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In the Kitchen With Blue Plate: Spotlight on Strawberries

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Strawberry and Baby Arugula Salad, Photo: Blue Plate Catering

Strawberry and Baby Arugula Salad, Photo: Blue Plate Catering

When we think of summer’s pantry of ingredients, the dependable strawberry comes to the top of our list. With its vibrant red color, juicy texture and signature sweetness dotted with mild tartness, strawberries add dimension, flavor and color to a dish. They are also packed with the good-for-you stuff like vitamin c, potassium, fiber, folate and antioxidants making them both delicious and healthy; a culinary win-win. They are available year-round but summer is when they should truly be enjoyed, and using strawberries in your menu can be as easy as presenting them in a fruit tray to infusing them in your drinks. Read our chef tips from Chef de Cuisine Melissa Chickerneo on how to use one of our favorite summer ingredients.

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Trend Alert: Drinkable Desserts

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Neapolitan Milkshakes, photo: Blue Plate Catering

Neapolitan Milkshakes, photo: Blue Plate Catering

When you’re dining at a restaurant or enjoying a meal at a special event, do you often find yourself torn between choosing to indulge in a cocktail, after-dinner beverage, or dessert? We can relate. And that’s why we’re excited that drinkable desserts are growing in popularity, with an increasing number of restaurants adding their unique twists on this trend. From variations on the classic milkshake to dessert-inspired cocktails, you’ll see creative offerings of drinkable desserts showing up on many menus.

Why Drinkable Desserts?

Drinkable desserts are not only a tasty treat, but they’re nostalgic as well. Think back when you were a kid and enjoyed an old-fashioned milkshake or a root beer float with your family or friends at your town’s favorite ice cream shop or restaurant. Today’s drinkable desserts bring back that happy, carefree feeling while adding modern styles and flavors to these classic dessert beverages – making them unique and playful.

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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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Inside Our New Home, Larkin Hall

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Larkin Hall

More than 30 years ago, we opened up shop on the second floor of a coach house in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood. Today, we are happy to call Larkin Hall our home. Our newly constructed, 80,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility in the West Loop features expanded production, logistics and administrative spaces, as well as various onsite venues for meetings, events and celebrations.

 

Over the years, we’ve catered some of Chicago’s most special occasions, and now we’re honored to host you in our new home. The urban decor with warm wood finishes provide an easily transformable backdrop for any event, whether understated or glamorous. We invite you to come explore these new venue spaces.

Larkin Hall Tasting Room 2 Larkin Hall Tasting Room

Tasting Kitchen + 3 Tasting Rooms

Our fully equipped tasting kitchen is the perfect place to gather for a chef demonstration, intimate celebration, or corporate team-building experience. One, two or all three of the adjacent tasting rooms can be converted into breakout rooms, bars, specialty buffets or seated dinner areas. It’s a flexible space that our Culinary, Sales and Operations staff can convert to meet your needs.

Larkin Hall Bar Larkin Hall Bar

Bar + Event Space with Open-Air Patio

The built-in bar and event space can accommodate up to 60 guests for a seated dinner and as many as 100 for cocktails. Choose your favorite microbrew to serve on tap or treat guests to a creative, handcrafted cocktail. Combine all of the above event spaces for a unique mix-and-mingle experience where guests can explore different rooms and spaces to uncover a variety of featured bites, dishes, sweets and spirits.

Conference + Training Center

We’re ready to host your next meeting in our conference and training center. From AV to catered meals, we’ll help ensure your team has all the right tools to take planning and strategizing to the next level. The nearby tasting rooms double as breakout spaces. When your discussions have concluded, why not host a cocktail hour at the bar to celebrate the day’s work or an important milestone?

 

Commissary

The northwest side of Larkin Hall features a commissary with full picture windows and retractable glass doors. The bright room is the perfect spot to inspire productive meetings and brainstorming sessions. The space is flexible and can be arranged to accommodate the group’s needs, from 100 seated to 200 standing.

 

Future Venue: Wine Cellar

While still in the planning and design stage, ideas for the cellar include a large, built-in bar and a series of private dining rooms, each holding 20-30 guests. Collapsible walls accommodate larger groups in the private dining area. The space features a temperature-controlled wine collection with more than 6,000 bottles, viewable behind a glass wall.

 

Future Venue: Rooftop

Also in the planning and design stage, the rooftop venue on the third floor of Larkin Hall will be enclosed in glass on the south and east sides to preserve views of the city skyline. The outdoor space will include a landscaped patio area and green space perfect for any corporate or wedding event.
Situated at the western entrance to the Fulton Market corridor, Larkin Hall is located in one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in Chicago and close to corporate offices, schools, airports, highways, stadiums and is minutes from downtown. Contact us to schedule a visit and start planning your next meeting or celebration!

#MeetUsInTheKitchen: Pound Cake Four Ways This Holiday Season

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bp_holidaygift_dried-fruitpoundcake_6

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!