Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tacos, Cupcakes and Sunshine Wedding Reception

January is not a typical month one plans an outdoor event. If you live in most places in America unless you wear a parka, I'd imagine an outdoor wedding reception is kinda out of the question. Even in California you can never really guess the weather. This year torrential rains  at the end of December  were followed by high winds in the first weeks of January. One might say, Southern California was washed, blown dry and set the most beautiful day on record.

For newlyweds Erin and Brandon not only the weather was unusual, nearly 100% of invitees responded for the January 15, 2011 event (only seventy percent of invited guests usually attend). The beautiful mid day reception was held at the brides sisters home for  family and friends the week following the couples marriage in the Dominican Republic. 

Erin and Brandon's Wedding Reception Menu
160 guests

ceviche style shrimp cocktail
jalapeno cheese spread with crackers
asadero quesadillas with fresh mango salsa

carne asada and spicy chicken tacos
south american grilled vegetable salad with queso fresco and pepitas  
cilantro dressing
spanish rice
pinto beans with sofrito
tortilla chips
salsa ranchera, salsa verde, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, onion and lime

Appetizers include chef prepared quesadillas, shrimp cocktail and cheese, served inside on the converted pool table

Wedding receptions held at lunch time, should be lighter with simple dishes and nicely presented. Here the bride and groom chose a menu they loved and knew would be popular with their guests. The hosts pool table was covered with plywood and linens to create a large indoor double sided serving area. There the shrimp was served in a cool but spicy tomato sauce with lots of fresh lime juice and avocado. The zesty jalapeno cheese spread  was molded into a ring shape and served with crackers. Guests enjoyed the chef prepared quesadillas, they had a sweet and spicy mango salsa to go with the mild cheese.
The bride chose flourless chocolate cupcakes and the groom had his own special Spiderman ice cream cake to share

the simple lunch menu featured fresh made tacos

Beef and chicken tacos make for a casual, tasty lunch. We served the tacos traditional style, with double tortillas and flavorful salsas. I cooked vegetables quickly over a hot grill so they would stay crisp and vibrant in the colorful salad. Sofrito is a concentrated seasoning borrowed from Caribbean cuisine in the pinto beans to brighten the flavor.

Salad preparation starts with vegetables on the grill
South American Grilled Vegetable Salad with Queso Fresco, Pepitas and Cilantro dressing

We used rented square tables to add an interesting shape in the angled yard. The aqua swirl cloths  were such a great color, shinny and bright. Using wooden chairs keeps the feeling relaxed and comfortable while crisp white plates and napkins make the setting fresh. The florist assembled the perfect mix of blooms and citrus, displayed in creative containers with the couples pictures circling the base.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trends 2011 Menu and Catering

More on what we will see in catering and on the menu in 2011. There is no doubt that the march is on to put better things on our plate and into our bodies. This isn't a new idea, but it is a continuing trend gaining momentum and excitement. Caterers and Event Planners will create menus around seasonal, fresh ingredients, from sustainable sources and styles of service that showcase these dishes. Comfort foods, homemade and even homegrown are popular.

Here are 7 trends and ideas to consider when planning your events in 2011;

1. Fresh, seasonal and unique- Chefs will market more frequently for freshness, choosing ingredients from farmers markets, their own gardens or stands. They will make organic choices even when prices are higher. Purveyors are finding open minds abd are bringing more exotic fruits and vegetables to the market.

2. Vegetables move to the center of the plate- As people learn to add variety and balance to there diets, meatless meals are gaining acceptance, even from meat lover's,  Hearty vegetable salads feature grilled corn, broccoli and heirloom tomatoes. Stews are chock full of vegetables  like butternut squash and Lima beans. Don't be surprised if the salad bars return to luncheon events!

3. Entertaining foods will draw from the past
Event menus will often feature upscale comfort foods but in smaller portable portions for easy service.

We will see more twists on the classics, like baby chicken pot pies, bbq pulled pork parfaits, mini meat loafs, pasta-tinis, mac'n cheese squares and sliders in every flavor.

4. Both brunches, and casual cocktail events are popular- Backyard brunches in a relaxed family  setting will become the place to serve; sweet and savory crepes, French toast, pancakes and mimosas.

Cocktail events in 2011 will continue to feature  an eclectic tapas style dinning. This year globally infused dishes including Korean and Middle Eastern flavors will inspire menus.

5. Cooking class and guest chefs entertain- In the new climate of foodies and fans of Food network, hands on cooking class style events are creating a great way to entertain.

Hosts hire local or popular chefs to come out to their parties to prepare a signature dish, a new kind of wow.

6. Food Trucks and Specialty Shop Fare- Creative gourmet food trucks  now offer party catering and can create a buzz at an event. One of a kind foods prepared or served on site by specialty food shops like, Kettle Corn or Dippin' Dots make memorable food stations.

7. Desserts go retro- Pies will be the #1 dessert choice for 2010. Cupcakes are still popular, but we will also see individual pies, flourless chocolate cakes. and old time favorites like homemade Whoopie Pies, Ding Dongs, and Snow balls. Do it yourself 'Smore set ups and candy tables replace the "been there, done that" chocolate fountain.

For weddings, many brides are returning to butter cream frosted cakes. They are also choosing or adding individual desserts in place of the cake.

Spot any trends? Trying anything new this year? Drop me a comment, I'd love to hear!

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Trends in Entertaining

Projected image of Happy New Year 
Like the wedding tradition of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, 2011 has a bit of all of that and more. Events this year are comfortable, informal and active. Color schemes favor several shades of blue with orange and green accents. Catering is creative, fresh and simple with retro and global dishes on the menu. Overall foods continue to be healthier, from sustainable sources, homemade and often homegrown.

In this post we will look at entertaining. New or new to you, you can plan a party in style by embracing some of the following ideas;

1. Relaxing lounges welcome guests- Comfort is in, so set your event with comfy seating. At home, instead of stowing couches in the garage for stiff rental chair seating, make them the centerpiece of the room. In good weather, bring furniture out to the patio or lawn. If your event is off site, creating a lounge area in a venue adds a warm hospitality. Couches, easy chairs and coffee tables are now available to rent from the better party companies.
Photo Signature Party Rental, Santa Ana, CA. party rental

photo source
 2. Varied size tables and eclectic chairs for informal seating- Table sizes and chairs are mixed, reinforcing the relaxed spontaneous look. Long classic banquet tables are back, set beside smaller square and round tables. Various table heights create a borrowed feel from as tall as bar height with an arrangement of stools to coffee table style. Chairs are in simple, eclectic and vintage when possible.

photo source
3. Table Settings are simple, fresh and or lovingly reused- Linen are artfully mixed with runners and place mats. Basic white rim china for elegant look, more casual events will creatively use mixed vintage plates or rustic pieces and recycled vessels such as jelly jars for beverage glasses.  Old fashioned elegance returns to wedding place settings.

4. "Do it yourself" decorations- Create centerpieces from natural items like shells, herbs or live succulents or showcase items from personal collections for smaller events. Contained centerpieces like single blooms or candles in covered glass containers or lanterns are reusable and easy to do yourself.

For floral arrangements, low centerpieces concentrated colors and stunning suspended creations.
Photo Food+Flower+Style

Photo Fresh Ideas Event Services, Orange County, CA.
Over head decorative canopies are still popular, even indoors to add structure and intimacy to an area. These can be swagged with fabric, strung with carnival lights, lanterns, branches and homemade garlands.
Vibrant Table, Portland Oregon
Vibrant Table, Portland Oregon

5. Cool color - Colors that lead in 2011 are blues; navy, turquoise, slate, periwinkle and cornflower. Orange; coral, apricot, and burnt red orange. Cool pinks, camel, buttercup, smokey violet and bright olive are also invited to the party. Metal tones show age like brushed golds, antique silver, pewter, and tarnished brass and copper. Natural white, dark taupe and softer not so black- black.

6. Earlier party time- Events will see the light of day as more hosts will plan daytime functions. Brunches, lunches tend to keep costs in check by offering lighter fare limited or no alcohol and saving on event lighting. Outdoor events are more popular then ever many hosts choosing their own backyards find it economical and more personal.
photo source

7. Action Entertainment- Bands and Dj's that interact with the audience, inviting guests onto stage or performers who step into the crowd to entertain. Band and Dj combos offer more seamless entertainment. Vj's offer video clips and special effects combined with music.

Oh and there's more, I'll be back,  with more post on catering and menus this year until then, @chefrenee is sifting through the pile on desk to replace the 2010 calendar.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How I Won, Even If I Didn't Win

I have never entered a recipe contest before, that may surprise you but actually there are many things I've never done before, like ski, scuba dive or vacation in France, (only because I haven't gotten to them yet). About a month ago, I read about a contest, hatched an idea, developed the recipe then entered my first competition and... didn't win.

The contest was for a well known sausage company, I won't bother with the name, not that I'm a sore loser, but really you could use any favorite brand of sausage for this dish so why use their name if they aren't acknowledging mine? Okay that sounded a little bit sore, but honest I'm not hurt, I'm actually proud of myself for trying something I've never done before and that makes me feel like a winner.

There was a substantial cash prize for this recipe contest and the part of me that needs to put food on the table wouldn't have minded the money, but this wasn't the only motivating factor. I wanted to follow through on something at a time where everything feels like it's in a holding pattern, like work, shuttling kids and the daily loop of laundry and dishes that never conclude.

I've seen these contests before, got excited even giddy at the idea of entering then fizzled out, but this time I didn't. I took the ingredient, Italian sausage (heart healthy and all) and tried to create an interesting, fairly easy, delicious, prize winning dish. Maybe the idea of sticking a sausage in a piece of chicken wasn't original, could be the contest winners recipe was really outstanding or possibly they missed my entry in the huge pile (later when they find it they will be very sorry).

Winner or not, I enjoyed the process of competing and my family enjoyed the Italian Sausage Stuffed Chicken (even tough they had to repeatedly eat my tests). I'll take their compliments, after all, they're the best trophy of all.

Italian Stuffed Chicken Medallions
6-7oz Chicken Breast
6 Italian sausage links
2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1cup all purpose flour
2 eggs beaten with 2 tsp water
28 oz marinara sauce
8 oz mozzarella cheese
Fresh Pasta Pomodoro
12 oz thin spaghetti
1 1/2 c fine dice ripe tomato
1/2 cup fine diced sweet onion
4 cloves fresh garlic chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil chopped
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flake
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For Chicken
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1. Butterfly chicken breast, cover with plastic wrap and pound gently with a meat mallet to an even 1/4 inch thickness.
2. Lay a sausage link on center of each breast, tucking and rolling chicken around it, secure with tooth picks if needed.
3. Roll each stuffed chicken in flour, next in beaten egg and finally in bread crumbs (discard all unused flour, egg and bread crumbs)
4. Heat oil in a skillet and fry each prepared breast turning to brown.
5. Place chicken in a baking dish finish in oven until internal temp reads 165 degrees (about 15 minutes)
6. Slice and serve over pasta with hot marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese.

For Pasta
1. Saute onions and garlic with olive oil and dried chili, turn off heat.
2. Stir in diced tomatoes and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Follow directions for cooking pasta, drain.
3. Toss hot pasta with fresh sauce.