Feeding Vegetarians at Events

feeding vegetarians at events: platter of fresh tomatoes, goat cheeses, herbs, and crackers
Catering: Your Kitchen Chef. Photo: Vera Gazayov Photography

EJP Events’ staff are invited to lots of open houses, and other networking events. We love being able to check out new venues, caterers, and vendors. Most of these events have some form of refreshments and snacks. While none of us expect a full meal from this type of event, snacks are definitely helpful, since most of these events happen late on a weekday afternoon or early weeknight–right around the time most of us would be eating dinner.

I’m sharing my thoughts as a vegetarian about feeding vegetarians at events, from a few of these recent catering open houses; this also applies to caterers setting up any menu for a number of people.

The default for event catering is “omnivore”. This being Portland, the event catering company will typically provide some concessions to those of us who have a restricted diet, whether it be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc. As someone who has been vegetarian for over 20 years, I’m thankful that someone has put some thought into feeding vegetarians at events.

But a lot of times it still feels like tokenism, something to check off the “to do” list. Vegetarian foods are often not given the same degree of detail and attention than their glutenous, dairy-and-meat filled counterparts. Flavor isn’t considered. It becomes frustrating when there’s only one thing I can theoretically eat, and that one thing isn’t actually appetizing.

Why should this matter to you, the food provider?

In the short term, someone like me is going to be cranky and not think so fondly of the event or the food. In the long term, when the particular caterer comes up as an option for a future event, I’m going to cross them off the list. If a caterer can’t be bothered to feed vegetarians at events when they’re supposed to be putting their best foot forward for an event planner audience, I don’t have confidence that they would be able to do it on a day-to-day basis like for a wedding or event.

It isn’t difficult to offer decent, plentiful, and tasty food options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free folks, those that have allergies, and the like. It just takes a bit more thought. Here are some ideas to consider when feeding vegetarians for events:

  • Have MULTIPLE options. Having only one thing to eat for a vegetarian or gluten free person comes across as doing the bare minimum. Consider having two, three, maybe even more things to eat for us.
  • “One size fits all” actually fits few. Making one hors d’oeuvre option both vegan and gluten-free kills two birds with one stone, sure. But these two dietary restrictions are not similar and have little overlap. As a non g-f vegetarian, I can eat bread and cheese. Someone who is gluten-free may still eat meat. A gluten-free vegan item might be good if  the chef can suss out the common ground of tastiness shared by the two disparate diets. That’s tricky and takes thought. Most of the time the “one size fits all” option appears like you, the food provider, cannot be bothered. Are you only providing it so someone can’t complain about the lack of vegan and/or gluten-free food? Take a look at the item that you are providing: is that edible-flower-on-a-beet-cracker substantial
  • Ensure that the vegetarian / alternative dining option is appropriate to the formality level of the menu. I once went to a fine-dining restaurant where the vegetarian option was a Beyond Burger – the same thing that I can pick up at my local Target. Meanwhile, my dining mates feasted on Beef Wellington and plats de mer.
  • Vegetarians and vegans want protein and calories, too. There’s a popular misconception that we vegetarians are just rabbits: We eat nothing but vegetables in their raw form. I do like my vegetables, but I don’t make meals out of salads unless there’s no other option. (And I’ll probably go get a burrito afterwards.) Most vegetables have little in the way of protein and calories, which vegetarians need to sustain ourselves. Plus, fat adds flavor. Consider adding beans, lentils, tofu, and yes, even hummus into the mix.
  • Refrain from putting meat on everything. Often I’ll find foods that look mostly tantalizing, filled with delicious sauces, cheeses, and veggies. But, meat is also on this item, so it’s a no-go for me. Some folks feel that meat needs to be on everything for it to “taste good.” That is simply untrue!
  • And especially hold back on the bacon. The whole bacon-on-everything trend shows no signs of dying. I’ll sometimes go to an event where every food item has some form of bacon on it! (Contrary to popular belief, bacon isn’t “the meat I miss” since becoming a vegetarian.) It’s not just vegetarians to worry about: pork is forbidden to those with Kosher and Halal diets. So consider that, especially if you promote yourself as an inclusive event company. Turkey bacon is still meat.
  • Consider “build your own” food stations. It’s not going to be as pretty as your meticulously conceived and executed bread/cracker with stuff on it. But it will make it easier for everyone to eat food they’d like. Consider something like a fajita bar. No, they are not as Instagrammable as those delicate crostinis, but it makes it easier to satisfy all sorts of dietary restrictions. Just make sure that meat is not touching the veggies!
  • Ask, “Would this stand alone by itself?” That pretty looking small flower on a beet cracker is fine if you put it on a plate loaded with other foods that will fill you up. But what if it’s the only thing you could eat? Consider what satisfaction those restricted to the flower-cracker are going to get out of it. If it’s something that’s going to make them crave for something else while stuffing themselves on dessert until they leave, you’re not doing your job in feeding vegetarians at your events.
  • Find out what vegetarians, et al would like to eat by asking them. What you think a vegetarian would eat may be different than what they actually do eat. Consult your vegetarian friend and ask what they’d like to see in your menus. Don’t know one? Go online. Find vegetarian themed websites and online communities, there’s plenty out there. Same goes for other dietary restrictions. Here are some places to start: One Green Planet, Vegetarian Times, and Vegetable Love on Pinterest.
  • And most importantly, be open and willing to accommodate. I noticed that at the event where the flower-covered beet cracker was the only vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free option, chefs were making those hors d’oeuvres right behind the table. It would have been so easy for them to build hors d’oeuvre to order, to satisfy folks with dietary restrictions.

If you liked this content, check out these other posts:

 

Events Industry Council – Resources for the events industry related to COVID-19

UPDATED 3/23: We’ve added more resources for small business and the latest info on Executive Orders from Governor Kate Brown and guidance from the CDC. Information changes on an hourly and daily basis, so please pay attention to source information from official government websites.

Governor Brown has issued a “Stay At Home” executive order effective 3/23/2020 immediately until terminated (no known end date at this time).

The CDC and Whitehouse.gov recommends that all event activities with 10 or more people be cancelled for the next 15 days.

Get Your Mass Gatherings and or Large Community Events Ready (Guidance from the CDC)

A resource guide for small business, from Portland Business Journal

Join the Portland Event Industry COVID-19 discussion group on Facebook

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As a Certified Meeting Professional designated by the Events Industry Council, I’d like to provide you with access to these resources about the ongoing issues related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Please follow all WHO and CDC-advised measures for hand washing and sanitation, and stay home if you’re not feeling well. EJP Events staff will be following these guidelines as well. Please keep checking the above links, as information is updated on a regular basis. We hope you find this information helpful and wish you a safe and healthy event.

Outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events

Xport Bar and Lounge, from their website.

It’s winter here in Portland: short, damp days are the norm. But before we know it, summer will be here in full force. There’s nothing more glorious than a nice summer day in the Northwest. Everyone wants to spend time outside, so they head to one of our fine restaurants that have outdoor patio venues.

Are you thinking about having a special event or perhaps a rehearsal dinner using an outdoor patio venue? The time to plan that event is now. Once folks start shedding layers and ditching umbrellas, you can be sure that these special outdoor patio event spaces are already booked up.

Here’s a selection of outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events in Portland, Oregon. All of them are unique; many feature great views of the city.

Departure

The view from the west patio of Departure Lounge is dramatic! ©Evrim Icoz Photography

This restaurant sits atop the historic Meier and Frank building next to the Pioneer Courthouse. Meier and Frank was THE Portland downtown department store, but is no longer with us. Much of the old building is taken up by The Nines Hotel. Departure features pan-Asian food and its outdoor patio features one of the most impressive views of the city!

Xport Bar and Lounge

The Xport is another downtown rooftop venue. Located above The Porter Hotel, XPort offers eclectic New American cuisine. The patio features sweeping views of the West Hills and the Cascade Mountains.

The Hairy Lobster

Located in the Pearl District, this seafood restaurant has a patio that is directly across from Jamison Square Park. This shaded outdoor patio can accommodate parties from 70-110 people.

Revolution Hall

This Southeast venue consists of the former Washington High School, a public school that served Portland from 1924 to 1981 and counted Linus Pauling as a student. It now hosts Revolution Hall, one of the city’s premier music venues, plus restaurants (including Martha’s), bars, and private event spaces. The Roof Deck Bar is an outdoor patio venue available for private events from mid-June to mid-September.

Shine Distillery

Shine Distillery’s Patio.

This new distillery is located on vibrant North Williams Avenue. Besides spirits, you’ll find a restaurant and a small patio overlooking the neighborhood. Williams Avenue really comes to life during the summer months, manifested in the scores of cyclists you’ll see bounding up the bike lane!

*****

Hope this list gives you some ideas for outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events in Portland, Oregon. And again, we urge you to make your reservations early, and to call us if you need some help planning your event.

Venues that Allow Outside Catering { Roundup Update }

couple marrying at an outdoor pavilion Portland Wedding Planning
Matt and Diana wedding at Horning’s Hideout, 2018. Photo courtesy Anthony Gauna Photography

For many couples, the food is THE most important part of the wedding celebration, so they will only consider venues that allow outside catering. I often hear from them: “The food HAS to be good”…”We like the Portland food scene and want to integrate it into our wedding”…”We want to give our guests a taste of Portland and the Pacific Northwest”. Often, they already have a caterer in mind when they start their venue search, and are challenged when they keep running into venues that have strict exclusive lists.

That got me to thinking. What Portland wedding and event venues allow unrestricted outside catering? Here are just a few as of January 2020. Keep in mind that policies do change, so check with the venue first before making any plans or appointments. Know any others? Let us know by sharing in the comments below!

Horning’s Hideout is a great outdoor venue in North Plains, Oregon, only about 45 minutes from downtown Portland. The venue features covered pavilions, a relaxed vibe, and the ability to use any caterer you like.

Read more…

Continue reading “Venues that Allow Outside Catering { Roundup Update }”

Unique event destinations in Seattle

We recently visited our sister city to the north, Seattle. The Emerald City is brimming with standard venues for meetings and weddings. But what if you want something a bit more creative, a bit more unique? Here are a few ideas for unique event destinations in Seattle!

The Steamer Virginia V. 

This steamship is the last operational example of a Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet steamer. The Virginia V once plied the waters between Seattle and Tacoma. Now it is docked on the shore of Lake Union, where it acts as a living museum. Not just a curiosity, The Virginia V is an active venue, available for weddings, holiday parties, office events, birthdays, anniversaries, and more! Imagine, having a meeting or a wedding while on the water.

Fremont Foundry.

This location in Seattle’s original “funky” neighborhood was once an artist space. (The famous Jimi Hendrix and infamous Lenin statues were sculpted or constructed here!) The Fremont Foundry features 11,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space across two floors, plus a sky-lit atrium with a 20-ft ceiling! Weddings, private parties, corporate events…the Foundry does a bit of everything.

Fremont Foundry, from their website.

Smith Tower.

Seattle’s first skyscraper, and holder of the Tallest Building West of the Mississippi from its opening in 1914 until 1931, this 38 story, 484 ft neoclassical tower rises above Pioneer Square. This historic building hosts two event spaces: The Observatory, a speakeasy style lounge at the 35th floor that can hold up to 80. (This bar is usually open to the general public, and features an outdoor viewing deck.) Located on the 21st floor, the Lookout features indoor and outdoor space that can also hold up to 80. Smith Tower provides catering service for both venues.

Hopefully this gives you some good ideas for unique event destinations in Seattle. This post is just the tip of the iceberg! And if you are looking for some off season wedding locations in the Seattle area, be sure to check out our blog post here.

Venues and meeting spaces in Berkeley, California

Sather Tower, University of California Berkeley

This past January I was invited by Visit Berkeley to check out various venues in town. The city of Berkeley is on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, across from San Francisco and just north of Oakland. Located in the heart of a region of almost eight million people, with numerous transportation connections to the rest of the US and the world, having a meeting or an event in the Bay Area is never a bad idea. Berkeley has numerous spaces for events small and large. There’s plenty to do in town, and if that isn’t enough, it’s just an easy BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, their subway/commuter rail system) ride to Oakland and San Francisco.

Here are the places I checked out while in town:

Shattuck Hotel Opened in 1910, this classic hostelry done in the classic Mission Revival Style is located in the heart of the city. They have about 200 sleeping rooms, plus 7,500 square feet of event space, including a ballroom, courtyard, and boardroom.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Berkeley Marina Located a few miles west of downtown, this facility gives a great view of San Francisco Bay. They have many different meeting spaces that can be combined into different configurations, the largest room is about 5,100 sqare feet.

UC Theatre and Taube Family Music Hall. This historic former cinema was built in 1917 and is located on University Avenue. The 17,500 sq foot theater can host banquet, reception, and theater style events for anywhere from 225 to 1350 people.

Berkeley City Club  Built by famed architect Julia Morgan (Hearst Castle), this establishment initially opened in 1927 as the Berkeley Women’s City Club. This means it’s one of the few (maybe only?) civic club that has always allowed women. This famed institution built in the Moorish and Gothic style has one grand ballroom, the Venetian, which can hold up to 350 people. It also has more meeting rooms, sleeping rooms, and a beautiful indoor pool.

University of California Memorial Stadium. This historic stadium located above the city gives a great view of Berkeley and the campus. The stadium offers numerous different event spaces, such as the Chancellor’s Box, University Club, Stadium Club, and Field Club.

David Brower Center. Honoring former Sierra Club Executive Director, this three-floor building in downtown Berkeley. Besides office and gallery space, the center features conference facilities and a 178-seat theater. The Brower Center’s focus is on hosting low-impact, environmentally conscious events.

Graduate Hotel. Formerly known as the Hotel Durant, this classic hotel off the UC Berkeley Campus offers an impressive view of the city. The six floors of this Spanish Colonial styled building features 144 sleeping rooms. Their California Room can hold up to 70 people. The hotel does weddings as well.

A meeting near a National Park

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

It’s almost a default to have a business meeting in an urban area–there are transportation connections, a great deal of venues, and plenty of amenities. But what if you are looking for something a little different? Something that features a backdrop of scenic splendor and natural wonders? How about a meeting near a national park?

Here in the West you’ll find a great selection of National Parks. Here’s a few options for holding a meeting near one of them!

Glacier National Park

The crown jewel of the northern Rockies, Montana’s Glacier lies on the Canadian border. Daily service on Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes getting there easier than you think. Just on the south edge of the park, the Izaak Walton Inn features rustic charm and plenty of space for a meeting. Cell reception is non-existent and WiFi is only available in select locations. This makes this 1930’s era hotel is a great place to have a meeting without distractions. (Though you may be distracted by that scenery!)

Lake Quinault Lodge. Photo by flickr user Maurice King.

Olympic National Park

A land of craggy mountains, lush rainforests, and primordial beaches, Olympic is only a couple hours from Seattle. Located just southwest of the park in the adjoining Olympic National Forest, Lake Quinault Lodge has rustic charm galore. This lodge was built in 1926 on the shores of the lake. You’ll find many a hiking trail nearby, a short one will lead you to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. There are 91 guest rooms and the Quillayute Ballroom holds 80.

Banff National Park

Canada’s most popular national park is located in the Rocky Mountains at the Alberta/British Columbia border. The mountains themselves are awe-inspiring and the wildlife is plentiful (you may lose count of the amount of elk, mountain goats, and bears that you’ll see). The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is within the park itself. Located about 90 minutes west of Calgary, Banff Springs is a grand resort built in the early 20th century by Canadian Pacific Railway. With over 700 guestrooms and more than 76,000 square feet of meeting space, this old-world inspired hotel would be a great spot for a unique event!

Grand Teton National Park

This mountainous park in northwest Wyoming is just ten miles south of Yellowstone. Hotel Terra Jackson Hole is just a mile outside of Grand Teton itself. This resort features 5,000 square feet of meeting space plus an onsite spa and private luxury residences.

 

Destination: Bend, Oregon for Events and Weddings

Smith Rock - Central Oregon Events
Smith Rock

We recently took a trip to Bend, the outdoors-loving metropolis of Central Oregon. Bend is part of a class of Western Mountain Towns like Park City or Telluride, where urbanites go to get away or move permanently so they can mountain bike, ski, or just be “away” all the time. In Central Oregon, it’s drier, sunnier, and colder than Portland in the winter, so many people come to enjoy the sun and/or winter activities.

Over the few days we were in Bend, we came across several spots that would be good for hosting an event. If you’re having a smaller event, Bend is chock-a-block with brewpubs. Cascade Lakes features a second floor that’s good for parties. Deschutes Brewery has spaces at both their locations: The Mountain Room at their larger brewing facility and the upstairs Tap Room at their classic downtown pub. Worthy Brewing’s eastside location features several room options, plus an actual observatory with 16 inch reflecting telescope for stargazing!

The Tap Room at Deschutes’ Bond Street location

The Tap Room at Deschutes’ Bond Street location

As for weddings, there are many good outdoor event venues in Bend and the surrounding area. Black Butte Ranch offers stunning surroundings, full services, and discounts for winter weddings. Elk Lake Resort offers glamping and deluxe cabins as lodging options. Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyards offers an event center with a mountainscape backdrop of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and The Three Sisters.

Outdoor wedding space at Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyards

This is just a small selection of options. Hopefully this information gives you some inspiration when it comes to having an event in Central Oregon!

Things That Annoy Your Attendees During Online Event Registration

gif via Popkey

I just saw a tweet about a really interesting conference coming up on the East Coast. Relevant speakers, education credits, a great registration fee, a compelling location. However, I’m stuck, just stuck, right in the middle of the registration process, trying to find out more. My pain is your gain, however, as I walk you through the things that are completely annoying me about this event registration page.

1. When is it?

The date is in 9-pt type in a light grey, against white background. I’m squinting. Come on guys, your target audience is meeting professionals and many of us are over 40 and starting to lose our eyesight. PLEASE MAKE THE DATE BIG, and put it first so we even know whether or not we can attend.

2. No link to hotel information

The hotel looks really nice! There is a huge embedded Google map showing the location. However there is no reference to a group rate for the conference, nor a link to the hotel, nor a group code. Nothing. I can’t fly across the country to your event and not knowing if I can stay at the convention hotel. PLEASE MAKE THE LINK TO THE HQ HOTEL BIG. And clickable.

3. Sponsors are listed, but no links to their websites

Look at all these sponsors! Some of the top players in my industry. But if I put my finger on the logo (yes, I’m on mobile, just like 73% of the world’s population) nothing happens. What? The logo should take me to more information about this great company, so I can learn about what they do and offer. You’re not giving your sponsors full value, and you’re doing a disservice to attendees, if you don’t link out to their information.

Please, for the love of your attendees, and so you don’t lose us during this process, take care of the basics! (Note: I did not end up registering for the conference. Oh well.)