Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Secret Garden in Palo Alto? You bet!

Talk about a well-kept secret! The Elizabeth Gamble Garden is in the heart of Palo Alto, and I have passed this event space many times rolling down Embarcadero and never even noticed it. That made seeing the property all the more spectacular.

It is a small venue (maximum attendees for a wedding ceremony is 50), but the gardens are jaw-droppingly beautiful. The garden surrounds a beautiful historic home. The home's first floor can be utilized for parties or meetings, and there are two additional event rooms on the property for the same purpose.

Picture a bride readying herself inside this grand, historic house and just a few steps from there, she walks out onto the back porch to an enclosed garden space that is so picturesque I actually got goose-bumps when I saw the doors open.

Picnic at The Gamble Gardens for Ed's birthday
The gardens are lovingly cared for by volunteers. They have an intergenerational garden which is worked on by senior volunteers and kids from a local school. All the flowers for the house are cut from the flower gardens out back. There are a couple of picnic tables in one corner of the property. I was so inspired by the grounds that I rode my bike back that same week for a picnic with the kids.

They seem to be governed by oodles of committees that "handle" all sorts of things and they don't use email for communications, but the location is so pretty, it would be well worth that inconvenience. You can use the house and event rooms during the work week, and rent the gardens and event rooms for weddings on weekday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.

Visit EventCounselor for more ideas on beautiful outdoor spaces for events in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Rengstorff House

I stopped by Rengstorff House a couple of weeks ago to take a closer look and as I drove up, I was reminded of a day almost 13 years ago when two of my closest friends were married there. On that sunny, August day I remember admiring the lush grounds overlooking the water and an awesome, historic house, and luckily those attributes have not changed.

Rengstorff House, located at Shoreline Park, is Mountain View's oldest house (1864!). It was lovingly restored for years by the Friends of Rengstorff House and moved from its original location in 1991. The Victorian refurbishment of the interior is so beautiful that if you haven't been on one of their free public tours  go now! Gorgeous, really. There is a piano from the original home that is tuned and can be played during an event. So cool!

The Rengstorff House has updated the kitchen since my previous visit, but it is a smaller kitchen so there are some restrictions to having a wedding and reception there. My friend chose the Rengstorff House because it was inexpensive (still is!), beautiful, and located close to where they wanted to have the reception (offsite).

You can also rent the space inside the house for dinner parties or meetings. I would love to attend a dinner party there which is catered and themed. It would be such a cool fundraising item for a school auction. Note to self.

Visit EventCounselor.com if you would like more ideas on how to utilize this amazing location for your next meeting, wedding or dinner party.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Pacific Athletic Club is changing things up for events

The Patio will become more enclosed and private.
The green space to the left will be lost to the renovation.
The Pacific Athletic Club is planning on renovating its outdoor event space (slated to begin this fall) and losing a gem of a green space next to the tennis courts where most of their wedding ceremonies are currently performed.

The existing outdoor event spaces (the Patio and the Courtyard) are gaining a great deal of privacy from the general club population in the redesign, in addition to some updating. I think the renovation has a great deal of potential and I am looking forward to seeing the transformation of the space.

The indoor banquet space, called the Dining Room, flows out to either patio and also has a cute foyer area which doubles as the Bar/Lounge and has a great spot to put a cake on display.

Aside from weddings, PAC hosts quite a few bar and bat mitzvah parties, but look elsewhere to host your child's birthday because that wouldn't be a good fit for this venue. They offer an extensive catering menu and no longer have a full-service restaurant on the property, so you won't find conflicts in scheduling around a meal service.

They also host business meetings in two executive board rooms (which can open into one larger business meeting space) and meetings with a larger number of attendees can use the Dining Room. They are conveniently located in Redwood City in the Redwood Shores area right off of the 101.

Stop by EventCounselor.com for more information on the ever-changing face of wedding venues and meeting spaces in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tied House Brewery

This is the side patio event space
The Tied House is a microbrewery in Mountain View that has been brewing beers since 1988. It is the quintessential brew pub in beer, food and atmosphere.

They call their menu "pub grub" and that is exactly what it is. That said, this is a space where you could have a fun company incentive party or a great office Happy Hour or some good old-fashioned team-building. No one will have high expectations about the food in a brew pub, but their beer is pretty darn delicious  and that is the star of an event here!

They have two event spaces and both are conducive to a beer bash. One is slightly more private and covered than the other, but both would be great for this type of event. Their busiest times are during big or local sporting events (think Super Bowl and Sharks games) and when there is a concert at Shoreline. They have an events calendar on their webpage that notes those types of things so check there first if you are thinking about planning something here.

Visit EventCounselor.com for more ideas about where to hold a team building event or company incentive party in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Alana's Cafe in Redwood City is Bridal Shower Heaven!

I recently had breakfast at Alana's Cafe in Redwood City. Talk about precious! The restaurant is located in a Victorian house, serves a fine breakfast, and has the cutest outdoor patio and grassy area! It is perfect for a homestyle celebration of any kind.

You can rent the entire restaurant with the outside patio and the grassy area included or rent out either of the two parts very inexpensively. As I walked around the outdoor space, I immediately thought it would be perfect for a bridal shower, baby shower or graduation luncheon. I am envisioning croquet on the grassy area, outdoor tables set with vintage linens, and tea and scone service set up on their adorable front porch.

Visit EventCounselor.com for more ideas on perfect spaces for a bridal shower or any special family celebration in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Zen Hotel

I was pleasantly surprised by The Zen Hotel in Palo Alto. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but the rooms are nicely done and they have wi-fi. I recently stopped by for a site inspection because my Mom and Dad are headed to town soon and needed a place close to the grand-kiddos.

I was surprised to find the rooms in really nice shape, a free breakfast, and a hot tub for unwinding. They have a couple of suite rooms that are quite large with separate sitting areas and fully functioning kitchens (one (1) bedroom and one (2) bedroom). I immediately booked for my parents (best rates for this hotel are online) and thought that a company sending someone on a recruiting trip or a local company with someone coming in from out of town, but needing a space for small groups to meet, would benefit from this room type as well.

Need more ideas for places for small groups to meet in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City, please visit  EventCounselor.com.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Try The Fish Market for Group Dinners - they are so FLEXIBLE!

I could hardly believe it myself!  I have dined at The Fish Market in Palo Alto so many times and enjoyed my meal there every time.  I had no idea how great it is to have a group meal there too!

After speaking with the General Manager (also the group dining guru), I was amazed to find out what is possible and what isn't, and guess what, not much that isn't possible here!  Their "back room", which sadly doesn't have doors to make it more of a private dining experience, does have the ability to accommodate up to 80 people seated for an event.  All the dividers that create "sections" in the space for normal diners can be removed and most table configurations can be accommodated!

Your event menu will be customized from The Fish Market's ginormous daily menu. Menus can be crafted with a low per person price or you can present a menu to your guests that looks like the actual daily menus with limited choices from each section. Basically, anything you can think of for a menu offering can likely be arranged. The food is dependable and fresh. They do fish very well and their cheesy garlic bread is outstanding!

They also create platters of food from their menu that are available for pick up.  The pricing varies and a small platter charge is applied (less than $9/platter to cover condiments and the like) but you can have a platter of anything off the menu.  Some things translate better than others, but even their hot food can be served at home or the office by popping in the oven and rewarming to temperature. I especially like the idea of their smoked fishes on a platter for any occasion.  The Fish Market smokes their own fish and it is so tasty, and works in some capacity for any meal - a spotlight for your brunch table to hors d'oeuvres for your dinner spread.

They don't allow restaurant or cocktail lounge buyouts, but they can put together a large sit down meal with a cocktail reception component too. My favorite find in this space is the front patio. Although it does face the El Camino, the sound isn't too overwhelming and is often a lovely, sunny spot. The perfect start to an event would be a cocktail reception on the front patio and then move into the group space at the back of the restaurant for the meal portion.

If you have an office luncheon or a need to bring a party platter to an event, The Fish Market is a great choice.
Should you need more help choosing a location for your next event, visit EventCounselor.com for more ideas and the inside track on event space and entertaining in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cascal and Tapas and Friends!

I originally stumbled upon Cascal with my bestie in a mad dash on a weeknight away from our regular duties.  We chose the restaurant because the decor was so cute and they were slammed.  

Cascal serves tapas which are Spanish small plates of appetizers and snacks. This style of eating is so fun with groups because you get to try bites of so many different dishes and their tapas menu has a variety of options. If not tapas, their entrees are nicely portioned. Basically you won't leave hungry. They also offer a gluten free menu which always kicks it up a notch for me.

The outdoor patio seating is lovely, under heat lamps for cooler nights.  The inside decor is warm, rich, and lively to match the food.  Nicely done!

Cascal limits the size groups they will serve on Friday and Saturday nights when they also host live music.  Plan your group events on their slower nights when they can accommodate it more easily.

They book small cocktail receptions in their outdoor patio space with limited food and beverage service. On a warm summer evening (remember those?) it would be really fun. One other option for event entertaining with Cascal is offsite catering.  They will send one of their chefs to your party location and he will prepare dishes off of the menu. Very doable and very styley!

Highly recommend a reservation for your next group dinner at Cascal or go to EventCounselor.com for more ideas on great locations for group meals in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Super Find! John Bentley's Quiet and Sophisticated Bar

Have you ever needed a place for a quiet conversation in the afternoon during the work week?  Something more sophisticated than a coffee shop? Maybe you needed to hammer out the final details of an important business deal or need to have a strategy session away from the office for neutral mind space? Well, I found an old friend who offers just that. John Bentley's in Redwood City.

The bar is cozy and quiet between 2 - 4:30 pm
John Bentley's serves lunch and dinner and has two event spaces that they offer up for business meetings and for special occasion dining, but their bar is open for service in between their two meal seatings.  It is a beautiful, fully stocked bar with super comfy chairs. It is that quiet, private and elegant place to meet in Redwood City while their kitchen is closed.

I was able to dine anonymously before visiting with their events manager and as usual, I made some initial assessments of their food and service.

1. I think their food falls into the fine dining category and was also very creative. Both the appetizers and entrĂ©es were pretty on the plate and tasted good. Wine list was nice. I believe a guest at an event hosted here would be impressed by the food.

2. The service was good, but our server was a bit chatty.  He was overly friendly, but well trained.  I think it was just this person's way in the world, but it seemed that the other diners were being provided with a level of service that matched the food. Also on subsequent visits the staff was helpful and appropriately friendly.

The event space on the dining room main floor is small. It holds 15 people comfortably and 24 tightly. They do have doors to close off the room from the main dining space, but I remember the main dining space as being full of voices and conversation when I dined there. I suspect that the noise level in that room even with the door closed for a business meeting would be a bit of a challenge. However, that space for a family celebratory meal or an incentive or holiday business meal would be super.

There is a dedicated space upstairs that is perfect for many types of events. Especially set up for business meetings and larger celebratory events, there is a full functioning bar upstairs, along with a bathroom and built in A/V screen and projector. The events manager seems very flexible in terms of how things could be set up and how the space could be utilized for different functions and needs. Not a great space for a cocktail reception, better for a sit down meal.

Book your next group meal, business meeting, or business meal at John Bentley's or contact EventCounselor.com for more ideas on great event spaces in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Palo Alto Bachelor Party Dinner - Sundance the Steakhouse

Not that much is still the same in Palo Alto's Food and Beverage scene as it was 35 years ago.  I suspect from their loyal customers that Sundance the Steakhouse has always served a good meal.

It has a very warm decor with historic and interesting touches, but it is dark so make sure you download a flashlight application before trying to see what treasures are on the wall or on your menu!  The dark woodwork, paneling, and artifacts immediately inspired the idea of a bachelor party dinner. Hearty food, done well, yet not what I would consider fine dining or stuffy. Menu pricing is on the expensive side, so definitely more of a special occasion spot and the service was outstanding!

I always dine at a place anonymously before meeting with the person who handles events because I really get a sense of the place and get to see its operations. So valuable! Here what I saw that this place does right:

1. Their decor is designed with their menu in mind and when you walk through those doors, the atmosphere readies the customer for a serious meal. Your meal will arrive handsomely placed, but the decor suggests a certain robustness to the meal and the plates don't disappoint.

2. What a following this place has! Their loyal customers have a special meal deal from 5 - 6 pm. Speaks volumes to the quality meal they produce.

3. Their award-wining Prime Rib was outstanding! It is special and if you want to have an event where prime rib is going to be your chosen entree, this is your place.  We ate appetizers, salads, desserts, all different cuts of meats for our entrees - all delicious. They also have a kid's menu!

4. Their wine list is extensive and has multiple price points.  They advertised a "famous" Lemon Drop Martini and they were as delightful as the wine we had with our meal.

5. Probably most important is that they had spot on service start to finish. Service counts for so much of the equation when deciding where to hold a group event and they delivered on that end. My guess is that they will exceed expectations on service when hosting an important birthday celebration or a business meal.

They have three semi-private spaces for group functions. A business meeting that required A/V or private, quiet spaces would not the right fit for this space. Family celebratory functions, a business meal, Happy Hour in their bar with hors d'oeuvres stations would all rock in this restaurant. Christmas and Stanford graduation are very busy times at Sundance, so plan ahead!

I learned so much more during my site visit at Sundance, so if you would like more information on event spaces in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City, please visit EventCounselor.com.