Blueberry muffins

News & Information for You!

On Being Hungry on Your Wedding Day

One of the most common things we hear when we are doing a menu tasting with a potential client goes something along the lines of “I hope I actually get to eat some of this food that we’re picking out on our wedding day.” After working with so many brides, I still find it hard to believe that some barely eat the whole day! As a lover of food, I don’t think anything could keep me away from scrumptious appetizers, or some of that Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese that we offer, whether it was my wedding day or not.

It is so important to make sure you stay hydrated and fueled up for the day, especially if all of your prep work starts early in the morning. The last thing you want to do is skip breakfast because you want to make sure you fit into your dress, only to end up “hangry” later that night. Being “hangry” is the last feeling you want to experience on your special day.

As a caterer, we’ve found ways to make sure that our bride and groom don’t starve their whole event. We are notorious for tracking down our couple after the ceremony while they’re taking pictures to bring them a tray of appetizers to nibble on. Before dinner service begins, we also are always more than willing to make the bride and groom each a plate and bring it to them. That way, while their guests are in line to fill their plates, they can be relaxing, enjoying their meal and each other. We even offer all of our couples the option to keep their leftovers from the evening. You paid for it, you can certainly take it home. More often than not, especially in Luray, wedding festivities tend to last a whole weekend. Families rent out cabins, and take a mini vacation while they’re in town. Why wouldn’t you want to take some of our amazing reception food back to your cabin with you later that night for a midnight snack, or even the next day?

There is also a great article on WeddingWire that we recommend our couples read on avoiding the hunger during your special day. You can check it out here.

January 26th, 2017|News & Updates|0 Comments

8 Foods NOT to Serve at Your Wedding, re-blogged from Loverly.com

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make while planning your wedding is about the food. After all, catering costs can eat up a sizable portion of your budget (hey, feeding 150 people ain’t cheap). But, if you tackle this big ticket item right, your guests will walk away with a good taste in their mouths and remember how delicious everything was for years to come. So, will you embrace the latest food trends or follow your heart (and stomach) to a meal that’s completely you? Either way, you’re going to spend a lot of time discussing the merits of fish, chicken, and steak as you create your menu. Here are 8 things to keep in mind as you make those big decisions.

1. All meat, all the time. If you’re a meat lover, it might be tempting to serve nothing but meat at your reception. Same thing goes for chocolate lovers, cheese lovers, and fish lovers. It’s important to remember that you’re hosting an event, and just because you’re overly keen on something doesn’t mean your friends and family feel the same way. Be sure to offer a variety of dishes to accommodate the most people possible, including a vegetarian option for anyone who doesn’t eat meat! Also, ask your guests to let you know about allergies so you can talk to your caterer ahead of time to make any necessary adjustments. Inviting children? Make sure to have at least two kid-friendly options available. Of course not everyone will be able to get exactly what they want, but if you put in the effort to provide a balance, there will be less disgruntled guests to deal with at your wedding.

2. Food that requires a big to-do. The main attraction at your reception should be you and your new spouse…NOT your food. A Caesar alad made table side might sounds like a great way to set your wedding apart from your friends’ affairs, but it’s not. Unless you’re having a very intimate wedding, it’s going to be extremely challenging to get each dish made and made properly for each guest. Let your guests eat their food and be blown-away by your perfectly choreographed first dance (you’ve only been practicing for six months).

3. Raw food. Serving raw food can be risky business. Yes, steak tartare is delicious when done right, but given its two main ingredients are raw meat and a runny egg, it’s best to leave it off the menu to avoid a potential food poisoning disaster. If oysters are your absolute favorite food and you can’t imagine your wedding without them, find a caterer who is an oyster connoisseur; it takes a true expert to be able to pull off a raw bar without a hitch. Find out if the caterer has assembled a raw bar before and ask to talk to past couples for references. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

4. Mini versions of everything. The first rule of weddings? Have enough food to feed your guests. Mini grilled cheese sandwiches and bite-sized burgers are a fun idea for cocktail hour, but when it comes to the main meal, make sure to serve something more substantial. Consider serving crab cakes or a seasonal soup as a first course instead of a salad to help make sure everyone gets enough to eat. With all the drinking and dancing that will likely be going down at the reception, people are going to need to fuel up!

5. An eight-course meal. On the other hand, however, your guests probably aren’t coming to your wedding for a fine-dining experience. They’re not looking to sit at their table all night filling up on culinary delights…they want to dance and catch up with friends and family! Plus, there’s nothing worse than trying to bust a move after taking down a massive meal (you might just bust a seam instead). Try to keep your menu to about three courses to allow for a good dining-to-dancing ratio.

6. Overly complex dishes. Keep it simple! The more complicated a dish is, the longer it will take your caterer to assemble each plate and get the food out to your guests. While spacing out your courses isn’t a bad idea, room-temperature fish and limp asparagus is. Plus, if you’re having a large wedding and your food requires a lot of intricate steps, your caterer will most likely need to prep the plates ahead of time, which can seriously impact the quality of your food. Stick to the basics so your guests can actually enjoy their food!

7. Only exotic eats. While you and your partner may be hardcore foodies up for trying anything, your guests may play it a little safer when it comes to their food choices. You may love uni (sea urchin), but there are plenty of more universally appealing options that are better fit for a wedding. Make sure what’s on your menu is accessible to the majority of your guests. Your guests might not want to feel like they’re on an episode of “Survivor” as they watch your BFF give her Maid of Honor toast.

8. Typical wedding foods. Your wedding is a time to HAVE FUN. Don’t feel like you have to serve all the traditional foods that you see at every wedding. The shrimp cocktail may be a wedding staple, but they may not be your style. Put your own spin on the tradition with a panko-breaded shrimp and mildly spicy dipping sauce instead. If you have a thing for cupcakes or doughnuts, serve those for dessert instead of a traditional three-tiered cake. Did you and your partner fall in love over mac and cheese? Make sure your caterer will come up with a fun option for cocktail hour. The options truly are endless, so embrace your likes and dislikes, but keep your guests in mind as well.

-By Claire Aven

You can find this article, and others like it here.

December 16th, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments

Helpful Hints From Your Caterer

Planning a wedding can be stressful, and we completely understand that. Over the years, we’ve learned some valuable information that we thought we should share with you as you begin to put together your special day. Some of this information is catering specific, some is general, helpful tips to help your big day go just as you imagine.

One of the biggest concerns that we face when working with couples is they’re not sure what they want. Deciding on a menu is a huge part of planning a reception, and once you can mark that off of your mile long “To-Do” list, it’s really like a weight has been lifted. One of the most important questions to ask yourself when planning your menu when you have no idea where to go is this: “If you and your closest friends were going to get together for dinner, what would you make?” If you can immediately answer this question, then chances are you’ve already began to put together a menu for your reception. After all, the reception is a massive gathering of you and your 150 closest friends. If you figure out what you would feed you and your ten closest friends, you’ve already decided what to feed the other 140.

Be reasonable! We have catered weddings where there have been brides that are so specific about every single thing that is involved in their wedding, as they should be. But there comes a point when it’s just not reasonable to have a gelato stand, popcorn machine, and the food truck parked outside, not to mention the two signature drinks for the bar, the s’mores for the fire pit, and the welcome and take away favors for guests.  Everything that you plan for your wedding, either you, one of your friends, your parents, your soon to be in-laws, your wedding coordinator, or the catering company has to figure out how to accomplish said item, how to get it to the venue, where to put it, how said thing should occur, how they’re going to manage it, and how they’re going to take it home at the end of the night. That turns into a lot of moving parts all at once, and the more moving parts, the more likely there is something to go wrong. Figure out what is most important to you as a couple, and choose quality over quantity.

Be specific! When you hire a caterer, service is a very large aspect of what you’re paying for. Labor accounts for a huge portion of your bill, and the only way for the catering staff to know what you expect of them that night is to have it outlined. We have couples that want us to pour champagne for toasts, or refill wine glasses during dinner service so their guests don’t have to get up while they’re eating. We would love to do that for you, but it makes it a lot easier on us when we know that you are expecting that from us. You can give us all the details you’d like, and more often than not, we’re going to make note of every single thing, so the staff can have just as much information as you do. There is no such thing as too little information when it comes to sending staff into a catering function. In essence, they are walking into an event that they are responsible to manage and are only armed with information that you have decided to share, or what the catering company has coaxed out of you.

Being specific also comes in handy when we’re discussing your food. Any great caterer is going to know how to tend to your Vegan, Gluten, Soy, and Dairy Free Uncle. The problem lies when we don’t know we’re going to have to feed said uncle until the day of. We can easily accommodate any dietary restriction, but we just have to know about it ahead of time. Communication is ALWAYS your friend!

Sometimes your caterer even turns into your coordinator. Some brides don’t have a wedding coordinator, and that’s okay. Some do everything themselves with the help of a close friend, and the only people who are in the loop are the close friend and the caterer. If that’s the case for your wedding, it is absolutely critical that you give us as many details as you possibly can. If something goes “awry” last minute, the last thing we want to do is hunt down the bride to ask her a question on her wedding day. Today is your day, and you should be the least stressed person there. Good caterers will adapt to any situation and can make any incident come up smelling like roses, we just have to know our parameters which to work in.

If you can hire a day of coordinator, we highly recommend it. Even if all she is there for is to answer questions and keep you on track of the timeline you’ve worked up, she is well worth your money. Wedding receptions with no “point-person” tend to get off track and quickly. You plan to eat at 4pm, but since there was no one watching the clock, you’re now eating at 6pm, when you have to be out of the venue and 10pm, and you still have to get through toasts, cake cutting, first dances, garter tosses and bouquet tosses.  A day of coordinator makes it easier on you. If you can swing it, let someone else have the headache of making sure you didn’t miss anything. Most coordinators are experienced, and will remember to think of all of the things that you didn’t. You’ve never planned a wedding before, and some coordinators have hundreds of weddings under their belt. Let their experience make your wedding experience stress free.

The Bar! We have learned through our years of experience that a self-serve bar is never a good option. It’s not safe, depending on what kind of crowd you have, and more often than not, when a bar is self-serve, it’s not adequately stocked for everything the guests may need that evening. Even then, someone still has to make sure that the ice is restocked when it runs out, that there are wine keys, bottle openers, shakers, mixers, and cups. Plenty of cups! If you hire a caterer to tend to your bar, information is still your best friend. Most caterers (including us) don’t have a problem mixing up that signature drink you’ve dreamed up, but it helps a whole lot if we know ahead of time what the ingredients are, and in what proportions they’re mixed. We’ve also found that although the idea of a “full bar” sounds great, that’s a lot of alcohol for you to purchase, and when it comes to running the bar, the more alcohol you have, the more options your guests have to choose from. That can seriously back your bar line up, and unless you have 6 bartenders, they’re always going to be that line at the bar during cocktail hour. We always advocate that less is always more!

Finally,  have fun! This is an amazing and exciting time in your life. Let our passion for what we do, help you get to where you want to be.

December 9th, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments

Culinary Math

So here goes a brief description of what I fondly call “culinary math”. In Europe, all liquid and dry weights and measurements are metric. It’s an easy method based on a kilogram for weight, which is 1,000 grams. Need 250 grams of sugar? Easy! Weigh it out, and when the gauge reads 250, you’re there. The liter is also broken down to 1000 parts, or a millimeters, which is still easy to measure.

The tricky, and I mean brain drainer of them all is converting back and forth from metric to our system. My suggestion: choose a system and stick with it.

Our system is based on ounces and pounds for weight and gallons and quarts for liquid measure. The most accurate way to mix is by weight as apposed to volume. The reason being is that a cup of sugar does not weigh the same as a cup of all purpose flour. A cup of bread flour weighs different than cake flour. It’s confusing! And if that’s not bad enough, let’s go into 1/2 cup to a 1/4 cup to an 1/8 of a cup. Or a tablespoon to a 1/4 teaspoon, and so on.

I would and still do drill interns about measurements. 2 tablespoons makes how many ounces? How many quarts in a gallon? How many ounces in a gallon? It seems silly, but eventually they get it and then are off like a rocket when it comes to scaling up or down their recipes to serve the guest counts we work with in catering.

Needless to say, I have mastered fractions and decimals, adding, subtracting and converting fractions to decimals and back again. If only my grade school teacher could see the beast of math she has unleashed onto the culinary scene!

June 14th, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments

The Mother Sauce

The mother sauces are a grouping of sauces. They are used by chefs to create a variety of  sauces by adding select ingredients. This system was devised by August Escoffier in the early 20th Century. Escoffier was actually the chef that chose all of the dinner service items for use on the Titanic. With a firm understanding of these mother sauces, you can become quite proficient at sauce work, both at home or professionally.

The five mother sauces are: Bechamel, Espangnole, Tomato, Hollandaise, and Veloute. Each take some practice and skill to master, and some are easier than others to perfect. Bechamel is a white sauce, made of flour, butter and milk.  It’s typically the base for Alfredo sauce or white country gravy. The Hollandaise is an emulsion made of egg, clarified butter and finished with lemon and Tabasco. A classic Eggs Benedict is served with a Hollandaise. It is tricky to master, because the temperature has to be just right! Tomato sauce is your start for just about any pasta sauce. It’s tomato based, and seasoned with anything from oregano, basil and onions. Although the Espagnole sauce sounds like it comes from Spain, it is still a sauce from French cuisine. Espagnole sauce is made with Spanish tomatoes and is a brown sauce. It has very strong flavors, and is rarely served on it’s own.

The last few weeks in our kitchen, we have been serving soups based on a veloute framework. Veloute is a sauce that is half bechamel sauce and half stock that is then reduced by half. The stock can be made from anything, chicken, beef, or vegetables.  I have added roast tomato on one occasion and spinach and parsley on another. The veloute base is solid, and reliable, it will not break on re-fire, and has a good mouth-feel. It can be served hot or cold. It takes and distributes full flavor of the added components. Choux Foie, which is a warm sauce that is served cold, this term is used in classic garde manger. I believe it is applicable here with our soups.

My advice is dabble in some sauce work. Have fun with it, and you will reap wonderful results from your efforts. Don’t be afraid of those mothers, they will guide you to greatness.

June 3rd, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments

On Being a Working Chef

After I finished culinary school, I was required to complete two internships. My second internship I worked for The Grand in Brighton, England from 1999-2000. While at The Grand, I was a Chef de Partie, which meant that I was in charge of a station, or particular area in the kitchen. Depending on where I was needed, I would rotate out what I focused on that day, be it prep work, pastry work, service, etc. I was a working chef. I got to create new recipes, plate food, bake pastries, and cook delicious meals. I got to be creative.

I remember one day when we were particularly short handed, and the executive chef was in the kitchen trying to help things along for the day. He looked particularly miserable and a little out of practice with his knife work. By the time a person reaches the position of Executive Chef, they are no longer in the trenches with the other chefs, but are more concerned with the business aspects of things. That’s where their focus lies; on logistics, finding new revenue streams, signing paychecks, ordering materials, and interacting with potential clients. Your brain is completely somewhere else once you become an Executive Chef. You don’t have time to focus on the food, because you’re too busy focusing on all the behind-the-scenes work so everyone who works for you can focus on the food.

As a working chef, I get to have the best of both worlds. I get to create new recipes and interact with clients. I’m constantly thinking about places were we can find new streams of revenue. I still have to sign paychecks and order materials, but all the while I’m still thinking about what creative new dish I could put together for myself and my wife, which could later be rolled out to our client base. I like to lead by example here, which is why you’ll see me at many catering events, washing dishes. I can’t expect my staff to be creative and come up with the next new thing, when I’m too busy counting beans (or brides as the case may be).

 

May 25th, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments

Where It All Started

I love farmers markets. They are where I got my start. I love the “direct to the customer” kind of marketing that you get when you are able to be one on one with each potential customer. Each customer has “x” amount of money to spend, and typically there are several other vendors who are selling similar items to what you’re selling. The customer has the ultimate say in what they purchase with what money they have, and I’ve learned that product placement, variety, booth decor and price point are all very important attributes to a successful market day.

Every bit important is your stance, are you inviting and approachable? Do you have a good positive attitude? Are you making eye contact and having passionate banter about your wares? Anyone that knows me knows that I am more than willing to speak passionately about what I do.  I genuinely enjoy sharing my love for baking and cooking with everyone I meet, especially if they’re willing to listen and contribute to the conversation. I love that aspect of it all. Absolutely nothing feels better than closing a sale after making your best pitch about the foods you have grown, or made from scratch by hand. It’s a great affirmation.

I’ve found that passion for the product is the most important part of being successful. I love what I do, and I truly believe that it shows in my work and to my customers. To this day, people will stop by the bakery and if they don’t mind conversation across the counter while I’m baking or cooking, we’ll discuss what they’ve made, a fun new recipe or whatever it is that I am currently working on in the shop.

I want to thank all of the customers that have been to the market and purchased my baked goods and continue to shop here in the bakery. My dreams could not have been realized without you.

May 11th, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments

Food Memories

One of my favorite places to visit, fish and relax is Ocracoke Island in North Carolina. Something about that barren, windswept spit of land feels comfortable and like home.

On one of my trips I booked a day fishing trip with a local captain. I met with three other guys dockside at about 6:30 in the morning. We were into introductions about the time our boat pulled up to the dock. It was a perfect fall day, warm but not hot. The sea had some nice swells, but it was mostly calm. It took an hour to get to our designated fishing spot. We began to troll for red drum, or redfish. The very same fish that Cajun cuisine made famous as: Blackened Redfish.

We had fished for several hours, and had all caught our limit of large drum. As we pulled up to dock, a local named Mac offered to clean and filet our fish. I watched as he quickly and skillfully worked the knife. Each filet was perfect. As a group, we decided to meet up for dinner. They offered to grill up some of their fish. I picked up some produce from a small stand I had seen earlier. I bought several ears of corn and some fingerling potatoes. The guys had slathered the fillets in Italian dressing, just as the locals had mentioned they do. Liberal amounts of salt and pepper were also in play. The fillets were wrapped in foil and laid on the grill. I followed suit and did the potatoes in olive oil with salt and pepper and wrapped them up in foil packs. The corn was rolled over the grill with tongs. Still in the husks, the corn steams and when done husk and silk remove easily.

It was an amazing meal, fresh fish, simple application, yielding superb flavor. Paired with fresh seasonal vegetables, ice cold beer and new found friends. I still think about that meal from time to time. It was one of the best fish dinners I’ve ever had.

April 20th, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments

Food for Thought

One of the things people love about chefs is our ability to throw things together in a flash with little perceived effort. Most times chefs carry on board a huge library of memories, formulas, techniques and experiences. They rely on these very things to create new nuances in old favorites or classic cuisine styles. The adage practice, practice, practice is true. The more you cook in a particular style of cuisine, the easier it is to improvise and create and develop new dishes or dishes on the fly as they do on all the cooking shows that pit chef against chef.

I find solace in Mediterranean cuisine. They have great flavor, texture and color. Some feature meats or seafood specific to the region, and with a few simple ingredients and even simpler techniques, phenomenal dishes can be created.

Smoked, dried, and fresh tomato are forged into foods all throughout Italy. Garlic and fresh herbs dance in harmony throughout the cuisines of the Mediterranean region. It’s easy with a few simple ingredients to make some very flavorful dishes. Here is my short list to success: garlic, shallots, fresh basil, Italian parsley, oregano, and bell peppers.

If you’re adventurous, try cooking with black olives,  capers or anchovies. They are great tools to add to your bag of tricks. Add some fresh lemons or wine to a dish and see where that takes you.

Try this: Take a whole bulb of garlic, cut off the top and expose the cloves beneath. Sprinkle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and add some sea salt and cracked black pepper and slow roast until the contents are soft and gooey. Add this to some pasta tossed with olive oil. Sprinkle in some fresh herbs and maybe a bit of Asiago cheese. Pair with a light Pinot Grigio and enjoy. It’s just that simple!

April 13th, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments

Easter Brunch at Gadino Cellars

I recently had the extreme pleasure of cooking an Easter Brunch at Gadino Cellars that featured their wines. One of the things that I love about Easter is the promise of spring, new growth and rebirth of all things fresh and good. I prepared some nice savory pastries for an amuse-bouche, along with hot cross buns. An amuse-bouche is a small bite sized hors d’oeuvre, that is similar to an appetizer, but not requested by the guest. Instead an amuse-bouche is served gratis by the chef, and offers a glimpse into his art of cuisine.

The dinner itself consisted of four courses, and all were paired with a spectacular wine. Each course was composed of some spring elements, and each was plated beautifully. My favorite dish was the locally raised lamb sausage from Wits End Farms in Sperryville. It was served with braised cannelloni beans well seasoned with shallots, garlic and sage. It also featured a quick tomato sauce with fresh tomato, shallots, garlic and dried basil. This dish was paired with Gadinos 2012 Delfino Rosso, which is a Bordeaux blend.

This dish was my favorite as the creamy textured, intensely flavored beans paired so well with the lamb sausage. The sausages were tender, flavorful, and well seasoned. Grill marks added a nice visual element. The fresh tomato sauce offered a great pop of color, great flavor and married harmoniously with all elements of the completed dish. Layer upon layer, flavor unfolded in each bite. The wine that was paired with dish was a great marriage of winters fading and springs rebirth.

I so look forward to cooking again for Bill and Aleta at Gadino Cellars, They are such gracious hosts and wonderful friends.

 

 

April 5th, 2016|News & Updates|0 Comments