Vibrant bouquet, color splashes
Cue music: Here Comes the Bride, George Handel’s Air or some pop ditty like Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg.
We like coffee.
You are probably living on the caffeine jolt from it now while walking down the aisle. Hang on! My dress…I’m in jeans! You sit straight up in bed, only to realize it was a dream. Where’s the coffee?
Latte with love
Got that double-shot of espresso?
Dresses and music are certainly top-of-the-list items, as is finding a caterer for your wedding. Your caterer sets a tone for the event; often orchestrating the details of not only the food to be served, but flowers and atmosphere.
When seeking an establishment to handle the edibles, there are elements to consider; their food, service and attention to detail. Let’s run through some basic Q&A’s when interviewing a potential caterer.
Interview potential caterers
Before you begin the process, set a budget. This will allow you to set realistic goals. A full-service, sit-down dinner might not be financially feasible, but a sumptuous buffet could fit the bill. Focus on what can be provided within your budget.
Discuss the setting. Will the caterer be bringing food to an off-site location such as a park, church or event space? Some caterers have standing arrangements with certain locations. For instance, our site is Widgi Creek Golf Club. The scenery is spectacular, sheltered under tall pines. Your particular location will impact some food choices and the need for service staff.
Talk candidly about your wishes for your wedding day.
Ask about service staff. Will you need a bartender or servers to pass the canapés? Buffet service requires less staff than does a formal sit-down dinner.
Speak with potential caterers about sample menus and a food tasting. Your caterer should be able to customize menus to accommodate food preferences and any dietary restrictions. Inquire about how ingredients are sourced and used. Is it fresh and local? Just like when you are at the market and folks are offering samples, tasting sways and swoons our desires.
Listen to word of mouth references. Ask your friends who they have used for parties and gatherings. Check out the referrals and portfolios of caterers. Happy customers’ thoughts are valuable tidbits to have.
Put it in writing. Have a contract with your caterer that specifies the menu, services to be provided, the number of staff members, dates, times and dollar amounts.
Away into the sunset – Photo from Widgi Creek Golf Club
We love happy endings … and details
Now, for a little personal horn tooting…you can be assured that we, at The Well Traveled Fork will rise to exceed all of the tips we’ve outlined. Our intention is to provide exquisite food and service for your celebration. The menu items will be prepared perfectly with seasonal, organic foodstuffs gathered from local farmers and growers. We work closely with several vendors to ensure the quality of the ingredients that we use. Details matter; we pay attention.
So, put that cuppa down before you get too jittery. You need some food, and we’re really good at preparing it.
The question was popped, with a resounding “yes” answer, and now you are tying the knot. We’re thrilled for you to start your happily-ever-afters as Mr. and Mrs.
A few days pass and the initial excitement and flurry of emotions quiet down. That’s when it happens, actuality smacks you upside the head, “Sweet biscuits and gravy, I have really big party to plan!” After scarfing that plate of biscuits and gravy out of a sheer Mad Hatter state, the light bulb clicks on – you need a strategy.
For the Bride word of advice: be organized.
Much like what magazines peddle at the beginning of the New Year, clean-up and organize the piles of ideas that accumulate.
- Set-up a timeline, beginning with your wedding day, then work back to the now. Walking backwards will give you a good perspective on when you need to have certain items ticked off of the list. Besides, walking backwards is a kick, remember when you were a kid?
Determine your budget. It is much easier to make arrangements when you are aware of the dollar amount available; enabling you to set your priorities. An example: You’re not so into tuxedos, but you adore champagne which can be a big-ticket splurge. You opt for jeans, crisp white shirts and buy heaps of bubbly and dance under the stars.
Purchase a binder, or better yet, an attractive accordion file, in colors that echo your wedding, to hold those paper thoughts and ideas.
Start a Pinterest Board to electronically save photos, recipes, creative cakes, flowing gowns and flowers. We’ve recently started a board ourselves. It’s in the growing process, but will be an archive of tablescapes, poignant photographed moments, plated food and oodles of nuptial fun.
- Collect, collect, collect from lifestyle magazines, foodie reads, fashion blogs and unquestionably those gorgeous bridal prints. The montage will help you to untangle the mood and atmosphere you want for the grand party.
Be kind to yourself – breathe!
Here are a few calendar elements to get you going:
Locate and reserve the venue, including booking the officiant
Choose the bridal party
Start working on the guest list
Scope out photographers, DJ’s, florists and caterers – mind you, we’re going to toot our own horn here. We know good food and prepare it impeccably. Want to know a secret? We’re acquainted with a few other folks that can lend you a helping hand
Visit dress shops – try some on! Even if you’re not ready to decide on a gown, the trying on is a blast
One last assignment, have an impromptu “we’re-getting-married” bash. Nothing fancy, text a few best friends and meet up at your favorite spot to toast and cheer.
Now, go lick that plate of biscuits and gravy, then get crackin’ on the organization factor.
Gaudy masks of gold, purple and green
Purple and green and gold, masks, costumes and much raucous revelry; opulence and decadence taken to the extreme – yep, this describes a scene in New Orleans during Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French. However, NOLA is known for off-the-chart food, giant party or not.
Last month I traveled to the crescent city for a convention. While there was business to be conducted, there were also fabulous homegrown delicacies to be consumed.
Kale salad with Peekytoe Crab from Emeril’s
A sampling of the gastronomic wonders included sausages stuffed with alligator and washed down with a local brew. Emeril’s place knocked it out-of-the-park with his kale salad. I know, you’re thinking, kale…but this ditty had peekytoe crab. Peekytoe is slang for what was once just a throwaway to lobster fishermen. It’s more commonly known as rock or sand crab and is now highly sought after my discriminating chefs. Not to be forgotten was King Cake for breakfast. This sweet treat is yeast-based and filled with brown sugar, chopped nuts, spices and a tiny plastic baby. Whoever is lucky enough to find the tacky bauble is to host the next grand party.
All of this is piece of the beauty of travel – eating like a local – which, by-the-way is part of our mantra! Eat what you have when it’s available.
In the spirit of over indulging to celebrate the end of the ordinary season, here are a few Southern dishes to devour on Fat Tuesday:
Classic Gumbo – Gumbo is a flavorful stew named for the West African word for okra, gombo. This dish starts with a roux (browned fat and flour) and is seasoned with garlic and the Louisiana trinity – onion, bell pepper and celery. The most common ingredients are chicken, sausage, shrimp and crab. The savory mix is served over rice.
Étouffée – is a fancy pants name for Cajun comfort food. Étouffée is zesty, spice-filled dish of crayfish, shrimp and crab with onions and peppers in an enticingly nimble gravy. It too is served over a bed of steamy white rice.
Red Beans and Rice – New Orleans also has their own version of beans and rice. Like other regions, this traditional pairing changes from cook to cook. The basics remain: red beans and white rice. Many recipes include ham hock and Andouille sausage, along with the quintessential onion, celery and bell peppers.
Jambalaya – this one-pot dish is Creole goodness in the form of a casserole. Spicy, smoked sausage is simmered with Cajun seasonings, peppers and stewed tomatoes, with big ol’ shrimp tossed in for good measure. Cajun spice mixes include salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, thyme and the likes.
The list of spectacular foods from the South could go on, however, all things must come to an end, but not without a festive toast with a timeless cocktail – Sazerac. This jazzy number (don’t mind the pun) is a swirl of simple syrup, rye whiskey or bourbon, bitters and anise liqueur garnished with twisted lemon peels.
Happy Fat Tuesday – Cheers!
Hey, dear heart
Hey, dear heart, have you noticed cupid chaotically flinging arrows and the heavenly aroma of chocolate that is suspended in the air? It’s the romantic month of February, full of hearts and flowers and other mushy stuff, including wedding planning season.
Yep, all of you starry-eyed lovebirds out there grab your iPads, notebooks or schedulers; we have thoughts (lots of them), designs and well, whimsy to share with you. In our years of working with couples we’ve gleaned some go-to ideas and concepts. Flowers, invitations, the dress…cake and food – of course we’ll talk food; all struggling for your attention. Keep an eye out for these tips to show up in our weekly blog.
What about the love arrows and suspended chocolate, you ask? Not to leave you hanging, but do you know what’s really going on inside of the neatly wrapped, decadent bar of chocolate? Cacao, that’s what; the raw form of chocolate dates back some 4,000 years. Referred to as the food of the gods, the Mayan people are believed to be the first to roast, grind into a powder and then add liquid for the original cups of luscious cocoa. We’re guessing there were no mini marshmallows involved in the procedure.
To further educate you on the culture of chocolate, do you know the difference between cacao and cocoa? No, this isn’t just a play on vowels, each has distinct properties.
Cacao, pure, raw, unrefined
Cacao is a pure, raw, less processed form of chocolate; having the highest amount of antioxidants. The Theobroma Cacao tree produces pods which are cracked open to release the beans. They can then be handled in a variety of ways such as powder, nibs, butter and roasting to create cocoa and other chocolate commodities.
Cocoa is the result of roasting the cacao beans. While the high temps reduce the amount of antioxidants, it still contains good-for-you-stuff; just pay attention to the amount of fat and sugar. Budgetary boon: cocoa is easier on the wallet.
Shopping for brown gold can be mind-boggling. There are boxes and bars and powders labeled dark, milk, Swiss, Dutch – you name it. Look for bars and powders with at least 70 to 85 percent cocoa solids. It will be less sweet and the flavor definitely more intense. Be brave and try some of the more exotic combinations like a chocolate bar laced with chile and lime, get that sweet-salty fix by nibbling on a goodie with bits of bacon or go the floral route with violet infused chocolate. So much scrumptiousness and we haven’t even mentioned sipping chocolate, which would be lovely on a cold winter’s day. Before we wander too far into chocolate wonderland, cocoa and cacao can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Back to the lovey-dovey prattling, those struck by cupid’s arrows do you think in chocolate … for dessert, a wedding cake or your secret afternoon indulgence? Go ahead, get all mushy, the calendar does say, romance.
Super Bowl Sunday is known for football (duh), cutting-edge adverts that cost millions of bucks for 30 seconds of fame and, of course, a license to munch on manly man-food. We’re talking, there’s-nothing-green-on-the-table type of spread; piles of meat, cheesy stuff that we power through, not wanting to know what’s in it and icy cold drinks. Now the question is how to put a foodie spin on the menu so your mouth will do the same happy dance that Marshawn Lynch does after a touchdown.
Number one rule: Snacks and drinks aren’t an option, they are a necessity. You simply can’t watch beefy guys on the field throwing a football and barreling past anyone who gets in their way, without wings and poppers and a brewski, or some sort of N/A form.
Enter the foodie version of wings that are smothered with piquant mustard, sweetened up with sticky honey, for all of the lick-your-fingers goodness. The beauty of these babies is that you can plop ‘em on the grill or stick them in the oven. Serve them with obligatory carrot and celery sticks, but also toss in spears of cucumbers and really go out on a limb with slices of jicama.
Honey-Mustard Chicken Wings
Honey-Mustard Chicken Wings
(Makes about 12-15 appetizers)
You will need:
- 1 cup honey
- 2/3 cup coarse grain Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 to 5 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 2 ½ lbs wings
What you’ll do:
- In a small saucepan, combine honey, mustard, butter and spices; stir over medium heat until butter melts and all ingredients are well blended.
- Oven: Arrange chicken in a 9×13 baking dish; cover with honey mixture.
- Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 30 minutes; turning after 15 minutes.
- Grill: Prepare grill. Wings will need to be cooked over a slow heat. Dip wings into the honey-mustard sauce, allowing excess to drip off. Place wings on the grill. They will take approximately 25 to 30 minutes to cook. Turn and baste chicken every few minutes with the sauce, until caramelized and internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
All that sideline spectator jazz leaves one parched. Must-have-something to quench this thirst sets in. Fill up tubs, the sink or bathtub with beer (awesome choices here in Central Oregon), soda, juice and definitely water. Then, bring on the foodie translation of the liquid, which is interpreted as a concoction of lime and gin.
Lime-Gin Fizzy Punch
(Recipe adapted from Southern Living)
Makes 3 ½ quarts
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 fresh mint sprigs
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 1 (750-ml.) bottle gin – try a local variety
- 1 3/4 cups fresh lime juice
- 1 (750-ml.) bottle dry sparkling wine, chilled
- Garnishes: fresh mint leaves, citrus slices
- Stir together sugar and 2 cups water in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add mint and vanilla bean; cool completely. Discard mint and vanilla bean.
- Stir together gin, lime juice, 2 cups water, and 2 1/2 cups mint-vanilla syrup. Cover and chill 4 hours. Combine gin mixture and sparkling wine in a large glass jug.
Note: to prepare a kid-friendly beverage, substitute ginger ale for the gin and sparkling lime-flavored water for the wine.
Okay, snacks and drinks are covered. You’re on your own for the half-time extravaganza. But might we suggest nachos dripping with cheese and a sprinkle of cilantro – for the green factor, and a pot of white chicken chili, ramped up coleslaw and crumbly cornbread? Oh, and gooey chocolate brownies maybe with ganache (fancy for chocolate frosting) for more finger-licking action.
The coin will be tossed and the pig-skin will be kicked. At the end of the day, the winners will go to Disneyland and get a big fat ring, but your game day fans will be doing the full belly end-zone jig. Go, Hawks! Can we say that?
Caramelized onions swim in a rich beef broth infused with fresh thyme
Pots of bubbling soup date back to the stone ages, literally. Historians tell us these humble potages are almost certainly as old as the history of cooking. It makes perfect sense, food was in short supply; no mega markets to shop, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. Simple, scavenged ingredients could be tossed into a cooking vessel, drenched with water and allowed to simmer, yielding a nourishing, grubbed-out supper.
Thyme Scented French Onion Soup with Gruyere Crostini
French onion soup, infused with fresh thyme and capped with cheese-encrusted crostini sounds froufrou, but is actually a rustic, peasant-style soup. After all, onions are cheap and easy to grow. Some of the original recipes were really basic: onions, water, salt and pepper; cook over a fire, devour.
Slowly cook the onions to a caramelized jam-like consistency
To obtain the sumptuous, deeply desired flavor profile, the onions must be slowly caramelized; essentially turning them into an amber-colored jam. Patience truly is a virtue when it comes to this process. The result will be an earthy, broth soup which is crowned with cheesy goodness.
Thyme Scented French Onion Soup
Makes 4 main dish servings or 8 appetizer portions
You will need:
- 12 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 8 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely minced
- 1 cup dry sherry
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 quarts beef stock
- 1 loaf sourdough baguette cut in ½” slices
- 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1 cut clove of garlic
What you’ll do:
- In a 4-6 quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes then reduce heat to low, adding salt and sugar. Continue cooking until onions have achieved a deep caramelized color. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer.
- Stir in sherry. Allow most of the sherry to be absorbed by the onions. Slowly pour in the beef stock and thyme. Raise heat and bring to almost a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat, adding the balsamic vinegar. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Gruyere Crostini: Placed sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Rub with a clove of garlic and top with cheese. Place under broiler and toast until cheese melts.
To serve: Ladle soup into wide soup bowls. Top with the crostini. Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme.
Fennel adds a bright anise-licorice flavor
Bulbous on one end, slender and wispy on the other, fennel is one of those vegetables that you should get to know. Resembling dill, fennel has a delicate anise flavor from the tips of the feathery fronds down to its well-endowed bottom.
Fennel is related to the parsley family; keeping company with the likes of carrots, cumin and coriander, but who are we to drop names? Being a bit of a Goldilocks, fennel grows best in temperate conditions – not too hot and not to cold. It is widely available from late fall until early spring in local grocery shops as well as farmer’s markets.
Choose produce that looks lively without brown blemishes. The bulb of the fennel should be firm and tightly compact with fronds that are bright green. Remember, every part of fennel is edible. The fronds can be used as a zesty garnish on top of soups or tossed with salad greens.
Deeply hued carrots pair well with fennel
When munched on in the raw fennel, is crisp and crunchy. Try hooking up thinly shaved fennel with snappy apple slices, trickling a good quality olive oil and cracked black pepper over the top for a palate tantalizing winter salad.
Roasting or braising the fennel bulb releases a melt-in-your-mouth quality. The veggie becomes soft and caramelized much like slow-cooked onions. They are simply divine when mellowed alongside pot roast. Cut into larger pieces and sprinkle in with the onions, potatoes and carrots. All the tastes will meld into goodness with a hint of the anise essence.
Pan Roasted Carrots and Fennel
Pan Roasted Carrots and Fennel
You will need:
- 1 lb carrots (assorted colors if available)
- 1 fennel bulb
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for pan roasting
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
What to do:
- Scrub carrots with a vegetable brush and cut into finger sized pieces.
- Wash fennel under running water. Cut the frond end off, about 2 inches above the bulb. Reserve the fronds. Slice the bulb into ½” pieces, lengthwise.
- In a large bowl combine carrots, fennel, olive oil and garlic.
- Preheat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle with oil to coat the bottom.
- Place veggie mixture into pan. It should sizzle and the vegetables should take on some color. Cover and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots and fennel are done and lightly browned, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
- Taste for salt and pepper; add as needed. Sprinkle with the reserved fronds.
Serve as a side dish, add the vegetables to a crudité platter or create a salad by placing on greens and topping with goat cheese.
Lemons, oranges and grapefruit
“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy …” so crooned John Denver. Sunny morsels shining in the tummy help chase away the chilly-willies of winter.
Just when a deep freeze or at least not warm temps blanket us, oodles of bright lemons, oranges and grapefruit make a stunning appearance in our markets. Citrus season, in all of its sparkling glory has arrived bringing bites of vitamin C, loads of fiber, potassium and heaps of other phytochemicals that help prevent disease. Did we mention the perky flavor that will add a fresh edge to common soups and stews, casseroles and salads? These beauties have it going on!
With so many varieties to choose from, we’ve found that the best way to discover your faves is to pick an assortment and do a little taste test. It doesn’t have to be one of those concealed, blind-fold affairs, simply slice, nibble and decide. May we suggest a few?
Tangerines – oh, these sweet lovelies are juicy, full of that “orange” flavor and easy to peel. They are perfect for snacking.
Blood Oranges – with their stunning deep orange-red flesh are almost raspberry sweet. Lay them on top of creamy butter lettuce, sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Alternately, squeeze the juice for a delightful cocktail addition.
Ruby Red Grapefruit – fewer seeds than some and on the softer side of the tang chart, Rubies have a brilliant colored interior. Try slicing them in half, giving them a couple spoons of brown sugar and sliding them under the broiler for a warm, caramelized breakfast treat.
Meyer Lemons – here’s the gold standard when it comes to the balance between sweet and pucker. Meyers can be used just like any other lemon for baking, juicing or roasting with a big fat chicken smothered in herbs.
Key Limes – we would never forget you; small, green-yellow orbs of pie heaven. They have a strong and complex flavor and are usually used in juice form.
Kumquat – this not-so-familiar tiny gem packs a wallop of tart flavor. You can eat them whole, yep, skin and all. They are also a nice addition to a compote or chutney.
Like so many fruits and veggies, roasting brings out the natural sweetness, even in tart foodstuff. We came across this lively, palate-pleasing recipe to jazz up roasted meat, chicken or even fish. Enjoy!
Roasted Citrus Relish
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit – November 2014
- 1½ pink grapefruits
- 1½ navel oranges
- 3 lemons
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
- Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- Preheat oven to 350°. Slice ½ grapefruit, ½ orange, and 1 lemon crosswise into paper-thin rounds; remove seeds.
- Toss in a medium bowl with sugar, oil and kosher salt.
- Roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden in spots and crisp, 20–30 minutes; let cool.
- Meanwhile, cut all peel and white pith from remaining grapefruit, orange and lemons. Working over a medium bowl, cut along sides of membranes to release segments into bowl; discard membranes.
- Tear roasted citrus into pieces and toss with segments, breaking up larger segments.
- Stir in parsley; season with sea salt.
Let the year be golden with black-eyed peas on your plate
After all of the decadent indulgences of the Holidays, it’s nice to eat something fresh, hearty (it is winter and really cold) and good for you. Mingle your thoughts about New Year’s resolutions and all that jazz with the Southern tradition of black-eyed peas as your first nibbles for the year, and you have a winner, winner beans and greens dinner.
The custom of devouring legumes has roots dating back to the days of the Civil War. After the ravages of war, food was scarce and folks took to eating what had previously been fodder for their livestock, namely corn and beans. One thing led to the next and the humble fare took on celebratory status, representing health and prosperity for the coming New Year.
Lore has it that if you eat black-eyed peas you will have coins in your pocket. Toss in some greens like collards, mustard or turnip for a bulging wallet; gild the lily with cornbread and you are golden for the year. Wealth feature set aside, the dried beans pack a wallop of fiber, iron and lots of other nutritional goodies – perfect for finding your eating habit equilibrium.
Black-Eyed Peas and Cornmeal Dumplings
Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light JANUARY 2013
- 2 slices hickory-smoked bacon
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen black-eyed peas (about 2 3/4 cups)
- 3.4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
- 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- Hot sauce (optional)
- Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; finely chop. Remove 1 tablespoon drippings from pan; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add 1 cup onion to remaining drippings in pan; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add stock, 1 1/2 cups water, salt, pepper, and peas to pan; bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until peas are tender, stirring occasionally.
- Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, green onions, cornmeal, and baking soda, stirring with a whisk. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add bacon, reserved 1 tablespoon drippings, and buttermilk; stir until a moist dough forms.
- With moist hands, gently divide mixture into 12 equal portions. Drop dumplings, 1 at a time, into pan; cover and cook 8 minutes or until dumplings are done, stirring occasionally. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.
PS Don’t forget to steam or sauté a pan of greens as a go-with…or toss them in with the peas to wilt and cook at the end.
Cheers to good eating and Happy New Year!