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Catering a City-Wide Event: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

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The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an exciting time of year, especially when you’re the premier catering company that’s feeding it.

For more than 20 years, Blue Plate Catering has been fueling the Bank of America Chicago Marathon with our award-winning catering and services. It is a partnership that is near and dear to our hearts and business highlighting the key of what makes Chicago run — collaboration, relationships and good ole’ Midwestern hospitality.

This year added another “win” for us — our kitchen and crew cranked out an estimated 2,000 assorted breakfast sandwiches, 2,000 bagels, 2,000 muffins and scones, 6,200 pounds of beverages, 70 pounds of coffee, 500 mimosas and 50 fruit trays plus other unique tasting and buffet stations across various tents and spaces; all for nearly 4,000 guests.

From initial planning meetings and coordination with Chicago Event Management, the planning arm of the marathon, to four days of kitchen production and then day-of service, it is a big event for us and one we look forward every year. “We have employees who have worked the marathon for more than 15 years, it is their most coveted event,” says Beth Bracco, vice president of business development. “From our CEO, Jim Horan, to our receptionist, it’s all hands on deck for the marathon; everyone is eager to be there.”

Pulling off large events like the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of our specialties, and each year we go through our own training to make sure the event goes smoothly. Check out our recap of what it takes to be Chicago’s Caterer to one of the most anticipated events of the year.

Find more behind-the-scene and day-of photos at our 2016 Bank of America Marathon Facebook album!

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#MeetUsIntheKitchen — Squash: Fall’s Boundless Ingredient

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Pan Roasted Chicken with Squash | Blue Plate Catering

Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Fall Squash Ragout, Wilted Arugula, Wild Rice and Carrot-Mascarpone Sauce. Photo credit: Blue Plate Catering

Once the smell of fall is officially in the air and we’ve pulled our jackets from their hibernation, our minds turn to fall’s ubiquitous and versatile ingredient: squash. It’s an old friend we are always happy to see here at Blue Plate as its subtle sweetness, mild nuttiness and vibrant colors provide us with a sandbox of inspiration to explore.

 

Types of Squash

While available all year long, (think zucchini or the fun, miniature, pattypan squash), winter squash takes longer to mature and is best harvested once cooler weather sets in. They are typically elongated and pear-shaped, and the most common types include butternut, acorn, banana, delicata, spaghetti squash, kabocha and even pumpkin.

“Kabocha squash have a remarkably sweet and tender flesh with a slightly nutty flavor,” says Blue Plate’s Sous Chef Randall Jacobs. “The dense, smooth, sweet flesh is so tasty that it needs very little fuss in preparation. Roasting or slicing and baking it with a bit of butter or oil and salt are the only ingredients this delicious squash needs. The dense flesh also holds its shape when cooked, even in liquids, which makes it perfect for using as chunks in soups or steamed dishes.”

 

Squash | Blue Plate Catering

Taryn Domingos/Flickr

Squash & Seeds | Blue Plate Catering

Isabelle Boucher/Flickr

Preparation and Storage

If you’ve ever taken a knife to a winter squash you know the task can be daunting; their heartiness doesn’t betray. To protect yourself, Jacobs recommends shaving a flat surface on the bottom so the squash doesn’t wobble when cutting. Alternatively, for thinner skinned squash, he suggests using a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. One favorite technique he prefers is to shave and julienne the squash into fine threads that can then be fried and used as a garnish on main dishes or hors d’oeuvres.

When storing, cool, dark places are squash’s best friend so avoid putting it in the refrigerator whole unless you want to cut ahead of time for prep. Squash with stems will also last longer than squash without if you are lucky to come across a large quantity of them.

 

Common Uses

Squash can be used in a variety of ways like the simple yet silky butternut squash soup to a filling for ravioli, or a holiday favorite, the nostalgic pumpkin pie. 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 is using it on S’mores; the nuttiness and savory aspect works well with marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers.”

Use chef Jacobs’ recipe below for a simple oven roasted kabocha (or other winter squash) to liven up your fall creations. Then share your #MeetUsInTheKitchen inspirations and other fall dishes with us on Instagram at @blueplatechicago.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 each     Kabocha squash
  • 2 Tbsp     Butter
  • 1 each     Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 each     Orange
  • 1 Sprig     Fresh Sage
  • 1 Tsp       Salt
  • ½ Tsp       Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cooking time: Approximately 30 min

Remove the skin from the kabocha and cut into eight quarters, then place the pieces in a bowl. In a saute pan, add butter, a crushed cinnamon stick, an orange peel, and fresh sage. Heat until the butter is melted and the aromatics come together. Once the butter is melted, drizzle it into the bowl with the squash; season with salt and pepper. Place all the ingredients in a pan and cover with plastic and foil (this helps to cut down on the cooking time.) Cook for about 15 minutes, covered. Halfway through the squash cooking process, remove the pan from the oven. Once the pan is removed, turn up the oven to 450. Remove the plastic and foil and roast for an additional 15 minutes or until tender.

 

 

Top Fall Wedding Ideas

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Fall Wedding Ideas | Blue Plate Catering

With the weather often being more comfortable in the fall than in summer, and the beautiful fall foliage that provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor weddings and pictures, it’s no wonder that fall is increasingly becoming the season of choice for weddings.

If you’re planning a fall wedding, get some inspiration from the fall wedding ideas below:

  • Start with a menu that is seasonally inspired. Fall foods provide comfort while taking advantage of the bounty of garden fare that is available. Think of incorporating meats with paired sauces, creamy soups and bisques, and fresh, garden-inspired fare. Add popular fall pies to your dessert selection such as the classic apple pie or a pie featuring your favorite berry.

 

  • Feature a special autumn drinks menu that includes beverages like apple cider mimosas, maple bourbon cocktails, hot toddies, and hot spiked ciders, as well as an array of flavored coffees for after dinner. Our “My Favorite Godfather”  with amaro, scotch and chocolate bitters is the perfect example of creatively layering fall flavors into a unique cocktail experience.
Godfather Cocktail | Blue Plate Catering

Blue Plate Catering

  • Choose rich fall colors to use throughout your décor, such as brick, dark green, cranberry, and charcoal gray to add depth to your wedding décor. Deep jewel tones of amber, emerald, sapphire, and garnet create an exceptionally elegant atmosphere. And, if it suits your style or theme, don’t be afraid to incorporate unanticipated fall colors like light or hot pink.

 

  • Take advantage of the gorgeous scenery and use elements provided by nature in your décor, including twigs, leaves, and flowers. For a lovely color and texture contrast, add fall leaves to your bouquet. Or place a green garland in an entryway for the ceremony for guests to enjoy upon entering.
Tablescapes | Blue Plate Catering

Amy Aiello Photography

  • For a truly romantic fall setting, accent main colors like merlot and rust with shades of cream. Instead of trying to precisely match colors, experiment with different tones and shades within your palette to attain a more authentic look and feel.

 

  • Create an assorted floral tablescape by grouping flowers, such as mustard-yellow ranunculus and pink roses, in clusters. Displayed in clear vases of various heights and sizes, this visual arrangement is colorful, romantic, and dreamy.

 

  • Wheat is another fantastic fall themed wedding decoration option. Create bundles of wheat to use for centerpieces or incorporate wheat into your bouquet — or both! If using in a bouquet, stems of wheat look especially lovely when added to cream and soft pink colored roses. Wrap in burlap, and you have an ideal fall wedding bouquet.

 

When it comes to fall weddings, there is an abundance of creative ideas from seasonally-inspired menus to unique tablescapes to choose from. Using these ideas to spark your imagination, be sure that, in the end, your personal style, taste, and personality shines through!

 

Find more inspiration at our Wedding Inspiration Pinterest Board!

Tailgate Food Ideas You’ll Love

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With football season in full swing, there will be a lot of tailgating taking place, and when it comes to creating a great tailgating menu, variety and ease are the name of the game. whether you’re planning on doing some traditional pre-game tailgating outdoors, or hosting a party in your home, we’ve rounded up some easy and tasty foods that are perfectly suited for such an event.

Chicago Hot Dogs | Blue Plate Catering

Chicago-Style Dogs

Nothing says “authentic Chicago tailgate” like the classic Chicago dog. Allow your guests to create their own hotdog by lining out all the essential ingredients: yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet relish, pickle spears, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers, celery salt, and of course, the poppy seed bun. This is a must for Chicago tailgaters and hot dog lovers alike.

 

Chili

Chili has long been a popular dish for any tailgating party. Not only is it a delicious, satisfying dish, but it’s also easy to make and can be prepared in advance and reheated when needed.

 

Potato Salad

Potato salad is another convenient food that can be prepared ahead of time and, with so many variations on this classic side dish, you can make your own signature version. Look to add seasonal ingredients to change things up or go for a classic version.

 

Quesadillas

Quesadillas are always great to serve a crowd and a tailgate is no exception. The best part about quesadillas are the variety of combinations you can come up with. Stay traditional with cheese, veggies, and grilled chicken or get creative and incorporate some of your favorite ingredients. Feeling adventurous? Try these caramelized onion and blue cheese quesadillas.

 

Chicken Wings

Chicken wings, which can be grilled or baked in the oven are one of the top finger foods around. To provide variety to your guests, there are plenty of tasty sauces you can marinade them in such as buffalo sauce, homemade barbecue sauce, honey barbecue, and more. Try these four delicious options for drizzles for your next tailgate party.

 

Vegetables and Dip

Vegetables and dip are always a crowd favorite and are good to have on hand for vegetarians or those with dietary restrictions. Slice up some fresh, seasonal vegetables for a snack or to have with the main fare. To liven them up, be sure to have some dips such as hummus and spinach dip to accompany them.

 

Dessert

Don’t forget about dessert! These grab-and-go Fried Pies and S’mores Cookie Bars would be a sweet way to end your tailgating party.

 

Serve a variety of food, including some of the suggestions above, and you’ll have something to please all palates. Preparation is key, so make as much as you can in advance and you’ll have a successful tailgating party that you’ll be able to enjoy right alongside everyone else.

Tips for Planning an Employee Appreciation Event

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Employee Appreciation | Blue Plate Catering

It’s always important to recognize your employees on a regular basis, regardless of the reason. What better way to show appreciation than through food! Below are some tips to help you plan this event, whether it will be held at your office or an outside venue.

 

Celebrate Your Employees Through Food

Remember, food helps to set the entire mood for your event and to ensure everyone has a great time. Your food and beverage menu should be a highlight of your event, with menu items complementing your event’s style and/or theme and helping to create the desired atmosphere. For instance, if you’re having a picnic-style celebration, you can design an all-American grill menu. For a beach or luau theme, create a beach or Hawaiian menu.

Carnival-themed events are perfect for showcasing some nostalgic foods that everyone will be entertained by and enjoy, such as cotton candy, candy bars, and snow cones. Arranging to have an ice cream truck or food truck on location is sure to be a welcome surprise!

 

Select a Location and Time

Decide whether your event will be on-site or offsite, during the day or evening, indoors or outdoors. This decision will be easier to make once you have determined the style of your event (e.g. formal or casual), types of food and how it will be served (e.g. a plated, sit-down dinner vs. buffet-style), and any entertainment and activities.

You’ll need to consider lighting options if the event will take place outside during the evening.

 

Set Up Some Games

Incorporate additional fun with games (and perhaps have prizes for winners). You can set up a Guitar Hero game for some light-hearted competition, create teams for a company-themed trivia contest, or, if your event will be in an open area outdoors, have some old-fashioned games like wiffle ball, bocce ball, and a bean bag toss.

 

Provide Awards and Goody Bags

Employee appreciation events are an ideal setting in which to present employee appreciation awards. If presenting awards, have a stage set up for this portion of the event and make certain your sound and lighting rental system can been heard and viewed by everyone. 

You can also give goody bags to each employee as they leave the event, making everyone feel appreciated and included.

If you’re hosting an employee appreciation event in the Chicago area and would like catering services, we’d love to work with you to elevate your employee event into a unique experience. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to discuss your event!