Let’s talk food: Harvest Moon guides us through the catering process

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Photo: Rachel May Photography Photo: Rachel May Photography

One thing we know to be true about wedding food: It’s an important part of a successful day. Harvest Moon Catering’s director of sales, Kelly Mahanes, agrees. “It’s the beginning of your story,” she says. A good caterer is there to guide you through the almost limitless options of cuisine and “bring people together around the dinner table,” no matter the size.

We asked Mahanes to help us dig in to making the right catering decisions. No matter who you end up going with, she says, “find somebody you click with, somebody that you trust to take care of everything for you. Make a decision based off of how you feel about them, not necessarily their reputation. The goal is to have the professionals handle it and for you to let go.”—Faith Schweikert

The consultation

When? Mahanes suggests booking your tasting at least one year out from your wedding date. Due to the overwhelming popularity of Charlottesville as a wedding destination, tastings fill up rapidly. They are also difficult to book during May, June, September and October, as caterers are busy at previously booked weddings.

How long it takes: Harvest Moon books tastings in two-hour time slots. It will generally take an hour-and-a-half to try the four to six appetizer options, salad and bread course, three to four protein options and the vegetable and starch sides and confer with the staff.

How much: At Harvest Moon, tastings are free. Says Mahanes, “We’ve played around with the idea [of charging for tastings] for several years but, ultimately, from the beginning we want it to be a comfortable experience. And that’s worth whatever monetary loss we may have from it.”

What to bring: A list of questions about menu styles, dietary restrictions, pricing and what is included. Also arrive hungry. “We hate for people to come in full or close because, at a certain point, everything starts to taste the same when you’re full and we want to avoid that,” Mahanes says.

Cost and selection: The price per head will vary depending on headcount, rentals, serving style and labor needed. Here’s a basic price list:

Food: $36-44 per person

Beverages: $7-26 per person

Labor: varies

Total: $95-140 per person

Photo: Rachel May Photography
Photo: Rachel May Photography

Popular foods by season

Mahanes says because “Charlottesville is a very locally driven community, we design our menu starting from what the local seasonal menu is and branch out from there.”

Fall:

  • Seared grouper with carrot butter, whole roasted carrots and fingerling potatoes
  • Roasted vegetable pavé with tomato chevre butter and wilted arugula
  • Mixed greens with champagne vinaigrette and roasted beet root, apple, chevre mousse, hazelnut sable and white balsamic-honey gel
  • Charred tomato soup shooter with white cheddar grilled cheese

Spring:

  • Salad of mixed greens, arugula, quinoa, crumbled chevre, shaved spring vegetables and citrus vinaigrette
  • Garden beignet
  • Green onion aioli

Summer:

  • Seared salmon over a ragu of sweet corn, bacon lardons, potato, fennel, fresno chilies and dill cream

Year-round:

  • Beef tenderloin with grilled shrimp and grilled fresh artichokes, black barley and Banyuls sauce
  • Hickory-smoked lemon and rosemary chicken with spinach-basil cream
  • Yellowfin tuna tartare taco with pickled ginger and wasabi aioli

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