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At the Bar: Creative Margaritas

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Credit: Blue Plate Catering

 

With Cinco de Mayo approaching, we’ve got margaritas on our mind. Tart, bright and slightly sweet, this classic cocktail is the quintessential patio drink and the perfect pairing to Mexican cuisine. Outside of its traditional recipe: tequila, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed lime or lemon juice served up on on the rocks, margaritas can come in many variations including fruity as well as frozen. The key is to use fresh, quality and even seasonal ingredients.

With the season in mind, our mixologist Lov Carpenter has another creative idea for margaritas that can add a twist to your parties: using fruit flavored ice cubes as part of the drink element. “Fruit ice cubes are a simple, fun, and healthy way to add dimension to your margarita. Simply throw your fresh or frozen fruit into your blender, add a teaspoon of water (add more if needed), blend, then pour into ice cube trays and freeze for about three hours. When ready to serve, place your fruit ice cubes in a glass and pour your margarita over them. As your ice melts, your cocktail will infuse with the flavor of your fruit. Watermelon and strawberry are both refreshing and easy ways to start, but your options are unlimited. Also, try mixing purées to create even more unique flavors.”

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10 Things We Learned at Catersource 2017

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Credit: Catersource 2017

Credit: Catersource 2017

Catersource celebrated its 25th anniversary this year by returning to its roots of New Orleans, Louisiana, a city widely known for its stamp on American gastronomy and culinary influence. As THE industry conference to attend, Catersource is an event we at Blue Plate look forward to every year. Outside of inspiration, it allows us to reconnect with colleagues and peers and the many creative and talented individuals that make this business of hospitality something we truly love.

The Art of Catering Food, the renowned culinary training program, also joined the conference for the first time this year with a three-day culinary immersion school directed by Blue Plate’s Executive Chef Paul Larson, with help from several of our field chefs.

This year we brought five members of our team representing our cross-section of experience across culinary, sales, service and even human resources. Each member participated in several educational sessions addressing topics on human resources, building a strong service team and managing a sales team for peak performance. We also facilitated the show’s first ever education program called “Gather Around the Campfire” that invited participants to a more intimate, speaker-in-the-round setting. Pastry Chef Ashley Harriger’s Fruit Salad Chiboust also received a nomination for Best Dessert.

Below are ten things our team took away. Stay tuned for Catersource 2018 in Vegas!

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Creating a Caterer-Inspired Easter Celebration

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Pla - Double Cut Lamb Chop and Pepper Crusted Ahi Tuna
Rack of Lamb and Pepper-Crusted Tuna, Blue Plate Catering

Chocolate-covered bunnies and brightly dyed eggs come to mind once talk of Easter rolls around. Depending on what side of the American tradition you land, so do rack of lamb and spiraled ham. For many, the holidays offer a special time to gather friends and family around the table to share great food and stories, which means a time to create lasting memories.

At Blue Plate, we design events big or small around the complete experience, knowing that hospitality is in the details. Whether you are planning your Easter celebration as an intimate party of select friends and family or a large gathering, use our expert tips to create an elevated experience.

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In the Kitchen: Ramps

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ramps - in the kitchen food series

Photo credit: Bobbi Bowers/Fresh and Foodie

If there’s one ingredient that can make chefs and food lovers salivate every spring, it’s ramps—the wild onion that’s hard to come by, seasonally brief and the first sign that spring has officially kicked off, ushering in for Chicago the coming of nicer weather and sunny days. Sometimes referred to as a wild leek, they are a pungent cross between an onion and garlic and are slightly sweeter than their counterparts. A common preparation is fresh off the grill, but they shine in a variety of dishes, including omelets, quesadillas or in butter form, a favorite preparation of our Sous Chef, Melissa Chickerneo, who describes the moment she fell in love with the mysterious allium.

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Keep Your Dishes Warm During the Winter

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Winter Food Storage

Whether you love going on winter picnics, or will be traveling a long distance to a potluck in cold weather, it’s important to know how to keep food warm when it’s cold outside.

Here are some great tips for when you’ll be eating outside or traveling with food in the winter months.

How to Keep Food Warm Outdoors

Planning a fun outdoor winter picnic or excursion? You’ll want to pack foods that can be completely assembled in advance, are easy to eat, and – of course – will warm you up. Follow these tips for keeping warm foods warm when you’re outdoors:

Bring foods that you can carry in a travel container, such as a Thermos™. Not only is a Thermos™ extremely portable and easy to eat from, but it also helps keep food warm for quite some time. Chili, macaroni and cheese, and tomato soup are all great foods that will warm you up inside and are ideal for this type of container.

Also use a Thermos™ to carry warm beverages like hot apple cider, hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.

Foil-wrapped foods are also ideal for taking on an outdoor winter outing. Prepare and cook the food at home, wrap the food well in aluminum foil to keep it warm, and toss it in your bag. It’s that simple! Some ideas for foil-wrapped foods are burritos and baked potatoes.

How to Keep Food Warm When Traveling in the Winter

So you’ve made a delicious, crowd-pleasing dish that everyone at the potluck party is going to love. But how are you going to keep your dish warm on a long drive when it’s cold out? Follow these tips, including one for how to keep food warm in a cooler, and your food will still be warm when you arrive!

Just as wrapping food with aluminum foil is great for keeping food warm outdoors, it also works well to keep your pre-cooked food warm and insulated when you’re traveling a distance.

Bring a slow cooker meal. Foods cooked in a slow cooker will remain warm a few hours after this appliance has been unplugged.

Small items that require heat, like dips and soups, can be easily stored in soup canisters. The insulated metal in these containers can keep liquids warm for up to five hours.

 Grab your cooler. Sounds counter-intuitive, right? But the same cooler you use to keep food cold in the summer can also be used to keep food warm in the winter. Wondering just how to keep food hot in a cooler? According to The Daily South, you’ll need to:

  • Wrap solid bricks in heavy-duty foil. Heat them in your oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Line the bottom of the cooler with newspaper or brown paper shopping bags. Place the bricks on top of the lining so they cover the entire bottom of the cooler.
  • Place your food on top of the bricks and then pack the top with insulation.

There you have it. Some really useful tips for keeping food warm in the winter. Now you have no excuse to stay inside. Start planning your next winter adventure now – one that includes bringing food, of course!