03.21.2011

They go to Catersource!

Held annually in Vegas, I returned a few weeks ago and am still recovering. Part of my delay recovering is due to flight issues involving Cleveland. No offense to those of you who live there but I do not want to ever connect through Hopkins International Airport Hell again in my lifetime! OK – am done venting… let me tell you about Vegas!

Catersource is an annual gathering of ~6000 caterers from all over the world. This 4 day symposium involves seminars and presentations that range from the latest food trends, hands on culinary experiences, management issues, 24/7 cater-talk and of course a few parties, (or extravaganzas) that are mind blowing! (Try emptying out your swimming pool and have a party in it). As it is held in conjunction with Event Solutions, there is also an entire program of courses dealing with the latest style, event design and execution.

The International Caterers Association provides much of the high-level education at this conference and produces the annual CATIE Award ceremony. Most of you know we were nominated for a CATIE for our Mad Hatter Cake. To be nominated (for these catering Oscars) alone is the thrill of a lifetime as recognition from our peers is such an honor. To date, we have had 15 nominations and two awards (just call me the Susan Lucci of the CATIES!). For me the best part of the conference is the camaraderie, exchange of ideas, sharing and generous support among catering professionals of all kinds. Developing relationships with others who have the same passion for our industry is invaluable and gets our creative juices flowing. I am grateful to be on the ICA board and thankful for this annual dose of inspiration and recognition.

03.14.2011

I love cake–especially good cake. To me, the best breafast is a slice of leftover wedding cake and a strong cup of coffee. I always feel that way–until cake week…

Cake week is a 7 day non-stop cake tasting extravaganza where our brides come in (just about every hour of every day) to sample cake flavors, fillings, etc.

Our cake bakers are phenomenal and their creations never cease to amaze me:

*Red Velvet that knocks your socks off
*Snickerdoodle–a legit suprising blend of creamy cinnamon
*Amaretto/Kahula with a chocolate ganache that melts in your mouth
*Coconut & Key Lime is a tropical dream

Cake week is over now, and I personally do not want to see cake for quite a while…except maybe if June wants to make her amazing Cherry Nut cake..?!

03.09.2011

Most of you know I am a full-fledge ‘wino’. I love enjoying a great food-friendly, drinkable wine as well as slowly savoring a rare, special bottle that often accompanies a significant event—
So here are some random wine thoughts—

Love the local?—doesn’t get any better than being next-door to the Jonathan Edwards Winery! http://www.jedwardswinery.com/ Beautiful venue, great people and wonderful wines. Their stone tables red is one of the BEST values around—if you don’t know the story of the stone table, just ask Jonathon. I love ALL their wines, but what really gets me going—especially during this time of the year, is their DARK (formerly called Port). Run, don’t walk to get this to savor with the last bite of fabulous single origin chocolate you have left from Valentine’s day.

Love the far away? Constantia Uitsig of South Africa—-Memories of sipping their lemony, rounded-honey-like sauvignon blanc while enjoying a stay at this amazing (natural, relaxing, tranquil vineyard/hotel) in Cape Town, SA, are just as fresh as they were a few years ago. And the cuisine was parallel to the wine—wish I had some now!

Gotta love the “ups and downs” – the “good and the bad”. Another flavor coming to mind is that of Chateau D’Yquem. My former husband and I had an appreciable wine cellar. And as was our tradition to celebrate memorable(good or bittersweet) occasions with great wines, we “enjoyed”—(enjoy may not quite be the right word!) a bottle of it after we got divorced. It is truly the Nectar of the Gods—and everyone really needs to have at least a taste of it in their lifetime. It is not for the faint of heart—or budget—this is royal wine and should be treated accordingly.
I think I need some wine now!!!

03.07.2011

The definition varies between the vision of what one saw on the old TV show, with food being delivered out of a house kitchen and dropped off in the neighborhood as well as the local deli preparing platters of cold cuts and seran wraps them up and is available for pick up. This is not to say anything negative about either one, as they each have shaped catering history.

However, the history of ATTC’s 27 years of catering is absolutely the opposite of those.

We provide an EXPERIENCE–not just the food–and in order to do so, we have to adhere to very strict regulations, sanitation and insurance guidelines. Before we even get out the door, we are inspected by the health department regularly. Our kitchen is not a house kitchen, but a separate 8,000 sq ft building comprised of cod —(impervious walls), we are fully licensed, insured (up the wazoo—remember LS was a former NO and is VERY liability conscious); our employees are all on payroll and are trained not only by us (in several seasonal seminars), but also TIPS certified (BT) and serve safe certified (kitchen and managers). Being on the board of ICA, LS regularly sends employees to major educational opportunities throughout the country.

We also do not cook food at our cookery and bring it in warming ovens to serve 6 hours later. Our chefs prepare everything from scratch–yes–everything. Bill makes all our own breads, fresh pasta, etc. and we prepare/marinet, etc. food here and then bring enough equipment to set up a field kitchen wherever we go. Even if the event site has a full kitchen, we generally just use the power and water as we don’t like taking chances on ovens that may not be cleaned or calibrated properly. So we lug in 8 burner stoves, grills, induction units, convection ovens, steamers, you name it–we bring it–in addition to all the behind the scene items that no one ever thinks about–tray stands, coffee servers, salt and pepper shakers, wine-away for those emergency red wine disasters, foam pads to protect wooden floors from scratch, rental chairs, sewing kits, even epi pens!

On the day of the event, we are responsible for–the weather (we wish!!!), parking issues, rentals, portolets, septic system drainage, power and safety supply, coordination with site staff, vendors! We are control freaks who do not like suprises but also thrive in being able to rise above them. Caterers are crazy!
03.04.2011

How spoiled are we at A Thyme to Cook? VERY! Each week or two, our chefs come up with an idea for a new menu to add to our sample menus, or just an idea for a new way to do a single food item. Today Bill and Joe made a few scrumptious yummies for us to try. The scallops are (always) from our friends at Stonington Seafood Harvesters – aka “Bomsters”.

They are so amazingly sweet and succulent! Today they were marinated with whiskey and vanilla and topped with spicy chocolate panko crumbs

Then we enjoyed honey marinated beef short ribs braised with sherry and soy. And how soft and tender and delicious! The sides were a cool smoked paprika slaw (napa, cabbage, zucchini and carrots) along with three cauliflower “couscous” recipes…it’s so amazing and we know you all will see this idea popping up but if you whir up cauliflower florets in a food processor (not the stems) to a consistancy of couscous it really looks like couscous but – no starch! And flavor it like you would a couscous dish and its a really simple veggie side. We tasted curry cashew cauliflower couscous; currant, cashew and caper & the fresh and always wonderful mixed herbs.

And then dessert – A S’more cake…good graceous it looks like a marshmallow right off of the cammpfire! Bill came up with a recipe that encompased all of the elements into the 3 layer cake…sorry didn’t get a shot of the inside of the cake – we devoured it too fast!

02.23.2011

The International Catering Association (ICA) is making a huge presence at Catersource Conference this year! Annually held in Las Vegas, we have a huge presence at Catersource Conference, the largest gathering of caterers in the world–8,000 just last year! In our inspiration Zone at the Attendee Lounge, members can browse marketing materials from ICA caterers throughout the world.

Information can be downloaded at “The Zone” or ICA members will find it for free on the ICA website after the conference. Visit http://www.internationalcaterers.org/. This value is priceless!!!

Our mission is to raise the level of the bar in the catering world through education at seminars, webinars, networking, etc. Being on the Board and Chair of Membership Committee is challenging and time consuming (just ask Lori!) but enlightening, educational and the rewards are immeasurable. Being able to brainstorm, problem-solve, interact and share ideas with caterers who are experiencing the same issues is such a bonus in our industry, where people are usually too rushed to ever hang out and “CaterTalk.” The ICA is famous for sharing of information with caterers of all kinds everywhere.
This year, ATTC is honored to be nominated for a CATIE Award in its Speciality Cake Category, for an outstanding, “Mad Hatter” cake by our phenomenal cake baker decorator, Lynn. There are several categories of CATIE Awards, all submissions are anonymous and the criteria is quite rigid. It is an honor just to be nominated — so I’m crossing my fingers for next week. WISH US LUCK!!!
02.18.2011

A Thyme to Cook is Crazy about chocolate – in sweet & savory dishes alike. And we have been using this mystery component in mole sauce, as well as chili, beef stew, braised venison and even white fish! Try combining dark chocolate with bacon, pink peppercorns, chili peppers, wasabi, Indian curry, ginger, cinnamon, coarse sea salt, coco nibs or chocolate pearls.

Pictured to the right are two fantastic desserts he tried out last week – yes major diet hazard is working one flight of stairs away from the cookery kitchen! On the left, Grilled Pineapple, White Chocolate Poundcake & next to it Kahlua, Coco Nib Chocolate Tort with Molten Chocolate Ganache and Chocolate Pop Rocks. YUM!

And then here is Bill’s FAMOUS S’more ENTIRELY dipped in Ecuardorian Chocolate and then Graham Cracker Crumbs along side Chambord Wasabi Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Just perfect on a cold February afternoon.
We just can’t forget about all of the other fantastic creations Bill has experimented with lately – Chili Spiked Hot White & Dark Chocolate swirled together in mugs; White Chocolate Pineapple Coconut Triangles with “Absolut” Peppar Simple Syrup; Single Origin Chocolate Truffles with Basil and Espresso Salt; Dark Chocolate & Green Curry “Pearls” on White Chocolate Pot de Creme. And not to forget our tofu fans, here is one to win over your “I don’t do tofu” peeps – Bourbon infused Tofu layered with Homemade Caramel & Pecan Dipped ENTIRELY (by now you know there isn’t any other way) in Ecuadorian Dark Chocolate and then Lightly Sprinkled with Sea Salt. Way better then a Milky Way! Has your sweet/savory tooth surfaced yet? Give us a call – or better yet, call our CRAZY Pastry Chef, Bill!

02.14.2011

Think outside the candy box for Valentines Day!

Chocolates significance as a special gift dates back to the Aztecs; who presented cacao solids to the gods and consumed it only on very special occasions – hence it began to be seen as decadant and forbidden.
Chocolates association with Valentines Day conjurs up the vision of the infamous Russell Stover red paper heart box (which originated in 1888).
But Now!
We know dark chocolate is good for us. It’s loaded with antioxidents which helps to get rid of free radicals that do all kinds of nasty things to our bodies. Single origin chocolate is chocolate made with beans from one region (or sometimes one farm) which is why I’m savoring a chunk of Venezuelan Gran Saman with a glass of Jonathan Edwards Winery Napa Valley Dark – a port style wine. http://www.jedwardswinery.com
Here at A Thyme to Cook we are always cooking up crazy things with chocolate in our kitchen…tofu & chocolate??? It works! Come back for more great ideas in a couple of days
Linda
02.07.2011

Most of you know that we are neighbors with Allyn Brown, owner of Maple Lane Farms, famous for their perfectly fresh cut Christmas trees, berry and apple picking, and MOST importantly, growing the largest crop of blackcurrants in the country. We try to incorporate as much of his local produce in our menus–but what you may NOT know is that he recently built a huge greenhouse to grow the sweetest, most delicate hydroponic baby butter lettuce! He is currently (no pun intended) supplying Stop and Shop with his tender greens and we are so greatful to have such freshness literally a stone’s throw away!

Thanks Allyn!!!

02.03.2011

January is supposed to be the ‘slow’ month for New England caterers!? This time of year we develop new menus, establish new guidelines, policies, and training manuals, repair and rejuvenate equipment, brainstorm new ideas, conduct tastings, and attend to details that can NOT wait til the last minute—especially since we are all Type –A freaks and don’t like surprises. The New Year is also crunch time for the International Caterers Assoc. Being on the Board and Membership Chair, I am constantly reviewing data, speaking with new (or potential) members throughout the world and trying to collaborate global interests among these catering companies. Included on my ‘list of things to do,’ is to create power point presentations to present at Catersource Conference, the annual meeting of 8,000 caterers (from Nigeria to Nebraska,) which takes place at the end of February. To add, Chef Shawn and I are looking forward to doing a joint seminar on new wedding menu ideas and trends in the catering industry; if we don’t kill each other, we’ll keep you posted on our presentation…

In the meantime, we have parties to get out and lots of snow to shovel!

Stay Warm!
Linda

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