Thursday, May 28, 2009

To Cake or Not to Cake

What kind of cake for your wedding? What a decision! And now you have more options than ever, including non-traditional cakes and even alternatives to cake.

Over the years wedding traditions change greatly. One of the classics is the wedding cake, I have been enjoying a more creative twist on this classic over the last few years. Couples are choosing to show more of their personalities in the dessert that they serve.

I was recently in a wedding myself (personally not professionally) in Australia where I was thrilled to be served dessert first, and then the bride and groom cut a fondant iced fruit cake. Fruit cakes are very traditional in England and their Commonwealth.

Here in the US the multi-tier cake is king and one of the centerpiece decorations of a wedding. Stacked or tiered, square or round, butter cream or fondant they come in all sizes and shapes and flavors. But I'm finding couples are looking outside regular desserts and adding their own twists. Cupcakes are gaining in favor, stacked on a large tiered platform to rival a wedding cake. We have also done donut cakes in the same manner (that is a great story for another time). This weekend I had a couple who loved Italy and we served Tiramisu; a very rich silky dessert that is a layering of espresso soaked ladyfingers and rich Mascarpone cheese. What I loved was the presentation. We made a giant Martini glass for the cake top and then served scoops in smaller martini glasses for the guests. You should have seen the Bride and Groom’s eyes when I handed them their own giant glass.

In all of my years in the kitchen I have never met a dessert I did not like, it is a great way to bring in a culture, country or heritage for a personal touch.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

How to run a green catering company

I really want to be green, I've found what I've done so far to be rewarding, but I'm frustrated by great new ideas that our community infrastructure just isn't up to yet.

Over the past few years I have been trying to educate myself in more environmental practices for running the catering company. With building our new facility many things were easy, double paned windows, florescent lighting, low flow water etc. After 12 years we now have a recycling dumpster, not just street side bins that have to be rolled out to the street (which is still better than when we started 15 years ago and had to load up the truck once a week to take it to recyclinger personally). I am happy to see that the recycle bin is always fuller than our trash can. Yeah!

Do you know that compost is not picked up from businesses in Petaluma? I am lucky that I have found a farmer that happily picks up 6 to 8 buckets of compost twice a week for his garden. I am looking forward to his tomatoes later in the season. Thanks Al!

The city of San Francisco has the best program that I have been able to find, restaurants only pay for the weight of their trash. Not only is there recycling and composting, they also offer grease pick up. They have recently re-worked a rendering plant in south SF to make bio fuel for city vehicles. You go guys.

My next task is disposable ware. I am first committed to using china, glass and flatware whenever possible. These items need to be washed, but they only travel to and from Petaluma and the money from them stays here in our community. However some events just need disposable items. Plastic is recyclable and easily accessible; however we are currently back logged in this country with the recyclables, so I've been looking at compostable "plastics"; I really like the sugar cane plates and cups, but they don't hold up for that second cup of coffee. The corn cups are hot on the market, but heat will do them in and we do not have recycling for them in our area yet (they need special composting facilities). So far my choices have been for the sugar cane paper products and plastic recyclable cups.

It is my mind set to become a lean green catering machine this year; the green is keeping me busy. I'd really like to see our waste service start picking up compost and provide composting for corn products. And perhaps for some improvement in sugar cane products. Green is getting easier all the time, but there are still improvements to be had.

Thanks to Clementine Eco Events for their time and discussions.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Foie Gras and French Toast

I'm sitting in the office at our catering company hearing the plans of staff members for the weekend. One lucky person is heading up to the Sierras in this beautiful weather. What comes to mind for me... Moody’s Bistro, yes always food.

Moody’s Bistro is a great restaurant in Truckee that I adore. I often joke about driving 3.5 hours for dinner, but really it isn't a joke. When we travel to Tahoe or Reno I plan the time we leave to balance with the time that we can eat at this restaurant. In the winter they serve a wonderful fondue that will melt away your cold and warm you to the soul. Served with great crusty bread. The best part is always the final crusty bits at the bottom.

They also have my absolute favorite dish, Foie Gras with French Toast! I am an avid animal lover and avoid foie gras most of the time; however this is one time that I cannot pass it up. The seared foie gras is cooked to perfection and served on a delicate brioche French toast and completed with a seasonal fruit compote selection. Why are the best things so bad?

It brings to mind another favorite dish, a southern classic fried chicken and waffles. Crisp fresh waffles with buttermilk fried chicken on top, served with warm maple syrup. This happens to be my nephews favorite birthday dinner.

Foie Gras and French Toast, Fried Chicken and Waffles – what’s next Turkey and Pancakes??

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lamb Slider with White Truffle au jus and Herb Salad

Recently we worked with Dutcher Crossing Winery for Passport Weekend. They had such a great response to the Leg of Lamb Slider that the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau asked for the recipe to publish paired with a Dutcher wine. Enjoy:

Lamb Slider with White Truffle au jus and Herb Salad
5 lbs Leg of Lamb (boneless tied)
2 T Rosemary (chopped)
2 T Garlic (chopped)
4 T Olive Oil
1 T Salt
1 t Ground Pepper

Rub leg of lamb with oil then dry ingredients
Roast 350º for 1½ to 2 hours till 130º (medium rare)
Save pan drippings
Allow to cool Fully
Remove ties and brush off excess seasoning
Trim off excess fat
Slice very thinly (a meat slicer is your best bet)
Wrap tightly
Set aside (this can be done 24-36 hours in advance)

Au Jus
Pan dripping from lamb preparation
4 C lamb stock (or sub beef stock)
1 t Rosemary (chopped)
1 T Vegetable Oil
1 T Flour1 T White Truffle Oil

Combine lamb dripping with lamb stock
Simmer till reduced by half
Check seasonings
Add rosemary
Blend vegetable oil with flour
Whisk all into simmering broth (will thicken slightly)
Add white truffle oil

Herb Salad
¼ c Baby Arugula
1T Chives (chopped)
2 T Italian Parsley (chopped)
1 T Fresh Dill (chopped)

Combine herbs

Final Assembly
1 French Baguette

Cut baguette into 10 pieces, then split
When ready to serve:Warm au jus, dip sliced lamb in au jus, place on baguette, then top with herb salad

Try pairing it with Dutcher Crossing's 2006 Proprietor's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thank you 360 & Argus

I was remiss in not thanking the Argus Courier / Petaluma360 for their great article and photo shoot about us and our recent PEP benefit. Thank you so much. Here's the article and the photo shoot.

It’s good to be green!

Thank you for voting us People's Choice & Judge’s Award for best vegetarian chili at the 2009 Great Petaluma Chili Cook-Off. That’s the second year in a row! For those of you who couldn’t make it, it’s a flavorful green chili with a unique spiciness that feels like it's going to burn but doesn’t, and finished with a cilantro cumin crema. And here’s the recipe, which yields about 4 gallons.

So what do you think… do we repeat this again next year or try something new or try for the meat category?

4 lbs White Beans
2 lbs Pasilla Chiles
2 lbs Anaheim Chiles
3 lbs Yellow Onions
8 c Tomatillos
2/3 c Vegetable Oil
1½ T Cumin
1 oz New Mexico Chili Power
1½ T Ground Garlic
3 T Fresh Lime Juice
22 oz Diced Green Chili
22 oz Green Enchilada Sauce
Roasted Vegetable Stock (to cover beans)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Soak beans for 12 to 24 hours; drain thoroughly just before use
Sauté onions, garlic and diced chilies in vegetable oil
Add cumin and chili powder
Cook 5 to 8 minutes (until fragrant)
Add beans
Cover with roasted vegetable stock
Add tomatillos (smashed with juice) and lime juice
Cook over medium heat for 1½ to 2 hours (until beans are tender)
Finish with diced chilies and enchilada sauce.
Serve with a dollop of crema and diced green chilies

Cilantro Cumin Crema
3 c Sour Cream
1 bunch Cilantro Tops
3 T Fresh Lime Juice
2 tsp Cumin
1½ tsp Vegetable Oil
Salt & Pepper

Sauté cumin in oil
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Passion Fruit

I recently blogged that one of my favorite new flavors this season is passion fruit. This tropical fruit has always been around but it starting to show up on more menus. It is traditionally grown in frost free areas, our area is a bit chancy, but I am hoping to plant one this summer. It is a climbing vine with beautiful flowers too boot. The flavor palate is very full and quite sour; also beware of a touch of bitter on the back.

While in Vegas at a conference we were unable to get a table at one of my favorite restaurants, Todd English’s Olives, so we sidled up to the bar for a cocktail. The bartender was mixing a cocktail called a “sling back”. Here is my home recipe as I have recreated it:

Rim a 6 oz Martini Glass with bar sugar
1 oz passion fruit puree (this is the pure stuff, not just juice)
2 oz heavy simple syrup
(2 cups of sugar boiled with 1 cup of water- cooled
this will hold well and makes great lemonade too)
3 oz Vodka, my preference for mixing is Ketel One or Absolut
½ lime squeezed
Fill cocktail shaker with crushed Ice
Add all ingredients and shake well
Pour into sugared glass

Look for passion fruit in many dessert items. A local favorite of mine is by Patisserie Angelic. Their coconut cake with passion fruit curd makes my toes curl! Thank you Condra and Deborah.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Honeyed Apricots

The first sign that summer is around the corner is when the apricots show up. And it is a happy time. I got my first flat of apricots over the weekend to use for those events. They might have still been a little bit green but with time they all ripened nicely. Since they are here for such a short time I try to incorporate them in to as many wonderful dishes as I can. Here are a few to try:

Like many other fruits they will brown once cut and exposed to air, a great way to stop this is to drizzle them with just a touch of honey. The acid in the honey will help hold the color and is a great flavor combination. To take this a step further sprinkle with just a touch of kosher salt and then serve over sweetened mascarpone or vanilla ice cream.

A very easy hors d’oeuvre is to split smaller apricots in half and then fill with a crumbled blue cheese then place under the broiler for just a minute till the cheese melts… yum.

For a simple updated dinner idea replace your apple sauce in a pork recipe and go with roasted apricots. Quarter your apricots and place on a cookie pan, drizzle with just a touch of olive oil and bake 7 to 10 minutes until just tender. Serve over pork loin, tenderloin or chops.

Remember to take a minute and enjoy the flavors of the season.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Last night was our grand opening of the new Kitchen to benefit PEP Housing

The turn out was spectacular, completely sold out. It went great, I can’t tell you how happy I am about the event and all the wonderful compliments about both the menu and building. It really was a lot of fun to get to plan and execute the menu that I choose. You can see the packed kitchen in this photo, and that’s nothing compared to the other rooms.

Our new cheese cake bar, was a great success, it was thoroughly devoured which tells you what everyone else thought and pulled everyone outside to enjoy the live band, The Sofa Kings. (See the 4/18/09 blog for the complete menu.)

The PEP volunteers are great to work with and I’d like to thank my staff for an outstanding job, and these other event services companies for their very generous donations.
JRB Event Services – Tent, tables, chairs and linens
Spring Hill Farms – A selection of their artisan cheeses
Vanda Floral – Center Pieces
ATL Events – Draping and lighting
Golden State Portable – Port-o-lets