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How to Throw The Perfect Holiday Bash

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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)

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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
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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.

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 with Blue Plate Catering: Jams

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Photo credit: Blue Plate Catering

Photo: Blue Plate Catering

It’s the refrigerator staple reminiscent of childhood lunches, the token condiment of late-night diners, and the tasty culmination of summertime berry harvests. Whatever you call it — jam, jelly, fruit preserves — the reduction of whole fruit into a spreadable delicacy is the ingredient you didn’t know your life needed until it’s dolloped atop buttermilk pancakes, slathered with peanut butter or spread on toast.

Jam adds natural sweetness to dishes and follows a simple recipe: fresh fruit cooked down with sugar, pectin and acid for consistency if needed. Jams can take savory spins using ingredients such as onion and tomatoes, or fresh herbs, bacon and even peppers. The list is endless.

At Blue Plate, we like to go outside the ordinary with our jams by combining savory with sweet ingredients such as our peach tarragon jam or our strawberry balsamic jam. And we like to think about creative ways to present it. With summer approaching, check out our tips below for incorporating your favorite jam into your next menu or party.

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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.