Two years ago my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and my brother and I thought what better way to celebrate this milestone than an all out blow-out here in Manhattan. Now, I come from a long line of party throwers. My parents would throw parties at the drop of a hat and we are not talking about backyard BBQs though we had those as well, but rather proper parties that required thought and planning. I supposed the proverbial apple does not fall far from the tree because I love entertaining and throwing a fantastic bash. For most major events in the past I was not diagnosed Celiac nor had I developed my shellfish allergy. This would really be the first event I would be planning with both my allergies in full-force and quite frankly I wondered how I would navigate the planning process. I am happy to report that will a little creative thinking, I was able to effectively plan and execute a truly wonderful evening. So how did I do it?
It took well over a year of planning but I am going to spare the boring logistics of selecting a venue and the like and focus more on how my allergies affected the planning and the evening itself. Here is a bit of background to help frame the process. I wanted a unique locale that was old New York. I wanted a deliciously deco spot that oozed a New York of yesteryear to transport my parents back to a time when they were two young teenagers in love.
After much searching, I ended up deciding on the Top of the Tower, high above the Beekman Tower Hotel next to the United Nations on the River. It changed ownership during my planning which was fun. I wanted something that was grand but still intimate as there would be only about 100 guests. If you have not been, I highly recommend popping over for a drink as the ambience and panoramic views are magical. I had the locale in mind but you need to have a tasting to see if the food is up to snuff and get an idea of what the chef can and cannot do.
So how exactly does a Celiac with a shellfish allergy handle a tasting? He brings his partner along (but anyone with good taste and few allergies will work fineJ). First, I let my coordinator who was arranging the tasting know exactly what my allergies were. Second, the chef was alerted and would let me know what I could and could not sample during the tasting (remember ingredients and preparations are sometimes tricky so let the one who is preparing the food guide you). Finally, I relied on my partner’s opinions to help guide me keeping in mind what I thought guests would enjoy most.
This was no small task as the evening would consist of 10 types of passed hors d’oeuvres as well as a few nibble stations. The sit down dinner was a three course meal that required what salad (yes, there were many choices), main courses, and dessert would be offered. We sampled so many different variations that the decision was very difficult in the end. After much back and forth, there were two hors d’oeuvres I selected that were safe for me (without my shellfish allergy my options would have increased dramatically) along with some nice nibbles at the small stations being set up. So it would be just the caviar (yes, I can still eat that) in potato cups with crème fraîche and prosciutto with melon for me. The salad and entrée selections would also ensure I would not go hungry. Dessert, well, I had to think of my guests and it was not GF but quite frankly after all the food and me monitoring to make sure everything was going according to plan, I had little time to actually eat, LOL.
The evening was a complete success. We had a truly fabulous piano player for cocktails and a famous New York band for dancing. The evening flowed seamlessly and party goers danced into the evening. A few fun ideas came out of this. First, I sent a cryptic save the date postcard out well in advance. It featured only a photo of the deco elevator doors at the venue and a riddle. Guests would have to wait until their received their invitations to find out the locale. The invitations were presented in high gloss black boxes containing custom New York skyline invitations in gold (for the golden anniversary) fabric envelopes and tied in gold ribbon imprinted with my parent’s names and 50 years together. These were then shipped in boxes to all the guests across the country. The seating cards were affixed to custom bottles of wine that were labeled to celebrate and remind guests of the event. This made for a unique favor and way to present the seating cards.