live in NY and are planning our wedding for next year in Philadelphia. We’ve researched a lot of venues and visited a fair number as well. While there are a lot of factors that go into venue selection, for us, the food experience is up near the top (along with price and convenience). Nearly all of the locations require a signed contract before doing a tasting, so I am turning to the locals in hopes that you can opine on venues/caterers with which you have experience.

If you’ve attended a wedding or other event at any of these, would you please advise? How was the food? Seriously…do you remember today what you ate back at the event? Were the different dishes/recipes delicious? Any adverse impact with respect to timing of service, temperature, etc? Thanks for taking the time to read and respond!

- Sofitel. When we visited, we had lunch at the lobby restaurant and it was fine-to-good, if served a tad too cold. The wedding sales person, though, gave a great presentation and emphasizes the chef’s desire and ability to provide great food to our liking.
- Hyatt at the Bellevue. This venue is more expensive than I’m comfortable spending, but we’re trying to see if we can customize a package that would work. I’m afraid the event will seem skimpy because, for example, some of the menu language has shifted from “pick # of hors d’oeuvres” to “pick # of hors d’oeuvres (based on 4 pieces per person)”, which makes me suspect they may allow us to run out (vs. making more if they see guests are gobbling up a particular item). Also, we had lunch at XIV when we visited and it was fine-to-good (better than the Sofitel).
- Front and Palmer/Feast Your Eyes Catering . While this is my favorite in terms of aesthetics, the all-in cost may also be north of what I’m comfortable with. If, however, the food is far and away the best of the bunch, I may try a bit harder to make this work.
- JG Domestic/Cira Centre.
- Top of the Tower. I have seen some other positive discussion on Chowhound for this venue, but those threads are a bit dated. Has anyone been recently? (Any chance the chef still comments here?!) They will actually do a pre-contract tasting, but we have not been able to schedule thus far, and may not be able to before we need to make a decision.
- Liberty View Ballroom or Free Library, with Brulee Caterering. We have not visited Liberty View Ballroom and were only permitted to peek our heads in for 10 seconds at the Free Library when they were setting up for a gala event, so any input on the non-food aspects would be welcome also.

Thank you, Philadelphia commenters!
CJ

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    BelgianBeerMistress RE: _cjw_ Dec 10, 2013 12:22 PM

    I can comment on Top of the Tower. My old employer had the company party there about 3-4 years ago. Actually, the food was pretty tasty. They opted for several pasta options and some other typical fare like salads and veg sides (it was buffet). I think you could do worse, but there was nothing thrilling or special about it, just above average than what you'd expect from a large corporate affair. And while I've never been to JG Domestic, Garces' other places are great, and I would bet on that one to deliver the tastiest food.

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      urbanfabric RE: _cjw_ Dec 14, 2013 02:44 PM

      I am someone who has previously sung the praises of Top of the Tower, as that is where I got married (6 years ago). For us, one of the reasons we picked the location was that we could bring our own alcohol (in addition to the space and liking the staff that we'd met when visiting). This brought costs down significantly for us and meant that money spent there was all on food, not on a food/alcohol package.

      I haven't been there since, though.

      1 Reply
      1. re: urbanfabric
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        Buckethead RE: urbanfabric Dec 14, 2013 03:06 PM

        Me too, 8 years ago, which is why I didn't chime in at first. Seems to me that if they're the only place willing to have you in for a tasting without having a signed contract first, they must be pretty confident in the food.

      2. jerseytomato RE: _cjw_ Dec 16, 2013 06:11 AM

        We used Feast Your Eyes for our wedding (based on recs from this board) and they were phenomenal- our guests still compliment the food when we see them! We planned our wedding from Seattle and communicated with them via email for the most part. We were able to design the whole menu ourselves- we did tasting stations and were able to include some dishes that were especially meaningful to us (ie: one of our desserts was a gingersnap/earl grey mini ice cream sandwich, which is a favorite dish at the restaurant where we got engaged) . Early in the planning process, on a trip to Philly, we did do their $250 tasting (which gets deducted from the bill; my parents came along for it). It was nice because we were able to fine tune some of the dishes prior to the event.

        We did not use their event space- got married at Mask and Wig (which is a great, quirky venue for a smaller wedding). I do think the Front and Palmer space is beautiful, but Mask and Wig worked better for our needs.

        An added bonus that we didn't expect is that Lini, our coordinator from FYE, basically functioned as a wedding coordinator of sorts on the day of (she made sure the event flowed smoothly, she even lined us up for the bridal party intro before our dance). I don't know if they normally serve in that role, but it was much appreciated for us!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jerseytomato
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          _cjw_ RE: jerseytomato Dec 29, 2013 06:46 PM

          thanks, jersey tomato! we have booked with front and Palmer and are working with lini. I don't think the option of a paid tasting was mentioned until we asked about it, per your post. we're planning in doing it. thanks again!

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          _cjw_ RE: _cjw_ Dec 16, 2013 06:46 AM

          Thanks for this feedback, friends.

          Re: ToT, they no longer allow you to bring in your own alcohol. I was optimistic that this place would be a good combination in terms of food, location, and environs we could decorate to our taste…but sadly after our initial visit, the junior person who met with us turned us over to the catering manager/director and it’s been more or less radio silence to our communications ever since. I am very disappointed.

          Re: Feast Your Eyes, this is our first choice right now, even though we haven’t tasted a thing…I asked Lini over the weekend about if/how tasting is conducted, because it wasn’t mentioned at all…so fingers crossed it’s an option.

          I also suspected the food might be the best at JG Domestic…but we briefly visited the space after I wrote the initial message on this thread and were not very impressed. Granted we were not permitted full entrance because a corporate holiday party was on-going…but overall it was a strange experience and we were not confident we would enjoy the setting as much as we had hoped based on a few pictures we found online.

          If anyone else has experience – especially on the hotels – we’d still love to hear. Thanks!

          2 Replies
          1. re: _cjw_
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            cwdonald RE: _cjw_ Dec 16, 2013 08:07 AM

            Not surprised about your response to J G Domestic. That space is very corporate, and I really wonder what the long term viability of the space is. They no longer serve dinner, closing the public part of the venue at 7pm on weekdays, and closed completely on weekends. Perhaps it means they are using it to concentrate on catering.

            1. re: cwdonald
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              _cjw_ RE: cwdonald Dec 18, 2013 02:44 PM

              That's probably on point, though I do think they're looking to do more on-site weddings...too bad the draping there is so off-putting, because I would have loved to work with them from a food perspective.

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            Bashful3 RE: _cjw_ Dec 18, 2013 02:23 PM

            Nothing to contribute re catering, but a friend's son had a
            wedding in the Free Library, which is a site that has some
            problems. Disability access was one of them, and parking
            was another. You could probably do better.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bashful3
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              _cjw_ RE: Bashful3 Dec 18, 2013 02:45 PM

              Thanks for the input. We took the Free Library off the list because the events coordinator has not been very responsive to email or phone messages. It's selfish, but I'm sorta relieved/glad to know they had other issues that would have been a concern, because I hate to think we missed out on a great spot for one person's lack of follow up...

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              AmyLouise RE: _cjw_ Dec 21, 2013 11:11 AM

              A good friend of mine had an evening wedding at the Downtown Club last year and the food and service were wonderful. It is a beautiful venue especially for an evening event with the view of the city from the event space. There is a very nice bar next to the main room where the cocktail hour was held. Not sure what the price point is there or their policy on tastings but it's worth checking out.

              1 Reply
              1. re: AmyLouise
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                _cjw_ RE: AmyLouise Dec 29, 2013 06:47 PM

                we really liked the looks of the downtown club, but apparently a lot of folks do, too. iirc, they were fully booked for Saturdays in 2014.

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                agozoic RE: _cjw_ Dec 23, 2013 05:15 PM

                I don't know if the same folks who handle the Sofitel's restaurant also do the catering, but the restaurant doesn't have a good reputation: http://www.philly.com/philly/food/res...

                They also did screw up my room reservation the day before my wedding, so I do have a grudge against them.

                Check out Feastivities if you can use your own caterer. Cheesy name, but if I recall correctly, we had a tasting without signing a contract. I think we put down a small good-faith deposit to secure a date, had the tasting, and if we changed our mind we'd only be out the cost of the tasting.

                1 Reply
                1. re: agozoic
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                  _cjw_ RE: agozoic Dec 29, 2013 06:49 PM

                  thanks for the input. feastivities was on our list to check out if we went with a venue that allowed outside catering...but we went with front and Palmer, which is exclusive for feast your eyes. thanks again for taking the time to post!

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                  Thebigchiz RE: _cjw_ Jan 23, 2014 11:27 AM

                  Just had my daughter's wedding at the Cira Centre on 9/21/13. Can't say enough good things about everything there. Tired of going to country club and center city hotels where the food is an afterthought (no matter how you order your steak, it comes out well done).Very well trained waitstaff, great to deal with. We had 185 guests and space was more than adequate. Friends still talking about originality and variety of the food. If I had another daughter, I would'nt look anywhere else.

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