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Catering to Your Every Whim

... and an easy recipe for Pistachio Salsa Verde

By MARILYN SOLTIS
   No matter what size gathering you’re looking to host, local caterers are responding to the latest trends in entertaining both at home and at more high profile venues.
   Small plates, tapas, appetizers and even cooking parties are taking the lead for more casual entertaining. Organic, local and sustainable food prepared in a green (or partly green) kitchen is hot, along with ethnic influence in dishes.
   Of course, some people still want the traditional dual-plate offering of a filet mignon and/or chicken or seafood for events like weddings, according to Reinier Daams, General Manager of Wolfgang Puck Catering at the Museum of Contemporary Art. After the economy slowed, the company also created a tapas-style menu that offered options and variety without ordering the full menu sometimes incorporating “action stations” where one or two dishes are taken off the buffet and prepared by a chef who interacts with the guests. The kitchen at Puck’s is partially green and takeout is 100% recyclable. Produce is from Illinois and Michigan and they use locally brewed beers.
   The almighty cupcake may soon be replaced by small pies according to Cindy Webber, the Director of Sales at Jewell Events Catering, one of the oldest catering companies in the area.
   Other popular trends identified by the company are Korean BBQ/tacos; popsicles; and beer tastings using micro pilsner glasses.
   Logan Square Kitchen offers a new concept in entertaining. Its
 LEED Gold designated kitchen and events space serves as a kind of incubator for new talent. The Kitchen has “pop-up” restaurants that open for a day or two and disappear. “As it gets harder to open a restaurant, it’s a great way to experiment,” says owner Zina Murray who bought a foreclosed building with her husband and designed the  space, not only with the ultimate green kitchens but also space for receptions, corporate dinners, cocktail parties, and cooking parties. One identifiable trend is less animal protein and more creativity with vegetables. She recommends caterers like FIG Catering, Lula Café, BeSpoke Cuisine and City Provisions.
   “People all want meaning in their lives, and they look for it in food experiences now.  I see so many underground dinners and special culinary events that have themes. Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions does Farm Dinners on farmland, where food is picked and cooked in the same afternoon. I think what’s behind all this ‘local’ or seasonal food is really a search for meaning, for something that resonates for us. We have become so disconnected from our world and each other, and there's a drive to close up that empty space,” says Murray.
   At the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows, Rebecca Ketelaar, Director of Sales, says interactive food stations are increasingly popular, especially their chef-manned salad station. Guests pick out ingredients and the chef mixes it in a shaker with dressing and pours it into a martini glass to be eaten with a small fork. At the Get Smashed potato station, different types of mashed potatoes with an assortment of toppings are offered (on plates).
   Molly Schemper of FIG Catering says her clients, many who are entertaining 20 to 60 guests, want ethnic cuisine with more focus on local and organic foods. “Our most popular ethnic menu is Latin followed by Thai and Asian,” she says. But FIG isn’t limited to those three. It offers an “Around the City in 180 Minutes” menu to choose from—11 different Chicago city neighborhoods like Greektown, Pilsen, Little Italy and Chinatown.
   Cooking isn’t relegated only to the professionals. Another trend in the corporate world is holding cooking classes as a team building exercise. No food fights allowed.

Easy Recipe: Pistachio Salsa Verde (courtesy FIG)

10 Tomatillos (peeled & cleaned)

1 Spanish onion (medium dice)

2 Cloves of Garlic

1 Jalapeño (quartered)

½ Bunch of Cilantro

1 C. Salted Pistachios

Juice of ½ a lime

Salt and Pepper to taste

    In a medium sauce pot, place tomatillos, onion, garlic & jalapeño. Fill the pot with water until the tomatillos begin to float. Place the pot on the stove and place on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes remove from the stove and remove the water with a strainer. Then place cooked ingredients into a blender. Blend on low for 1 minute, then add the rest of the ingredients. Once the mixture is blended smooth, remove and add salt and pepper to taste. Can be enjoyed warm or cold with tortilla chips, jicama chips or atop chicken or beef.

Published: February 10, 2011
Issue: February 2011 Heart Health Issue