I started contributing to Uptake’s restaurant blog two years ago with a post bragging about the wonderful meal we had at the Center Grove Madrigal Dinner. TripAdvisor ranks it the #2 restaurant in this other city in our county, but for some reason the madrigal committee dropped them after I wrote this glowing review and went with Venture Catering.
Because it’s the holiday season and all, I try to go by the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” philosophy, which is why I ate my meal ticket price as a tax deduction opportunity last year and didn’t say a peep.
But now that I’ve experienced Venture’s madrigal dinner twice, all bets are off.
Poor Venture Catering does have the cards stacked against it: The school requires a predetermined menu in keeping with the medieval theme. So if your specialty isn’t roasted pork loin with vegetables, you’re kinda hosed. After all, the script calls for the students to sing about a boar’s head as two jesters bring a plastic pig’s head in on a tray, so if you then serve a fried chicken patty covered in gravy, it would befuddle the audience until they couldn’t concentrate on “Come Now Ye Maidens” or “April is in My Mistress’ Face.”
If you want the contract, you say, “Yes, Ma’am, we can do that. No problem.” And then you glaze the pork loin in a cranberry sauce and send it out the door.
The second challenge: They don’t turn the lights up during our Madrigal dinner. I assume this is because medieval castles lacked florescent tube lighting, and we can’t pretend if we could actually see that we’re seated in the school lobby at a folding table surrounded by cardboard bricks. So they keep it at candlelight level, which means all of your food looks the same on the plate. And that’s a disaster if you A) can’t see to cut away the fat that naturally hangs out on some pieces of pork and B) you hate vegetables and one is hiding under the new potatoes au gratin. The whole catering effort is tough on people who also like their pork loin warm, and appreciate seeing that the cranberry sauce is indeed red.
The powers that be dimmed the lights even further for dessert, so I’m only guessing that was warm bread pudding with vanilla sauce. It looked like a mud pie floating in gravy, and the texture of bread pudding naturally lends itself to lots of ugly imaginations in the dark.
Finally, Venture Catering has to compete with the jesters dancing around during this 30 minutes with no script other than vague instructions to “have fun.” When the lights come up, these are actually teen-age boys, so finding ways to get into mischief isn’t brain surgery. It starts out innocuously with a few of them trying to juggle apples. It descends into food fights that give you ideas on what you could do with the anonymous vegetables on your plate.
So, to recap: It’s not Venture Catering’s fault that I think their madrigal dinner isn’t worth the cost of the ticket, but that’s still the end result. They are not the only restaurant in the area to fail to impress meat this task, but it’s their name in the program this year. (To make matters worse, it’s my last year so we’re talking lingering impressions.) I hate vegetables but I enjoy food fights.
And I’m writing off my ticket price as a tax deduction.
8028 S. Emerson Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46237
Photography: Julie Sturgeon