Thursday, October 21, 2010

San Mateo County History Museum

The Rotunda
Have you been to a public event at the plaza in Redwood City? The Plaza is the central square in downtown Redwood City (across from the Fox Theater) from where free music and many special summertime events emanate. It also happens to be the front entrance to the San Mateo County History Museum which is a very special space for an event. The building is easily recognizable with the large domed roof, and served as the former San Mateo County Courthouse building.

The Rotunda of this historic building is capped off with the most beautiful stained-glass dome, and the floors are covered in gorgeous mosaic tiles. It is simply breathtaking to stand in the center of the Rotunda and look up. Many a wedding ceremony has been held in the Rotunda, and after you take one step into the museum, that won't surprise you.

The main event space is on the second floor (so is the kitchen!), and is located in the former courtroom. It is astonishing how the right caterer can transform this space into a gorgeous event. The museum provides a list of preferred caterers with whom they regularly do business for events. There are many little details about using this space because of its age and historical importance, so working with the perferred caterers makes things easier for all the parties involved. A renter can also pay a fee for using a caterer not on their list.

Looking up at the stained glass dome
I was extremely impressed with the different exhibits and the history of the building and its former operations. These additional components included with renting this space are valuable extras that will have a big impact on your guests. The museum currently has a rotating exhibit dedicated to surfing at Maverick's, and as a part of the exhibit the public can climb onto a real surfboard that looks straight out a window onto the plaza from the second story of the building. When standing on the board, you are able to get a perspective of the height at the top of a wave out at Mavericks — very, very cool!

Did I mention that their rental rates are very inexpensive? If you are a high school aged group looking to host a teenage-focused event, you will have to look elsewhere because those events are not allowed in the space.

One last point about using the museum for an event. The schedule of events held in the plaza is not controlled by nor coordinated with the museum in any way. If there is an event on the plaza on the night of your event at the museum, you will have work around that disruption (like noise or partially obstructing the entrance/frontal view of the museum).

Visit EventCounselor for more information on historic and museum-focused event sites in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Undiscovered event space gem in Redwood Shores

There is a great, little restaurant tucked away in Redwood Shores that may not be on your radar, but it should be  especially if you are hosting an event soon.

Mistral is located on the same lagoon as the Sofitel in Redwood Shores, and has an outstanding all-seasons patio. The patio wraps around the entire lagoon-facing portion of the restaurant, and comes complete with a giant outdoor fireplace and an adjoining fire pit with hangout space.

The Wine Room at Mistral
After dining at Mistral, I thought the subsequent site visit would be all about the patio, and as great as it is, it wasn't the star of the day. The Wine Room was the space that really surprised me!

This private dining room is decorated like a wine cellar and has its own private entrance. The decor feels rich with beautiful finishes and walls of wine racks, and it can seat up to 42 people. This room would be perfect for a small business meeting or a special occasion meal. Guests can use the separate sound system for this room to customize the music. A luncheon business meeting would be tough in this room because it is adjacent to the kitchen and there is residual noise during their busiest service hours.

The Chalk Room is a second, smaller private room that opens onto the fire pit area on the patio. This room would be perfect for an event that was one part meeting and one part social, renting out the fire pit area too. Such a great match for an event under 20 people. The food was good, and when someone in our party asked for a vegetarian, gluten-free option, the kitchen whipped up a vegetarian risotto that was greatly appreciated.

Visit EventCounselor for other undetected event spaces in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Looking for a fun Redwood City location for your company holiday party?

Outdoor bar and patio at Milagros
Company holiday parties are right around the corner, and if you haven't locked in a location yet, consider Mliagros located in the heart of the downtown Redwood City. Milagros is one of three restaurants in the Avenir Restaurant Group, parent also to Town in San Carlos and NOLA in Palo Alto. The restaurant is Mexican-themed, has a very fun interior with five large-screen televisions and a big open-air patio bar.

Milagros has a private dining room at one end of the restaurant that seats 50 people, and has a built-in buffet line. Not surprising because if you have more than 25 people in your party, your menu will be served buffet-style. The food is average, but this venue is about merriment and drinking, not haute cuisine. Larger parties can rent larger portions of the restaurant, and restaurant buyouts are also possible.

Milagros offers a cute, semi-private space for 12 people seated that would be a great fit for a baby or bridal shower or a special birthday dinner. This is a venue that is focused on good times. They have a killer Happy Hour, awesome food and drink specials during Monday Night Football and the banquet pricing is quite affordable.

Visit EventCounselor for more fun places to party this holiday season in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We have an Urban Winery in our neighborhood!!

Have you ever heard of an urban winery? La Honda Winery is an urban winery in Redwood City that turns out not only to be a very cool, wine-making operation, but also a gorgeous space for events. The winery owners (husband and wife team) partnered with a landscaping colleague to house their winery operations in his warehouse space in Redwood City. The landscaper used the warehouse space to showcase his hardscape product and skills, and the outcome is a large open space with beautiful finishes.

The owners not only rent out the warehouse, but also offer wine-focused activities to groups like wine tastings, team building activities based on the process of making wine, and monthly cooking classes. The venue is a very flexible space, and all types of events could be held here, casual to sophisticated. The venue holds up to 100 people seated so the smaller the group, the better the fit.

Visit EventCounselor for more ideas on where to host the perfect wine-focused event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Can you get a hotel any closer to Stanford? NOPE!

The Palo Alto Sheraton and Westin are both Starwood Hotels properties, and although they sit side by side (sharing a parking lot), they are pretty different hotels.

A banquet set in one of the Sheraton's event spaces
The Sheraton is more family-oriented. This property has the better pool, and the decor (while dated) is more relaxed. There are several different banquet spaces, and all are fairly standard.

The Westin is more upscale, and has been renovated more recently. This property is quieter, and it caters to business travelers. Every sleeping room opens to a courtyard view, and the Courtyard of the Moon and Stars was particularly beautiful for outdoor dining or cocktail receptions.

The real shining star of these two hotels is their location!! They are located at the corner of El Camino Real and University Avenue, and the guests staying at either of these properties are blocks from Stanford, great eating and amazing shopping. If you need to rent a car, Hertz is onsite. Score!

Both hotels are very busy during Stanford events  think Reunion Weekend, football games and graduation. You can book an event here one year out, so get planning!

Visit EventCounselor for more details on event spaces in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Need help with an Onsite Event Coordinator Dilemma!!

I have met so many great people that organize events for their respective venues, I wondered how to best incorporate that piece of the puzzle into my reviews for EventCounselor.

Surely my clients would like to have my opinion on such an important matter? What should the protocol be when I run across a really bad point person for a property? Do I call that out too?

If you are planning your own event then the decision where to have the event should equally consider the location and the person coordinating onsite. You can have the most beautiful location ever seen, but if the onsite coordinator isn't a professional, you can bet your event will be less than imagined, and maybe worse. The onsite coordinator is your central support person in pulling off your party or business meeting. The same standards and interview process should be applied were you hiring someone to do the planning for you. The onsite event coordinator's skills are directly related to the success of your event.

So, back to the dilemma...when I come across a venue that has poor service, poor food quality or facilities, I simply don't review them for this blog, nor do I include them in my offerings to my clients. However, in the area of onsite event coordination, I haven't been consistent when I have had a negative experience. How can I incorporate that information in a helpful way, without introducing the type of negativity that accompanies a bad review? It is one thing to omit a property, but another to call out their problems.

People rely on me to be their eyes and ears at venues. The onsite coordinator weighs so heavily into this part of the decision, I shudder to think what will happen when a reader takes my advice on a property, only to find that I have omitted that the events coordinator isn't helpful or communicative or has poor follow through. Will I lose credibility  you bet!

I need to figure out how to include a review of the onsite event coordinator when reviewing the venue itself.  Can you help me? Please let me know below how you would solve my Onsite Event Coordinator Dilemma!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sushi workshops and killer tatami rooms in Palo Alto

In case you haven't eaten at Fuki Sushi in Palo Alto, it is not "Americanized" Japanese food. The food at this restaurant is authentic, organic, sustainable where possible and delicious! The decor of the restaurant is pretty, and the tatami rooms are amazing. The restaurant has tucked-away sections that can host many types of events, social and business. Surprisingly (to me anyway), the events hosted are mostly business, not social.

The Sun Room includes the sushi bar area, and groups often use this room when there are A/V requirements. The sushi bar can be converted into a buffet station, and it can accommodate up to 35 people seated.

The main dining room has built-in booths and sectioned areas for smaller tables on the floor. All of the partitions are removable, and the entire space can be reconfigured to host a larger group of 60 people seated.

Tatami room table set for 8 people
The tatami rooms are off the hook! The rooms can accommodate from 4 to 20 people. Some of the rooms offer a great deal of privacy, which makes them the perfect place for an important conversation. The tatami rooms are beautifully decorated and would be a very special birthday dinner spot, but only guests 12 and older are allowed to dine in these spaces.

The restaurant also offers classes and workshops on sushi making and sake tasting. Many companies take advantage of the hands-on experience for team building exercises and incentive programs. Fuki Sushi can host a workshop at an offsite location for groups of 4 to 350 people! The restaurant even teams with De Anza College to offer classes to the masses.

Fuki Sushi seems to go the extra mile when working on events, and they have had experience delivering service to some very large companies and very large groups. Yet, when you are dining at the restaurant, you can also imagine a very elegant and delicious meal in honor of something special. Delivering service to both ends of the spectrum of event types is a depth of service delivery that does impress me. They serve gluten-free soy sauce upon request, which also makes them my new favorite sushi restaurant!

Visit EventCounselor for more ideas on awesome team-building venues in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Unique garden paradise and friendly Polynesian village on the El Camino

Dinah's Garden Hotel is eclectic, and it has a delightful history. The hotel was built in 1957, and the current general manager is the daughter of the original owners.

Dinah's Shack restaurant preceded the hotel by 30 years, and since November 2001, Trader Vic's has made their home as the onsite restaurant and event space for the hotel.

Giant elephant sculpture outside the lobby
The property is exceptional because of its unique layout and design. The rooms are nicely decorated, and they have views of little lagoons filled with coy and a nice pool. The gardens are lush, and the artifacts in the restaurant and around the hotel were all collected by the original owners.

They have several different types of rooms, so it accommodates all types of travelers. There is a breakfast and lunch restaurant at the pool that has also been the concessionaire on the property for a long time, and it looks like an awesome place to enjoy your morning routine. The location of the property plus the beauty of its grounds should make this a serious contender for anyone visiting the mid-Peninsula.

There are several different options for hosting events at this venue, and because of that they have a great deal of flexibility. I did dine at Trader Vic's, and those of us who had fun cocktails off their extensive drinks menu enjoyed them thoroughly! A person in our party thought if one can pretend to be in Hawaii, then they will enjoy the experience, and I agree. The execution of the food was average, but the service was excellent.  I think if you held an event here and controlled the menu, you would have a good experience.

I checked my opinion against the crowd at Yelp, and it seems that my opinion and that of my party were right on target. I think we could have done better ordering based on their reviews of dishes we did not try, but all in all, this venue should be considered seriously for events like company incentive dinners, awards ceremonies or wedding receptions.

Visit EventCounselor if you need more ideas for unique locations for your next event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.