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Impressive Holiday Hosting: How to Host a Spectacular Holiday Event

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The holidays are here! Each year, December and January are chock full of happy hours with coworkers, special dinners, and festive gatherings to mark the holiday season. If you’re planning a party of your own, here’s how to stand out from the crowd with creative, yet simple ideas to entice your guests.

 

Food: A global twist on a favorite

Holiday parties are a chance to spice things up. Our executive sous chef, Randal Jacobs, puts a worldly Christmas spin on an iconic, American hors d’oeuvre–the deviled egg. This creamy, half-moon treat actually traces its roots back to ancient Rome. Who knew?? Serve the traditional deviled delicacy alongside our four versions below with flavors from around the world. We’ll get your culinary juices flowing with a full recipe for one of the four variations on the holiday favorite.

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  • The Irish Devil with whole-grain-mustard-infused yolk with potato, bacon and chives.
  • Russian Deviled Egg, a red-beet-soaked egg with caviar and dill
  • Greek Deviled Egg with pesto, feta cheese and kalamata olives
  • Italian Deviled Egg with white-truffle-oil-infused yolk and prosciutto

 

Beverages: Iced and cozy options

Perfectly crafted, timeless cocktails, such as martinis and old fashioneds are always welcome at a party. But what about shaking things up a little with a wine cocktail? Check out these recipes from our mixologist, Lov Carpenter.

 

Wise Cabbie

1.5 oz cabernet sauvignon

0.5 oz pomegranate juice

0.25 oz lemon juice

0.25 oz sage syrup

 

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into martini glass, garnish with sage sprig.

 

Oak and Stars

1.5 oz Merlot

0.75 oz bourbon

0.25 oz anise syrup

0.25 oz lemon juice

Whole cranberries

 

Muddle 4-5 cranberries with anise syrup. Add Merlot, bourbon, and lemon juice; shake with ice. Strain into old fashioned glass, add ice, garnish with speared cranberries and anise star.

 

Is the latest polar vortex chilling guests? Warm them up with a cozy, tea-infused beverage.

 

Ginger & Roy

1.5 oz brewed Rare Tea Cellar Gingerbread Dream rooibos tea

.5 oz Amaro Nonino

.25 oz Grand Marnier

Nutmeg-infused whipped cream

 

Brew tea, then add amaro and Grand Marnier. Top with whipped cream. To make whipped cream, prepare with bowl and whisk or combine heavy whipping cream and ground nutmeg in a shaker tin, add spring from strainer, shake vigorously.

 

Decor: Keep it simple and festive

  • Twinkle lights are a holiday season staple, but they’re not just for shrubs and light posts. Bring them inside your space and string white twinkle lights over the bar, buffet or dance floor to set the mood.
  • Purchase simple, yet festive greenery and berries from a wholesale flower market to dress up the bar, dinner table, or buffet. And don’t forget the mistletoe!
  • Invite guests to bring a holiday photo, decoration or stocking from their childhood and display them on the fireplace or above the bar. The most original memorabilia takes home a bottle of wine!

 

Music: Conversation backdrop or dance party?

First, ask yourself if your gathering will be more of the mix-and-mingle sort or if you expect guests to eventually hit the dance floor. Next, choose a band or a playlist. Yes! You’ve heard of bands instead of DJs at weddings, but what about live music at your holiday party? Depending on the mood you want to set, ask a trio of high school, college, or professional musicians to play at your cocktail party. If you want something a little more casual, invite a guitarist/vocalist to play holiday tunes and take requests. If you’re on a budget or crave the crooning of original artists, create a playlist so that you can easily select and organize songs to set the perfect backdrop for conversations all the way up to spirited spinning and twisting on the living room floor.

 

Activities: Ornament decoration or gift exchange

If your guests are the interactive, creative sort, designate an ornament- or cookie-decorating station. If children are in tow, set up a space for activities and crafts that will keep them engaged (err… occupied). Play-doh® (if you can stomach the cleanup) and Lego® building blocks are always a favorite among kids of any age. So set aside an area where young guests can create holiday sculptures, buildings and scenes so that parents don’t have to worry about bored kids. A viewing area for holiday movies completes the activities area.
Happy holiday party planning!

Entertaining Food: How Food Can Bring Your Party To Life

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When it comes to party planning, food is more than just a meal; it’s part of the entertainment! Interactive food stations are not only fun, they can also serve as inspiration for the party’s décor so that the entire event has a cohesive feel. The best part is, themed food stations allow guests to interact with chefs, mixologists, and other food specialists to learn about the food and see it made right in front of their eyes.

Whether you’re planning a wedding, holiday party, or corporate event, check out this infographic from Blue Plate Chicago to see how you can make food part of the entertainment at your next party!

Food As Entertainment Infographic | Blue Plate Catering

Like this Infographic? Feel free to copy this code and put it on your own site.

#MeetUsInTheKitchen: Pound Cake Four Ways This Holiday Season

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The holiday season brings memories of crackling fireplaces, social and family gatherings and freshly baked goods coming from the heart of the home — the kitchen. Pound cake, a perennial, crowd-pleaser, is an easy recipe that offers the novice or seasoned baker with a canvas for whatever inspiration that can be imagined. Here, Chef Randall Jacobs offers four unique recipes for pound cake to add festivity to your holiday celebrations. Make sure to share your #MeetUsInTheKitchen moments with us on Instagram at @blueplatechicago.

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Recipe #1: Pound Cake

For the pound cake:

¼ cup vegetable shortening

1 stick of butter

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

½ cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tbs fresh lemon juice

1-2 tbs milk

Preheat oven to 325° F and grease pan with butter. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. With a mixer, cream the butter and shortening together then gradually add the sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture after each addition. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk to the mixture, starting with the flour mix and ending with the flour mix. Add the vanilla. Pour into a greased pan and bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from pan and finish cooling on the rack. When the cake is completely cool, prepare the icing by whisking together all the ingredients. Pour over the top of the cake and let sit until the icing has completely dried.

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Recipe #2: Cranberry and White Chocolate Pound Cake

Follow recipe and method above for plain pound cake, then add the following ingredients as directed.

 

1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries

1.5 cups white chocolate chips (divided)

1 cup dried cranberries

 

After folding the flour mixture into the egg/sugar mixture, add fresh or frozen cranberries and six ounces of white chocolate chips to the batter. Right after the glaze has been drizzled onto the pound cake, top it with the dried cranberries and the remaining white chocolate chips.

 

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Recipe #3: Harvest Pound Cake with Caramel Glaze

Follow recipe and method above for plain pound cake, then add the following ingredients as directed.

 

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 medium Granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup walnuts

 

Add the ground cinnamon and nutmeg into the sifted flour and baking soda. Add the apples and walnuts into the finished batter.

 

Caramel Glaze

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Make the sauce by heating the butter, milk and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then remove from heat. Drizzle over the cake.

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Recipe #4: Bourbon Soaked Dried Fruit Pound Cake

Follow recipe and method above for plain pound cake, then add the following ingredients as directed.

 

1/2 cup dried diced apricots

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup dried currants

1/2 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup bourbon

 

One Day Before Baking:

In a large airtight container or Ziplock bag, soak all dried fruits in the bourbon. Marinate overnight, turning fruit frequently to ensure it is evenly marinated. Drain off bourbon from the dried fruits and coat with one tablespoon of flour; this prevents the fruit from falling to the bottom of the pan while cooking. Fold the fruit into the batter. Bake as directed above.

 

For an additional spin to your pound cake recipes, heat things up by substituting the icing for a bourbon syrup.

Bourbon Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon maple extract

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

3 tablespoons bourbon  

 

In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Add butter, vanilla, and bourbon. Cook until syrupy, about 5 minutes.

 

Our In the Kitchen Tips:

  • Fun Gifting: Wrap individual baked loaves in kraft paper and tie with cooking twine attached to a small note care for a fun gift presentation.
  • Holiday Parties: instead of the usual holiday spread, set-up tasting stations in your kitchen of various small bites. Include a pound cake station with the various recipes; add beer and wine drink pairings to liven it up.
  • Make Ahead: Bake your cakes ahead of your celebrations minus any glaze and freeze by wrapping it in plastic wrap and foil then sealing in a separate bag. Once ready to serve, pull out to thaw and glaze with your favorite topping.

 

Happy holidays!

Making a Caterer-Approved Thanksgiving Spread

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Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Whether this will be your first time having the honor of entertaining loved ones on this special day or you’ve been doing so for years, it can be…well…stressful.

Use some of the caterer approved tips to help take some of the pressure off by helping you put together a Thanksgiving spread that you’ll have fun putting together.

Planning Your Menu

Just because you are hosting Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to make every single dish yourself (and we don’t advise that you do). Figure out what parts of the meal you really love preparing and focus on only making those key dishes. For everything else, delegate.

For example, if you love making turkey but don’t exactly love baking, ask guests to bring dessert or order pies from your local bakery. What if your specialty is in creating savory side dishes but the mere thought of making the turkey causes you anxiety? We promise no one will mind if you order a turkey! And if you’d like some dishes catered, consider reaching out to your local caterer or a restaurant to see if they can work with your needs.

Mix it Up

While a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with sides like mashed potatoes and green bean casserole is always wonderful, don’t feel like you are required to be married to this type of menu. Feel free to mix it up by serving a combination of classic dishes or you can try bringing in unique fall flavors with roasted squash or some of our favorite fall comfort dishes.

Think about your guests and what you know they truly enjoy. Then see how you can incorporate their tastes and preferences into your menu.

Plan Like a Caterer

Read through all your recipes in advance to be sure you have everything you need and understand how long everything will take to make. Then determine what can be prepped and made ahead of time and what dishes can share the oven or stove so that you don’t leave everything for the day-of.

Do as much as you can before Thanksgiving, such as making desserts and appetizers, chopping vegetables, and, of course, thawing the turkey.

A general rule for a 12-16 pound turkey is to thaw for 3-4 days, 16-20 pounds: 4-5 days and 20-24 pounds: 5-6 days.

Keep Appetizers Simple

Simple dishes like artisan cheese plates, stuffed olives, and fresh vegetables served with hummus for dipping are quick to put together, look lovely, and – most importantly – are both easy to eat and tasty.

Be sure to have appetizers (and beverages) ready to go when guests arrive. It will give them a chance to mingle while keeping their hunger at bay and allow you to calmly put the finishing touches on everything.

Be Prepared to Send Guests Home With Leftovers

Don’t forget to have containers ready for packing up leftovers to send with your guests on their way out. Not only will guests feel cared for, but you won’t be stuck having to eat turkey for the next week!

For additional Thanksgiving Day inspirations, check us out on Instagram at @blueplatechicago.

Happy Thanksgiving from Blue Plate Catering!

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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