Take it outside

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July 01, 2012

Planners give the phrase, and the picnic, new meaning.

The traditional picnic will thankfully never go out of style, with its hot dogs, lawn games and red checkered tablecloths.
But sometimes the occasion calls for something a bit more edgy and upscale.
Check out how these planners met the challenge.

When Frank Robinson of Island Events in Hawaii received his marching orders from a high-end Australian client, he had to sit back and take a deep breath. The dinner for 30 had to be a surprise. It had to be in an unknown location that could not be reached by traditional transportation. It also had to have an ocean view and very high-end cuisine and service.

What's more, when he tried discussing ideas with the client, she didn't want to talk. "She interrupted me and told me she trusted me completely. She wanted to be surprised along with the guests," Robinson says.

The day of the dinner, invitations were sent to the guests' hotel room, telling them when and where to gather for dinner, how to dress and what to bring. At the appointed time, the guests met and were transported to a local helicopter pad, where they boarded helicopters for a 45-minute tour of the island.
"This was a bit tricky because I needed everyone's weight to work on balancing the helicopters, and I needed the information a week out," Robinson says. He ended up simply emailing each of the guests for the information, without telling them why he needed it.

The helicopter landed at the top hole of the McKenna Beach and Golf Resort in Maui, which was set up for an evening of fine dining and dancing. Guests were welcomed with champagne, had their photos taken and enjoyed a cocktail reception at sunset. They then sat down to a five-course, locally-sourced dinner catered by the resort. The chef talked the guests through each of the courses, adding a personal and intimate flavor to the evening.

This was followed by a performance from one of the island's best jazz and dance bands. In keeping with Robinson's Barefoot Gala theme, guests kicked off their shoes and were dancing on the manicured greens until it was time to trek to a local Irish pub to finish the evening with a rugby game on the video and brews.
"This was one of my favorite recent events," Robinson says. "From the element of surprise to the high-end food and setting, it showed Hawaii at its best."

La Bonne Cuisine Catering and Events in Oakland, CA had more than one challenge on its hands when it was asked to pull off an outdoor event on the tarmac at the FedEx Oakland Airport hub. For the first time in 21 years, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation was to be held in the United States. This gathering of high-level dignitaries from around the world required top security clearances for everyone who was on the site.
"The Secret Service had to check out every detail. There was lots of back and forth with Washington," says Christophe Kubiak, executive chef. The site plan needed to be reviewed numerous times to make sure an evacuation car could get to any point at any time and all 150 staff had to have proper credentials.
And the location, selected to show off new and energy-efficient transportation vehicles, presented challenges as well. No water, power, bathrooms or lighting were available on the asphalt runway, so everything needed to be brought in including a field kitchen and tent for the 350 guests. Plus, a brand new FedEx cargo plane had to be carpeted in purple for tours.
La Bonne decided to feature sustainable foods in a farmer's market setting, setting up serving stations both in a white tent decorated with olive trees, wine barrels and picnic tables, and also outside under the wings of the aircraft. Custom burlap linens added to the California rustic feel.
The final challenge came 45 minutes after the event started. Because the event took place on a working tarmac, and the FedEx flight schedules could not be interfered with, La Bonne had to break down the outdoor stations so that the plane could leave on schedule. "We had to move everything as quickly as we could, but the working space was still very tight," Kubiak says. "We just counted on the pilot to be great."

The streets of the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, CA, wind through bungalows, villas and the iconic golf course, and are usually filled with golf carts, cars and people out for a breath of the fresh southern California sea air.

But one of these streets turned into a sumptuous taste of Italy one night for one corporate group. Kevin Kraft of Bydzign, based in Las Vegas, turned the quiet stretch into a rollicking Italian street festival, complete with strolling entertainers, food carts, wine stations and music.

"We closed off one of the streets and set up a dining area, a space for high boys and lounge furniture and food and wine stations," Kraft said. The dessert table was positioned at the end of the street. Kraft also hung festival string lights across the street for lighting and to add to the ambience.

Guests were entertained by Venetian street performers including fortune tellers, stilt walkers, musicians, jugglers and caricature artists. But the star of the evening was sure to be the groaning tables of local produce and glimmering wines that looked as beautiful as they tasted.
Event Solutions magazine
June/July 2012

by Ann Turner

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