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4 Fall Ingredients To Get Excited About

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The falling leaves and brisk outside air mean swapping summer’s plump strawberries, fresh sweet corn and juicy watermelon for fall’s bag of Brussel Sprouts, winter squashes and fresh apples to name a few. To inspire you, Executive Sous Chef Randal Jacobs gives his picks and tips for working with four of his favorite fall ingredients.

 

Brussels Sprouts

From slow roasted to thinly shaved in a raw salad, Brussel sprouts are the candy to the cabbage family. “Brussel sprouts are always a go-to fall menu item whether in a salad or simply roasted. We love their bold flavors.” Their peak growing season is September to February and they are best when the leaves are compact and the sprout is hard.

Kitchen Tip: Chef Jacobs recommends pairing them with bold flavors like smoked bacon or Bleu cheese.

 

Mushrooms

Like cilantro, mushrooms often find themselves in the camp of those who love them or those who hate them. Earthy and distinctive, they add savory and umami notes to a dish or can replace the protein, making them perfect substitutions for vegetarian options. “Some of my favorite fungus like Matsutake, Porcini and Chanterelles are regularly available in the fall, when temperatures are lower,” says Jacobs. “Any kind of mushroom you find can be easily made into a flavorful Mushroom Conserva.”

Kitchen Tip: When cleaning mushrooms, you should always clean off any dirt that remains on the mushroom says Jacobs. When cleaning a Matsutake or Porcini mushroom, take a dry or slightly damp paper towel, rather than rinsing them like you would a chanterelle.

 

Pears

Although never as popular as the grand apple, the pear is a trusty sidekick and great fall ingredient to add to salads or pair with proteins. “I think pears are enormously underrated as an everyday ingredient. Pears can be roasted, grilled and even dehydrated.” Pears vary in color depending on the variety, from green-yellow Comice and pink-blushed Bartletts to pebbly copper-brown Boscs.

Kitchen Tip: Choose pears that are firm with no soft spots or blemishes. Chef Jacobs likes to pick pears when they are a little hard and let them ripen on the counter till they are sugary sweet.

 

Butternut Squash

If we say squash and you think of silky Butternut Squash soup, we can easily be kitchen friends. For chef Jacobs, his preferred and easy preparation is oven roasted. “Once the squash is cooked and tender, it can be used for many different applications. The cooked squash can be cut up and put into salads, or pureed and turned into a sauce or soup.” One application that is unique and fun says Jacobs is using squash on S’mores — “the nuttiness and savory aspect work well with marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers.”

Kitchen Tip: To protect yourself when cutting one, Jacobs recommends shaving a flat surface on the bottom so the squash doesn’t wobble. Alternatively, for thinner skinned squash, he suggests using a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.

What fall ingredients are you cooking with? Share your #InTheKitchen inspirations with us on Instagram at @blueplatechicago.

Fuel Up for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon

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Chicago Marathon

photo credit: Tristan Zeier

The 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon is almost here, and as one of the city’s biggest events, it is also one of our most exciting. We’ve been proud to be on the frontline as the exclusive caterer for more than 25 years sharing our food with the runners, their families, and the many people that dedicate their time to this world-class event. This year, the marathon is extra special as it celebrates its 40th anniversary: as it grows, we have grown with it!

If you are heading out to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon next Sunday, try our tips for fueling up. See you at the finish line!

Ramp Up On the Carbs

Pasta lover’s rejoice. It is a common recommendation to eat pasta or carb-heavy meals leading up to a rigorous event such as a marathon. According to LiveScience, the body uses the molecules from carbs to produce glucose which can be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen (aka energy) for future use.

To get your pasta fix, visit our sister restaurant, tesori trattoria & bar for homemade bolognese lasagna or head over to Park Grill in Millennium Park for their annual pre-race Pasta Dinner.

Related: With fall ingredients now here, squash is a great addition to pasta or even a replacement for noodles! Read our chef tips for use and a recipe for roasting.

lasagna-2 (2)

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Going into a marathon properly hydrated is important for both performance as well as safety from dehydration, It’s also something you can’t just do the day of. Take the monotony out of these last few days before the marathon with a catering tip: infuse your water with fresh fruit and herbs such as mint, fruit such as strawberries and watermelon and even cucumbers. The fruit may even have the benefit of adding natural sugars that can help performance. For additional flavor without extra sugar, you can also freeze 100 percent fruit juice into ice cube trays and add them to your water glass.

Swap Fiber for Fresh Fruit

Eating fiber is good for you, but before a marathon, you may want to hold off on your bran cereal and swap it for bananas which provide both carbohydrates and low fiber benefits according to Runner’s World. Other fruits such as apples without the peels are other good options for low-fiber midday snacks. Take a tip from our kitchen and pre-slice fruit for the week so that it’s easy to grab.

Dive into a Post-Run Feast

After running 26 miles, you’ll need to refuel fast to start to repair the body. It is suggested to eat within 30 minutes after a race where the body can best convert carbohydrates and proteins. This is where our classic Marathon breakfast and lunch gets the medal. Complete with made-to-order omelettes, classic and healthy breakfast stations, fresh, seasonal salads, plus, plenty of sweet treats of course, it is truly a feast.

Preview photos of last year’s marathon, and good luck to everyone participating!

How to Throw The Perfect Holiday Bash

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Holiday Party Desserts

With summer parties out the way and the official arrival of fall, for many, it’s holiday party planning time. Although it can be one of the most exciting times of the year, getting there can be a stressor. Myriad questions arise, such as, how do I throw a unique event? Where will it be? What should I serve to satisfy diverse appetites? What should I do for entertainment? Are tacos still the rage? (P.S. Yes, tacos will always be the rage.)

Want to get straight to it? Pick from our already curated holiday options using our Seasons of Celebration menus complete with special cocktail pairings.

 

1. Start Planning Early

Repeat after us: it’s never too early to start planning for your corporate holiday party. And an in-the-know caterer can be the only resource you need when planning your holiday party. From guidance and access to venue selection, help with budgetary considerations, planning around diverse group needs and connecting with other vendors, your caterer can do more than just provide amazing food and beverage. For many of our clients, we become their best friend as we guide them through the process from start to finish.

2. Pick a Venue

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At the Bar: New Fall & Winter Cocktails

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With summer officially out, it’s time for fall cocktails, which means bringing back darker spirits (hi, whiskey!) and seasonal ingredients. Our in-house mixologist recently revealed her new fall/winter cocktails and the results are delicious.

“For this menu, I wanted to go back to the classics: simple and refined, while still incorporating bold, seasonal flavors. Nearly every cocktail on this menu is a riff on a standard – a mule, French 75, an Old Fashioned, and even a vodka tonic — each infused with strong spice, herb, tart, or savory notes. As we drift into colder months, we tend to gravitate towards warming drinks, and I wanted to create a feeling of warmth without using heat. You’ll find a variety of baking spices and smoky flavors, as well as ingredients that are reminiscent of winter holidays and snowy nights.”

Cocktails for holiday parties

Wiz Kid

An improved vodka tonic, incorporating smoke and spice. “I love the combination of sage and anything smoky; the charred lime juice with a hint of smoked chili creates a cocktail that’s both well-rounded and light.”

 

Cocktails for holiday parties

Red Wall

Toasted walnut green tea and cranberry bitters come together to create a tart and refreshing cocktail.

Cocktails for holiday parties

Paired Together

A take on a mule — a zesty and versatile drink, great for anything from tailgating to cocktail parties.

Cocktails for holiday parties

75 Thymes

An herbaceous variation on the classic French 75.

Cocktails for holiday parties

And Another One

Here the standard Old Fashioned is made warmer and more inviting with chocolate-based mole and everyone’s fall favorite: pumpkin spice.

5-Last Moment

Last Moment

Spicy tequila blends with cranberry juniper syrup and citrus bitters for a unique yet tart bite.

Cocktails for holiday parties

A New City

The beloved Manhattan is made new with a variety of familiar and exotic spices.

Cocktails for holiday parties

Rubies In Glass

Pomegranate meets savory rosemary to create a slightly botanic cocktail; finished with sparkling wine, it’s the perfect drink for a holiday gathering.

10 Ways to Use a Caterer (That’s Not for a Wedding)

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Weddings typically take the main stage when thinking about collaborating with a caterer, but the many ways to work with one span from the smallest, intimate gathering to large-scale, city-wide events; if there’s food involved, rest assured, a good caterer can do it. “Outside of food, our caterer can always direct you with budgetary concerns, dealing with groups, wording on invitations, connecting with other vendors, event budgets, flow, menus, etiquette…it’s what we do,” says Senior Sales Consultant, Rachel Razowsky. Large or small and anything in between, we can do it all. Read more below on 10 Ways to Use a Caterer (That’s Not for a Wedding).

1. Corporate Events

Caterers in Chicago
Caterers in Chicago

2016 Relativity Fest at The Field Museum of Natural History; Photo Credit: Blue Plate Catering

Our capacity for large-scale events makes us a go-to for the many corporate events throughout Chicagoland. Last year, Blue Plate helped kCura, recently rebranded as Relativity, celebrate its annual Relativity Fest conference with a networking bash at The Field Museum in collaboration with long-time, décor partner HMR Designs. This year, we helped Relativity roll out the company’s rebrand at their Summer Jam employee outing at Northerly Island with a special branded donut wall.

 

2. Award Parties/Galas

Chicago Innovation Awards
Chicago Innovation Awards

2016 Chicago Innovation Un-Gala at Morgan Manufacturing; Photo credit: Sean Su of SpotMyPhotos

Outside of great food and exceptional service, a caterer can also be a terrific resource for elevating an event theme. For the 2016 Chicago Innovation Un-Gala honoring celebrity chef Rick Bayless, our team took inspiration from the theme of reinvention and Bayless’ culinary contributions to Mexican cuisine. We created a unique, 3-course menu using signature ingredients that embody Bayless’ culinary perspective and style. Dishes like Sweet Corn Polenta Ravioli and Sweet Tamale wove a delightful Mexican-themed, thread and provided a visual stunner for quests.

 

3. Holiday Parties

Holiday Party Planning Ideas
Holiday Party Planning Ideas

Right: 2016 Crate & Barrel Holiday Party at Venue One North Shore, Photo Credit: Collin Pierson Photography; Left: Neopolitan Milkshakes; Photo Credit Blue Plate Catering

Holiday parties, whether social or corporate, are the perfect time to kick back and celebrate with family, friends and co-workers. And, the Blue Plate treatment can make it THE party of the year for your circle of friends or organization. With exclusive access to more than 85 venues around Chicago, including this year’s premiere SNL Exhibit at Museum of Broadcast Communications, and custom-created menus, our event planning team can take the guesswork out of throwing a holiday bash.

4. Social Gatherings

Larkin Hall, Blue Plate Catering
Larkin Hall, Blue Plate Catering

Intimate Birthday Party at Larkin Hall, new home of Blue Plate Catering, Photo Credit: Juancho SC Photography

Event the most intimate events can leave a lasting impression when set in the right space with the right details. Our new home, Larkin Hall in the West Loop Fulton Market District is the perfect venue for throwing a stellar birthday party, celebrating a wedding anniversary, or hosting an employee happy hour, all with a view of downtown from our second-floor terrace. Read more about our available venue spaces and what’s coming down the road.

 

5. Delivery/Business Meetings

lunch delivery in Chicago
lunch delivery in Chicago

Right: NeoCon 2017 at Merchandise Mart; Photo Credit: Blue Plate Catering; Left: HMR and Blue Plate Catering at Dahlia Farm; Photo Credit: Kent Drake

Did you know our award-winning catering is also available via delivery with our DIRECT from Blue Plate program. Imagine lunch meetings with specially packaged boxed lunches, ready-made buffets, morning presentations with fresh pastries, coffee and hand-held sandwiches or specialty snack packages for an afternoon refuel. Not only does DIRECT give employees something to talk about, it eliminates the hassle of focusing on food when you need to focus on other things. A dedicated customer and delivery team can guide you through creating a seamless drop-off program complete with all disposables that fits any of your in-office needs. 

 

6. Boats/Outdoor Events

Catering in Chicago
Catering in Chicago

Left: HMR and Blue Plate Catering at Dahlia Farm; Photo Credit: Kent Drake Photography; Right: Ft. Dearborn; Photo Credit: Chicagoline Cruises

Our chefs don’t need a professional kitchen to bring your event to life (we have magic tricks!). If you can dream it, we can do it. From classic farm-to-table events, to seafood-inspired Low Country Boils, to a summer boat cruise down Lake Michigan or the Chicago River replete with fancy hor d’oeurves and Champagne, the outdoors offer a creative way to engage guests without the confines of four walls. Passed hors d’oeuvres and Champagne are a big hit on boats as well as cheese and charcuterie platters, giving an event the “cocktail/fancy” feel without the fancy budget.

7. Chef Collaborations

Guests attend Dinner en Blanc, a communal picnic in which attendees wear all white, in Chicago, IL on Thursday August 24, 2017. Photographer: Christopher Dilts / Sipa USA
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Left: Diner en Blanc 2017 in collaboration with Chef Cleetus Friedman at Theater on the Lake; Right:  2017 Mastercard Priceless Dinner with James Beard Guest Chef Sarah Grueneberg at Symphony Center.

Throughout the year, we get the honor to collaborate with many of the city’s known chefs on special menus and occasions including working side-by-side with James Beard award-winning chef, Sarah Grueneberg, for a special MasterCard event at Symphony Center this summer and Cleetus Friedman for the 2017 Dîner en Blanc at Theater on the Lake.

 

8. City-Wide Events

Chicago Marathon
Chicago Marathon

2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon; Photo Credit: Tristan Zeier

Feeding a city takes a lot of resources and time, and our involvement as an exclusive caterer for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for more than 25 years is something we get excited about every fall. Last year we fed almost 4,000 guests our award-winning catering, and this year we anticipate more for the 40th anniversary.

9. Product Launches

Chicago Woman Magazine
Chicago Woman Magazine

Chicago Woman Magazine September/October 2017 Issue Launch; Photo Credit: Blue Plate Catering

Using a caterer for a brand or product launch is a great way to create buzz and excitement for your company. Last month, we hosted more than 100 of Chicago Woman magazine’s friends and network in our Terrace Room at Larkin Hall for the launch of their September/October fall issue and their second-year anniversary. Our space lends itself to various action stations and passed hors d’oeuvres, and our built-in bar makes it easy for in-house mixologist, Lov Carpenter, to shake up crafty cocktails.

 

10. Customized Menus

Caterers in Chicago
Caterers in Chicago

Photo Credit: Blue Plate Catering

Customization isn’t usually equated with catering but it’s one of the biggest benefits you get when working with Blue Plate. Whether it’s a special themed event to match your specific tastes, recreating your grandma’s pie recipe for 100 people, or designing a whole menu for a group with special dietary restrictions, our talented culinary team can literally do anything.

 

Contact our sales concierge team to talk about your special event and foodservice needs.