Wednesday, January 30, 2008

an east coast winter housewarming event: savory foods

Last month, in the cold of December, we were invited by a dear friend, colleague, and client to cater a fabulous housewarming event. She and her husband had recently purchased a beautiful historic home in snow-covered New York state. We were all too happy to make the cross-country trip to help make the housewarming event memorable!
Winter foods present a challenge in many parts of the country-- here at orenji catering, we are definitely "spoiled" by the availability of fresh California produce year-round. We re-invented our fresh fruit and cheese "forest" with dried fruits-- apples, pears, plums, apricots, pineapple, and dates made a striking edible centerpiece to the housewarming buffet!

We also had some lovely floral designs created (by our friend's talented mother, no less!), featuring seasonal greens and cranberries. These pieces-- as well as colorful seasonal linens-- helped create a festive winter holiday feel for the event.
The fruit and cheese trees were accompanied by our popular seasoned flatbread crisps!
The "Mediterranean" section of the buffet featured perfectly grilled vegetables-- both colorful and flavorful! Asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, balsamic-marinated portabella mushrooms, eggplant, red onions, assorted bell peppers, and endive presented a beautiful melange of vegetable choices. Paired with the vegetables was a Tuscan white bean "hummus" with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, fresh cucumber and dill tsiziki, Greek-marinated and grilled chicken skewers, and cumin-scented toasted pita chips.
Freshly baked savory palmiers were a hit of the party! Salty prosciutto, tangy honey mustard, and rich Parmigiano Reggiano cheese were baked into flaky puff pastry dough. These palmiers are always a crowd pleaser!
A winter delicacy, northern Italian white pizza with roasted garlic bechamel, rosemary roasted sweet potatoes, caramelized pears, and fontina cheese. Baked on a freshly prepared whole wheat pizza crust, the mix of savory rosemary and garlic and sweet pear was a perfect combination!
Tender cheese tortellini were skewered with three pestos-- Genovese classic basil pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, and kalamata olive pesto. Each skewer contained three explosive tastes, as well as a trio of colors!
A classic caprese-- comprised of buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, and freshly sliced Roma tomatoes offered guests a refreshingly light salad. Drizzled with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper, the freshness of the ingredients spoke for themselves!
Fiery Mongolian marinated beef tenderloin was grilled to perfection. The marinade, rich in lemongrass, garlic, sake, and ginger, caramelizes over the fire to give the meat a sweet, rich crust, while sealing in the juices. Perfectly tender and delicious, the tenderloin was accompanies by a Thai red curry, lemongrass, and cabernet reduction-- made smooth and creamy by the addition of coconut milk!
Tender shrimp, marinated in apricot and yellow curry, and grilled to perfection were presented on an eye-catching array of spikes! You can be sure that these sweet and spicy bites didn't last long!
Hand-folded pork and vegetable gyoza, with a tart sesame and rice-wine vinegar dipping sauce completed the Asian-inspired portion of the buffet. Here they are pictured with a savory cheesecake-- comprised of English white Stilton cheese, dried apricots, and a Japanese rice cracker crust. Smooth and creamy, the cheesecake carries a savory taste of Stilton mingled with the sweetness of apricots and the saltiness of the crust.
One of our most requested items, apricots stuffed with blue cheese and bacon, is pictured below. We start with tender dried apricots, gently poached in white wine and infused with rosemary. These delicious gems are filled with Gorgonzola cheese and crispy applewood-smoked bacon-- rich, tangy, and delicious!
A brightly colored basket of crudites is always a great buffet item!
Lastly, a large basked of assorted finger sandwiches provided a delicious variety of choices: roast pork with roasted garlic and apricot preserves on onion rolls; black pepper-roasted turkey with Alloutte cheese, oven-roasted tomatoes in spinach flatbreads; apricot-curry chicken salad on croissants; and sweet whipped cream cheese and caramelized red onions on pumpernickel. Definitely something for everyone!
Check back tomorrow for a recap of the sweets-- cookies, confections, bread pudding, tarts-- that we prepared for the housewarming. A sweet beginning definitely deserves a sweet ending!

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