Feast Your Imagination

Centerpieces played up the culinary theme. Photo by Ashley Gerrity Photography.

Brûlée Catering by Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix created an inventive menu for the Free Library of Philadelphia’s annual fundraising gala

CATERER: Brûlée Catering by Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix

VENUE: Free Library of Philadelphia

EVENT DETAILS: In December, Brûlée Catering by Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix catered the Free Library of Philadelphia’s annual fundraiser. The 410-guest Feast Your Imagination Gala, with a culinary arts theme, helped raise funds to support the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation—which makes possible many Free Library programs and services—as well as the library’s Culinary Literacy Center, which advances literacy through food and cooking around a communal table.

HIGHLIGHTS: Brûlée Catering’s chefs came up with an original menu designed to leave a lasting impression on guests, while the decor by Penncora Productions played up the culinary theme, with centerpieces featuring produce, recipe cards, and a chandelier constructed of silverware and utensils.

Passed hors d’oeuvres were served with cocktail napkins that featured the library’s “edible alphabet” to promote culinary literacy, part of the library’s mission. For example, seared mushrooms with braised cabbage and blueberry-truffle gastrique (mimicking the appearance of sea scallops to play off the gala’s imaginative theme) were served with napkins noting that mushrooms add a unique umami flavor to dishes and that the mushrooms’ source, Philadelphia suburb Kennett Square, is the mushroom capital of the world.

The Breakfast for Dessert Plate featured a white chocolate-coated “egg” with a runny mango yuzu “yolk.” Photo by Ashley Gerrity Photography.

The plated first course of arugula noodles, lemon foam, fennel puree, pickled red onion and Parmesan crisp was followed by an entrée choice of lamb tenderloin or Wellington-style mushroom patty. For the memorable finale, Executive Pastry Chef James Rodebaugh created the “Breakfast for Dessert” plate, which looked like the morning meal but was actually a sweet treat. Guests cracked open the white chocolate-coated egg with vanilla almond mousse and a runny mango yuzu “yolk” in a honey kataifi nest, accompanied with toasted pound cake “soldiers,” “avocado” panna cotta (with a chocolate cake truffle resembling an avocado pit), maple hazelnut “sausage” and an edible chocolate spoon.

THE BEST-LAID PLANS: Free Library of Philadelphia recently expanded some of its space on the ground level to be multi-purpose space, but it wasn’t used as an event venue until the night of the gala. Sammy Sitarski, Brûlée’s catering and facility sales manager for the venue, spent months leading up to the event coming up with a layout for the cocktail hour in the new space. “On the evening of the gala there were still some finishing touches being made to the space so we draped the area that was incomplete to be out of sight of the guests,” says Sitarski. “Using new event space was challenging, but executing the event without a hitch was exhilarating. Brûlée Catering’s talented culinary team was able to be flexible with the plans for our kitchen that evening and work with less space than expected in the back-of-the-house to serve more than 400 guests.”

Cocktail napkins featured the library’s “edible alphabet” to promote culinary literacy. Photo by Ashley Gerrity Photography.