Tag Archives: catering

Family Catering

Croque-en-Bouches with Mixed Berry and Crème de Cassis Sundae

A couple months ago, my mom told me that she had offered to cater a party for my grandma as a birthday gift and that I was invited to be her catering partner. The catering “service” would include brainstorming, preparing, plating, and serving a five-course, gourmet menu to eight hungry and self-claimed foodie guests. I was 100% on board.

So as soon as I got back home from my end-of-the-spring-semester activities, my mom and I started to prepare for the event. We worked on developing a few dish ideas by looking through all of our recipes from books, Word documents, online bookmarked pages, and collaged cutouts from magazines. We discussed and debated, and about a zillion ideas later, finally put them together into a cohesive and appetizing menu. A shopping list was written and a few days before D-day we began the incredibly long (and tiring) process that was the cooking.

However much time and energy it might have taken, the final result was well worth the effort that it took to develop the menu and then make it a reality—with a few exceptions of course. The gazpacho and avocado mousse with two Parmesan crisps was a much-enjoyed appetizer, but the tomato and avocado lollipops served alongside it, for example, were more of a failed experiment in molecular gastronomy than anything else. Visually, they were perfect, but their rubbery texture and imbalance between the flavorless avocado and acidic tomato was definitely a turnoff. At least we had the delicious and popular pancetta-wrapped fig skewers (stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey) and grilled eggplant dip served with rosemary flat bread to wash it down. Not to mention the paired rosé, whites, and port that my dad served throughout the meal.

Eggplant and Pepper Dip

Food successes and failures aside, the best part about this catering event was, oddly enough, everything but the taste of the food. I loved watching people decipher the menus we’d printed out when we brought out the mini croque-en-bouches and mixed berry sundaes, or listen to the “oohs” and “ahs” and diplomatic “very interestings” in reaction to tasty or not-so-great dishes. It was a time- and energy-consuming endeavor, and I am so glad that everything turned out well (or almost). But more so than that, it was amazing to experience the meal coming together and to then present and share it with my grandma and her closest friends and relatives.


Culinary Uncensored: Casino Night

Culinary Society Mad Men
 Casino Night is one of the Culinary Society’s single biggest catering events of the school year. Lerner is turned into a giant casino, and Culinary makes enough hor d’oeuvres for 350 people. However, few people gain a sneak-peak in the behind-the-scenes view of what we’re doing during a catering event… The answer is that we are utter gluttons who just happen to produce good food. Sometimes it seems to be sheer luck that holds an event together.



On a practical scale, our task was quite simple. We had constructed a menu representative of 1960’s cocktail party appetizers. On the menu: Gougere, Gazpacho, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Swedish Meatballs, and Pineapple Upside-down Cake. Claire arrived early (about 10 am) in John Jay to begin prep for the evening. It was our first time cooking in the John Jay kitchens, but I was unable to be there. From what I gathered, the morning went smoothly and everyone kept their sanity in tact.

Demonstrating my strength... from strength training...

I did not arrive on the scene until about 5 pm–just in time to transfer the cooked food over to the Lerner kitchens for the main event. The chicken, gougeres, meatballs, and cake were all cooked and set to go. The gazpacho was assembled and chilled. All that remained was the plating. Although there was a slight disagreement regarding serving style (to buffet or not to buffet, that is the question), the food went out on time and it was received by happy and hungry students. Words such as gougere and gazpacho may have seemed foreign to our fellow students, but the appetizers were enjoyed by all–and that’s what counts.

The Look of Judgment

While servers attended to the buffet table and the 21+ members of Culinary Society went to enjoy the beer garden, the rest of us languished in the back of the house. And we had fun with the camera. The result was… not one of my shining moments. I’m sure it’ll come back to haunt me if I’m ever up for a James Beard Award. First, in an effort to eliminate all leftovers, I tried to scarf down a whole platter of cake. I began methodically with the pineapple and cherries first, but I was soon reduced to sporadic and manic–almost chipmunk behavior–attacking the cake. Not a wise choice, and I soon felt the consequences of my gluttonous behavior. To see my gruesome attack on the Pineapple Upside-down Cake, check out the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jbmpeDIlxI.

Of course, I was not the only one who enjoyed leftover cake. Everyone had their fair share of butter, brown sugar, and calories in the form of pineapple upside-down cake. In fact, that cake was our main sustanence throughout the entire day. Yay, health food!. Continue reading Culinary Uncensored: Casino Night

No Meeting Tonight (3/1)!

Just a friendly reminder that there is not going to be a Culinary Society general body meeting tonight due to the fact that we are catering Casino Night 2011 on Friday.

However, we are looking for more volunteers to help cater on Friday (3/4). We will be working in the John Jay and Lerner kitchens from 11 am to 11 pm. But don’t worry–you don’t have to work the whole 12 hours! Just sign up for the most convenient time for you at the following link: http://doodle.com/8ya4xz95d4ighc7w.

Catering with the Culinary Society is a great way to meet foodies and to learn new things in the kitchen. Our menu for this event is based on this year’s theme: Mad Men. With this in mind, the menu is crafted around iconic party foods of the 1960’s. The five menu items are Gazpacho, Swedish meatballs, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Gougeres, and Pineapple Upside-down cakes.

Hope to see lots of you on Friday!

Catering Virgin No More

As a freshman, I had spent all year reading the weekly emails that I received from Culinary Society, salivating over every word, recipe, and event listed.  When I moved up in ranks from a lowly pawn of a freshman to the sophisticated sophomore foodie that I am now, I decided to be more active in Culinary Society.  This originally entailed trying all types of exotic and not-so-exotic food at events, sitting quietly in the corner of brainstorming executive board meetings, and writing occasional blog posts about cool things I ate.

Lerner Hall during Glass House Rocks (Picture courtesy Columbia University)

This seemingly normal series of occurrences was broken up for me with a night (and day) to remember: Glass House Rocks.

Glass House Rocks, which took place this past Thursday, is a party hosted by Columbia every year in Lerner Hall.  Naturally, Culinary Society was asked to help cater the event.  This would be my first time helping out at a catering event, and I had a lot to learn with no idea what to expect.  Working from 12 through the event (which was from 9-1), with time aside for classes and less fun/important things, we provided food for over 300 hungry college students.

When I arrived after class for my second round at 4pm, Matt got me to work right away.  I paired up with Victor to prepare a Waldorf Salad presented  wrapped in Romaine lettuce, a superficially easy recipe.  What was supposed to be the mixing of a few simple ingredients and quick presentation prep for a salad popular in the 1920’s, catering with a salad wrap turned out to be hours and hours of laborious chopping and careful toothpick-ing for presentation.  Naturally, I would love to do nothing more than spend the entirety of a Thursday afternoon chopping things for self-proclaimed foodies in the form of the Columbia student body.  We ultimately used 60 apples, 5 bags of grapes, two heads of celery, and plenty of mayonnaise and sour cream, finishing after five grueling hours.  Thanks to my (and Victor’s) hard work, we had enough wraps to feed a small state in New England, and enough unwrapped Waldorf Salad to fill half an industrial-sized mixing bowl (and Matt’s work out for the night was throwing out my and Victor’s masterpieces =[ ).

The recipe follows on a much smaller scale:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/3 cups very thinly sliced celery
  • 1 1/3 cups red seedless grapes, halved
  • Romaine lettuce leaves
  • Dried Cranberries or Cherries
  • Candied or Toasted Pecans- chopped

Combine apples, grapes, and celery.  Fold in mayonnaise, sour cream, and sugar, to make Waldorf Salad.  Scoop into lettuce leaves and top with dried fruits and chopped pecans.

Glass House Rocks! Tonight @ 8 pm

Come join the Culinary Society for Glass House Rocks–the biggest party of the school year! This year’s theme is the Roaring ’20’s. The Culinary Society will be cooking all day from 12 pm until the beginning of the event. If you wanna help out still, we will be in the Lerner Student Kitchens.

Our menu is as follows:

Waldorf Salads

Individual Flatbreads with caramelized onions, pears, bleu cheese, and arugula

“Pigs in a Blanket”–Chicken and Apple Sausage wrapped in Brioche

Butterscotch Pudding

Orange and Mint Mocktails

Event: Harry and the Potters

Pims- Shortbread Cookies with Preserves, dipped in Chocolate

As all of you must be aware, the band Harry and the Potters paid Columbia a visit last Saturday, playing a concert at Lerner for eager Potter fans.

However, I have absolutely no idea what the concert was like, thanks to a grand total of nine hours dedicated to preparing a vast array of Potter-themed treats! As exhausted as I was after the event, the long hours spent in the kitchen were so fun that I hardly realized that I spent as much time as I did cooking. Everyone was so enthusiastic and efficient that we actually were ahead of schedule! It was a really fun way to spend a Saturday, giving me a chance to get hands on with A LOT of food, while chilling with some cool people. Not bad.

Configuring the menu for Harry and the Potters was not as easy at it sounds. At the e-board meeting (where we brainstormed ideas), a lot of foods that were mentioned in the Harry Potter books were thrown around. But to be honest, no one had any clue what a lot of them were. Hagrid’s rock pies? Has anyone ever eaten a rock pie? If so, do tell. I’m curious.

Dragon Scales- Chips of Assorted Root Vegetables

A lot of other ideas were presented about foods that actually exist, notably treacle tart and pumpkin pasties (two common desserts in Harry Potter and in England). Claire was really sold on the treacle idea, but there were no recipes to be found for treacle tart, or treacle fudge. At least I got to learn what treacle even is: a golden sweetening syrup used in England that is similar to molasses. Who knew Harry Potter could teach me anything about food?

Anyway, we decided on making Butterbeer, Pumpkin Tarts, Pims (a traditional English cookie), Dragon Scales (fried root vegetables) and Cockroach Clusters (popcorn balls with candied pecan “cockroaches’).

Cooking was a blast… the turn-out was great, and there was always help in the kitchen. And the help was great to have, thanks to the fact that for all our recipes, we needed close to 200 egg yolks. Zero whites. I think Matt has about half of them in his fridge. I have no clue what he’s planning to do with them… but if  I were him, I’d make a GIANT meringue.

Cockroach Clusters- Popcorn Balls with Candied Pecan "Cockroaches"

The pumpkin tarts were a hit- only two little tarts managed to survive the ravenous sophomores we made all these treats for. Even still, we could have made about 900 more tarts than we needed, thanks to a little overestimation on how much dough and filling we needed. No harm done… culinary society members managed to go home with the ingredients to make their own pies at home.

Some of the extra filling was also thrown in Matt’s ice cream churner during our break that night. It was so good, like a cold pumpkin pie you would eat from the fridge the day after Thanksgiving, with some chocolate chips for good measure. It was so good that when I go home for Thanksgiving, I may just make pumpkin pie ice cream for my family. Or for myself…shhhhhhh.

The cockroach clusters were adorable, and  some melted chocolate used to adhere the candied pecans to the popcorn balls was a successful and tasty addition to the recipe. The “Pims” inadvertently ended up using Gryffindor colored preserves (raspberry and apricot) without anyone planning for that to happen. The dragon scales, made of deep fried beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, were a nice savory balance to all our sweet treats. And they really looked like dragon scales, thanks to all the colors! Finally, the butterbeer was warm, sweet and spiced, just like I imagined it being in the book.

Pumpkin Tarts- notice the "Whomping Willow"

All in all, I think we nailed it.

Thanksgiving update


In light of the unnecessary stress imposed upon us before Thanksgiving, this will be an unusually short message. Next week we’ll be back to our normal mode of delicious recipes and more detailed updates on December’s events.

1. HAPA Fusion event: Thank you for all of those who came! Your involvement and support means a lot to us, especially during this busy month of November. All of the events we catered could not have been successful with you!   The event was a great success; pictures should be up soon.

2. This week’s meeting is cancelled, due to, well, Thanksgiving break.

3. New Amsterdam Market: It happens roughly once a month and if you haven’t been yet, you MUST go to the next one on Dec. 20th. The best vendors in NY. I checked it out today and some highlights include: Sullivan St. Bakery, Porchetta (selling the famous porchetta sandwich), Luke’s Lobster (yes, they sell amazing lobster rolls), Taza Chocolate, The Bent Spoon (yummy artisan ice cream), Basis (butternut squash soup and the moistest pumpkin bread served with local yogurt and honey), and The Redhead (the last restaurant reviewed by Frank Bruni in the NYTimes, they were selling the raved bacon peanut brittle). And if there’s another incentive, you can practically eat an entire delicious meal from sampling around the entire market!

4. If you’re looking for a Sunday relax and unwind event, head down to Aroma Kitchen and Winebar:

Every Sunday from 5pm til midnight, Aroma Kitchen & Winebar (36 E. 4th St b/t Bowery & Lafayette) is offering four different food and wine specials at four different price points: For $10: Select from 10-12 of Aroma?s appetizers and light bites, including stuffed calamari, chatham cod ravioli, and warm beet salad, all for $10 and under. For $15: Sunday flight: 3 generous tastings of wine. For $25: 3 course prix-fixe menu including appetizer, main and dessert. For $40: 3-course prix fixe menu + Sunday flight.

This is it for tonight! Again, we’ll be back with a better edition next time, I promise =)

Have a good night and eat well on Thanksgiving!