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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year In Review

It was quite a year for Graze Catering. In 2006 I started this little business on a shoestring budget, with no clients, a few contacts, zero advertising, and a very poor understanding of marketing. What I did have was an idea that Walla Walla needed high quality catered food. Good, honest, seasonal, and as much as possible locally sourced food. I think we have hit that mark, and fortunately our clients seem to think so too.

In honor of 2008, I present you with the Graze Catering Index (with apologies to Harper's Index). 2008; the year Graze grew up, from a little-itty-bitty maybe someday business into a real grown up business.

Guests served in 2006 --- 604
Guests served in 2007 --- 3,319
Guests served in 2008 --- 8,053

Number of events 2006 --- 17
Number of events 2007 --- 66
Number of events 2008 --- 83

Number of events 150+ guests 2006 --- 0
Number of events 150+ guests 2007 --- 2
Number of events 150+ guests 2008 --- 11

Number of events 500+ guests 2006 --- 0
Number of events 500+ guests 2007 --- 0
Number of events 500+ guests 2008 --- 3

Number of weddings/rehearsals 2006 --- 0
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2007 --- 6
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2008 --- 18

Farmer's market paninis sold 2007 --- 925
Farmer's market paninis sold 2008 --- 1452

Thanks to all our past and future clients and guests. We look forward to serving you again.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Pops Turns 90

In the last week Walla Walla has found itself bombarded with snow. The patio table at our house is measuring 24 inches of snow since last Saturday. Walla Walla is just not prepared to deal with two feet in a week. (Spokane got two feet in 36 hours! Last January due to the birth of our daughter we were in Spokane for the largest one day snowfall since 1950, 11 inches, and that almost shut the city down. I can't even imagine what things are like in Spokane this week.)

That being said. We provided dinner for 32 guests at a surprise 90th birthday party. When we started cooking it was snowing and when we left for the event it was snowing, and when we left the event it was snowing, and when the last dishes were done and our kitchen was scrubbed... you get the point. Probably a good six inches. Add catering in giant snow to the list, along with huge windstorm, brain melting heat, driving rain, and perfect blue skies.

- Butternut squash, spinach, roasted garlic bechamel lasagna, and fried sage
- Chantrelle and porcini risotto cakes with mushroom ragu
- Green leaf salad, orange segments, hazelnuts, red onion, champagne vinaigrette
- Spinach salad, balsamic roasted onions, almonds, sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, croutons, balsamic vinaigrette
- Roasted carrots, beets, pearl onions, rutabegas, parsnips, cauliflower, chives, and orange oil
- Roasted baby portabella mushooms, roast red peppers, roast garlic, extra virgin olive oil
- La Brea Bakery baguettes and butter

No pictures of course. Do you think my lovely wife is going to let me take the camera in a snowstorm?

This was our last event of 2008!!! Coming soon the Graze Catering Index. (Basically the Harper's Index)


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Watermill Winery, Seneca Foods, A Neighbor, And A Doctor.

Busy weekdays and a family weekend.

Wednesday we popped over to Milton Freewater for a retirement dinner at Watermill Winery. That is the nicest winery kitchen in town. Scratch that, the best winery kitchen and better than 80% of the restaurant kitchens in town. If you ever need a spot for an appetizer party for like 70 max or a dinner for like 30 max, that is the place.

Thursday we headed to Dayton and did a prime rib lunch for 80 guests. They enjoyed us very much and we are invited back to do it again in 09.
Friday we did a little drop off food for the neighbor's Christmas Party and then headed to College Place to drop off food for a doctor's Christmas Party.

No pictures from any of these events. How lame. So to relax today I made a giant batch of posole, and then took a gussied up picture of a very comfort food dish.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Barrel Weekend

We broke the month of November interlude by serving up a thousand guests for Holiday Barrel Weekend, Dec. 5th, 6th, and 7th. Longshadows was our venue Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during tasting hours. Reininger held their wine club party Friday Night and we dropped off platter appetizers for a house party Sunday.

Hand passed appetizers at Longshadows:
- cheese filled saffron risotto balls and sun dried tomato dip
- crostini with caramelized onions, gruyere, prosciutto bits, and thyme
- crostini with red wine beef ragu, brie, and parmesan
- swedish pancake filled with apple butter and fresh pear (this paired so well with their late harvest reisling)

Platter appetizers at Reininger:
- cheese filled saffron risotto balls and sun dried tomato dip
- puff pastry filled with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and prosciutto bits
- fingerling potato chip, medium rare flat iron steak slice, and blue cheese cream
- italian sausage skewers with roasted garlic marinara
- portabella mushroom skewers with roasted red pepper dip

New Favorite Things:
  • Blue Cheese Cream. Great blue cheese, mixed with heavy whipping cream, then passed through a fine sieve to eliminate any lumps, then whipped with sour cream, a tiny bit of garlic puree, a dash of worstcheshire, salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon. It tastes like the best blue cheese dressing ever, but super intensified, and holds its shape in a nice little dollop on top of a steak slice. It is the perfect accompaniement to nice steak and a crisp fingerling potato slice.

  • Magazine Photos. Lifestyles magazine ran a photo of our riso ball app. Amazing how many guests exclaimed "I am so happy to get to try them!"

  • Apple Butter from Rome Apples. I make apple butter a lot from extra apples. I love the stuff. (Grandma and Grandpa had a saying "He doesn't know sh** from apple butter." It's always cracked me up.) All apples make nice apple butter, but some are a little too tart, or a little too sweet. But there is something about the Romes that make it special. The tart, sweet, and acid all blend perfectly. They aren't so tasty as an eating apple, but perfect for cooking.

Finished the busy weekend off by sharing a lovely bottle of 03 Reininger Cab with my daughter Frances.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Relaxation and Sapolil

The Fall and Winter are the just fruits of a busy Spring and Summer. I could get used to just a couple of events a month, quite relaxing. My days now consist of playing with my children, bothering my wife, and procrastinating home projects (and not returning next year's wedding bids!) All we have done this month is a wedding rehearsal dinner and this weekend's gig. And that is fine by me.

Saturday we dropped off a simple buffet for 20 with our friends at Gifford Hirlinger and then jetted back into town for a four course dinner at Sapolil Cellars. The dinner we donated as part of an auction item for the ywca. Sapolil provided the next to perfect space, as seen above, and the Kate Bray Band provided the stellar entertainment.


  • Arugula and beet salad, fresh apple, candied nuts, goat cheese
  • Cauliflower soup, marsala sauteed crimini mushrooms, truffle salt, cauliflower crisp
  • Beef burgundy, reduction sauce, creamy polenta, roast butternut squash and sage brown butter, bacon braised brussel sprouts
  • Chocolate mousse and vanilla cream from the Patisserie.

New Favorite Things:

  • The soup above is pureed cauliflower, a little butter, onion, thyme, chicken stock, and half and half. It is a third as rich as it looks, really. It is earthy, and full bodied, and the perfect base for the flavorful mushrooms and truffle salt. I used to make cauliflower croutons to top this, but this time I made little dehydrated cauliflower trees. Cutest little things, and they taste great too.

Back to Work - after an easy Thanksgiving we get crazy. Barrel Tasting at Longshadows, Reininger, Waterbrook, and possibly a couple more. If you are coming for Barrel Weekend make sure and stop by one of these fine establishments to taste our snacks with their great wine.


Friday, November 7, 2008


Palmares is a cycling term for list of great accomplishments. Our version of palmares.

Recieved this note from Angela and Ryan regarding their wedding reception.


Our wedding day was spectacular thanks to you and your team! You were all seamless and the food amazing - our wedding guests are still raving about how wonderful it was. We cannot thank you enough for pulling together such a beautiful menu 15 days prior to the Big Day! Everything was fabulous from the food to the staff to the delivery!

Thank You!!! - Angela and Ryan"

Kind of makes my heart get all fluttery. Angela and Ryan's reception dinner had originally been planned with a another caterer, whom got all flaky. And then they found me. The good feelings are mutual.

Tonight is a wedding rehearsal dinner and tomorrow morning the wife and I fly to Sacramento for a good friend's wedding. (The kids are staying with Grandma and Grandpa!!! Whoopee, our first night away from offspring in almost five years.) Patrick happens to be a great chef, mentor, former boss, former roomate, my best man, and caterer. It will be a blast to see good friends again.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Janet and Larnie's Wedding

Janet and Larnie were tied in marital union at Three Rivers Winery October 18th. 65 guests enjoyed perfect weather, a stunning sunset over the three hole pitch and put golf course, and our food.

- Cugini meatball skewers, roasted garlic marinara, and parmesan
- Assorted cheese crostini, brie and apple, fontina and dried cherries, manchego and roasted red peppers
- Cheese filled saffron rissoto balls with sun dried tomato dip

- Slow roast salmon and lemon butter
- Rosemary chicken breast and garlic cream
- Potato gratin
- Spinach salad, orange madelines, toasted almonds, croutons, goat cheese, champagne vinaigrette
- Welcome Table Farm roasted carrots, beets, rutabegas, chive sticks, and orange oil
- La Brea Bakery baguettes and butter

New Favorite Things:
  • I love working at Three Rivers Winery. Not because of the kitchen (which is nice, but rather strangely laid out making plating difficult). I love working there because I get to play golf immediately following service. There is nothing better than finishing the buffet service with a quick three holes of golf. A welcome reward for a long day. During that little down time our capable servers have it under control and this cook gets to mess around.
  • Is there a better meatball than Cugini's Italian market in Walla Walla, make that within 200 miles? I doubt it. Fantastic. Our nearing perfection roasted garlic marinara and their meatballs go together like... what is that Louis Jordan song "beans and cornbread"?


Monday, October 20, 2008

Welcome to the Family

Homestead Catering went out of business. So we bought this.

Replacing the Volksy. (Can you believe this little van did a lunch for 600 and multiple weddings over 200?) You have been good to us Volksy, sad to see you relegated back to a family car.
So no more following Graze Catering reading random bumper stickers. Now all you get to read is our logo. I guess everyone needs to grow up sometime.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Walla Walla Hospice

We donated our services to the Walla Walla Hospice as part of a dinner package. It went to auction at the Hospice event way back in February. We provided dinner for eight and service. Baker Boyer Bank lent their brand new 7th floor boardroom as the venue (possibly one of the highest points in little ww). Le Ecole Winery paired the wine for each course. And Wendye and John provided tableware, dessert, and played host. The package raised $2,500.

- scallop cakes with sriracha mayo
- endive spears with goat cheese mousse and pecan gremolata
- baguette slice with pork rillette, dijon, and thyme

Dinner: - Welcome Table Farm mizuna and arugula, marinated beets, fresh apple, goat cheese, champagne vinaigrette, and candied pecans.
- Pureed corn soup, truffle butter, and chives.
- Porchetta (herb, caper, garlic, lemon stuffed pork shoulder roast), creamy polenta, roast rutabegas and carrots, vegetable gratin
- Dessert from the incomparable Colville Street Patisserie.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Mike's 50th Birthday

Friday we went to Beresan Winery to put on dinner for 16 guests celebrating Mike's 50th birthday. Winemaker Tom played host (and dj, keeping the kitchen hoppin' with everything from Cake to Dr. Dre) while we bombarded the guests with appetizers; five flavors to be exact.

- Cheese stuffed risotto balls with sun dried tomato dip
- Pan fried scallop cake with sriracha mayo (pictured below)
- Baguette slice with pork rillette, dijon, thyme
- Crostini with beef ragu and parmesan
- Belgian endive spears with goat cheese mousse and pecan gremolata

Then we served the guests family style (my new favorite way to serve guests, a decidedly unfussy, communal, and convivial way to enjoy a meal). A simple salad of local greens, veggies, and champagne vinaigrette. For the main course we roasted Fehrenbacher Farm's Leg of Lamb, made some creamy polenta, roasted rutabegas, carrots, and beets, and built some vegetable gratins.

Of course I didn't get a picture of the lamb!!! Server Morgan's only real job all night (!) was to remind me to take a picture of the lamb/roasted vegetable platter, and she forgot. So this is the best we got, a lonesome carving in some sauce back in the kitchen.

New Favorite Things:
  • I have roasted leg of lamb for lots of parties, and this was far and away the best. Same process as before, couple of days of marinating, a dijon, garlic, herb, salt paste on the outside. But this time I brushed the legs the last five minutes with a wine/honey/herb/pepper reduction that put the whole thing over the top. A bottle of Waterbrook Melange reduced to about two tablespoons, mixed with honey, then dijon and rosemary when cooled, and a pinch of pepper. Jammy, syrupy, intense wine fruit, an incredible red meat glaze.

  • Scallop cakes. The guests couldn't get enough. Tom called them "money". Served them the next night and a guest proclaimed it to be the best appetizer she has 'ever' eaten (that may be a bit extreme). Chopped sea scallops, super fine mince of serrano pepper, chopped cilantro, minced shallot, dollop of mayo, and panko bread crumbs are all mixed together. Then formed into a patty coating with more panko, then pan fried. The sriracha mayo is just mayo mixed with enough sriracha to color nicely with a bit of a spicy kick.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Old Stuff

Raj and Kelly's Wedding.

Way back in August, the 31st to be exact, we did and Indian Buffet for Raj and Kelly (same day we did Erin's wedding at Basel Cellars) at the same house that hosted the Paella reception. Raj and Randall/Caitlin were friends at Whitman yada yada ya. Appetizers of samsoas, fried paneer cheese, and garbanzo flour pancakes with raita dip.

No pictures unfortunately. For the buffet spicy garbanzo bean salad, lentil salad, basmati rice, chili fry lamb in coconut mild sauce, curried shrimp. Dessert from the Patisserie. The Indian Minister (flew in from India for the ceremony) was impressed. He told our cooks the food was very authentic. We only have Raj and Kelly to thank for the recipe/consultation help!

Megan's Wedding - Got a couple of pictures to share.

Pictures from Kim's Mom's Birthday at Watermill Winery (Thanks for the great shots Jamie Brown!)


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Is Nothing Sacred

We were invited to Con Agra Foods to do a dinner for the production line employees. The boss wanted something special for the 90% Latino workforce so we agreed to do posole and a few other favorites. Then he made the mistake of posting the menu in the lunchroom a few days before. The employees were stoked, posole! Then they found out some white guy was making it.

At Con Agra every time I entered the building to get water or use their test kitchen oven I was met with stunned silence and disbelieving stares. Once the initial shock wore off the questions came "Who made the posole?... Who taught you to make the posole?... Do you have a Mexican Grandmother?" Me. Me. No.

I didn't let on that years of eating posole I have come to the conclusion mine is better than any Mexican Restaurant's I have had the pleasure to have. But definitely not better than Ruth Moya's Mother's version, a former 7th grade science student. That was the best posole ever.

La Calanderia Chips, mild red salsa, spicy roasted tomatilla salsa
Warm La Calanderia corn tortillas
Corn on the cobb, butter, cojita cheese, chili flakes, lime
Tamales from Dora's Worm Ranch (non ww people, a bait shop - really, maybe best Mexican food in town)
Posole, cabbage, lime
Dessert: Ice cream, stewed nectarines, cinnamon

After the meal the boss asked around. Rate it 1 to 10. All responses 9 or 10, a few even said "best posole I have ever had". I was chatting with an employee later and he asked "Did you make all this?" Yep, but bought the tamales. And he gave me the best compliment I think possible. "It tastes like Mexico."


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Two-Fer: Dawn and Katy's Wedding (not to each other)

The final big wedding weekend for us, and we hammered it, absolutely hammered it. (that would be a good thing, as opposed to 'getting hammered', a bad thing.)

Dawn and John were married at Terra Blanca Winery and had the reception in their backyard, which happens to be on the slopes of Red Mountain out Benton City way, something like that. The weather did not play nice. It was misty and rainy and just a tad cold, not ideal weather for guests or outdoor grilling.

We served up a few appetizers, my favorite new thing being a crab and cheese stuffed jalepeno popper with a cilantro lime buttermilk dip.

For the dinner buffet, John (the groom) sourced us some beautiful halibut which we poached in olive oil and served with extra virgin olive oil stewed cherry tomatoes from Martinez Family Farm. Grilled whole beef tenderloins were glazed with a red wine, honey, herb sauce adding a perfect little charred wine/herb flavor; served with horseradish cream. Amity has some beautiful fingerling potatoes which we grilled, then tossed with dijon, chili flakes, garlic, and olive oil and served with aioli. Local greens tossed in a simple red wine vinaigrette, bread and butter, and some tasty vegetable gratins filled out the buffet.

Cheryl, uber-server extraordinaire proclaimed this to be the finest buffet she has taken part in. I have to agree. Just about perfect. (that is really hard for me to say.)

Katy and Matt were married at Walla Walla's beautiful and rainy Stone Creek Manor. 170 guests partook of simpler Graze Catering fare. Platter self serve appetizers followed by a rustic and homey buffet.

Grilled on-site rosemary chicken and aioli, vegetarian stuffed pasta shells, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, whole leaf ceasar salad, end of summer roasted vegetables, and baguettes and butter. The rain started in the morning, faked us out in the afternoon, and started again in earnest that evening. But a good time was had by all, and when Katy called me at the end of the reception her raves were indeed welcome and appreciated.
So the big ones are done. A couple of more posts regarding older events to come. And now we are on to the Fall and Holiday season. Next weekend the family heads to Portland for some r and r. And then the discussions for next years weddings begin!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Too Much Good Stuff

Is that the slogan for 7-11 or Taco Bell? I can't remember. But it could have described our weekend.

Friday evening saw us to the home of Sherlee and Larry for a simple backyard grill wedding rehearsal dinner. Grilled salmon, chicken, spinach salad, roasted red potatoes, and the end of summer's finest vegetables. Simple, fresh, tasty.

We quickly shifted gears and headed to Areus Bed and Breakfast/Yoga Center for Kristy and Dan's Wedding.
It was Areus's first wedding reception and David and Giancarlo had the grounds in tip top shape.

100 guests, passed apps, and a two course plated dinner.

- Corn soup with pistachio butter, white bean and corn cannoli, and an arugula salad. (the picture below)

- Grilled beef tenderloin, red wine and veal sauce, truffle butter, mashed potatoes, and the end of summer's vegetables.

It was quite a show. Brilliant rentals from Seattle. Tip top wines from Northstar, Reininger, and Rotie Cellars. Perfect weather. And the food wasn't bad either. (My only regret was missing the Second Annual Walla Walla Wiffle Ball Tournament to perform the wedding catering, my second year of conflicting schedules. Next year I vow to cater the wiffle ball tourney just so I can play in it... victory will be mine.)

Sunday was the capper. Eric and Morgan headed back to Areus for a post wedding panini/snack bar for many of the out of town wedding guests. Dave headed to Basel Cellars to do a four course dinner for some jet-setters from the wet side of the state. I headed to Abeja to titillate Walla Walla Wine Alliance guests from around the country with appetizers, whom visit our fair city to taste our more than fair libations.

A picture of the bruschetta of caramelized onions, prosciutto, goat cheese, and thyme. (A homage to Becca's favorite pizza from our early meeting days) Hopefully I can re-create it in Abeja's new wood burning pizza oven. (If they do not invite me for a pizza making bash I will be most seriously hurt. I was not referred to as a 'pizza-jedi' jokingly.)

And to finish a tired night and weekend, this plane decided to show up and garnish a very lovely sunset.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Stephanie's Wedding

It was a busy weekend for us. My son's first day of real pre-school at Betty's on Thursday.

Stephanie and Chris's rehearsal dinner at Three Rivers Winery Friday.
Amity's tomatoes, fresh mozz, basil, and bariani extra virgin olive oil.

For the rest we had a nice green salad, rosemary lemon grilled chicken, flat iron steak with hotel butter, and roasted red potatoes with dijon/garlic/thyme/mayo/bacon dressing.

The view from the deck of Three River's toward the end of dinner.

Saturday Chris and Stephanie had an Irish/Scottish reception. Chris, God bless him, got married wearing a kilt (the pants issue solved on day one). We did three passed apps, two of which passed as 'scot/irish'. Cured salmon and creme fraiche crostini, hard cheddar and cows milk cheese and crackers, and heirloom tomatoes with 25 year old balsmic and sea salt on toasted baguette slices.

The dinner buffet:
Spinach salad, citrus vinaigrette, shaved mushrooms, toasted almonds, jarlsberg cheese.
Roasted beets, carrots, and turnips with orange oil and chives.
Colcannon potatoes (cabbage and mashers).
Slow roast salmon and lemon butter.
Herb roast beef tenderloin and horseradish cream.
Veggie pot pies for the vegetarians.
Baguettes and Irish soda bread.

Then we brought out the desserts from Colville Street Patisserie. There is no better dessert, wedding buffet maker than Matt in the Pacific Northwest, of this I am convinced.
Lots of nice compliments from the good folks attending the festivities at Stone Creek Manor.
And to cap the weekend, Sunday we headed to Biscuit Ridge for an impromptu wine drinking, food snacking celebration for our friend's new land 'vineyard to be' purchase.

It really is tough living in Walla Walla sometimes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Erin's Wedding

First we killed 'em with appetizers.

And more appetizers...

Followed by a three course dinner, wedding cake from the Patisserie and Erin's Grandpa's super yummy ice cream.

Basel Cellars was our venue. The weather held nicely. Below is the menu printed for each table. I have no idea why this table was called Peanut Butter and Company.

Missing is a picture of the second course I like to call "Corn Explosion". Corn ravioli, mascarponed sauteed, corn and white bean filled cannoli, truffle oil, and parmesan crisp. (very tasty, never again will I make ravioli for 90 guests, sheer insanity)

Picture of the main course, tenderloin, truffle butter, mashers, local sauteed veg.

All in all, a very tasty wedding feast.