What makes a great wedding? First it would be your guests, second would be the venue and, pardon the pun, what they bring to the table.
For years the Bonura Hospitality Group has been bringing great dining and catering to the Hudson Valley. If the name doesn’t ring a bell most likely Shadows on the Hudson, the Grandview and Blu Pointe will. They also own West Hills Country Club, in Middletown where I was recently invited for a tasting to introduce their new Executive Chef Marcos Castro.
In 2012 Bonura Hospitality Group purchased the premise, which at the time was the Orange County Club. A multimillion-dollar renovation of the property transformed it into a high-end private golf and country club. Renovations included new tennis courts, a redesigned pool and other amenities, and a remodeled restaurant with a beautiful outdoor ballroom offering incredible views of the golf course, Wallkill River and manicured gardens. In other words, a dramatic backdrop for the perfect wedding.
How do I go and review a venue without actually going to a wedding there? That was made easy because the tasting was what I would call a full-blown mock wedding.
I went to the event not fully knowing what it was, so I had no expectations, but thought there would be a few passed hors d’oeurves and maybe a few desserts. What I walked into, was a full-fledged wedding reception, a standard tasting event they host four times a year for all the brides and grooms who have chosen West Hills for their special day. A rehearsal per se.
This tasting event serves three purposes, the first being a place to sample huge array of food and drink items. The second, to get the couples comfortable with the venue and familiar with the timing of the wedding schedule. Lastly, it is a chance for brides and grooms to get to know the staff and ask any questions.
The soiree begins with a cocktail hour full of food and drink choices. Waitstaff pass around appetizers ranging from bacon-wrapped shrimp to watermelon gazpacho and throughout the room are stations with almost everything you can think of. I sampled goodies from the Grand Antipasti station, roasted garlic leg of lamb from the Butcher Board station, rigatoni Bolognese from the Bella Cucina station and probably the best fried chicken and waffles I have ever eaten from the Southern Barbecue table.
A full bar was also available as well as a variety of signature cocktails and wine.
After the cocktail hour we were escorted into the banquet room for dinner. I was already full! We had four choices for dinner, I picked the citrus grilled shrimp with sweet pea risotto. It was delicious. The bride to be next to me ordered the king oyster mushroom “scallops" with scallion pesto and seasonal vegetable risotto.
I snuck out before dessert, Shhhhh! Don’t let the bride and groom know. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, going to a wedding on a Wednesday night sure does break up the week.
West Hills is a high-end property and Chef Marcos has been brought in to bring the food to the same level. “It’s about getting away from the streamline, typical wedding menu and instead offering options that are out of the box. Instead of just the usual beef, chicken, fish and veg you usually get to choose from, we offer globally influenced menu choices while at the same time keeping in touch with what is locally available. The idea is to give our couples as many options as we can and exceed their expectations in choices and execution.” Chef Marcos told me.
He went on to say, “This is very special place. We are on a golf course, there is plenty of open space and places to take pictures, but when you step into the tent you are suddenly in a big gala. It is the best of all worlds.”
Besides the food and the prettiness of the venue, two things stood out. The first was the courtesy of the staff and their genuine hospitality. The other was the confidence all