I graduated from USF on the 14th. Even though this was college 2.0, as I like to call it, my family and I wanted to celebrate. But here’s the problem with a graduation party: you’re not home during the time you need to be prepping (since you’re at commencement). And here’s the other problem: commencement exercises typically end at odd times of the day (so it’s tough to book a restaurant). In my case, commencement was scheduled to end at 3 PM. We decided our best option was to hire a caterer and have the party at our house.
The caterer: Lovey’s Kitchen
When Hubby and I were getting married, I dreaded looking for a caterer. There are a lot of caterers out there and their websites are often only marginally helpful in determining whether these people are worth your time. This time around it was even worse because I was hosting a small party in December (when many caterers are booking large holiday parties). I called my wedding caterer, who wanted nothing to do with me because their December minimum is 50, even though we spent A LOT of money with them for our wedding, not to mention the business I’ve sent them since then, INCLUDING A WEDDING FOR OVER 300 PEOPLE. (Yes, I’m still pissed, and if anyone cares to know who it is, post a comment and I’ll reply with the name.)
I called a few others. One place never bothered to call me back. Good Food Tampa looked fantastic but they were far out of our budget. I called Joan’s Catering and Sue was really nice but I felt like we weren’t quite on the same page.
Then I had a “eureka” moment. A woman I used to work with started a catering business called Lovey’s Kitchen not too long ago. After checking out some sample menus on the site, I thought I would give her a chance. We quickly agreed on a menu at a very reasonable price.
Early in November, the Lovey’s Kitchen ladies, Eileen and Ingrid, came over to see our house and talk set-up. As soon as I saw Eileen again, I knew I had made the right decision. I knew they were going to do a fabulous job and take all of that worry from me. One of the biggest selling points, though, was how comfortable we all felt having them in our home to set up while we weren’t there.
The big day came. Hubby picked up the cake from Sweet Tweets (more on that later!) and ice for the bar. The moms, my aunt, and I primped at home (thanks to Krystal from UbU Salon – you’re the best, girl!). Finally, we loaded up the cars and went off to USF.
Commencement was about as good as commencement ceremonies ever are. USF divides its graduates into several ceremonies to cut down the length of each ceremony to about 90 minutes. But it’s still boring and I really appreciate my family and friends sitting through 89 minutes and 45 seconds just for the 15 seconds that I walked across the stage. Fortunately, I sat with teammates from a class this semester and we did a good job keeping each other entertained.
When I walked into the house a few minutes before 4 PM (the official party start time), the house smelled fantastic. Food was already on the buffet tables and the ladies were hard at work on more. I immediately grabbed a deviled egg from a platter in the kitchen (graduate’s prerogative), then headed to the buffet outside for pita chips with homemade hummus and a mojo pork slider. HOLY MACKEREL. Everything was so delicious! People were really impressed.
Then the caprese skewers with truffled balsamic glaze appeared and the ladies started passing trays of cocktail reubens (mini open-face reuben sandwiches). They brought out the trays of regular and lobster mac & cheese. The ladies created a beautiful fruit tray of every fruit imaginable (pineapple, watermelon, berries, star fruit, mangos…) to go with the chocolate fountain. I thought that was it and I was really getting with the buffet. Then they started passing trays of chicken satay with peanut sauce and the chicken feta quesadillas with two different chutneys. They brought out a basket of Roquefort popovers, then a basket of sausage balls. My husband said, “Who the fuck ordered all this food?!” Every dish was better than the last.
We were all stuffed. And at the “official” end time of 8 PM (when the caterer’s time ended) we still had tons of food leftover, so the ladies transferred everything to our plates and platters so we could keep eating. I had ordered four sandwich trays (turkey, ham and swiss, Cubanitos, and roast beef and cheddar) that were never touched that night because we had so much “regular” food left.
When people started leaving, my mom was making huge doggie bags of leftovers and sandwiches. The next day I had a ham and swiss sandwich and a roast beef and cheddar sandwich. I do not know where they get their bread, or their meat, or their cheese, but I swear those were the best damn sandwiches EVER.
Bottom line: need a caterer? Hire Lovey’s. Comments from my guests included, “I can’t stop eating, it’s so good,” “Everything they do is absolutely first class,” and “This food is fantastic.” Not only was the food amazing, the presentation was sophisticated, and Eileen and Ingrid are professionals with class and style.
The bakery: Sweet Tweets Cakery
From the beginning, I wanted Sweet Tweets to make my cake. We’ve eaten lots of their cupcakes (including at Hubby’s birthday party last year) and I had one of their cakes at a baby shower (it had a cannoli filling that was to die for). After a rocky start due to some miscommunication, the bakery and I got it sorted out. I decided on pink champagne cake with strawberry filling and buttercream frosting, decorated with a USF diploma and a cap. For a square cake for 30 people it was about $135, which was very reasonable to Hubby and me. One of the bonuses about Sweet Tweets for us is its close proximity to our house, which made pickup the day of the event really quick and easy (obviously, for bigger events/cakes, they deliver).
When Hubby got home with the cake he said, “Was the color scheme supposed to be black and gold?” I said, “I didn’t specify,” and then I resisted the urge to look at it before the party. We put it in the fridge and headed out the door.
When we got back, the cake was on the cake table but still in the box. I opened the box and nearly died. The cake was so beautiful! The diploma was perfectly rendered on edible paper with a gold ribbon of fondant and matching “2013” with a black border and a graduate’s cap cake topper. I called people in to look at the cake and everyone started taking pictures and asking the name of the bakery.
A little later, I cut the cake and people started grabbing slices. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People who aren’t dessert eaters were saying, “This cake is amazing.” Anyone who has had a Sweet Tweets cupcake or cake knows that they believe in doing things the right way, which means the strawberry filling is real (you get the occasional grit of a strawberry seed) and the fondant is so delicious you could eat it by itself.
If you need a specialty cake that has to be beautiful AND delicious, you better go with Sweet Tweets.
The party overall
I could not be happier with the way things turned out, thanks to MANY people. My mom put in tons of hard work getting the house ready. My in-laws provided financial support. The caterers were superstars. The cake was totally on point. My hubby was indispensable with helping me set up the bar and generally being an awesome host. And, of course, my guests made the whole thing worthwhile. I’m very blessed!