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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!

 

Pair Your Favorite Winter Foods with the Right Beer

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Winter Beer Pairings

Some of you may be well aware that wine isn’t the only beverage that pairs wonderfully with food. And some of you may be surprised to discover that beer also serves to greatly enhance a meal.

Whether you’re a veteran or novice when it comes to beer and food pairings, you’re sure to appreciate the tips and suggestions below for pairing delicious winter foods with the right beer.

Tips for Pairing Beer and Food

When the cold weather moves in, strong beers like barley wines, imperial stouts and monk-made Belgian ales are excellent choices for pairing with both savory, hearty dishes and sweet desserts. As a general guideline, you’ll want to determine if the beer and food flavors will complement or contrast one another. Then balance the intensity of both the beer and food.

Here are some additional tips to help you come up with the perfect pairing:

  • Sour beers work well with fatty cheeses

  • Hoppy beers tend to make foods seem spicier

  • Darker beers typically pair well with rich, heavy meals

  • Complementary flavors work well together. For example, brown ales/darker ales with roasted flavors go well with grilled foods that have similar roasted or smoked flavors.

  • Contrasting flavors also work well together, such as a sweet stout with a salty oyster dish.

  • It’s very important to match the intensity of the beer with that of the food. Otherwise, one will end up overwhelming the other.

Great Beer and Food Pairing Suggestions for Winter

Try some of these winter beer and food pairings, recommended by Epicurious.

  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale pairs well with blue cheese or a nutty pastry, like pecan pie. Contrary to its name, this barley “wine” doesn’t contain any grapes. However, it does have an elevated alcohol content, making it a strong and warming ale that’s perfect for winter.

  • Brauerei Aying Ayinger Celebrator, with flavors of cocoa, dark fruit, and brown sugar, pairs beautifully with roasted pork and chocolate desserts. This strong, malt-sweet lager was originally developed by German monks for consumption during Lent.

  • Stone Brewing Co. Imperial Russian Stout has flavors of coffee, anise, and cocoa, making it a great partner for brownies and other fudgy desserts, as well as duck, steak, and cream sauces.

Try out one or more of these pairings – or come up with your own – and let us know your thoughts! If you have any other tips for winter beer and food pairings, we’d love to hear them.