GT-Unicrn-Fst-art - 10/10/08
Review of the "Grand Tournament of the Unicorn Feast" served in the Middle Kingdom on April 4, 2008 by Lady Avelyn Grene.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2008 22:23:44 -0400
From: Avelyn Grene <avelyn at greneboke.com>
Subject: [Sca-cooks] Grand Tournament of the Unicorn Feast Review -
I've been mulling this over for a couple of days now, trying to decide
exactly how I feel things went.
In general, this feast has given me a huge headache for months now, not
because of the research or planning, but because of constrictions by the
group. After all this though, I think it turned out really well.
Background for those who are not aware, I had no kitchen on site to cook
in, only a hallway (that led to site bathrooms) to serve out of. Some
food was made and put in the freezer ahead of time (sausage and bread),
most of it was prepped/made in a professional catering kitchen less than
a mile from site, and the rest of it (mostly little stuff) was
made/prepped in a small cabin with a kitchen which is walking distance
The food itself was really well received. I was complimented on the
balance of all the food within it and within the course.
Cold items were put on the tables before guests came to sit, and the two
hot dishes were served when Their Majesties were settled in. I had a
bit a trouble getting the cold dishes on the table though, which was the
result of two simultaneous problems: one of my kitchen staff, and my
hall steward (more on this later). The sausage was very well received,
as well as the pasta. People were not really sure what to do with the
salat of apples and onions. The flavors blend beautifully, but I think
it worried a lot of people.
The entrement went over really well, which was good. Their Majesties
seemed to have a good time throwing grapes at paper boats. They also
took it upon themselves to "shoot" the server, who was a great sport and
fell over and played dead.
Cold dishes were plated before feast began, so that helped alot. We had
no trouble getting the hot food plated and sent out. The shrimp and
rice went over very well, so that was exciting. Head table received
their rice in individual blind-baked crusts, since it is a bit messy.
The marzipan torte was well received, which is good because making them was tedious - the marzipan was pressed into a dragon mold I made, we colored the rosewater that was sprinkled on top green, and it was garnished with a raspberry syrup to make a pale -
yay heraldic food. They were individually plated, which meant
serving trays were needed. This caused some confusion, as the servers
apparently did not receive proper instructions on pairing up to deliver
the food. It worked out in the end though. Also, the comfits were well
received... I had people sneaking in after feast to grab some.
Originally the entertainment line up was the entrement after the first
course, and our local comedia troupe, I Scandali, to perform during the
third course, which was, I thought, a nice balance, and not overdoing
it. However, the autocrat decided to add a bardic performance the day
before the event, and she did not come to ask when to perform until
feast was starting, she performed during the second course. Also, Her
Majesty had requested a local night to sing a song for her, which he
told me after feast started, and he performed before the entrement. I
think it all worked out okay, though it did make things (like serving)
take longer than it probably should have.
This was atrocious. Generally people volunteer to help clean up after
events. Not at this one. We had tubs set up to wash some things as we
went (like utensils, as we were short), which worked out reasonably
well. We put a tub out in the hall after feast for people to wash feast
gear. Our water supply was cut off half way through feast, which meant
running to the cabin for more water, ugh. The lack of help amazed me.
Ultimately we ended up packing stuff up dirty to take home to clean. If
TE Helewyse and Thumper had not helped, we would have been there all
night. I also didn't receive any help from the other event staff to
carry and load equipment into vehicles.
What worked (planning/food):
The Brain (tm). Couldn't have done it without it. I had two copies of
all recipes, menus, etc (one for me at the catering place, and one at
the cabin). I had previously laid out what was being done and where. I
figured out where tables were going to go during plating before the
event. Pre-marking which plates were being used for what dishes, and
having them counted out. Having garnishes ready to put with food.
Separating food items by course where they were being stored.
-Having a designated area on the staging table for the food for head table.
What can be changed/added (planning/food):
-Minor kitchen help issues, at least with one person, who happened to be in charge of the cabin since Doc was doing the royalty lunch.
Ultimately she did a good job, but she seemed to drop the ball a bit in
a few places.
-Having the posted menu include the dishes as well as what garnish/plate
goes with which dish - in large font. The one we had was a bit small.
-I want to get those plastic breakdown-able shelves, mark them by
course, and sort/store everything for that course on the shelves. Even
when things were separated out on the tables, things were getting mixed
up due to people setting stuff down, or pick things up they didn't need to.
Outside factors that affected feast:
-A number of things were left at the cabin, and had to be fetched. The hazards of working out of multiple places, and people overlooking
things... while I understand these things will happen, there were
multiple trips made back to the cabin to retrieve items. It was
frustrating. Especially since my staff should have been plating instead of searching for things.
-Court being pushed back half an hour, and my not being informed of
it. Had I known, I would have brought hot food from the catering
kitchen over later. This way my sternos on my chafers would not be
going out when feast started.
-It took forever for people to get settled in. I had planned on feast
beg ginning around 6:30-6:45. It started at 7:45. It ended at 9:15.
-Troll did not have a sign up sheet for feast. This resulted in
confusion over how many seats had been sold. After counting, they were
a few under, and decided not to sell it out or create a waiting list.
Ultimately they did not sell 7 seats (I planned for 80 seats).
-Four servers did not show up. So, when servers needed organized to put
the first course on the tables, my hall steward was frantically looking
for more servers.
-Our feast hall is underneith a campus dining hall, and they graciously
supply our water for the event for fighters and for feast. The dining
hall employees leave and lock up at 8pm, which means we can't get water
after 8. Since feast started at 7:45 this was a bit of an issue. We
filled the containers (2 5gal jugs) before they closed, but ended up
having to ration drinks toward the end (We did not completely run out
though!). We were also lacking easy access to more water for dish washing.
Any thoughts or opinions are graciously accepted.
Lady Avelyn Grene
Apprentice to Master Edouard Halidai
Chronicler and Historian for Barony Flaming Gryphon
The Commonplace Boke of Lady Avelyn Grene
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2008 15:02:28 +1200
From: Antonia Calvo <ladyadele at paradise.net.nz>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Grand Tournament of the Unicorn Feast Review
- Long Post
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
Avelyn Grene wrote:
> Clean up:
> This was atrocious. Generally people volunteer to help clean up after
> events. Not at this one.
I find it's helpful to sign people up for cleanup beforehand and/or have
a Herald "remind" people that help is needed in the kitchen.
> -Minor kitchen help issues, at least with one person, who happened to be
> in charge of the cabin since Doc was doing the royalty lunch.
> Ultimately she did a good job, but she seemed to drop the ball a
> bit in a few places.
Inexperience? Too many responsibilities?
> Outside factors that affected feast:
> -A number of things were left at the cabin, and had to be fetched.
> The hazards of working out of multiple places, and people overlooking
> things... while I understand these things will happen, there were
> multiple trips made back to the cabin to retrieve items. It was
> frustrating. Especially since my staff should have been plating
> instead of searching for things.
I think it's a good idea to schedule a "missing items" run during the
course of the feast.
We're very organized and do mental walkthroughs of everything when
getting the equipment together, but there's usually still one thing or
another left behind.
> -Court being pushed back half an hour, and my not being informed of
> it. Had I known, I would have brought hot food from the catering
> kitchen over later. This way my sternos on my chafers would not be
> going out when feast started.
May I recommend developing a very fearsome reputation :-)
(I don't know how I did this. I'm hard to really rile and rarely even
raise my voice. But there is no dessert for naughty Kings who come late
> -It took forever for people to get settled in. I had planned on feast
> beg ginning around 6:30-6:45. It started at 7:45. It ended at 9:15.
See above. Get people onto the idea that when you say that the feast
will be served at 6:30, the food will be on the table at 6:30.
> -Troll did not have a sign up sheet for feast. This resulted in
> confusion over how many seats had been sold. After counting, they were
> a few under, and decided not to sell it out or create a waiting list.
> Ultimately they did not sell 7 seats (I planned for 80 seats).
Can't suggest much that you can do as an individual. Southron Gaard has
made advance bookings pretty much compulsory for all feasts, so we
always know how many to expect.
> -Four servers did not show up. So, when servers needed organized to put
> the first course on the tables, my hall steward was frantically
> looking for more servers.
That's a damn nuisance, but it's also something that begins to resolve
itself as you build rapport with the available people.
(I've got it down to the point where, when I failed to organise servers
for a big feast, I got the Hall steward and told him "Go find one of the
[usual gang of] idiots and get them to round up enough of the other
idiots to serve. :-) )
> -Our feast hall is underneath a campus dining hall, and they graciously
> supply our water for the event for fighters and for feast. The dining
> hall employees leave and lock up at 8pm, which means we can't get water
> after 8. Since feast started at 7:45 this was a bit of an issue. We
> filled the containers (2 5gal jugs) before they closed, but ended up
> having to ration drinks toward the end (We did not completely run out
> though!). We were also lacking easy access to more water for dish
Find a better solution for that. Seriously. No access to water is not
just inconvenient, but when you're cooking, it's a bit of a health
(formerly known as Adele de Maisieres)