Tuesday, November 27, 2007

a Thanksgiving feast: festive sorbet...

Our Thanksgiving feast continued with a fresh sorbet to cleanse our palates. After the rich amuses bouche, savory pumpkin bisque, and sweet and buttery corn and lobster, we needed a clean and fresh taste to reset our palates for the entree. Our cranberry, ginger, and lemongrass sorbet course did just that.
We started with some fresh cranberries, into which we added a healthy portion of our homemade ginger and lemongrass infused shu (homemade Japanese liquor, see previous posts for description of the creation process). The smooth and starchy cranberries mingled well with the sharp tastes of lemongrass and ginger, creating a light and bright flavor combination that was simultaneously refreshing and delicious.
The bright crimson of the sorbet was complimented by a sugared toasted crab apple chip, adding both texture and unique fall flavors to the dish.

With our palates cleansed, we turned our attention to the main course-- a family style Turkey-centered extravaganza highlighting local produce and fresh fall flavors. Be sure to keep reading!

Monday, November 26, 2007

a Thanksgiving feast: the salad course...

We continue our review of the orenji catering Thanksgiving feast with a focus on our salad course. Being autumn, and somewhat chilly, we opted for a warm salad-- highlighting some rich autumn flavors.
In our family, oysters were always a Thanksgiving tradition-- perhaps hearkening back to the first Thanksgiving in which the bounty of the land and sea were served. We created this course to be reminiscent of oysters... but we used lobster!
Our salad course consisted of a warm Nantucket corn pudding-- prepared with fresh shucked corn, cream, eggs, fresh thyme, and seasonings. Atop the corn pudding we served some thin slices of butter-poached lobster tail. Tender, juicy, and buttery, it was the perfect sweet compliment to the corn pudding.
Paired with the pudding and shellfish was a warm salad of endive, tossed with a sharp saffron-infused vinaigrette. The vinegar of the dressing cut through the sweet butteriness of the pudding and lobster, creating a balanced, yet rich, salad course.
Following the rich flavors of the salad, we definitely needed to cleanse our palates... and that is what the next course did. Check back to read about our homemade Thanksgiving sorbet!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

a Thanksgiving feast... pumpkin bisque

We continue our Thanksgiving retrospective with a look at our soup course... or in this case, a "bisque course!"

Before we talk about the bisque, however, we need to focus on breads. During our orenji catering Thanksgiving feast, we served two types of breads: a quick bread and a yeast bread.

The quick bread we chose to serve was inspired by seasonal flavors and local produce-- in this case, pears. We made a delicious vanilla bean and crystallized ginger bread, into which we folded a selection of pear varieties. Look for more in-depth coverage of our favorite quick breads in a future post.

The yeast bread we created was a cloverleaf roll, slightly sweet, warm, and yeasty-- our guests remarked how this particular bread product evoked many memories of family and Thanksgivings past. The rolls were a perfect accompaniment to our bisque, and delicious with some of our acorn shaped butter melted into the soft risen bite-sized creations.

Which brings us to the bisque...
Here at orenji catering, we have discussed our culinary aesthetic many times... classic "simple" cooking which highlights fresh flavors and produce. This bisque is a perfect example. We started with some small, fresh sugar pumpkins, which were roasted overnight at a low temperature to caramelize the natural sugars inherent in the hard flesh. Once soft, the pumpkin was cooked with leeks, celery, carrots, chicken stock, sherry, fresh herbs, and seasonings. After pureeing and straining, we had a smooth and silky bisque, full of the concentrated flavors of autumn.
But we didn't stop there! In our opinion, all too often soup is texturally uninspired. We wanted to pair our delicious bisque with a deeper flavor and crunchier texture. We created a beggar's purse, again highlighting autumn flavors-- caramelized leeks, applewood smoked bacon, and five varieties of wild mushrooms: cremini, black trumpet, golden chanterelle, oak wood ear, and shiitake. Wrapped in a delicate, crispy, buttery pastry shell, the flavorful mushrooms were the perfect compliment to the smooth and light bisque. Finishing the dish was a white truffle-infused crema, dotted delicately throughout the bisque for a deep flavorful contrast.

All in all, it was a delicious bisque, which set the stage for our next course nicely: a warm salad. But more on that in our next post. Be sure to visit again!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

a Thanksgiving feast... amuses bouche

We continue our review of the orenji catering Thanksgiving feast with a duet of amuses bouche. As we have previously posted, amuse bouche, translated from the French, literally means to tickle the mouth. Amuses bouche are prepared as bite-sized flavorful morsels to prepare the taste buds for the culinary wonders which await.

For our meal, we decided upon a duet of amuses bouche-- one hot and one cold-- highlighting autumn flavors using locally grown produce.

On the left, we began with a delightful fresh apricot, which we oven dried to concentrate the flavors. We then poached the dried fruit with fresh rosemary to soften it, and infuse it with the woody, herbal flavor. The apricots were stuffed with crisp applewood smoked bacon and pungent gorgonzola cheese, broiled, and served with a reduction of the poaching liquid. Rich and flavorful, it was the perfect bite with which to start a meal.

On the right, we prepared a cold amuse bouche. This was lighter in flavor, and cooler on the tongue, to cut through the heavy creaminess of the gorgonzola cheese. We started with freshly grown cauliflower, which we oven-roasted until rich and brown, the natural sugars caramelized. After pureeing the vegetable, we encased it in freshly rolled pasta, creating a delicious tortellini. Cooked, and chilled, the tortellini was served with a fresh pear and mint gelee, a bit of roasted cauliflower, and finished with cardamom oil. Deep caramelized cauliflower was the perfect accompaniment to light and sweet pear and mint, which easily cleansed the palate for the next course.

We paired our amuses bouche with a delightfully light sparkling rosé, created from pinot noir grapes. It was light and refreshing, while providing sufficient flavor and body to compliment the bold flavors of the amuses.

And what is the next course, you might ask? Well, you'll have to check back tomorrow, as we continue our review of the orenji catering Thanksgiving feast! Good bye for now...

2007 Winter Holiday Pricing Guide now available!

We are pleased to announce that our 2007 Winter Holiday Pricing Guide is now available online, here at comparing apples and oranges!

To access the guide, simply click on the link to the left, and follow the directions.

We look forward to contributing to your winter holiday festivities, gatherings, and celebrations with family and friends.

Friday, November 23, 2007

happy thanksgiving from orenji catering!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at orenji catering! We are thankful for many things, including your continued visits to our blog!

This is a very special post, as it is the one hundredth post to appear on comparing apples and orenji! We look forward to the next one hundred, and hope you'll stay with us and visit frequently!

We were fortunate enough to create a Thanksgiving meal this year for some of our friends and clients... and we will share some of the highlights with you over the next few days! The Thanksgiving season was very busy for us, and we have many special creations to blog about-- we'll get to those after our review of our Thanksgiving feast!

We set our table in white and beige with beautiful red leaf highlights. Organically grown local white pumpkins created a festive harvest-inspired running centerpiece down the middle of our table.

We thought that molded whipped butter might add a fun and festive touch-- so sticking with our harvest theme, we opted for acorns... presented with a fresh lemon leaf, the butter is a small detail which is sure to impress!

To prepare our guests for the meal to come, we wanted to start with something full of flavor-- sweet, yet spicy. We opted to make a pumpkin seed brittle with caramelized sugar, cumin, cinnamon, and chili powder. The flavors of the brittle came alive on the tongue, awakening the taste buds to what was to come next!

We will continue our review of the Thanksgiving feast in our next post-- a duet of amuses bouche highlighting fall flavors! Be sure to check back!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

eat more candy...

We ran across this whimsical vintage sign during our recent travels to Florida, and the message resonated with us!

Eat More Candy!

As we approach the fall and winter holidays, we're sure that people will be doing just that... eating more candy, homemade confections, cheesecakes, tarts, pies, cookies, truffles, treats... and we look forward to creating those delicious sweets for you and your loved ones to enjoy.

Be watching for the orenji catering holiday menu and price list, coming soon!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

another cheesecake?

Another cheesecake... boy, oh boy, loyal readers... if we're not careful we're going to get a reputation!

We were recently asked to create a cheesecake for a client who "loves peanut butter." Now, peanut butter is a flavor that we also love, here at orenji catering, so we were all too happy to experiment with flavor combinations until we got it just right. Off to the test kitchens!

We started with a crispy bittersweet chocolate crust, on which we baked a think layer of dense peanut-butter infused cheesecake. This layer of cheesecake was sweet, rich, and creamy, but would have been overpowering if it had composed the entire cheesecake. Our philosophy for cheesecakes is that they should be lighter and less sweet-- sweet enough to be enjoyable and delicious, but not so sweet that they are overly cloying. Therefore, in this case, we opted for a two layer cheesecake-- the first being the layer infused with peanut butter, the second being a lighter layer redolent with the deep flavors of Tahitian vanilla bean.

The two layers of the cheesecake worked well together, leaving a light and slightly sweet flavor on the palate. To add a burst of flavor, and a delightful textural contrast, we topped the cheesecake with chunks of peanut butter cups, and drizzled it with Belgian milk chocolate to "cement" the candy in place. It was both beautiful and delicious!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

飴細工師 (あめざいくし) : Miyuki-san and her candy arts!

While we were visiting EPCOT for the International Food and WIne Festival (see previous post), we were fortunate enough to visit one of our favorite people-- Miyuki Sugimori. みゆきさん (Miyuki-san) is one of a select few Japanese candy artists (and the only female!) practicing amezaiku today.
飴細工師 (あめざいくし) (amezaikushi): practitioner of the art of candy fashioned in human and animal form

Amezaiku originated in the Edo period of Japanese history, approximately 300 years ago. Miyuki-san learned the art of candy from her grandfather, one of the most renowned artists of our time.

Candy artists create animals and flowers with soft rice dough, very much like taffy. The dough is worked with while it is hot, colored and shaped, and hardens while it cools. With her skilled hands and sharp scissors, Miyuki-san makes animals such as dragons, lions, tigers, hummingbirds, horses, monkeys, dolphins, and many more.
Following completion of the models, Miyuki-san decorates them, using a paintbrush and food-color based "paint." The entire process-- from coloring, shaping, cutting, and painting-- takes only a couple of minutes!
Treats are allowed to cool for a few minutes, bagged, and given to the children who requested them-- a beautiful (and delicious) keepsake from the only female Japanese candy artist in the world! (Pictured right, Miyuki-san finishes decorating a pink elephant. Pictured below, a yellow duck is hung in front of a fan to dry, prior to packaging.)

Some of Miyuki-san's other creations are pictured below.
a golden lion...
a fierce blue dragon...
a running tiger...
Next time you find yourself visiting EPCOT, be sure to stop by the Japan pavilion and check out Miyuki-san's edible creations. You will be amazed and entertained!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

orenji on the road: 2007 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival

This year, orenji on the road returned to the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival at the Disneyworld Resort in Orlando, Florida. As with last year (see previous post), a grand time was had by all as we wandered "around the world" sampling local foods and beverages from over 25 represented countries. The principle of the Food and Wine Festival is simple-- each country creates three or four "small plate" food offerings, which range in price from $2 to $5, and pair them with regional beers, wines, and spirits (these can be a bit more expensive). As a guest, you stroll around the world, sampling these international "tapas," beverage pairings, and enjoying the pleasant weather, international entertainment and shopping, and good company. We, at orenji catering, would highly recommend this event to anyone interested in world culture and cuisine.

(You may notice the characters from the Disney movie Ratatouille frolicking around the signs announcing the event... If you haven't seen that movie, and you enjoy food, we would recommend checking it out!)
Below are a selection of pictures of some of the country-specific food stands and menu offerings from the 2007 EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival.

Other countries represented included Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Poland, USA, Japan, Australia, Morocco, Greece, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Marketplaces serving regional drinks (champagne, beers) are also available. Additional events include cooking demonstrations, food and wine pairings, educational seminars on wine and beer making and regional cuisines. Celebrity chef dinners and other meal events are also offered on weekends.
Each year, a few of the US States are specifically represented. This year, Oklahoma was a selected state, with some interesting culinary offerings. One of these offerings was the "three sisters soup" (described and pictured below):

Another offering was seared American buffalo with creamed scalloped wild onions. The meet was rich and gamy, cooked a moist medium-rare... but the real winner of the dish was the sweetness of the onions-- a perfect compliment to the deep flavors of the meat!

Finally, who doesn't love a fruit-shaped topiary? "King Pear" (sponsored by USA Pears) wished us goodnight and many happy returns to the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival. We know we'll be back next year... will you?