I’m usually on the other end of things. People hire me to cook, arrange service and create a food experience for their parties. Since I started my personal chef business, my wife and I have not had much time to host our own parties, like we used to, except for the occasional spontaneous summer weekend – “Hey friends and neighbors, I’m free this weekend, I’m thinking of doing a casual backyard paella, smoking ribs or testing some new recipes, bring sangria!” I love my friends and they love my cooking. Now we have a family milestone event to plan, our son’s bar mitzvah. Oy Gavalt!
Lenny, our son was ready. He’d done the lessons with the Rabbi and it was time for us to make that next move. There was so much to do. First, we decided on a baseball theme and next was to find an affordable space. We decided on a Unitarian church in Dedham. Not the fanciest place but with a little creativity it had possibilities, it had a kitchen and a while back I catered another bar mitzvah there. I knew the room, what to expect and it was close to our neighborhood. We just wanted to have a nice service and a super fun party.
Oy Gavalt, one down and a long list ahead. A DJ and crew that Lenny saw, liked and asked for their business card at another bar mitzvah were hired. The kid was looking ahead.
My job was to take care of the food side of the party. I had so many chefs and catering friends to choose from and they are all great but I had to hire my large party partner, Chef Laura MacDougall. We work great together and she calls her personal chef business, Home Plate Advantage, coincidence but that does fit perfectly with the baseball theme. Laura rocks. The second chef hired was my personal chef friend Sean O’Brien. I’ve known Sean from my music days; I think I first met him at the Rat, the now defunked Boston punk rock club. Sean and I have similar cooking styles, philosophies about food, we both play guitar and you don’t meet many folks as nice as Sean. Now we had two passionate foodie fantastic chefs on board, fifty percent of my party planning stress was gone. If all else fails the food will be great.
We get by with a little help from our friends and we have so many talented friends. Our friend, neighbor, one of Lenny’s best friends mom, Lisa Li, was brought in for party planning and décor. Perfect choice, her dad is also baseball obsessed, she knows the game. Li has watched Lenny’s obsession since his Little League instructional days. In turn, Li brought in her graphic designer friend Joe. Almost immediately, they began designing the invitation and planning the décor. Li also ordered linens and wine glasses. Even found an artist baker who made an incredible baseball glove cake. Thanks _ often these things are on my list when catering.
It was all coming together. An email to Gigi Halsing, owner of Extra Hands for your Event to reserve two servers. I use Gigi’s people whenever I need servers or bartenders. Always, great professional people and I was overjoyed before the party started to see two familiar faces – great servers who I have worked with before. That’s when I really knew it was going to be smooth sailing in the food and service end.
Our travel writer and photographer friend Kim McKinnon offered to take photos. Another talented person was on board. Her photos have won awards. You can absolutely take photos. We love Kim.
Esther has a work friend who makes table centerpiece sculptures out of candy. Esther said they were cool, but I had no idea how cool until they arrived. They were crazy, whimsical, just the thing to add an offbeat surprise and perfect centerpieces for the kids’ tables. She even customized one for the baseball theme that was topped with a card of Lenny from his little league days. I really can’t say enough how much I loved them!
Our goal was to transform the space into something special and we did. A note when planning a themed party, it’s easy to go overboard on the theme. We decided on dropping a few ideas such as the baseball napkins and baseball tooth picks. We – and Lenny – wanted to make sure it didn’t seem like a little kid’s party. Joe and Li went beyond the call of duty, for example, they repaired the torn draperies skirting the stage and painted the stage stairs in the service room. It was a busy and stressful but rewarding two days of cleaning, decorating and everything else that was involved including some food prep on my part. I could not stay completely away from the food.
I was told during the party that one of the adult guest said, “I’ve been to three bar mitzvahs this year and this is the best.” I’m sure that they saw a little bit of soul and personal touches from our friends and us that were put into this event.
Everyone had a great time. The kids loved the theme, dancing and food.
They say it takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a village to put together their bar mitzvah.
Mom, Dad and the village are so proud of Lenny Vegas Esser. Now go strike them out and hit some home runs kid.
I took great care in planning the menu. We had to cater to many tastes, including kids, vegetarian, kosher and those who have no idea what kosher is. I planned something for everyone. Also many of Lenny's favorites.
Enjoy the menu
Tonight’s Starting Line Up:
Kiddish with challah and wine/grape juice toast
Mini Matzo ball soups in espresso cups
Mini ramekins of mac and cheese
Buffalo tofu with blue cheese served on ceramic Chinese spoons
Edible cilantro lime flavored spoons with chicken satay
Beet cured gravlox with cream cheese and assorted rye breads
Stuffed grape leaves
Fennel and orange salad
International cheese and cracker platter
Baseball Concession Buffet
Kosher New York deli hotdogs
Hamburger and Cheese burger sliders
Old fashion in the box cracker jacks
Baseball Glove Cake
Mexican cane sugar coca cola in glass bottles
AJ Stephans pure cane sugar retro flavors glass bottled sodas, wild strawberry, root beer, sarsaparilla, raspberry lime ricky and the list goes on.....(locally made, small batch, in Fall River)
I have to mention my friend Marjorie from Solera, A Shrine to Wine, in our Boston neighborhood, Roslindale for suggesting wine and beer options. She knows her stuff and some of the wines she also paired with an in store tasting I did a few months back.
Brooklyn Pennant 55' Ale
Wachusett Green Monsta IPA (local)
Vallis Queyras Grenache-Syrah
Domainne de Pouy White
Chateau Elysees Brut, California Champagne