Monday, November 23, 2009

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I was inspired by to make these Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. The recipe came from The only thing I changed was to sprinkle some Demerara Sugar on top before baking for a little sparkle and crunch.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On the Passing of Catering Great Don Strange

Don Strange, making last minute adjustments to a presentation in Houston.

In reflecting on the death of catering great Don Strange I am realizing just how much his life and business impacted my own life. My first memory of Don Strange is of his wedding to Frances some 48 years ago. I was 12 years old and I had never attended anything as grand as the reception at “The Party House”. My Mother tells me that my sister joined Frances’ little brother Ben in candle lighting prior to the actual ceremony, but my memories are only of the reception and the party atmosphere. I had no idea at the time how this relationship with Don Strange’s family would influence my own career, for it was while working for Don that I discovered my passion for catering.

Don was no stranger to the Hill Country. He is well known here for the Y.O. Social, where he would strive year after year to “WOW” the party goers. For one event I helped develop “Cowboy Bread” with yeast and buttermilk which was rolled out and cooked on a comal much like a tortilla. We cooked this bread at a station where costumed Indians served shish-k-bobs on real arrows. Don was all about showmanship and great food.

Prince Rainer of Monaco visited the YO Ranch and Don was called on to serve a Texas Style lunch fit for a King. We developed a special menu for the occasion. The day before, I cooked everything at the home of Charlie Schreiner III as a trial run to perfect the flavor profile and presentation. We spent the night at the ranch and started over in the morning to cook and serve the actual lunch.

Don's event staff would often travel to other cities and sometimes across the country to deliver Don’s Texas Style Hospitality. He developed the “station” concept long before it was a standard offering. His trademark vendor’s carts evolved into more elaborate pasta stations and much more. In 1985, I traveled with Don and crew to cater Henry Winkler’s 40th birthday party in Hollywood. We were unable to bring produce due to California law, so Don and I made a trip to the farmers’ market to purchase the ingredients. This event drove home Don’s theory that with proper planning, he could cater anywhere.

My move to the Hill Country started with a Don Strange catered event at Dos Arroyos Ranch in Mountain Home. There I met the owners of the ranch who were looking for someone to cook for them. At the time I was managing the restaurant at Marshal Fields in North Star Mall and would still work on the weekends with Don Strange if he needed me. I had reluctantly stopped working full time with Don after my divorce because the late nights and long hours were not conducive to being a single mother of three. The folks at Dos Arroyos Ranch put me on retainer and asked me to first check with them before I accepted weekend work from Don. Eventually they built me a new home on Dos Arroyos Ranch and I moved along with my children. After a time I could see that there was a need for upscale catering in the area and started CarteWheels Caterers with the blessings of my employers at Dos Arroyos. I continued to help Don Strange when I could, usually in the Hill Country even after CarteWheels was incorporated. I was helping Don Strange with a big event at the YO Ranch when I met my husband Mark. We were married in 1991 at Dos Arroyos Ranch.
I consider myself very fortunate to have known Don and to have worked for him. His innovative spirit was inspiring and he will be greatly missed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Trends .... Signature Beverage Stations

It has been fashionable for some time now for Brides to include a signature beverage in addition to any bar service provided. A signature cocktail is a wonderful way to personalize your event. The cocktail you choose to serve can be a favorite of the Bride & Groom, or it could be something to match the color scheme of your event. Anything goes! Some couples have foregone the "full bar"in favor of serving wine & beer and one or two signature cocktails. This is a big help when you are working with a tight budget.Mojitos are very popular, at this event we served a Spiced Pear Mojito but we have also done a Pink Grapefruit Mojito, Traditional Mojito and Coconut Mojito.

At this summer event we served two blue cocktails. One with a straw and one garnished w/ a beach umbrella. Speaking of the straws, another beverage trend is to have waiters passing small bottles of water or french lemonade on trays with colored straws.

We love these presentations for non -alcoholic or punch beverages utilizing large glass barrels.

Apple Martinis are fun and fabulous! My personal favorite!

Tequila Sunrise was the perfect fit for their yellow & red color scheme.
White Sangria

Kir Royale Champagne Cocktail

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Houston Grand Opera

CarteWheels catered an intimate dinner party to friends of the Houston Grand Opera in the Cherry Springs Home of Harlan & Dian Stai. Guests were entertained before dinner with a concert given by talented voice students.Our Mini Tacos filled with Mexican Chicken Salad were a big hit as usual.
Always a favorite, Peppered Tuna Skewers with Pickled Ginger and Wasabi Aioli

David Ross and Brent Waldoch arranged the spacious
dining room with small tables draped in rich fall hues.

An assortment of petite desserts and coffee were set on their fabulous "well" table. This table is actually the original water well for the vintage German Farm House which the Stais added on to. They opted to build the addition around the old well and it is now a table. There is a light which allows you to see all the way down. Very Cool!

I didn't get any photos of the dinner plates, but here is the menu.

Waiter Passed
Peppered Tuna Skewers w/ Pickled Ginger & Wasabi Aioli
Mini Tacos w/ Mexican Chicken Salad
Tomatillo Gazpacho Shooters
Topped w/ Lump Crab
Salad of Butter Lettuce, Red Leaf & Curly Endive
tossed w/Granny Smith Apples, Caramelised Walnuts & Gorgonzola
Dressed in a Sherry Vinaigrette
Roasted Beef Tenderloin
w/ Roasted Shallot Aioli & Cranberry Horseradish
Sweet Potato Gratin
French Beans w/ Pancetta
Housemade Dinner Rolls and Chive Butter
Dazzling Dessert Presentation
Shards of Butter Toffee, Cappuccino Brownies, Petite Pecan Tartlets,
Raspberry Frangipane Tartlets and Truffles

POPS Event at the Pioneer Museum

The Pioneer Museum along with Marquee Event Group hosted a showcase event to generate interest in the facilities for special events. CarteWheels was happy to participate along with a variety of vendors. Partnering with Viridian Design Studio was a natural fit to illustrate how event designers and caterers work in concert to produce beautiful results. We served a Seared Tuna Nacho with Mango Salsa and Wasabi Aioli. We also offered a refreshing Citrus Green Tea Punch presented in glass barrels elevated on vintage cake plates.
Viridian Design Studio adorned the space with simply elegant floral arrangements.

CarteWheels brought our vintage counter/bar which gave a feel of "furniture" to our presentation. This is a new acquisition and can be used as a buffet table or a bar and the galvanised top eliminates the need for linens.
Fresh Wheat grass gave an organic textural feel to our buffet table.
We often use this look to present three different beverages.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vanessa & Travis Wedding

Another beautiful Wedding at Riven Rock Ranch, thanks to the combined talents of Viridian Design Studio, Marquee Rents and CarteWheels Caterers. The georgous tent was done by Marquee Rents of Austin, and the chandelier was provided by the Mother of the Bride along with many other decorative touches.
Smoked Turkey & Poblano Quesadillas
Shrimp Campechana Cocktail

Bruschetta Bar

Fruit & Cheese Display

Viridian Design Studio

The Menu
Fresh Fruit & Cheese Display
Accompanied By Crackers
Bruschetta Bar
Shrimp Campechana Cocktail
Mini Crabcake Station
w/ Spicy Remoulade & Apple Salsa
Chef Carved Beef Tenderloin
w/ Dinner Rolls and Horseradish Sauce
Tuscan Shrimp & Rice Salad
Caesar Salad
Chilled French Bean Salad
Smoked Turkey & Poblano Quesadillas
Coffee Bar
Wedding Cake

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Olive Harvest at Orchards of Santo Tomas

This past weekend my husband, 3 year old granddaughter and I got to help harvest olives at my brother-in-law's orchard. They have over 200 trees but this harvest was from 13 trees and yielded almost 900 lbs of olives! I have to admit that I was not much help picking; I was worn out from 3 long catering days. But I did take lots of photos to share.
Madi got right to work!

It was easier for Madi to scoop them up from the tarp.

Everyone was involved, even the little ones. There was a real sense of community.

As you can see, some of the trees were tall, needing a ladder to get to the tops.

They did a demonstration on how to make small amounts of oil. First, the olives were ground in a gizmo made from a new garbage disposal, the ground olives were then placed in a ice cream mixer (sans ice) and left for about 30 min. From there the emulsified olive paste was put on filters on top of a plastic square with channels. They made a stack of the filters on the channeled plastic, which was on a sheet pan with a hole in one corner. The sheet pan with the stacks was then placed in a press. Once the press extracted all of the oil, the solids were removed from the bottom of the bucket.What remained was the pomace oil. I didn't actually see the final step, but I think you get the idea.

The bulk of the harvest ready to go to the processors.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ICA Regional Education Day

I got away for an inspiring day of learning and sharing with caterers from the International Caterers Association. The workshop was held in Long Beach CA, hosted by Jay's Catering in Garden Grove and Good Gracious Events from LA. The day was so filled with information and ideas that it is hard to focus on any one aspect.
Good Gracious treated us to a "Cocktail" Breakfast with fabulous cocktail style breakfast foods!
How fun is that!
There was Yogurt with Granola, Fried Deviled Eggs, Bacon Wrapped Sausage, Mini Muffins, Nutella French Toast Bites, Smoked Salmon, Melon Skewers, Very Cute Doughnuts and the cutest Juice Bottles w/ Black Straws.
Jay's Catering facility was most impressive and awe inspiring. We were able to tour the whole space including their huge warehouse and wonderful kitchen. They are so busy that they have crews working 24 hours a day! They catered 17 events on Saturday; we were there on Monday and everything was back on the shelves, neat & tidy.
Right before lunch we were divided into teams and each team decorated a table. My team grabbed the gold chairs with orange velvet seats first, so from there we got a great green table cloth and it all just came together. It was great fun!

Jay's served us a delicious lunch.

I took over 200 photos in this one day, but many of them were of slides and did not turn out well. Needless to say there was plenty of creativity crammed into one day, and we were being fed every time we turned around. The afternoon break was catered again by Good Gracious Events, and consisted of a Black & White Quinoa Salad, BLT Soup Sip and Petite Strawberry Shortcakes.

The afternoon sessions included a trip to the pastry kitchen to learn from Joanne Purnell, ICA Chef of the Year, about French Macaroons, Gelees & Marshmallows.
The final session of the day was an over the top tented mixology event with ambiance provided by Rriver Davies of River Works Designs.