Family lunch at Illium Cafe

February 12, 2013

We’re in wedding planning mode, full swing!

One thing that we wanted to do before the actual pre-wedding events started occurring was to sit down together with both of our families and bridal attendants at the same time. When brainstorming where such an event could occur, one of the first places we considered was Illium Cafe. They have a fairly large space there where we could be out of the way, and it’s one of our favorite places for the occasional brunch or dinner on the weekend. As the details came together, and we realized we were going to be a fairly large group and that it had to be on a Sunday afternoon, the other choices naturally weeded themselves out, so Illium it was!

Cassie and I met with Chef Marla Ortega and went over what our idea for the event was. As far as food, we just wanted some stuff to pick on and then a main entree. Since our group had some adventurous eaters and some not, we wanted to make sure there was something for everyone. Chef Ortega was awesome working within the parameters, and took some time to put together some ideas for us [mind you, she did this all in the midst of running a business, tending to a newborn child, and preparing for the Wine and Dine for the Arts Festival!]

I got an email with the details, and I was excited. Chef was going to surprise us with the appetizers (about 8), and she listed four entrees that our guests could choose from.

Jerry and Cassie menu at Illium

  • Fennel Encrusted Seared Scallops over a Okinawan purple potato puree, carrot pistou, avocado-lemon salad
  • Wild boar sausage “sub” with fresh mozzarella, concasse grape tomatoes, root beer caramelized onions, and crispy salisfy
  • Chicken Francese napoleon, smoked mozzarella, tomatoes, crispy lardons, and pesto beurre blanc
  • Mahi-Mahi tacos, chipotle infused guacamole, habanero-parsnip slaw, cilantro pico de gallo, and black bean puree

[If you recall back to one of my posts about the Wine and Dine for the Arts Festival, Chef Ortega made me chuckle when she revealed her two chosen secret ingredients, so now you know why.]

On the day of the event, everyone seemed to have arrived at approximately the same time, so after some introductions, our server took our drink order and gave our guests some time to look over the menu. Truth be told, I really couldn’t make up my mind on what to order. If there’s one ingredient that I believe Chef Ortega and her staff excels with, I’d say it’s scallops; that’s what kept drawing me to that dish. But, in the end, I went with the boar sausage sub.

We also ordered some wine for the table. I'm keen on Montepulciano d'Abruzzo when I see it

But before any of the entrees came out, plates of appetizers started circulating around the table at a comfortable pace.

BBQ pulled pork tacos (yes, the shells were homemade)

BBQ pulled pork tacos (yes, the shells were homemade)

Potato chip fried shrimp (that is, a shrimp wrapped in a potato chip and deep fried), served with roasted pepper pesto, jalapeno aioli (I think), and Hollandaise sauce [Another thing Chef Ortega excels with]

Potato chip fried shrimp (that is, a shrimp wrapped in a thin potato slice and deep fried), served with roasted pepper pesto, jalapeno aioli (I think), and Hollandaise sauce [Another thing Chef Ortega excels with]

Mini crab cakes with spicy aioli

Mini crab cakes with spicy aioli

Spicy curry beef over wasabi risotto (my favorite appetizer of the afternoon)

Spicy curry beef over wasabi risotto (my favorite appetizer of the afternoon)

Roasted lamb chops with accompaniments I can't remember

Roasted lamb chops with accompaniments I can’t remember

A play on sausage, biscuits and gravy - with wild boar sausage

A play on sausage, biscuits and gravy – with wild boar sausage

Everyone got a salad.

Salad

Then the entrees started arriving.

Fennel Encrusted Seared Scallops over a Okinawan purple potato puree, carrot pistou, avocado-lemon salad

Fennel Encrusted Seared Scallops over a Okinawan purple potato puree, carrot pistou, avocado-lemon salad

Wild boar sausage "sub" with fresh mozzarella, concasse grape tomatoes, root beer caramelized onions, and crispy salisfy

Wild boar sausage “sub” with fresh mozzarella, concasse grape tomatoes, root beer caramelized onions, and crispy salisfy

Chicken Francese napoleon, smoked mozzarella, tomatoes, crispy lardons, and pesto beurre blanc

Chicken Francese napoleon, smoked mozzarella, tomatoes, crispy lardons, and pesto beurre blanc

Mahi-Mahi tacos, chipotle infused guacamole, habanero-parsnip slaw, cilantro pico de gallo, and black bean puree

Mahi-Mahi tacos, chipotle infused guacamole, habanero-parsnip slaw, cilantro pico de gallo, and black bean puree

As much as I wanted to, I didn’t get to try all of the dishes. I was extremely pleased with the wild boar sausage sub. It was definitely a fork-and-knife-job. The bread was a little sweet, and, after the lunch, Marla explained that it was a homemade dinner roll, her special recipe.

It sounded like it was a bit of a difficult service for them; the restaurant was packed for brunch and lunch. We didn’t notice at all; they were total pros.

Everyone else seemed to love everything; we didn’t have any doubts that Illium would come through on such an important event in our lives, and chef Ortega worked everything so that it was priced very reasonably.

1 Comment for this entry

  • Saratoga Saint says:

    This sounds like it was awesome. I love Illium, especially the lunch sandwiches. Can’t wait to see more about the wedding plans.

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