Conference Dining: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

10 Aug

As mentioned, I recently spent some time away from Indy for a conference (followed by a vacation).  Conference dining has this banquet food stigma.  Sometimes, it just isn’t true.  Then other times, you get an entree that screams “this is why there is a stereotype!”  While in Orlando, I experienced both sides of this spectrum.

The Good

Many of the good was from receptions.  I fall helplessly for small bite sized food.  My preference is to eat small bites of many items – I like the variety of everything.  Here are a few goods:

From top left, counter clockwise: A cheese display at a reception; these fantastic little goat cheese bites – goat cheese was mixed with a variety of herbs and piped onto toasted bread slices, topped with asparagus; Tacos – a hand made tortilla stuffed with tilapia and topped with a crisp coleslaw; a dessert display at Epcot; scallop on whipped potatoes; and a shrimp salad (though the presentation left a curious look by many).

The Bad

By bad, I mean it just there.  I ate it, but it wasn’t anything to rave about.

Left to right: Two desserts from an evening reception – one was a chocolate covered mousse that was overly rich and not smooth like mousse should be; this was a fried polenta circle, topped with melted asadero cheese (Mexican cheese) and pulled pork.  The pork lacked flavor, the cheese was too mild to taste and the polenta was lacking.

The Ugly

One entree in particular – from the Orlando Convention Visitors Bureau – really stood out.  Stood out to the extreme that attendees literally stood and walked out of the luncheon.  It was unfortunate, especially since it was during a luncheon I had been looking forward to – the Iron Chef competition. Just a note, they were making some amazing dishes that we didn’t get any of – instead, we were served the ugly while the judges noshed on risotto and other brilliant food.

Some sort of sauce (well, two sauces) were used over a dry piece of meat and another chicken.  Nothing was good about this – even in appearance.  This was my second plate because the first had clearly sat for too long as the sauce was baked onto the plate – completely inedible.  The second plate – I didn’t walk out but I unhappily ate the protein and left the vegetables uneaten.  I definitely was not satisfied.

Despite the lunch meals, I pretty much snacked my way through the conference.  And as stated, I didn’t mind that at all.

Anyone have any great or horror stories regarding food at a conference?  Would love to hear your good, bad and ugly.

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4 Responses to “Conference Dining: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”

  1. Brooke August 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    I think conference dining can be tricky. I know they try to make the experience great, offering great restaurant-style foods but when you make it for the masses, some of the flair falls right on it’s face.

    • City Nom Noms August 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      Agreed – and it is hard to please everyone for sure!

  2. Andrew August 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    I’ve been jaded on conference food for a while now. I just got back from a multi-day conference in Chicago & ate everywhere but the conference (with the exception of the morning/afternoon snacks they provided).

    I heard the food was pretty good but I’ve been disappointed before. I ducked out every chance I got to explore the local neighborhood & I was not disappointed.

    I will give them credit for the Hors d’oeuvres/Canapés they served at the evening reception on the first night. They held me over until I got my Chicago Pizza fix later that night.

    • City Nom Noms August 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      That’s unfortunate – there really is some great food out there as some chefs are fantastic. I’ve had pretty good food, but this one in particular was a convention center. I have yet to be impressed for convention center food, but I’m sure it is out there. But then again, you usually can’t go wrong by exploring local Chicago food!

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