Tuesday, July 29, 2014

“LOVE . . . exciting and new.”

Nothing makes John and I feel more proud than when people share their stories about getting engaged at our restaurant or that we helped make their wedding day so memorable. To know we can make those special occasions even more memorable is what makes our job so fulfilling. And we take that job very seriously.

At the Event Center this spring, we’ve created stunning new gardens designed with wedding ceremonies in mind to enhance your experience with us even more. Many new places have  been created on the property that can make delightful photo opportunities for couples, portraits, and large family pictures. With the addition of a beautiful cedar pergola, the gardens have been taken to a whole new level. Traditional “wedding” flowers have been added, including peonies, iris, roses, and lots of hydrangeas. In the center of your ceremony is a calming water feature. Lovely backdrops have been created in every direction you look. Additional design features will be added to the building throughout the summer. You will delight at the new surprises every time you stop by to look around.

If you are searching for a special location that provides easy wedding ceremonies at your reception site at no extra charge, then stop on by to see what we can offer you. You’ll always receive complimentary full coordinating services, on-site ceremony at no additional charge, onsite photo opportunities, full set-up and clean up is always included, full service dining in any style you wish, and all the extras you’ve come to expect from the Lake Elmo Inn Event Center. Not to mention, of course, our feature offering: the flavorful dining experience. The Event Center was designed with special occasions in mind, so all the little comforts are there for you: privacy suite; AV equipment, personalized announcements and greetings; lounge furnishings; and much more. Visit our website for helpful wedding planning information or call our Event Coordinators, Elaine and Cheryl, who have many years of experience planning weddings; and they love what they do. Full menu selections and pricing are available online at www.LakeElmoInn.com for your convenience, but a custom menu just for you is what we love to do.

Every person at our company is focused on helping you create the best wedding experience possible for you, your family and friends. Come back to the Event Center and see what we’ve done.

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Fine Art of Grilling

When spring finally arrives, our noses can pick up the smell of a barbecue from a mile away. It reminds us of the warm, sunny days ahead and lazy evenings enjoyed in the backyard with friends and family. With some creativity and planning, you can cook just about everything you serve up at your next barbecue, from the first course to the last,right from your grill.

Start with the appetizers. Cut baguettes into 3/4 inch slices, brush with olive oil and grill until slightly crisp. Serve with chilled bruschetta. Pair this refreshing dish with grilled shrimp. Clean some large shrimp, shelled and deveined, and place them on a metal skewer, alternating with chunks of pineapple. Place on the grill, brush the shrimp with sweet chili garlic sauce, turning frequently until the shrimp is cooked through. Serve immediately with your bruschetta while your guests watch you begin the next course.

Next grill your salad. That’s right, salad on the grill. Use romaine hearts cut in half, leaving the end on so it stays together. Brush with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Grill 1 to 2 minutes on the cut side on high heat. Serve whole or chop into a salad bowl.

One of the biggest challenges everyone seems to have is cooking a good steak on the grill. Too often they end up dry and lifeless. Most importantly, you need to start with a good piece of meat and a grill that has controllable heat. If you are using charcoal, arrange the coals so one side of your grill is much hotter than the other. Use high heat initially because you want nice grill marks on your finished product and to sear the outside of the meat, holding in the moisture. Season no more than 15 minutes before placing it on the grill, as salt pulls out the moisture and can dry out your entree. Also, bringing the steak close to room temperature before grilling helps it cook faster and more evenly. Be consistent and cook each side about the same amount of time. Watch the edges as you cook. You can see as the product cooks through. To ensure you have a medium to medium-rare steak, insert a thermometer and remove the steak when in reaches 125 to 130 degrees. Here’s a little trick to help you gauge how well-cooked your steak is just like the chefs do: Touch your thumb and your index finger together in the “OK” sign, and then press the fleshly part of your palm right below the thumb with your other hand. Feel how soft that is? That is the way a rare steak feels when you press it. Now touch your other fingers to your thumb, one at a time. As you move from your index finger to your pinky, the pad of your thumb will get progressively more firm. This is similar to how a steak feels: medium-rare (middle finger), to medium (ring finger) to well-done (pinky). Try it. Before serving your steak, let it rest for about 10 minutes after you remove it from the grill so the moisture will redistribute throughout the meat. Set a bit of butter to melt on top. Yum!

 Once your steaks are cooked, start your vegetables. Brush all with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. On the sliced zucchini, sprinkle with garlic salt; for the large mushroom slices, add Calgary steak seasoning; with asparagus, use lemon pepper; onion rings are great with cajun seasoning; and yellow squash with cinnamon sugar is delicious. Grill for about 5 minutes on each side on lower heat. Arrange them on a tray for guests to help themselves.

My husband recently dazzled everyone at our party by grilling the peaches. He cut them in quarters and grilled them for about 5 minutes. Then he placed them still warm on vanilla ice cream. They were incredible and so unexpected. It is a great way to end a fine summer evening.

So, as you can see, you can serve one grilled course or grill all four. Either way you will enjoy a wonderful outdoor dining experience on a fine Minnesota evening.

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hors d’oeuvres and Weddings, it’s what’s for dinner.

It is no surprise that today’s recently engaged couples are sophisticated individuals who expect their wedding not only to be memorable, but one that will reflect their personality and incorporate their individual tastes. At one time, wedding receptions were limited to the imagination of the couple and what others were doing around them. With the help of the internet, planning a wedding today offers limitless possibilities and has caused a virtual explosion of activity in the wedding industry. Today one can visit thousands of websites to access information, ideas and photos that will help define their wedding day. With this freedom, ideas began to take shape that would encourage wedding professionals to customize experiences for their clients.

One of the ways couples have altered their reception to make it unique is by dramatically changing the dining experience. Over the last decade, it is more and more common to see receptions move away from the traditional plated dinner, and offer instead a complete dining experience consisting entirely of extravagant food displays, action stations, and combinations of both passed and buffet style hors d’oeuvres. It is not unusual to see a Chef on the floor of a reception, making a show of their talents at food preparation, entertaining the guests. Guests, in turn, can sample dozens of foods instead of dining on larger portions of a few items. Hors d’oeuvres have taken on a whole new life of their own.

Serving hors d’oeuvres is also a way to bring out the individual tastes of the couples and their families in ways one never imagined before. When it once would have been unheard of to serve an old comfort food such as tomato soup and grilled cheese at a formal reception, now we can create a little 4 oz. mug of soup and a triangle of grilled cheese perched on top calling it a Tomato Soup Shooter. When passed throughout the guests at a fall or winter gathering, they delight that such a simple food is being served and greatly enjoy the memories it evokes. But at the same time it feels fun and sophisticated. One of the challenges any caterer has is to discover what is meaningful to their clients and create foods that represent their lifestyle and who they are today.

Hors d’oeuvre dining brings about a whole new experience for the guest as well, moving away from sitting in the same place most of the evening to an open floor plan which allows guests to move about and mingle, possibly changing where they’re sitting several times throughout the evening. It actually encourages interaction and conversation. This type of dining is more than a dining experience, making it fun to leisurely approach multiple food stations and delight in both seeing and sampling the different foods offered at each particular display.

There are many popular displays that have been created; for instance, cold stations which may offer a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, olives, cheeses, sushi, shrimp and crab claws - the possibilities are endless. Small plates are used so guests feel free to approach the stations more than once if they’d like, and are comfortable eating either seated or standing. Whole displays created with tiny, individual servings are popular. Raw vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks, take on a whole new meaning when served in a small votive cup with a garden ranch dip, or sampling a tiny martini glass filled with fresh fruit with a honey essence or a festival salad using a tiny fork. How about a large clear display of sushi with live goldfish swimming inside to delight the senses? Or even an assortment of sweets that are impossible to resist, such as mini desserts or a candy station.

Action stations are now commonly used, such as a Pasta Bar, Carving Station, or an interactive Small Plate Station, in which complete meals are served on a small plate. You could offer four different meals on a little 4 x 4” plate instead of one large meal. These can be tiny portions of anything from Roasted Duck with Minnesota Wild Rice and Green Beans to Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Corn. You may even enjoy a Sautéed Sea Scallop on a bed of Asparagus Risotto.

Be sure to include some butler passed items just for fun. How about an Asian Chicken Meatball covered with Pop Rocks? They always make people laugh at the unexpected sensation. A Potato Crusted Sunfish Slider with a Lemon Aioli is so tasty and seems to be loved by all who are native to this area. Mini Chicago Hot Dogs - at a wedding reception?! Why not?!

As our dining experiences continue to become more sophisticated and lean toward the unexpected, there is no limit as to what you’ll see out there tomorrow. Not only for wedding receptions but for any party, choose hors d’oeuvres...it’s what’s for dinner.

Christine Schiltz
Owner/Catering Director
Lake Elmo Inn Event Center