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!

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 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’’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