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MOVING heaven and earth for a wedding client is not the sort of thing most event pros would consider out of the ordinary. Moving trees? Well, that's a different story. Yet landscape alteration was just one of the many special measures that Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Epicurean Catering took to turn the wedding dreams of one visionary family into a 2005 Gala-Award-nominated reality.


Epicurean's Richard Rizzo says the motivation to make the complex event work was inspired by client Mike Shanahan, father of the groom and head coach of the Denver Broncos football team. “He represents a winning attitude and an uncompromising desire to achieve,” Rizzo says. “Everything is obtainable! You just have to believe in yourself.”

That can-do spirit would prove indispensable as the Epicurean team embarked on its task of producing the entire event. The enterprise began with the transformation of the Shanahan property into a site fit for the $500,000, “moonlit-fantasy” themed celebration for 500 guests in July.

The celebration's centerpiece — an ornate gazebo based on one that Mrs. Shanahan had seen in California — proved one of the event's highlights as well as one of its most challenging features. A loading dock had to be built on the estate just to accommodate the 40-ton crane needed to lift and position the gazebo.

Once that was accomplished, the team built a special guest dining area to take advantage of the new focal point. Centennial, Colo.-based vendor Distinctive Tent rose to the occasion, constructing a subfloor six feet above the hilly, uneven surface of the picturesque property and installing a tent for the evening's dinner — a job that took a full two weeks to complete. But before the subfloor could even be installed, however, 10 10-to-30-foot-tall canopy trees had to be uprooted and removed from the land. His clients believed that “trees will grow again, but this marriage will only be once in a lifetime,” Rizzo recounts. “That mind-set is really what allowed [the clients'] vision to take root and become a reality.”


Developing the wedding's menu and food presentation was a fruitful collaboration.

“Mrs. Shanahan and the bride fell in love with the concept of fresh fruit — namely lemons, limes and oranges,” Rizzo explains. He notes that bars were adorned with fresh lemons and limes, while specialty drinks blending different citrus fruits were served throughout the evening. Floral arrangements included whole and halved lemons, limes and oranges, along with citrus-colored roses, orchids and hydrangeas, while table linens carried through the theme with their own sunny hues.

While the citrus scheme dominated the spread's palette and decor, the food itself leaned toward “the very specific tastes of the groom,” Rizzo notes. Appetizer station items included skewers of coconut-fried lobster and mint-roasted lamb, both made to order on Evo flattop grills purchased just for the occasion. The plated dinner that followed featured lemongrass-teriyaki chicken salad and an entree of herb-roasted tenderloin with mushroom-Madeira sauce.

Calling the meal “an evolution of flavors and presentation,” Rizzo adds that Epicurean president Larry DiPasquale himself took charge of the cuisine, and “delighted in the challenge” of masterminding the menu.


While all aspects of the event were exciting, Rizzo singles out the evening's entertainment production as a highlight. That was due in part to the complexity of creating the entertainment area on the Shanahan property. With the family's Olympic-size pool the only available space for accommodating entertainment, Epicurean had to figure out a way to enable guests to dance on water.

Plans began with a site survey, followed by consultation between Distinctive Tents and an engineering firm to “determine stress levels … and recommend the materials to ensure that damage to the pool would be minimal,” Rizzo says. Next came installation over the expanse of the pool of a Plexiglas dance floor, specially designed to prevent condensation and allow a clear view of the water beneath guests' feet. On event night, the Plexi-covered pool provided a perfect surface for reflecting multicolored lighting toward the clear top of the entertainment tent.

Choreographing a private fireworks show brought its own challenges. As Colorado is prone to drought, special magnesium fireworks were used to prevent the possibility of fire in the dry landscape.

Looking back, “It would have been my preference not to disturb the landscape” with the removal of foliage, Rizzo says. Yet he is more than satisfied with the final outcome: “The food was awesome, the weather was perfect, the sky was clear, the fireworks were amazing — it was truly a fairy tale.”

Epicurean Catering 6022 S. Holly St. Greenwood Village, CO 8011; 720/488-2146; Turn to page 57 for a list of resources for this event.


Lemongrass-Teriyaki Chicken Salad drizzled with Orange Vinaigrette

Bibb Lettuce Salad with Citrus-Grilled Shrimp

Medallions of Herb-roasted Tenderloin with Mushroom-Madeira Sauce on a bed of Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Grilled Asparagus and Baby Carrots

Vegetarian Option: Vegetarian Wellington Purse filled with Grilled Vegetables and Couscous nestled in Smoked Tomato Marinara Sauce

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