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Spring Wedding Tips & Trends

Spring is around the corner, and that means wedding season has arrived! Many of our brides have been planning for months to get the details of their Big Day right. Brides, grooms, guests, caterers, and vendors all love a great wedding. When choosing caterers, florists, photographers, and a wedding cake, take your time looking, be upfront about your budget (a good team will work with you on this), and make sure your specific vision can be executed. When you are in good hands, a wedding can truly be a piece of cake!

The wedding industry is ever changing with new trends on everything from bridal dresses to cocktails.  We took a look at what it will take to make any wedding perfect and memorable in 2013.

 

Colors and Décor

pink-and-green-wedding-decorCool colors are in this year.  Shades of green, blues, and yellow are popping up everywhere.  For girly-girls, pinks and purples can still be on trend, just consider balancing them with a complimentary cool shade such as a deep pink and a light mint green. Mint green seems to be the color-darling for this year, as it can be matched to almost any theme and as a bonus, most brides and grooms can agree on the color.  Using patterns, like stripes, gingham, delicate floral and bold graphic prints as fun accents for details like table runners, ribbons, and chair cushions will add a touch of personality. For added whimsy, match groomsmen bow-ties or, bridesmaids skirts to the desired pattern.  During the reception, many brides are considering have a reception lounge area.  This is an area set away from the dance floor with comfortable, quite seating and sometimes extra snacks, or drinks.  This is wonderful for older guests, and friends that may want socialize before hitting the dance floor.  Flowers like peonies, garden roses, and hydrangeas, are current.  Instead of tall vases for centerpieces, look for long garlands tied with printed bows or hanging from chandeliers.

1920’s Theme Weddings will be big this year.

Decorating with love birds adds fun detail to a natural setting.

Main Course

With many brides becoming environmentally aware, we are begging to see more localized weddings.  Brides are looking to incorporate local itemsMini Heirloom Pockets on their menus.  Local wines, cheeses, local baked breads, in-season flowers, and produce will all make appearances on wedding menus.  Brides and grooms are incorporating their heritage into menus by serving items that reflect their backgrounds, like crab cakes (From the Northeast) or empanadas (South America).  As we were beginning to see the past few years, the mini menu is expected to be ever more popular this year.  Serving a miniature menu with many options is an easy, attractive, and affordable way to please everyone.  Also, guests appreciate the no-mess bite size meal. The set up of a mini menu can serve as wonderful conversation and centerpiece.

Food trucks will be driving to reception and wedding after-party near you!

Move over champagne, there are new bubbles for toasting!  Beer is expected to be incorporated into wedding drink menus.

Desserts

Dessert Bar Wedding cakes are going vintage with lace details that often mimic the bride’s dress.  So think big, white, beautiful cakes with lots of detail and maybe a soft colored flower or two.  For the more modern look, brides are choosing silhouette cakes with bright colors and hand painted fondant.  As alternatives to cakes, the new fun choices are doughnuts,  and miniature bundt cakes.  Dessert bars are also gaining momentum.  Dessert bars are a great way to use food as a decoration and give guests options aside from cake.  Some fun dessert bar ideas to look for this spring:

Dessert Tables from Real Weddings

Creative Dessert Table Ideas

 

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Foods of New Orleans

Fat Tuesday kicked-off yesterday with the famous Mardi Gras parade. Mardi Gras is celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  The Bourbon Street, NOholiday is the start to Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter.  During Lent many Christians give up bad habits, or repent.  This may explain why Madri Gras is the exact opposite!  Known for indulgences and chaos, the Mardi Gras holiday is one of a kind.  It is a day that has been celebrated since medieval times in Italy and France.  The tradition was introduced to Louisiana by French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste de Bienville, New Orleans founder.  Today, New Orleans is one of our country’s most unique melting pots of culture.  The city is full of mystery, excitement, music, jubilance, and some of the best food in the world.  With the French bringing their cooking techniques to the area and the locals incorporating their unique flavors, along with a mixture of cuisines, New Orleans has introduced us to food that is exclusive to the Big Easy.

 

Gumbo

shrimp-gumboIn New Orleans gumbo is nearly in its own food group.  This stew served over rice is a perfect example of the diverse groups of people that contributed to the foods of the area.  The base flavors, bay leaf and sassafras were introduced by native Americans, the thickener is a roux,  a classic French method which New Orleanians decided served them better blackened rather than the traditional blonde.  Gumbo receives its name from the West African word for okra– kimgombo.  Gumbo recipes vary dramatically between eras, regions, restaurants, and families.  You can find almost anything in gumbo: squirrel meat, turtle, sausages, chicken, various sea foods, frog legs…The two hard and fast rules for gumbo are that the stew must be thickened with something and contain rice.

Shrimp Chicken and Andouille Gumbo 

Vegetarian Gumbo

 

Muffaletta

This massive sandwich comes from one of New Orleans’s most famous Italian delis, Central Grocery.  In 1906, Signor Lupo Salvatore, the owner Muffuletta-Sandwichof the deli would supply the hardy lunches for the men who worked on the wharves.  Originally the workers, mostly Sicilians, would come to the deli and asked for salamis, provolone, olives, and bread and ate them each separately. Signor soon realized he could serve all the savory Italian items on large, (10” round) and sturdy bread, muffaletta bread.  To this day, folks line up out the door at Central Grocery for a taste of their famous muffalettas.

Classic Muffaletta

King Cake

King CakeKing Cakes can be found nearly everywhere in New Orleans during Mardi Gras season.  The cinnamon dough is iced colorfully with traditional Mardi Gras colors (purple, green, and gold) and sometimes filled with praline or cream cheese. Unlike other cakes, hidden inside this treat is small trinket, usually a tiny toy baby.  These cakes are popular from parties at the office to soirees at home. Whoever is lucky enough to receive the piece of cake with baby becomes the king or queen of party and is meant to buy the king cake for the next get-together. The baby is also thought to bring good fortune.  French and Spanish settlers brought the tradition to the Gulf where similar cakes were made to celebrate Twelfth Night.

Traditional King Cake 

Other classic New Orleans recipes:

The Sazerac: A cocktail dating back to the early 1800’s.

Crawfish Etouffée: Hard to find outside of the Big Easy, but easy enough to make at home!

Beignets and Cafe au Lait‘s:  A true Southern breakfast.

 

 

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American Beer

Super Bowl Sunday is this weekend and with that comes food, friends, and beer.  A ton of beer, in fact– Americans drink 50 million cases of beer on Super Bowl Sunday. That is roughly four beers for every person in the country. That’s a lot of suds!  We delved into present day beers and our history with the brewing what is now America’s favorite adult beverage.

History

breweryIn 1584 brewing beer had a quick and mysterious run in America’s “lost” English colony in Roanoke, North Carolina.  The beer must have not satisfied the colonists, as they would continue to request shipments from England. Many of these shipments were unsuccessful as the sailors tended to get thirsty on their trans-Atlantic journey. By 1650, New Amsterdam (the settlement on the southern tip of Manhattan Island) boasted twenty-six breweries and taverns. Many families even brewed their own beer, including our forefathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that brewing emerged as a profitable industry.  The immigrants arriving from beer loving countries like Britain, Ireland, and Germany created a huge boom in the industry.  The arrival of artificial refrigeration was becoming widely used during this time allowing brewers to brew during hot summers.  Pasteurization was also being used to increase shelf life and portability. Before this time Americans were drinking darker, heavier beers known as British style ales.  These beers were made from top fermenting yeasts and yielded a beer that ranged from pale to dark brown in color.   Thanks to the growing number of German immigrants, Americans began favoring the German style lager. Lager uses the bottom fermenting yeast, which is much more sensitive to temperature.  Americans were finding the lighter German lager more drinkable and by the 1900’s lager outsold ale.

Prohibition

When prohibition was passed many of the large breweries shut down completely and a few of the big names of today (Schlitz, Pabst, and Prohibition Beer Picketers Anheuser-Busch) stayed open, making what they referred to as “near-beer.”  This was a malt beverage made with less than one half percent alcohol. In order to not sell or destroy the expensive beer making equipment, the big breweries remained open during prohibition, holding out until the law was lifted. Many of these breweries also made malt syrup, which was marketed for baking and cooking, but it was clear that the main purpose for malt syrup was in home brewing. Americans were desperate during prohibition and it was not uncommon for people of the ‘20’s to go to stronger alcohols, like whiskey and gin, to get them through the era!

In the 1930’s prohibition was lifted. This was great for many of the big name breweries that remained open during prohibition, but many of the smaller breweries were not able to pick up business, as during the pre-prohibition era.

Present Day Craft Breweries

Craft Breweries Per Capita_(US)Thanks to American’s new found appreciation for gourmet food, mostly on the west coast in the late 1970’s, we were also looking for more interesting beverages.  However, at the time, low-calorie, light, and un-flavorful beer was monopolizing the market. By the 1980’s grassroots movements of craft brew began in cities like Portland, San Francisco, Boulder, and Boston. By the 1990’s craft brewers, many of them here in Colorado, were experiencing growth of up to 35% in the marketplace. The number of craft brewers in the US has gone from 8 in 1980 to 1,989 in 2011.

Colorado and Craft Beer

Many consider Colorado a brewing Mecca, and it is often dubbed the Napa Valley Beer. We have 139 licensed craft breweries (85 brewpubs, 54 manufacturer breweries) with another seventy-five breweries in planning as of May 2011. These breweries employ over 6,000 people and attract beer tourists worldwide. It is not expected that our craft beer market will go flat.  We craft beerspicked a few our local favorites for Super Bowl Sunday and beyond:

Best Local Beers for Super Bowl Sunday –

The canned Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues is a hoppy flavored pale ale that receives high accolades from across the country.

Boulder Beer Company’s light pale ale, Hazed and Confused is sip-able and flavorful.

New Belgium Brewery’s Mothership Wit is a hybrid between a light lager and the Belgium style beer the brewery is known for–and it is organic!

Best Local Beers for a Steak Dinner –

Great Divide’s, Claymore Scotch Ale has a light body with roasted and caramel malt flavors that pair well with a juicy steak.

Ellie’s Brown Ale from Avery Brewing is a lighter option for meaty dinners with chocolate and nutty notes.

Best Local Beer with Dessert –

Left Hand Brewing‘s Black Jack Porter hits sweet chocolate notes and strong hints of espresso, a perfect compliment to sweet endings with citrus, vanilla, or chocolate flavors.

Best Local Beers for Happy Hour-

Del Norte’s Mañana goes down easy like a Mexican style beer with a Rocky Mountain twist.

 Joe’s Premium American Pilsner from Avery is a bright brew with a low alcohol percentage, so it is ok to have a few!

Sweaty Betty Blonde from Boulder Beer is a sweeter and lighter beer great for after-work sipping.

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Winter Baking at Home – Breads & Cookies!

This long cold snap has kept many of us indoors, giving us time to connect with family, catch up on television, finish books, and watch our favorite football teams (we are picking a second favorite now that the Broncos are out!).  This extra time spent indoors also gives us the opportunity to explore more in our own kitchens.  The perfect compliment to long cozy days indoors are the aromas of fresh bread baking, cookies warm from the oven, or cooling cupcakes waiting to be decorated.  Whether you are perfecting a family recipe or trying something new, these cold winter months are the ideal time to test them out!

Cookies

macaroonsThe nostalgic favorites will always be chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.  This year’s trendy cookies include French macaroons and whoopie pies.  The macaroons can be brightly colored to cheer up the dreary weather and whoopie pies are kind of like a soft stuffed cookie that can be filled with a variety of flavors.  For anyone baking cookies at home, experts recommend a good layered cooling rack–this way you won’t have to over crowd when cookies are cooling this can cause them over-steam themselves and stick together.  Another fun (though not necessary) gadget is a cookie press.  Cookie presses allow cookies to come out uniform in shape and will keep your hands out of the dough!  For those of us who like dough sampling, use a small ice cream scoop.  Another essential to cookie baking is the Silpat.  This is a product that professionals have known about for a long time.  Silpats are used in place of parchment paper; they are made of non-stick silicone and make for even baking and easy clean up.

Cornflake Chocolate Chip and Marshmallow Cookies

Lemon Sandwich Cookies

Bacon Banana Cookies

Breads

Colorado’s high altitude keeps many of us away from bread baking.  However with a few simple tools and tricks it is vimages-2ery do-able.  Breads can be very easy, such as a simple French loaf, or more complex, like a brioche.  A bread machine is not needed, nor is tons of time.  With only a few pantry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, and, water) your kitchen can crank out bread to rival your local bakery.  A bench scraper is the tool bread bakers use to divide dough and assists when kneading.  This tool makes it easy to separate your dough in half, as most bread recipes make two loaves–which brings us to another essential: two standard sized loaf pans.  A baking stone is also a must have as bread can be baked directly on it or in loaf pans.  It is the best way for a home baker to achieve the tastes and texture of a hearth oven.

BriocheFor high altitude bread baking, start by looking at the yeast.  Be sure that the one you use is instant active dry yeast and not the rapid rise kind, and decrease the amount of yeast called for by one forth.  High altitude breads typically rise faster, which can be a plus! Punch the dough down after the first rise and let the dough rise again until it has doubled.  Be careful not to let the dough over rise as this may cause an unmanageable bread monster!

Of course, if you are impatient and do not want to fuss with all the bread baking techniques there are the easy-to-bake quick breads, like banana breads or blueberry muffins.

 

Honey Quinoa Bread

Jalapeño Cheddar Bread

Hawaiian Bread

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Après Ski (And other Foods for Skiing)

It is the time of year we grab our parkas, gloves, goggles, and ski hats and escape to the mountains either for a few runs, or long a weekend.  After a day on the slopes it is not uncommon to hear, “This is one of the best beers I have ever had.” Or, “These nachos are really hitting the spot now.”  There is something about a hard but fun day on the mountain that makes everything better afterwards.  Many ski areas have a slew of busy pubs and lodges with an après ski offering.  If you really want to kick off your ski boots and warm your toes by the fire we suggest hosting your own intimate après ski at your rental, condo, or even at home.

Food

Mini Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Keep the food hot and familiar.  In Europe, après ski food typically includes warm snacks and beers.  For this approach, we like the idea of friends gathering around a fondue pot, dipping winter vegetables and hearty breads.  Also shrunken comfort foods, like mini chicken potpies, or small servings of tomato soup in mugs with baby grilled cheese sandwiches are all wonderful warm-up foods!

For stick-to-your-bones meals, set a Crock Pot before first tracks to cook cold weather favorites, like beef stew, or chicken cacciatore.   For a really simple shortcut, serve carb-heavy foods like spaghetti and meatballs to keep energy for the weekend.

Straightforward desserts are best for cold-weather après ski meals.  Brownies hot out of the oven, apple caramel bars, hot fudge sundaes, or, if you are lucky enough to have fire, make indoor s’mores!

 Drinks

Colorado is known for our many craft beers, which are perfect for après ski hangs.  A few of our Spiced Apple Cider with Rum Whipped Creamfavorites are the heavier Oatmeal Stout from Breckenridge Brewery, the flavorfully spiced Juju Ginger from Left Hand Brewery, and Boulder Beer Company’s standard Never Summer Ale.  Sparkling wine and spiked apple cider or hot cocoas are also ideal for fireside sipping.

 

Other Foods for the Hills

Breakfast is important when heading out for an athletic day.  Before skiing, food should be thought of as fuel.  But that does not mean it can’t be good too!  Pull together a quick vegetable frittata, or pack homemade granola and have with Greek yogurt and fruit for sustained energy to keep you on the lifts and down the hills until lunch.

Vegetable frittataWith ski resorts charging astronomical prices for mediocre burgers and frozen fries it’s easy to see why many resort goers chose to bring their own lunch.  Bagged lunches have the tendency to be boring and child-like so we suggest bringing a lunch with adult tastes.  Make hearty sandwiches like turkey with bacon and avocado, pulled pork sandwiches, or salami, mozzarella, and tomato.  Try a hot wrap with seasoned black beans, rice, and cheese in a tortilla for a warm healthy burrito (most resort cafeterias have microwave for public use.)  Or bring along leftovers from the Crock Pot you had going the night before.

Most importantly, stay warm, well fed, and have fun on the slopes!

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Food Trends for 2013

Now that 2013 is well underway, it is time to look ahead to what we can expect on our plates over the coming year.  Often we find food trends stick around longer than the latest fashions (cupcakes and bacon anyone?) but, it is fun to speculate about what the new “in” foods will be and who will love them, or not care at all.

Popcorn

Popping onto the scene this year is gourmet popcorn.  Popcorn is the versatile snack that has been on the verge of wild popularity for a few years, imagesbut 2013 is predicted to be the year for the familiar snack.  Expect to see over-the-top sweet flavors like dark chocolate, coconut, drizzled with white chocolate, or savory spicy kernels like wasbi or mesquite, and many variations in between!   The best part about popcorn is that it is relativity healthy, can easily be found in stores, and can easily be experimented with by the home cook.  Aside from gourmet popcorn being more readily available in your local grocery store, look for shops like Chicago’s Edmonds, famous for their cheesy caramel flavor, to explode this year.

 

Spice

-gochujang-L-1Spicy food lovers rejoice!  There is a new spicy sheriff in town and it is not salsita, or Sriracha.  The hot condiment of the year is gochujang, a Korean chili paste made from fermented soybeans, red chili, glutinous rice, soybeans, and salt.  The distinctive sauce can be used on burgers, eggs, mayos, and anything else that might need a kick.

 

Bread

Blazing out of restaurateurs’ and caterers’ ovens, expect to see artisan breads.  Wiartisan-breadth the gluten-free fad mellowing out a little, the lovely bread basket is expected to make a comeback to a table near you.  The buzzwords at many restaurants are becoming “bread program” (In 2012 it is was “cocktail program”).  Chefs are expected to even go as far as having bread courses showing off the range of skill and flavors going into different flours, techniques complete with a range of butters to pair with.

 

Tea

Loose TeasThe drink of year will be tea.  Gone are the days of heavy dairy lattes and flavored coffees.  Tea is a more health conscious way to get your caffeine kick without a million calories.  White, green, herbal, floral, earthy, and, spicy teas will be the choice beverages of the year. Tea is also expected to be appearing in dishes like tea-poached salmon, or deserts like Earl Grey cookies.  Also, tea will be seeping behind the bar with many bartenders featuring the new beverage darling both iced and hot.

Of course, these trends may come and go faster than you can say “foie gras,” but we look forward to a year of putting them to the test!

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Winter Parties

For many of us parties are the last things on our mind after a busy holiday season, but it can still be fun to host a post-holiday party that’s full of winter cheer!  As a busy catering company we find that many clients looking to throw social events, like weddings and cocktail soirees, are looking at options throughout the calendar.

A Winter Party at Home

White wine bottle by red fire with corkscrewWinter can feel long and sometimes a little boring.  To make your winter party stand out, think of fun winter themes like a sophisticated après ski party.  Ask your friends to come in their ski coats and hats to enjoy o’douvers and wine by the fire.  If your crowd is on the adventurous side, have an 80’s ski party!  Think campy ski movies from the decade. Serve retro-80’s food like fondue, or potato skins.  If your friends need a more family-friendly gathering, host a winter brunch party complete with to-go mugs of hot chocolate.  Bundle up the kids and head to the closest sledding hill when the meal is over.

Anxious for hot days and sunshine? Beat the winter blues and have a beach party!  Pay no imagesmind to the snow on the ground and create a summer environment by blowing up beach balls, setting out pool towels, playing reggae, or even dusting off the lawn chairs and placing them inside. Serve light summer foods like skewered shrimp, or mini pulled pork sandwiches.  For drinks, serve margaritas or mojitos—don’t forget the mini drink umbrellas!

Bigger Events

When is comes to planning a large-scale event in the winter like a wedding or large birthday bash, it is important to think of a space that creates warmth.  Places like lodges or a venue with a large fireplace or two work welScreen shot 2013-01-04 at 1.57.00 PMl for winter entertaining.  One important factor to keep in mind is, of course, the weather!  If possible, try to choose a venue with little commuting for your guests.  (It’s also a good idea to double check to see if your guests have to walk along icy sidewalks!)  As your guests arrive consider passing around a warm beverage such as apple cider or Mexican hot chocolate.

Winter food is comforting, but often times can feel a bit disheveled.  When planning the menu keep the food winter appropriate and easy to eat.  For appetizers serve items like butternut squash soup in shooter glasses, or mini potpies.  Entrées should be classics, like filet mignon with Rosemary mashed potatoes.  If an item like this is out of your price range, consider a seasonal pasta dish, such as pumpkin ravioli.  Keeping the food simple and cozy for higher end winter celebration is best.

Decorations, like the food, are typically simplified for cold weather events.  Elegant colors like silver and white images-1to match the glistening snow outside, or soft pink and gold for a little glamour.  Lots of candlelight creates a classic look, but for more unique centerpieces place ice carved vases on the tables filled with winter branches, like birch. For party favors leave small throws at each chair, your guests will appreciate this thoughtful parting gift!

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