Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hawaiian-Asian Birthday Party: Desserts

We continue our review of late summer's Hawaiian-Asian Birthday luau with a look at the desserts which followed the savory buffet. Not only was there a spectacular cake (which we'll review tomorrow), but also a number of "small-bite" desserts.

One of our favorite desserts, here at orenji, is guava cake-- tart and sweet, it reminds us of childhood trips to Hawai'i, as well as current visits to dear friends who live there. No trip to Hawai'i is complete without guava cake, and this party provided an opportunity for us to bring a piece of that experience to the mainland. We created bite-sized guava cakes, with a sweet guava-scented cream and glaze, and crunchy toasted coconut. Edible flowers completed this delicious and beautiful cakes.

Along with the guava cakes, we prepared another island-inspired favorite-- Pineapple upside down cakes with macadamia nuts. Dense buttery cake was topped with fresh pineapple and brown sugar caramel to create a rich and filling dessert!

A selection of cookies completed our dessert selections. Buttery shortbreads with lilikoi (passion fruit) preserves and mango jelly were frosted with vanilla icing and tropical decorations. Toasted coconut and macadamia nut shortbreads were a rich and buttery contrast to the lightness of the fruit cookies.

Along with our small-bite desserts, we prepared a birthday cake. Check back tomorrow to see the crowning moment of the Hawaiian-Asian Fusion Luau!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hawaiian-Asian Birthday Party, continued...

We continue our review of the Hawaiian-Asian Birthday Luau from late summer with a look at the savory foods swerved on the buffet. As the theme of the party suggests, the food drew inspiration from Hawai'i, the Philippines, Japan, and China. Together, the delicious foods from these varied cultures created an exciting selection of meats, vegetables, and starches. Taken together, they were a delightfully balanced culinary experience.

We started with handmade Japanese chicken gyoza with a sesame-ginger dipping sauce.

Hand-rolled Filipino Lumpia-- bursting with ground spiced pork and vegetables-- were a guest favorite, quickly disappearing off the buffet as fast as we could replenish the beautiful hand-crafted platter.

A platter of grilled meats and vegetables was both delicious and colorful in appearance. Pictured at the bottom of the platter, grilled Mongolian marinated beef with a Thai red curry and cabernet dipping sauce. Spicy and sweet, this has to be one of our favorite marinade and sauce combinations. Moving clockwise, next to the beef is oven-roasted baby bok choy, followed by grilled chicken, pineapple, and vegetable yakitori. Smokey and sweet, these chicken and fruit skewers were refreshing and satisfying. Last, white miso glazed grilled vegetables completed this overflowing platter!

Toasted coconut sweet sticky rice and Chinese cold sesame noodles provided the perfect foil for the spicy and savory meats and vegetables.

Slow-roasted kalua pork-- a traditional Hawaiian celebratory food-- was our personal favorite of the afternoon. Smokey, salty, and flavorful, this meat was so tender it melted in the mouth. Accompanying the pork were Japanese pickled carrots with shiso, and hibiscus pickled lotus root.

Fresh crudites with Schezuan five-spice powder dip was both colorful, cool, and refreshing.

A colorful and delicious salad of roasted sweet corn, black beans, mango, avocado peppers and cilantro was finished with a tart and refreshing citrus vinaigrette.

All together, we were very pleased with the Luau buffet. The food was accented with Asian and Hawaiian-inspired decorations including fans, flowers, lanterns, Hawaiian quilt squares, and tableware.

Tomorrow, a look at the sweets that followed the savory buffet. Be sure to join us again!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hawaiian-Asian Fusion Birthday Party

In late summer, we were commissioned to cater a birthday party for a friend and client celebrating her 40th birthday. The theme of the party was to be a Hawaiian-Asian Fusion Luau. We were excited about this challenge, as the season was perfect for fresh tropical fruits. As such, a multi-tiered tropical fruit display became the centerpiece and focal point of the buffet.

Fresh Hawaiian pineapple, baby "apple bananas," fresh lychee and rambutan, mangos, papayas, watermelon, grapes, berries, melons, passion fruit, and fresh coconuts combined to create a beautiful and delicious display. Served with a thick and creamy vanilla and wildflower honey yogurt dip, the fruit display was a favorite with guests!

Fresh orchids and tropical flowers, and carved fruits completed the display, making it as beautiful as it was delicious!

Tomorrow, we will focus on the savory foods on the buffet. Mahalo, and be sure to check back!

Friday, July 25, 2008

the search for the perfect brownie...

Here at orenji catering, we are always looking for new ideas, and new ways to improve on old ideas. Oftentimes, "reinventing" classics is a good way to breathe some life into everyday foods. In this case, we set out to update (and upgrade) the classic chocolate brownie.

To do so, we thought of one of our favorite flavor combinations-- chocolate and caramel... and then we ran to the orenji test kitchens!

We started with a moist, but crumbly bittersweet chocolate brownie, made with brown sugar and olive oil for a bit more depth of flavor.

To the brownie, we swirled in some handmade caramel, buttery and vanilla infused, creating a smooth and creamy contrast to the dense, crumbly brownie. A handful of chopped toasted (and salted) cashews provided further textural crunch and contrast! Prior to baking, we added the pièce de résistance -- French grey salt, a type of sea salt, to accentuate the flavors and awaken another part of the mouth! It was almost like eating a chocolate covered sea salt caramel!

We will keep looking for the perfect brownie, and you can be sure that we'll post about our adventures every time we do! Keep checking back. In the next few days we will begin posting about a recently completed Asian-Hawaiian fusion birthday party. You don't want to miss that!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: the menu...

During our recent review of our eleven course Colorado chef's degustation, we received requests to reprint our entire menu. The link below will take you to the menu, in it's entirety. Thank you for your interest and continued visits to comparing apples and orenji: the website of orenji.

Colorado Chef's Degustation Menu

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: mignardises...

To finish our Colorado chef's degustation menu, we turned to some old favorites-- mignardises. Mignardises are small bites, generally sweet in nature, that finish a meal. In this case, we wanted to highlight diverse flavors, giving our guests' taste buds one last exciting culinary experience. To that end, we create four bites.

The first was a milk chocolate truffle infused with the pungent Indian spice blend, garam masala. Generally used in savory cooking, this spice blend (containing cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, caraway) provides deep and rich flavors to the smooth chocolate.

The second mignardise was a hand-crafted Concord grape jelly-- starting with pounds of fresh grapes, the flavor of the delicious, naturally sweet fruit, was condensed and jelled, leaving the consumer with a burst of flavor reminiscent of a summer's day.

Our third tasty post-meal bite was a Belgian bittersweet chocolate molded leaf, infused with Mexican cinnamon, smoked sea salt, and chili pepper. The spicy, salty, smokey flavors melded with the dark bittersweet chocolate to create an exciting flavor combination on the tongue-- perfect with a glass of hearty red wine or port!

And lastly, we finished our meal with an orenji classic-- hand-candied orange peel-- one of our favorites.

Tomorrow, we'll post the menu, for your review. Thanks for checking in, and taking this culinary ride with us as we relived our recently created and prepared Colorado chef's degustation. Cheers!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: course nine...

Dessert! We finally reach the near-conclusion of our Colorado chef's degustation menu. Again, following our culinary aesthetic, we wanted to highlight locally produced items, and in this case, choose local goat cheese. We fashioned the goat cheese into a deliciously creamy and sweet ice cream, infused with vanilla and sugar. The ice cream was served atop a warm grilled poached peach, the peaches having been poached in sweet white wine and vanilla. (Unfortunately, we were in Colorado just weeks before their local peach crop was ripe, otherwise we would have been able to sample the deliciously sweet local produce). In turn, the grilled peach was served atop a warm and crisp Belgian bittersweet chocolate and toasted hazelnut "crouton," which was caramelized in butter and brown sugar.

Topping this tower of interesting sweets was a toasted hazelnut tuile-- buttery and crisp, providing a textural contrast to the smoothness of the ice cream and lightness of the poached, grilled peach. Finishing the course, providing both deep color and flavor, an aged balsamic syrup reduction infused with cinnamon basil. The herbal quality of the basil, mingled with the sweet acidity of the reduced balsamic vinegar, balanced the overwhelming sweetness of the other components, making this an enjoyable last course of our chef's degustation... well, the last course before mignardises (which we'll talk about tomorrow). See you then!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: course eight...

Our second composed cheese course featured in the recently prepared Colorado chef's degustation event, featured rich triple cream St. Andre cheese. St. Andre is a mold-ripened semi-soft French cheese made from cow's milk. During the cheese making process, extra heavy cream is added, creating an ultra-concentrated, creamy cheese which is very soft at room temperature. The taste is exquisite-- deep, fatty, and somewhat acidic (yet playfully sweet).

For our composed cheese course, we constructed a Napoleon of St. Andre and puff pastry, warming it gently in the oven until the cheese was deliciously soft. Caramelized Asian pears added a touch of sweetness, with a praline and mustard agrodolce (an Italian sauce using acid to balance sweetness) providing a deep burnt sugar taste and acidic foil to the sweetness of the fruit and the creaminess of the cheese.

Handmade ice cream-- rich with Tahitian vanilla and Australian Murray River pink salt offered a cool, creamy, and somewhat salty complement to the other components on the plate, enhancing each of their tastes. Lastly burnt sugar "glass," infused with the spicy aromatics of African grains of paradise, completed the dish creating both a dramatic appearance and a lingering finish on the palate.

Tomorrow, dessert! Be sure to come back and visit 'comparing apples and orenji...'

Friday, July 04, 2008

Colorado chef's degustion: course seven...

Course seven of our Colorado chef's degustation event was the first of two composed cheese courses. Here at orenji, we feel that plated cheese courses are an important moment in an event, signaling the transition from savory food to sweet food near the conclusion of the meal. Of course, in this case, we still had a few tricks up our sleeves, and three more courses!

This cheese course, the first of two, highlighted white Stilton cheese (technically a "blue cheese," although in this case, the mold is white) from England packed with dried Turkish apricots. Using the cheese as a base, we prepared a savory cheesecake with a rice cracker and seaweed crust-- perfectly marrying the sweetness of the apricots, the richness of the cheese, and the saltiness of the seaweed into a well-balanced bite.

The cheesecake was accompanied by a salad of baby rocket, caramelized pistachios, and toasted sesame with a light sesame vinaigrette. An apricot gastrique finished the dish, providing a much needed hint of acidity to the otherwise rich course. As vibrant and pretty as it was beautiful, this course was the perfect way to begin winding down the evening.

Tomorrow, the second of two composed cheese courses. We'll see you then!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: course six...

The next course of our recently completed Colorado chef's degustation event-- technically the "entree" course-- focused on local lamb.

We decided to give our lamb course some Asian flair, marinating the locally raised lamb chops in a Mongolian marinade rich with lemongrass, Thai basil, kaffir lime leaf, garlic and ginger. The marinade is just sweet enough that it nicely caramelizes on the grill-- even if the lamb is only grilled for a few minutes (which was the case in this instance). The result is an aromatic, flavorfully spiced, and tender meat which is incomparable in taste!
Served over the lamb, our Thai Cabernet and red curry reduction-- a sauce that begins as two sauces: a classic Cabernet pan reduction married with a Thai red curry sauce which has it's base in coconut milk and fish sauce. Together, these two disparate sauces mingle to create a rich and creamy (but spicy!) blend.

Our lamb was served alongside mashed celeriac, the root of the celery plant, which brought a creamy and earthy flavor to the dish, as well as some Chinese long beans which were braised with Harissa. (Harissa is a North African hot red paste made from smoked or dried chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic, coriander, caraway, and cumin and thinned with olive oil.) The spicy, yet smokey, harissa was the perfect foil for the sweet sauce and earthy celery root, with the braised long beans adding textural crunchy contrast!
Overall, our guests favorite course of the evening, we were all too pleased to highlight the deliciously young and tender locally raised lamb. Tomorrow, the first of two plated cheese courses (which will prepare you for our recently completed 10 course chef's cheese degustation... coming soon!) Be sure to check back!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Colorado chef's degustation: course five...

Course five of our Colorado chef's degustation menu was the 'intermezzo'... or the palate cleanser course. The purpose of serving a tart or acidic sorbet during the course of a heavy meal is to remove the rich tastes of previous courses and awake the taste buds to what is coming up next. We feel as if we accomplished this task well, serving a beautifully composed and colorful course and reviving the taste buds from the many flavors already experienced during the first half of the meal.

The first of our "trio of sorbets" was a rhubarb and kumquat sorbet-- the acidity and astringency of the rhubarb complemented by the sweet kumquat flavors. The second of our sorbets was a combination of ume (or Japanese green plum) and Hawaiian lavender. The tart plums benefited from the soothing infusion of floral lavender, creating a unique taste and flavor. The last of the three sorbets was a wildflower honey and sweet sage sorbet. Again the sweetness of the honey was complemented by herbal undertones.

To serve our sorbets, we poured a hibiscus flower soup tableside, tying the six flavors together with a colorful and deep-flavored base against which to enjoy the sorbets. The soup provided a sweetness which tempered the acidity of the sorbets, cleansing the palate and creating a multitude of flavor combinations for the guests to try.

Up next, see what we did with local lamb chops. Be sure to check back!