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As Paul Nanni and Marla Pucetti discuss the catering option of their five-year-old restaurant, The Heron, a mouth-watering aroma is wafting from the kitchen. “We’re making chili for Skate of the Union,” says Paul. It was free to all at the opening of The Narrowsburg Union’s skating rink, compliments of The Heron.
“We’re not a catering service; we’re a restaurant that offers catering,” says Chef Paul. “But Paul has had a lot of catering experience,” adds Marla. In addition to serving as chef at such upscale New York restaurants as Aquavit, this Culinary Institute of America alumnus owned and operated his own metro-area catering service for several years.
The Heron caters both onsite and offsite events for parties of up to 150. Onsite venues include the restaurant’s main dining, room with a seating capacity of 50; an outdoor deck overlooking the Delaware River’s Big Eddy that seats 30; and the downstairs Emerald Ballroom nightclub, which can squeeze up to 50 into a funky pub space complete with miniature stage and oversized video screen.
In fact, The Heron can host onsite all manner of wedding festivity. The deck has been used for bridal showers. The Emerald Ballroom is the ideal spot for bachelor/bachelorette parties. And the main dining room has been the setting for several wedding rehearsal dinners.
Limited space might be the only constraint of the onsite venues. With the river as a timeless backdrop, the imaginative bride and groom could envision an intimate wedding or vow renewal ceremony on the deck. A small wedding reception with a Roaring Twenties speakeasy theme would be a natural fit for The Emerald Ballroom. And a mature couple could find the rustic elegance of the dining room the ideal spot for either a wedding reception or anniversary party.
“There aren’t a lot of traditional catering halls in the area,” notes Paul. That’s one reason he and Marla have catered so many nontraditional offsite venues. Another is their willingness to accommodate special dietary requirements with menus that are gluten-free and devoid of common food allergens. But what really sets them apart from most other caterers is their ability to prepare and cook fresh food at the offsite venue, however primitive or off the beaten path it may be.
“We’ve done wedding receptions in fields and barns,” says Paul, who admits that he prefers having a roof over his head and some form of climate control at hand. Wondering out loud why couples subject their guests and his food to Mother Nature’s whims, he says some conveniences are essential for safe food preparation, including the availability of potable water and refrigeration in one form or another. “We bring all of our own cooking appliances to the venue,” explains Marla. That means everything from hotplates and fryers to convection ovens. “We don’t have our own van yet, but it’s coming,” says Paul, who expects the catering business to expand.
What exactly does The Heron bring to the offsite venue table? It provides food, beverages and service staff, but not tables, chairs, linens, plates, glassware, silverware, centerpieces, or other decoration. Those must be provided either by the venue (if it’s indoors) or other vendors. In that case, Marla says, “We may suggest appropriate vendors to the couple or arrange directly for their services, as the couple wishes.”
Paul emphasizes that The Heron’s catering experiences, whether onsite or offsite, are always an active collaboration between clients and chef. “We don’t have a fixed menu for our catering clients. The menu for each event is dictated only by the client’s desires, budget, guest preferences, dietary requirements, availability of ingredients and suitability to the event venue.” Marla gave an example of the last. “A client wanted to serve fresh fish (skate, no less) at an outdoor summer venue; Paul talked them into something more heat resilient.”
Although The Heron is decidedly upscale by local standards, its catering menus are all over the map, with budgets to match. “We did fried chicken for one wedding. We can do franks and beans, if that’s what works for the client,” says Paul. But expect even home-cooking favorites like these to come with gourmet taste, presentation and unique complements, such as the concoction of signature drinks and one-of-a-kind wedding cakes decorated with edible flowers. Marla bakes the nontraditional cakes. “No tiers, but lots of flavor.” Flourless cakes are also available, as are doughnuts, cupcakes and other baked goods arranged in “tablescapes.”
The bad news: catering is not offered in July and August, the restaurant’s busy season. “Get married in May, June, September or October,” advises Paul. “And give us at least two weeks to prepare for your event.”
[The Heron is located at 40 Main Street, Narrowsburg, NY. Phone: 845/252-3333; www.theheronrestaurant.com; e-mail: email@example.com.]