Monday, January 5, 2015

Wedding Trends Come and Go

 There is a current trend out there that has built slowly the last few years and hit the wedding scene hard in 2014. It is the rustic, whimsical, romantic, vintage theme with a dash of the unexpected. It really has been quite a year to see all the different versions and visions of this concept that were created. If you attended a wedding reception in a barn in the last year, you are not alone. Barns all across the Twin Cities are opening up to host grand receptions and parties, draped in linen fabrics and bare bulb lighting, and dont forget the mason jars at the bar. What backdrop is more beautiful than an apple orchard, a garden, or a vineyard?

As a caterer, this trend has had a great impact on how we serve our products as well. More and more, we require multiple and thorough planned walk-throughs of these unusual sites to carefully plan how we will execute multi-course plated meal services. We have also had a lot of fun designing stations and food displays that play into the whole rustic theme. Our cold stations, for instance, may be decorated with smooth stones, interesting succulents, rich moss, and lots of candles. Lots of candles! It seems the rule of the day is that anything from nature goes. From decorative wood slices to hay bails, youll see it all. Suddenly there is burlap everywhere! The thing I love most about this concept is that it is very easy to incorporate just about any meaningful family heirloom or items from dear loved ones into your reception to make it personal to you. Gather all the white glass vases you can find from your relatives and create multi-vase gatherings of garden flowers as centerpieces. Incorporate old wooden crates from Grandmas basement, suitcases from Aunties attic, or herbs from Dads garden.

Food trends for this type of reception have been equally as fun as the decor. We are finding high-end comfort foods, as well as, old family favorites are very popular. Since we are very comfortable creating custom menus of any kind, and really thrive on the challenge of making every event unique, it has opened up a lot of opportunity to create some fun dishes. Back to the basics with Fresh Garden Greens, Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits, and Mac and Cheese. But Mac and Cheese with a twist? Maybe Truffle Mac and Cheese. We are all Foodies these days. Three kinds of Chili with an assortment of amazing toppings on a cool September evening? These menus would not seem out of place in the least at even a more formal reception in a barn. They would seem creative and fun. Rustic chic. And how many chefs do you know who are happy to prepare moms favorite soup recipe for 250 guests! Ours will!

Interestingly enough, the top colors for receptions in 2015 are reminiscent of this rustic theme so we may be looking at seeing this trend continue to develop in upcoming years. Other popular trend predictions are that edible guest favors are a must, small sip or sample size beverages are being offered, family-style dining is coming back, and hors d’oeuvres or food station dining is still very much in vogue. Guest tables without linen, rustic wooden tables and chairs, and dining al fresco is still a desirable choice.
But interestingly enough, here in Minnesota, we still see the more traditional full-service, plated dinner and traditional bridal table more often than not. After all, a Minnesotans roots go pretty deep.

If you are set on having an outdoor or rustic wedding this year, change things up a bit. Maybe instead of using mason jars, use antique milk bottles. Upgrade from burlap to dyed muslin linens. Change up the photo booth to short-clip videos of all your guests. Remember, it is all about making it truly your own.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Home for the Holidays

Even though my husband is an amazing Chef and can serve a five course plated dinner for 20 guests with ease, I tend to shy away from hosting parties like this simply because I like to take the path of least resistance. Being so busy in December, I want my husband and I to be able to enjoy our parties as much as our guests. With plated dinners over 6 or 8 guests, someone has to spend much of the time in the kitchen plating and serving. Unless you want to hire help. I feel entertaining larger groups is about being together and enjoying each others company, especially if youre entertaining family or friends who dont often visit. So I limit my holiday gatherings to two different types of meals that allow this: a cocktail and hors doeuvres party in the evening, and a buffet style brunch mid-day on a Saturday or Sunday.

Last year, our family gathering during the holiday consisted of 35 guests. I researched many different types of fun cocktails and collected the supplies. Premixing as much as I could the day before, and assigning the bar tending duties during the party to a family member, we offered festive Peach Prosecco Bellinis, traditional Tom and Jerrys, Calvados Martini, and what turned out to be the most popular, a rich Ultra Alexander Martini. Our menu, as it turned out, did not follow any theme or nationality. We simply choose items that we loved. We placed platters and slow-cookers here and there instead of filling a single serving table. Entertaining like this encourages guests to eat slowly, taking time in-between items to enjoy every plate, and helps to create a pace of leisure. In our hectic lives these days, it is nice to actually be able to slow down a bit. Of course the menu choices are countless with this style of meal, which is what makes planning them so fun. This is what we prepared:

   Caviar with Egg Crumbles, Diced Onion, Creme Fresh, and Tiny Buckwheat Pancakes
   Seafood Platter: Shrimp Cocktail, Crab Claws, and Raw Oysters with Creamed Horseradish, Cocktail Sauce, Lemons, and Tabasco
   International Cheese Display including Smoked Salmon, Egg Crumbles, Chopped Onion, Cream Cheese, Relishes, Breads and Crackers
   Fresh Fruit and Berries Platter
   Butternut Squash Ravioli
   Mini Gyros: Sliced Lamb, Chopped Tomatoes and Onions, and Mini Pita Bread
   White Rice
   Duck & Wild Rice Soup
   Assortment of Christmas Cookies, ours mixed with several of our guests, I like to mix them together on one giant platter.

Although the menu took a couple hours to prepare earlier that day, the only last minute things that needed attention were assembling the Seafood Platter and cooking the Rice. Everything else was either placed on a platter and refrigerated or in a slow-cooker to warm hours before. We were able to enjoy a leisurely cocktail, watch the fire, and listen to holiday music for an hour or so before our guests started to arrive. It is a good place to be.

It is so easy to prepare much of the food in advance and hold it until dinner. Guests can graze on delectable items for a couple hours, sampling things here and there while enjoying other activities. The thing I most appreciate about this style of dining is that much of the clean up can be done after your guests have left.

For Brunch the next day, a buffet is the rule of the day for me. The only thing here that needed last minute attention was pulling the Quiche and Chicken Sausage out of the oven. The soup and cider took care of itself in the slow-cookers. Everything else was prepared the morning before. We served:

   Butternut Squash Soup
   Maple Bacon Quiche
   Chicken Sausage with Sun Dried Tomatoes
   Festival Salad
   Applesauce Coffee Cake
   Spiced Apple Cider

Parties during the day take on a whole new family feel and you can follow brunch with some fun winter activities like building a snow man or ice skating. Most of the time, however, we opt for the good, old-fashioned indoor activity of playing board games together.

Do yourself a favor and simplify your holiday entertaining. You dont have to skimp on the menu to enjoy your gathering as much as your guests!

   -Christine Schiltz
Owner & Catering Director
Lake Elmo Inn Event Center

Monday, September 29, 2014

Apple Picking Time

Well, it’s officially fall.  The nights are cooling down and the leaves are starting to change ever so slightly.  This means it’s time once again to go apple picking!  Over the years we have worked closely with Aamodt’s Apple Farm in Stillwater.  Recently, we catered an event there and this month we featured an amazing apple dessert over at the Restaurant, using Aamodt’s apples.  

Event at Aamodt's Apple Farm
We wanted to take a moment and fill you in on some of the rich history that comes out of Aamodts Apple Farm.  

Harry S. Truman was president. The average American family earned $2,950 a year. Gas cost 16 cents a gallon. Just a few years post-World War II, young families were filled with optimism and ambition. It was a great time to start something new. For Thor and Lucille Aamodt, the America Dream meant starting their own family-run apple orchard. They purchased a pretty piece of land near Stillwater, Minnesota, that seemed to have just the right soil and climate for growing crisp, juicy apples. And even then, it was just a short scenic drive from Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Thor and Lucille put everything they had into the apple farm. With some seedling apple trees, a well-thought out plan for planting, help from young son Tom, and a lot of prayers, Aamodt’s Apple Farm was born.

A few decades down the road, Tom and his wife, JoAnn, expanded the farm to include over 6,000 apple trees covering more than 50 acres.

Today, the apple farm is run by the third and fourth generations of Aamodt apple growers. Tom’s son, Chris Aamodt, now runs the orchard, along with his wife Billi Jo and sons Andreas, Christopher and Geoffrey and also daughter Laura.  The youngest Aamodts will help out, too, once they’ve grown a bit.

Sixty-five years and a lot of delicious apples later, the picturesque apple farm still has the appeal that inspired Thor and Lucille.

If you are looking this fall to get out of the house for one last family outing before the weather turns cold, Aamodts is the perfect place to go.  You can explore the historic buildings on the farm, go apple picking and experience a little trip back to a simpler time.  They remain true to the original idea that your trip to the apple orchard should be educational, fun, relaxing—and delicious!