A BASH AT THE beach is always fun. And as this month's column shows, you don't need a real beach to throw a beach party.
The Balboa Bay Club & Resort, a 132-room hotel and private club located on the water in Newport Beach, Calif., plays to its strength — a private beach — with its clambake menu.
The menu includes such New England stalwarts as littleneck clams steamed with garlic, butter and wine; New England clam chowder; seaweed-steamed Maine lobster with drawn butter; roasted red potatoes; corn on the cob; and coleslaw. Adding depth are options including grilled Norwegian salmon fillet with champagne chive cream and grilled chicken breast with wild mushrooms. “We can adjust the menu based on the client's desire,” notes director of catering Terri Gentry. Indeed, the clambake menu has been served to corporate groups of up to 200 and to intimate gatherings of only 20.
The clambake menu adapts to several service styles, Gentry says. These include buffet stations, where guests visit different areas of the beach and lawn; family style, with dishes set up directly in the center of each table or down the center of a long picnic table; or formal service from the beach, with meals plated for each guest.
The menu lends itself to various decor treatments, from tables featuring elegant vases of seashells and spring bouquets to tables topped with sand and covered with a glass box, “giving the feeling of eating right on the beach,” Gentry says.
While the Balboa Bay Club serves a seaside meal steeped in tradition, the landlocked Coast Anaheim Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., creates an island paradise that exists only in the minds of singer Jimmy Buffet's fans with its Margaritaville Party.
First staged last year for 200 planners from meetings giant Conferon, the Margaritaville Party centered on a let-your-hair-down lunch of “cheeseburgers in paradise” (a Buffet song). “The planners go to every big hotel, and every hotel wants to wow them,” explains catering director Tracy Friday. After a few days of indulgence, “they're so tired of froufrou dinners, they're craving cheeseburgers and fries.”
That's the core of the menu cooked up by the hotel, but embellished with snazzy sides and appetizers including red pepper, ginger banana, and roasted pineapple chutneys; spicy celery slaw; ginger shiitake mushrooms; wild rice cakes with mango chutney; and Southwest chicken on sweet corn pan-cakes. Optional entrees included pulled pork sandwiches and grilled chicken.
Because the Conferon event took place at noon, Friday explains, the notorious Margaritas “were all virgin,” offered alongside nonalcoholic beers and mai tais served in big shells and festooned with fruit.
The hotel staff created a Margaritaville mood with a meandering pathway directing guests to the meal area, where bamboo chairs and vivid tablecloths set the kick-back mood. Completing the event was a performance by nine members of the hotel's sales team — “Charlie [Reeves, the hotel sales manager] and the Margaritaettes” — singing their own lyrics to Buffet's immortal “Margaritaville,” this time extolling the property's virtues as a meeting site. (“Breakouts aplenty, at times we've done 20; In the ballroom, 12-hundred rock on … ”) The party was so much fun for both guests and hosts, “I was sad to see it end,” Reeves sighs.
Balboa Bay Club & Resort, 949/645-5000; Coast Anaheim Hotel, 714/750-1811