Going to the butcher

Today I had a great time going to the butcher with CL. It makes me long for the days that one had to go to a green grocer and a butcher all separate. CL told me in Paris and major cities that you go to several different butchers. One for beef another for pork etc. It is definitely a lot art. Haus House does what all responsible butchers are doing today and that is using the whole animal. Intestines, brains and all. Now there are some parts I do have to walk away but have respect that they are all getting used.

Chris at any given time has over 100 items available in his shop. He makes all his own meats and sausages. He gave us tastes of several of his salamis and smoked meats and it was all delicious. He butchers every Wed and Thur with a viewing window for those who are die hard. He buys from four local farms on just his beef. He is part of Georgia Organics and part of his mission statement of the business is to be engaged in community activities to bring awareness and hopefully assist with bringing more farmers into the business so he has choices on who to do business with. His butchers shop is certified USDA which is not easily handed out. He has to maintain the restrictions to get that type of honor. If you walk into his store and it isn’t swamped not to worry. He isn’t open to the public in order to survive he is opened as a courtesy for those who love red meat as much as he does. The majority of his customers are wholesale restaurants that run the gamut of lower to the majority of the highest end in Atlanta. Because he supplies so many people i found it useful to find out what chefs are where and the culinary comings and goings of the chef. It turned out to be quite the gossip house. Because it services so many hotels he knows who is where which turns out to be quite helpful when deciding where to go eat your next meal.

This is my story for now and I am going to be sticking to it.

Learn to ask the question H20

Since bottle water costs can be a large portion of a coffee break meeting planners are turning more to using water-coolers. Using a water cooler served a variety of purposes. One they are cheaper and two more green friendly. A new choice we are seeing reading on banqueting menus are fruit and/or cucumber mint. Personally, I love water with cucumber in it. Nothing tastes fresher to me. So this takes me back to the menus and this added choice. I am planning an event for a client that has this water with fruit garnish on their banqueting menus. The cost of this is $50.00++ per gallon. That sounded a high so I went back and asked if we could do this for $50.00 per 3 gallons. The agreeable hotel came back and said sure no problem. It was at this time a light bulb went off. This water is filtered of course? RIGHT?? WRONG! It was tap water that they were adding cut up fruit. My point is in banqueting we are seeing this more and more so learn to ask the questions and then go in an negotiate price points accordingly.
This is my watered down story for now and I am going to be sticking to it.

Claire

An ‘industry standards’ story: Seeing red when someone is green

An ‘industry standards’ story: Seeing red when someone is green 

August 2012 morsel

If you’re reading this, please batten down the hatches because I PROMISE you that I’m going to blow! NOTHING wears me out more than having some young events professional, and I use the term loosely, tell me that something is not “industry standard.”

This is so infuriating because I have earned my dues with 25 years’ experience working in 23 countries. It’s rare for me to even quote industry standard. This term seems to be the fall back when a vendor is uneducated, can’t think past the everyday and/or doesn’t want to go the extra mile. Vendors spurt this phrase out of their mouths thinking that’s going to end it since they are the voice of authority. Not so much.

A recent scenario led me to ask myself: What is considered industry standard? How does that line get drawn (as applied to banqueting)?

To me, and based on my experience, industry standards are best practices that are formula based, not scenario based. When someone in the industry quotes scenario-based “industry standards,” I can always tell they’re haven’t been around the block enough.

These examples are formula-based best practices that are true:

  • Industry standard for banqueting wait staff serving a plated meal: One server per 25 to 30 guests.
  • Industry standard on banqueting bars: One bartender per 100 to 125 guests at a cash bar; one bartender per 75 to 100 guests at a hosted bar.

The next example is a scenario-based situation in which the green events manager spurted off industry standard to me without listening to what I was saying or asking.

“I have a customer who is doing a large customer event in a popular nightclub. I have done this event through the years and, being the good event professional, have group history. The event is a five-hour event and is one of the few times where it makes more sense for the group to do a bar package as opposed to consumption. Since not everyone is going to be there the entire five hours, we have been guaranteeing x amount of people at the five-hour bar package, which takes us into the first two hours of the event. For the next hour, we do a three-hour bar package, then a two-hour.

“The client doesn’t allow any customers in for the last hour because it gets too hectic. This method of charging has worked well for us as well as the venues. I explained  this to my catering manager and showed her the group history. This method works best for us because it helps me with budgeting, etc.”

The venue response back to me was ‘no,’ and that this way of charging wasn’t industry standard.

Seriously? It took a lot of willpower for me NOT to ask who is she to be quoting industry standard. We have been using this method of charging for years. I was very disappointed at the venue’s inflexibility because I was not asking for any type of discount. I was using their published bar packages for us to adjust accordingly based upon guest arrival.

The point in sharing that story is to explain that a scenario-based situation is not a circumstance in which industry standard should be quoted.

When any one of you run into this situation, do ask what qualifies this person to quote industry standard. You often will leave them dumbfounded because they won’t have an answer. It’s just another example of vendors not wanting to go the extra mile.

This is my industry standard story for now, and I’m sticking to it.

 

 

Twisted Picnics – Creative Picnic Ideas

Yes, summer is in full swing. – July 2012

What does that look like for those of us planning a family, church or work picnic?

What to buy? Where to buy? As planners we have options when it comes to deciding what to eat. This morsel is designed to help you put a twist on the everyday picnic.

The basics: If you’re hiring a catering company there will be an extra charge for paper goods. If budget really is a concern, tell the catering company to leave it off the proposal and bring these items yourself. Also, negotiate the garbage. Who’s bringing garbage cans and trash liners? Where does the garbage go at the end of the event? I’ve been in situations where caterers had to take the garbage back to their offices and put it in their own dumpster.

Twisted: Have everyone bring their own plate, silverware and cups. Make a contest out of who can bring something that’s the most eclectic.

Start with the obvious: Hot dogs and hamburgers.

Twisted: Set up an exaggerated hot dog or burger bar. By exaggerated, I mean load up on interesting condiments, artisan cheeses, for example. If you have the money, take the quality of the protein up a few notches. Let attendees know where your product is coming from and the story behind it. This will assure them that they are getting a better-quality product than standard fare. A recommendation: Call the butcher at the local grocery and talk to him about grinding your meat fresh. By doing this, you can get a higher-quality meat that will taste better on the grill.

Research area farmers and their method of raising cattle. Since I’m always lecturing my readers on the importance of communication, convey this in the invitations. Explain that you are purchasing higher-quality proteins, and you will have their mouths watering as they read the invitation. Another suggestion: A turkey burger is too predictable, so twist it and do turkey sausage. They’re available at the grocery store and delicious on the grill. And they come in spicy and sweet just like their Italian cousins.

Twisted condiments: This is where the fun begins. Have graphics made that show variations for making burger or hot dog “fixins.” Then name them, either by making up your own names or borrowing them from — and crediting — restaurants. Hard Rock Cafe, for example, has a Hickory BBQ Bacon Burger that is very good. For hot dogs, do a dogs-around-the-world theme with regional flavors. Hot dog fixings for the Carolinas are famous but not to be confused with those inChicago. And don’t forget about the bun.

Side dishes (not twisted): What turns me off most at a picnic is how side dishes are displayed, which is not safely enough! When making or ordering these dishes, I encourage people to maintain a better food awareness and keep food fresh for longer periods of time. One of the better solutions to me means that food items are in several smaller containers so they get switched out more often. This works best because it’s hard to display food on ice, which melts and gets messy. Do bring several spoons for serving because these get messy as well. Stay away from mayonnaise-based items and go to more vinegar. Anything you can use that is fresh from the garden with interesting herbs is best.

Twisted desserts: Look at church cookbooks for ideas about baked goods that are interesting and come from the heart. They have more varieties of cookies then imagined.

Drinks (not twisted): I don’t even need to touch this one because everybody has their own ideas and popular recipes. I do recommend using gallon jugs that have their own ice in separate containers to keep drinks from getting watery.

So that’s my checkered-cloth story for now, and I’m sticking to it,

 

 

Twisted Picnics – Creative Picnic Ideas

Yes, summer is in full swing. What does that look like for those of us planning a family, church or work picnic? What to buy? Where to buy? As planners we have options when it comes to deciding what to eat. This morsel is designed to help you put a twist on the everyday picnic.

The basics: If you’re hiring a catering company there will be an extra charge for paper goods. If budget really is a concern, tell the catering company to leave it off the proposal and bring these items yourself. Also, negotiate the garbage. Who’s bringing garbage cans and trash liners? Where does the garbage go at the end of the event? I’ve been in situations where caterers had to take the garbage back to their offices and put it in their own dumpster.

Twisted: Have everyone bring their own plate, silverware and cups. Make a contest out of who can bring something that’s the most eclectic.

Start with the obvious: Hot dogs and hamburgers.

Twisted: Set up an exaggerated hot dog or burger bar. By exaggerated, I mean load up on interesting condiments, artisan cheeses, for example. If you have the money, take the quality of the protein up a few notches. Let attendees know where your product is coming from and the story behind it. This will assure them that they are getting a better-quality product than standard fare. A recommendation: Call the butcher at the local grocery and talk to him about grinding your meat fresh. By doing this, you can get a higher-quality meat that will taste better on the grill.

Research area farmers and their method of raising cattle. Since I’m always lecturing my readers on the importance of communication, convey this in the invitations. Explain that you are purchasing higher-quality proteins, and you will have their mouths watering as they read the invitation. Another suggestion: A turkey burger is too predictable, so twist it and do turkey sausage. They’re available at the grocery store and delicious on the grill. And they come in spicy and sweet just like their Italian cousins.

Twisted condiments: This is where the fun begins. Have graphics made that show variations for making burger or hot dog “fixins.” Then name them, either by making up your own names or borrowing them from — and crediting — restaurants. Hard Rock Cafe, for example, has a Hickory BBQ Bacon Burger that is very good. For hot dogs, do a dogs-around-the-world theme with regional flavors. Hot dog fixings for the Carolinas are famous but not to be confused with those in Chicago. And don’t forget about the bun.

Side dishes (not twisted): What turns me off most at a picnic is how side dishes are displayed, which is not safely enough! When making or ordering these dishes, I encourage people to maintain a better food awareness and keep food fresh for longer periods of time. One of the better solutions to me means that food items are in several smaller containers so they get switched out more often. This works best because it’s hard to display food on ice, which melts and gets messy. Do bring several spoons for serving because these get messy as well. Stay away from mayonnaise-based items and go to more vinegar. Anything you can use that is fresh from the garden with interesting herbs is best.

Twisted desserts: Look at church cookbooks for ideas about baked goods that are interesting and come from the heart. They have more varieties of cookies then imagined.

Drinks (not twisted): I don’t even need to touch this one because everybody has their own ideas and popular recipes. I do recommend using gallon jugs that have their own ice in separate containers to keep drinks from getting watery.

So that’s my checkered-cloth story for now, and I’m sticking to it,

 

Six Tips for Banqueting Innovation

When the good folks of PYM asked me to write an article on innovation as it relates to banquets, I, of course, agreed to step up to the dinner plate. When we discuss innovation with banquets, please know that it’s very different from innovation with a restaurant kitchen. Restaurant kitchens prepare food that’s cooked to order. They cook for a small number of people at a given time. Therefore, what is a great restaurant choice doesn’t always translate for banqueting. The following suggestions will work well in a banqueting environment.

Innovative suggestion No. 1: Begin your planning by asking if anyone on the culinary team has any specialties. I recently was working inOrlando at the Portofino Hotel. I made a workspace for myself back of the house and, one afternoon, the pastry chef came in. Turns out he is a high-end chocolate guy who competes on a national level. Had I known that, I would have created a tasting for our guests that deep-dived into just dark chocolate.

Innovative suggestion No. 2: Use the skills of the culinary team to customize a menu. If the kitchen is diverse, and you have a smaller group, do a meal called “home cookin’.” Have it focus on the items that the culinary staffers do best when they have a large family meal. Your guests will have a good time participating in a meal that is special to those who prepare it.

Innovative suggestion No. 3: Everything has a story. You’ll be surprised by how often people want to know that story. Share with your guests the history of some of the ingredients in a dish or why it was chosen. It engages them in the meal and creates conversations. A few years ago I did the menus for an event in New Mexico. None of the guests had ever been there, so I designed a progressive dinner that had each course tell a story about the history of  New Mexico. The amuse-bouche was Spanish tapas, and we ended with modern-day flavors.

Innovative suggestion No. 4: Have a guest chef prepare a meal. Ask the executive chef at your venue about his or her chef friends in the area or contact chefs at the city’s most popular restaurants. You’ll have to pay for the chef’s time, so this will cost some money, but it gets your attendees excited to have someone well-known prepare some specialties, especially if their schedules are so packed that they don’t have any free time.

Innovative suggestion No. 5: If you’re doing a big meeting, add a culinary corner on the event website. It can house information on area restaurants and include local chef bios. Contact a local food critic and hire this person to write a few articles about the area. You also can write teasers about what food is going to be served throughout the conference.

Innovative suggestion No. 6: Church cookbooks. There are no finer recipes in this world than those in a church cookbook. I get recipes — mostly baked goods and desserts — from them all the time and share them with chefs.

Last, I ask that you please keep this in mind: Something that is popular should not be confused with something that is innovative. They are two very different areas. “Popular” has a time frame to it. “Innovative” will have a sense of timelessness.

My love for Farm Fresh

I am sitting in Pittsburgh Airport waiting for my flight back to Atlanta. One of the things I am going to miss most is the true innocence of the farmers foods for sale at the towns ragtag farmers market twice a week. Ironically their market is located in the parking lot of one of the towns grocery stores.

Atlanta boasts several nice farmers markets but to me nothing compares to the markets in a farming community. These farmers don’t know anything about farm to table. Farm to table is a given not something they strive for in their every day life. While home in Kittanning I was able to go pick blueberries twice, eat the most amazing peaches and buy corn from a stand that operates off an honor system. Oh and the jelly which was from a country couple who has the blackberry patch in her own back yard. Jackie said she would never make jelly if she didn’t know where the fruit was coming from. Now is that food integrity or what. I take my hat off to all the farmers in Western, PA who once again have reminded me what simple, good food is all about. As Delta heads south just know my heart and my stomach will be up north in your country communities. Biting into an ear of corn just isn’t going to be the same.

July 14, 2012 – My farm fresh day.

Today was a great day spent with friends. My friends Jackie, Janine and I got up and decided to spend the morning at a blueberry farm. Jackie was a real sport as we ended up or she ended up driving an additional 25 minutes. We thought we would go to a farm in mind but they were closed so off we went down the road. This farm was beautiful they had rows and rows of blueberries. I found out today that I never really tasted a blueberry. The ones you get in the store are nothing compared to right off the vine. Amazing. I was the slowest picker of the group and 6.25 pounds later we called it a morning. Which was good because morning was actually over and we were all hungry for lunch. Let’s face it BB’s are a good snack but it wasn’t filling up this belly. The gal on the farm was also selling the neighbor’s potatoes for .50 a pound. They were little red potatoes that he dug up that morning.

Lunch wasn’t bad. We went to Eat -N- Park a local chain in Western, PA. I got buffalo chicken mac and cheese. They had one of the better macs as it was creamy and didn’t dry out. After lunch we saw a farmer selling sweet corn out of the back of his truck. I fell in love with this farmer as he was so passionate about his product. It was picked fresh this morning. We all bought some and turned out it was sweeter than sweet.

This is my farm fresh story for now and I will be sticking to it.

Indian Food

Ok, I am officially Indian fooded out! Looking at using Cafe Bombay in Atlanta for my brother’s retreat in August. The food was very good. The thing I don’ t like about the cuisine is it is starchy very starchy. The don’t believe in a good green salad that is for sure. I wasn’t into their soupy pudding desserts either. I had to pass on that. If I eat one more piece of naan bread though I am going to BUST!!

That is my story for now and I am going to be sticking to it.

Please, No Chocolate Fountains!

Valentine’s Day — Feb. 14 is here (or gone). The day we either love, or hate, or the day we would love to hate. It’s always a bit awkward for planners who have an event falling over Cupid’s holiday. Especially if your attendees are primarily men and the destination is out of town. So what’s a planner to do? I recommend embracing the day with a certain amount of political appropriateness. Even the biggest Scrooge warms to a little lovin’ whether they’ll admit it or not.

Here are some suggestions that I have found successful. These ideas can be used all year long, too. Lean to the “cheeky” side with your fun factor. Make the dessert a bit more special at the primary meal of the day. Example: An ice cream sundae bar with lots of toppings. Display a note letting attendees know you are doing something special for them.

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