Planning a culinary event incorporating local produce may center on vegetables—but in the case of the “Dinner on the Roof” event held by Blackhawk Country Club in Madison, Wis., the affair was anything but garden-variety.
The menu for Blackhawk CC’s dinner featured locally grown produce, and all but the steaks were prepared “sul tetto” (on the roof).
To highlight employee-planted gardens (one on the club’s roof and the other in nearby Sauk City) and add to momentum created by a successful Dinner in the Vineyard event, the club hosted a rooftop dinner party for its members last September to rave reviews. “We wanted to show off the fruits of [our staff’s] labor, as well as give members a chance to check out our rooftop garden,” explains General Manager Paul Anthony, CCM, CCE.
To add to the already scenic backdrop overlooking Blackhawk’s golf course and Lake Mendota, tables of eight were set with white linen, along with white satin chair covers with blue chair ties and blue runners. Each table was adorned with a centerpiece consisting of flat fish bowls filled with blue-colored water, white sand, white floating candles, and purple and white orchids.
Special lighting was added to create an inviting ambiance, including a canopy of white Christmas tree lights that met at a 20-foot PVC central pole. White lights were also strung between garden planters containing tomatoes and herbs. “This not only provided light, but served as a barrier, so people did not get too close to the roof’s edge,” explains Anthony.
A walkway from a wooden staircase, built to provide access to the roof from the clubhouse dining area, was also adorned with rope lighting. An air conditioning unit was shielded from view with moveable screens.
Live music was provided, and a mat was set up to allow golfers among the group to enjoy a new way to really get some “loft” on drives they hit down to the course below.
Working with Blackhawk’s Executive Chef, Todd Weisenbeck, to develop the menu, Anthony created courses that could be paired with select wines. “We kept the menu simple, so that virtually everything, except for the tenderloin, could be prepared on the roof,” he says. “I also wanted to show off some wines that our members don’t often order, so we focused on burgundy.”
In 2012, the Kansas City Country Club, Mission Hills, Kan., was the host site for a major interclub swim meet involving 1,500 swimmers from the Kansas City metropolitan area. With the excitement over the event came concern about how to accommodate all the visitors with adequate outdoor dining space. A decision was made to close one of the club’s smaller junior pools for the event and construct a temporary custom deck over it. As part of planning how to do this cost-effectively and with minimal waste, the club’s staff realized that the deck could be repurposed after the event and given a permanent new home, as a spectator viewing area that had long been requested by the club’s active platform tennis group.
At $100 per head, the menu (for details, see the online version of this article at clubandresortbusiness.com) made tremendous use of Blackhawk’s garden-grown produce. The club’s main garden in Sauk City, a half-acre plot that will expand later this year, plays home to the sous chef’s plot of beans, lettuces, cabbage, radishes, carrots, beets, asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, herbs and strawberries. The rooftop garden, as more of a niche undertaking, showcases four varieties of heirloom tomatoes and a variety of herbs.
THE GOAL: To showcase the rooftop garden created by employees, a special dinner party setting was created atop the Blackhawk CC clubhouse.
THE PLAN: Invite members to have a memorable dining experience, featuring a unique menu highlighting locally grown produce and other sustainable foods.
THE PAYOFF: The event in the new setting quickly drew so much interest that plans were changed to accommodate many more diners (38) than originally scheduled. The night prompted numerous comments of “best dinner ever” and led to additional bookings for multiple private parties on the roof.
Even though marketing for the Dinner on the Roof was minimal, relying instead on word-of-mouth and some newsletter/broadcast e-mail blasts, the event sold out quickly, with the planned attendee list nearly doubling in size to a total of 38 guests.
Just before the festivities got underway, the club’s formal dining room was set up in case of inclement weather, and patio heaters were also on hand. But Mother Nature also proved to be a well-mannered guest and neither contingency was necessary, with the heaters instead providing “nice visuals,” according to Anthony.
An overwhelming success, the Dinner on the Roof prompted a universal commentary of “best dinner ever,” says Anthony proudly. “Both the food and wine were outstanding, but the location was unbelievable.”
Blackhawk has since booked four private rooftop parties, all for guests who had attended that evening. “This was just another in a series of ground-breaking events that keep our members wondering what we’re going to try next,” Anthony says.
Don’t Get Mad…Get Green
By Joe Barks, Editor
Some people read things they know aren’t true and just shake their head, or swear out loud. Others might pick up the phone to call the publication in protest, or dash off an impassioned rebuttal to what appeared in print.
—Vincent Tracy, General Manager/COO,
Town and Country Club
But when Vincent Tracy, CCM, CCE, the General Manager/COO of Town and Country Club (T&CC) in Saint Paul, Minn., read an opinion piece in a local paper that called out country clubs in general, and his club in particular, for not demonstrating enough environmental responsibility, just taking those steps weren’t nearly enough.
“I called the editor and said what they printed simply wasn’t factual, and told him about all we’ve done here at the club— including an aggressive recycling program, Audubon certification of our golf course, and our new [eco-friendly] pool complex and Turf Center,” Tracy says. “But I knew they wouldn’t follow up [to set the record straight], and I was still ticked off. I wanted to find a way to hit a home run to get the real story out there, in a way that couldn’t be ignored or misrepresented.”
Tracy Googled “going green,” and that led him to discover the Green Restaurant Assocation (GRA). Based in Boston, the GRA (www.dinegreen.com) is a national nonprofit organization, formed in 1990, that has the support of major trade associations like the New York State Restaurant Association and Orange County (Calif.) Restaurant Association.
But what really caught Tracy’s eye was that the GRA has a Certified Green Restaurant program—and that no country club had earned the certification. And when he took a closer look at what the standards were for achieving “green restaurant” status, he knew he’d found his way to hit one out of the park, because T&CC was already doing many of those things.
THE PLAN: Achieve standards established by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) to become a Certified Green Restaurant operation.
THE PAYOFF: Distinction as the first country club to earn certification from the GRA.
complex (left) with full-service kitchen.
Certification is granted by the GRA based on points earned in seven categories: chemical and pollution reduction; disposables; energy; sustainable food; sustainable furnishings and building materials; waste reduction and recycling; and water efficiency. In the case of T&CC (and any club), credits toward qualifying as a certified-green “restaurant” can come not only from all aspects of dining and foodservice, but from other parts of the property and operation as well, which only adds to the opportunity to pile up needed points.
For example, T&CC earned 10.58 points in Chemical and Pollution Reduction for these initiatives: building located ¼ mile from bus line (0.50); preferred parking for alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles (0.50); no-idling policy (0.50); warewashing products with reduced packaging (3.00); using non-toxic warming gel (2.50); directional lighting in the parking lots (0.75); using cleaning products with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Designed for the Environment (DfE) label (1.83); using Green Seal-certified hand soap (1.00).
(For the points earned by T&CC in each category, see this article’s online version at clubandresortbusiness.com)
Tracy and his staff got busy identifying all of the things they had already done that could earn points, and at the same time started planning changes they could make to earn more. After submitting required documentation to GRA, the T&CC team went into its home-run trot at the end of April this year, when it received the news that the club’s total of 57 point-worthy environmental steps added up to a score of 163.35, earning Town and Country Club the right to be the first club recognized by the GRA as a two-star, Certified Green Restaurant. “This is a new milestone, for a country club to reach this level of environmental achievement,” said Michael Oshman, CEO and Founder of the GRA, in making the announcement.
But T&CC’s not stopping there. “We’re only 10.5 points away from a three-star certification—and I’m confident we’ll reach that by the end of this summer,” says Tracy.