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How to Throw The Perfect Holiday Bash

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

Nothing can be more nightmarish than having grandiose visions for your holiday party and then having to settle for a less-than-grandiose space. Plus, the location of your holiday party can be the biggest draw for getting your organization excited. Choosing a location can be hard, however, which is why working with a trusted partner makes this part of the process much easier. Not only do we have access to some of the hottest venues — like the soon-to-open SNL exhibit at the Museum of Broadcast Communications (where, yes, you can have your corporate holiday party), we also have a pulse on available venues throughout the city. We know which venues will fit your budget and which venues are a perfect match for your organization’s culture.

Sales Manager, Helen Pole, also has a great tip in helping you choose the best venue by focusing on location and accessibility. “Decide the best central location for your group. Whether it’s downtown or easy access via train, deciding on the venue first is the biggest piece because the venue is going to tell a lot of your story in terms of theme and decor.”

Tips for Planning a Holiday Party

2016 Crate & Barrel Holiday Party at Venue One North Shore, Planner: Shannon Gail Weddings and Events, Photography: Collin Pierson, Decor: Event Creative

Venue Tip: Browse our 80+ partner venues in Chicagoland for inspiration.

3. Choose a Concept

Every great party starts with a great theme. From Indoor BBQ and Tropical Island Soiree to a Winterland Celebration, to even a Chicago-specific theme, the ideas are endless. More importantly, this is where your food and beverage offerings can really shine.

“You can do a lot with the wintery theme by creating different stations focusing on seasonal, holiday flavors such as pumpkin, cranberry, and apple,” says Pole. Other ideas like a hot apple cider bar, pairing donuts with apple cider and having a s’mores or hot chocolate bar are other ideas where food can help deliver on the theme.

4. Customize Your Menu Offering

Cocktails for holiday parties

People remember details, especially when it comes to food and drink at an event, so think about offering something unique to provide that special “wow” factor. Custom stations, creative hors d’oeuvres and whimsical takeaways are easy opportunities to delight guests, play up the theme, or highlight something unique about your company. Specialty cocktails are also a great way to add a fun component to your event.

“Craft cocktails are a great way to spice up your holiday party,” says Sales Manager, Rachel Krieger. “Guests love to interact not only with the chefs but also the bartenders. Incorporating our in-house mixologist elevates the party and is a great source of entertainment. Festive cocktails with ingredients like pomegranate seeds, rosemary sprigs or spicy simple syrups also instantly create that ‘home for the holidays’ vibe.”

Dietary restrictions and exposure to different ingredients and cuisines, as well as transparency around food sourcing, also mean people are looking for more variety and seasonality from their food experiences these days. A good caterer understands market trends, knows which menus work well for certain needs, and is experienced in developing menus that satisfy large groups.

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


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

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.

Creating a Caterer-Inspired Easter Celebration


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.


Should You Get Married on the Most Romantic Day of the Year?


Valentines Day Wedding

If you’re recently engaged, first of all, congratulations! Secondly, you’re most likely trying to nail down the date for this extremely special day in your life.

As a wedding caterer, we’ve seen how popular the 14th of February is for both proposals and weddings. And we’re curious – is Valentine’s Day an option for your wedding day, or would you never even consider it?

Whichever side you’re currently on in the Valentine’s Day wedding debate, we’ve listed some pros and cons that come with tying the knot on the most romantic day of the year.

Reasons to Get Married on Valentine’s Day (Pros)

  1. Memorable Anniversary Date

It will be ridiculously easy for you and your significant other to always remember your anniversary! It is also the perfect anniversary date for hopeless romantics.


  1. Fun Theme Ideas

Don’t settle for generic Valentine’s Day themes such as hearts and cupid. Go with a theme centered around colors – think pink, red, blush, gold, ivory, and champagne colors. These colors are beautiful and would be stunning for a Valentine’s Day themed wedding. Try incorporating these colors in florals and decor, bridesmaid dresses, and groomsman ties and pocket squares.


  1. Pretty- and Easy-to-Find Decoration Options

Whichever theme you choose, you’re sure to find a bunch of wonderful décor items for Valentine’s Day in brick-and-mortar and online stores that will work perfectly for your reception decorations, as well as favors. Try keeping it simple by incorporating twinkle lights, floating tea candles, and blush florals.


Reasons to Avoid a Valentine’s Day Wedding (Cons)

  1.  Sharing Your Wedding Anniversary

Your wedding anniversary will be shared with everyone else celebrating their love on that day. And because of this, you may not be able to get a reservation at your favorite restaurant – and if you do, it will likely be packed. If the restaurant has seatings at different times, you may not be able to enjoy lingering over your meal.


  1.  Needing to Book Way in Advance

Typically, you’ll have to book your wedding venue even further in advance than usual since this holiday is such a popular day for weddings. People often need to book up to two years (or more!) in advance to ensure their wedding date is secured for this day. Yikes!


  1. More Expensive Flowers

The cost of flowers for your wedding day will likely be much more expensive than if you had a wedding on a different day. Floral prices are usually higher during this time of year to begin with. This means the prices of your wedding flowers will be inflated as well – and the price difference adds up quickly!

So did this pros and cons list change your opinion, or did it confirm your initial feelings on this subject?

Whether or not you plan to get married on Valentine’s Day,, we’d love to share our catering ideas with you for your special day! Learn more about our wedding catering services and contact us to discuss your wedding details.

Mulled Wine & Spiced Holiday Drinks

Mulled Wine | Blue Plate Catering

Photo Credit: Jameson Fink |

The winter season provides a perfect excuse to make some spiced drinks, including mulled wine, at home. Many of the spices popular in holiday baked goods – such as clove, ginger, and nutmeg – also bring fantastic flavor to holiday drinks.

Whether you’re looking for a festive beverage to serve at a holiday gathering, or just want to cozy up with a good book and get warm, the spiced holiday drinks below will do the trick.


Mulled Wine

While red wine is wonderful on its own and as an addition to many drinks, one of the best ways to enjoy this wine when the temperatures drop is mulled, as the spiced flavor not only tastes great, but serves to warm you up as well.


Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never made mulled wine before. This drink is extremely simple to make, only requiring you to heat red wine with some mulling spices. And you don’t need an expensive bottle of red wine for this drink to taste good. Even better? As the wine steeps with the spices, your house will be filled with a warm and lovely holiday scent!


Mulled wine is prepared a bit differently in different countries. For example, in Germany mulled wine is called Glühwein and it is occasionally made with fruit wine. In Scandinavia it’s called Glögg and is typically served with a spiced cookie or cake. And in Quebec, maple syrup and hard liquor are mixed in and it’s called Caribou. No matter how it’s made or what it’s served with, mulled wine is one winter holiday drink you want to be sure to make.

If you need a recipe, take it from us! This mulled wine recipe is perfect to get you started and is one you’re sure to love.



  • 1 bottle heavy red wine, like merlot
  • 1 cup rum (optional)
  • 1/42cup sugar (or more), to taste.


for mulling spices:

  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 whole nutmegs
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • 2 tbsp allspice berries
  • 1 tbsp cloves



Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves, and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each, and serve.


Other Spiced Holiday Drinks to Try 

In addition to mulled wine, the three spiced holiday drinks below are perfect for holiday celebrations, as well as for treating yourself to a special (and well-deserved) beverage.


  1. PDT’s Gingerbread Man Recipe – King’s Ginger, a strong scotch-based ginger liqueur, is used in this cocktail to provide deep flavor, along with molasses, rum, and allspice bitters.


  1. Scotch Regency Punch – Cardamom and scotch blend together beautifully to provide a delicious holiday punch. For this drink, you’ll make cardamom simple syrup and mix it with a bottle of blended scotch, fresh lemon, and soda water.


  1. Jalisco Pear – Silver tequila, pear liqueur, allspice dram, and lemon combine to create a cocktail you’re sure to want to make again and again.

These holiday drinks are guaranteed to get you into the spirit of the season and make the cold weather much more appealing! Our team at Blue Plate wishes you a joyful holiday season and a cozy winter!