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’’s what’s for dinner.

Christine Schiltz
Owner/Catering Director
Lake Elmo Inn Event Center

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Desserts Desserts Desserts

Even though we’ve probably had our fill during the holidays, let’s talk a bit about sugar. Dessert Stations for wedding receptions have become one of the most popular ways for brides and grooms to express their own personality without disrupting the family traditions that can be expected. Throughout the last ten years, well over half of the wedding receptions we have catered elected not to serve the traditional wedding cake, and have instead decided to use this part of the meal as a way to channel their own individual taste, and have come fun doing it. As with the popular “heavy hors d’oeuvre dinner”, consisting entirely of small portions and hors d’oeuvre displays, desserts have gone down this same path. Guests attending any catered event in recent years have come to appreciate the opportunity to sample small serving of many things, versus a large serving of just one. 

Here at the Event Center, the most popular dessert choice has been our wonderful selection of Mini Desserts created in-house by our Pastry Chef, Joni Marty. We enjoy building individual stations of Mini Desserts, some taking on the personality of the host and the reception decorations. But Mini Desserts are only one of dozens of choices out there already. 

Cupcakes were wildly popular last year. There are a number of bakeries in the Twin Cities that specialize in cupcakes, and many will provide a number of unique display ideas included in the price. If you haven’t recently looked at a cupcake menu, you would be amazed at the choices of flavor combinations, frosting and fillings, and custom decorations that are now offered.

We started seeing Dessert Shooters pop up all over the place a few years ago.  Shooters are served in tiny glasses, not much bigger than a shot glass, and make beautiful displays or can easily be passed butler style. They can consist of many kinds of ingredients, but are typically built with a combination of pie filling, fruit, nuts, flavored crumbs, shaved or chipped chocolate, or other favorite dessert flavors. Technically, a Dessert Shooter can be a sweet, liqueur beverage as well.

How about a S’mores Bar? What better way to bring a family tradition into the spotlight? We’ve had hosts rent small fire pits which we place in the Event Center garden and guests were invited to roast marshmallows together. A buffet table held mason jars full of toppings, cookies and crackers; including things like white chocolate almond bark, extra dark chocolate squares, homemade peanut brittle, and ginger snaps. 

Fill a Candy Station with all your favorites from your childhood. Build a Doughnut or Cookie Display. Frosted shape cookies can be a very creative way to express your individuality. Have multiple cookie jars display the choices. Chocolate Fondues have been popular for decades. Buffets of assorted flavors of Tortes or Tartlets is another option. We have catered a couple of Pie Buffets at outdoor summer wedding receptions and family reunions. Ice Cream Buffets can provide both fun and laughter for adults and children alike. The possibilities area endless.
-Christine Schiltz
Owner/Catering Director
Lake Elmo Inn Event Center

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Samuel Smith Beer Dinner

On Wednesday, January 22nd at 6:00pm we are excited to be hosting The Samuel Smith Beer Dinner at the restaurant.  The cost is $65 per person.  The menu will be as follows...

First Course 

Cream of Brie Soup with Apples & Green Onion 
Served with Organic Cider

Second Course 

Endive & Fried Speck Alto with Walnut vinegar 
Served with Pure Brewed Organic Lager 

Third Course 

Short Rib Ravioli 
Served with Winter Welcome Ale 

Fourth Course 

Veal Scaloppini 
Served with Oatmeal Stout 


Raspberry Cheese Cake 
Served with Organic Chocolate Stout

Here's a bit of history about Samuel Smith and The Old Brewery at Tadcaster. It was founded in 1758 and bears the name of famous local brewer Samuel Smith. It is both the oldest brewery in Yorkshire and the only surviving independent brewery in Tadcaster.
The smallest of the three modern-day Tadcaster breweries, Sam Smith's is one of the few remaining British breweries to employ the traditional Yorkshire Square system in the production of its beers.
Brewing water for ales and stouts is still drawn from the original 85 ft (26 m) well, sunk when the site was established in 1758, and the yeast used in the fermentation process is of a strain that has been used continuously since approximately 1900 - one of the oldest unchanged strains in the country.
In keeping with this sense of history and tradition, the brewery keeps a small team of dapple-grey Shire Horses. Rather than being show horses, they are among the last active dray horses in the world. They deliver beer around the town of Tadcaster five days a week.

We look forward to seeing everyone at this beer dinner.  Space is limited for this event so call the restaurant to reserve your spot 651.777.8495