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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reininger Hootenanny

We did the sides for Reininger's Second Annual Hootenanny and the Reininger folks grilled up some fat steaks with chimichurri sauce. I don't really know what a hootenanny is. Does it have something to do with music and red bandannas?

Menu of Sides:
- Barbeque baked beans
- Grilled red potato salad
- Grilled zuchini, golden garlic, balsamic vinegar
- Mixed greens, goat cheese, strawberries, hazelnuts, honey strawberry champagne vinaigrette
- appetizer: shrimp skewers and cucumber coulis

I have never been a fan of goat cheese strawberry salads. I have nothing against goat cheese with strawberries. Its the salad greens part I don't get. It's like having a sundae on top of lettuce. When Ann from Reininger asked me to make this salad, I did what all caterers do, cheerfully said yes. And then I set out to make a dressing that I thought could marry the two elements that always got me perplexed. And I think I did. The dressing, creamy, full bodied, filled with strawberry flavor and the crisp bite of champagne vinegar was a nice bridge between the greens and berries. This bright pink dressing is now a new favorite of mine.


Nacho (Gluten Free) Nacho Man

We travelled to Pendleton Friday Evening to do a gluten free nacho bar wedding rehearsal dinner. Something sounds really exotic about a gluten free nacho bar. Sadly a gluten free nacho bar looks and tastes the same as a regular nacho bar. Apparently a few guests have pretty serious gluten allergies and the host stressed the importance of referencing labels to avoid possible glutinous agents. We were successful. Did not make anyone sick or kill anyone. Another feather in our Graze Catering Cap.

Highlights and Lowlights

  • With a little help from my friend Ben, I discovered how to make black beans taste more than just edible, but actually tasty. Thanks Ben. Your black beans are now the second best I have ever tasted.

  • The roasted tomatilla salsa was really really good. How good... really good.

  • In case you are wondering how many pounds of chips to purchase from La Calanderia to feed 60 nacho eaters the answer is about 12 pounds (17 pounds less than the amount purchased by this caterer).

  • Do not attempt to cook in the "kitchen" of the Pendleton Round Up 'Let Er Buck Room'. So gross we refused to wash dishes there, just packed all the dirties and took them back to the catering kitchen.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Two-fer: Hannah and Erika's Wedding (not to each other)

Busy day. At final count we fed 332 guests today. 97 at the market, 20 box lunches, and 215 between two weddings.

The camera I brought to Erika's wedding happened to lack batteries. My faithful employees at Hannah's wedding have yet to produce any photographic proof we were there. So the two pics below are at home recreations of selections from each.

For Erika we did a simple yet tasty backyard grill party with a couple of haughty touches. Hannah celebrated the soul of Spanish Cuisine with paella and tapas. We were happy to partner with both Saffron and the Patisserie.

Erika's wedding menu:

  • spoons of crab salad, cucumber, tobiko caviar, and lemon aioli
  • bruschetta of white bean puree and pork confit


  • Welcome Table Farm greens, avocado, mandarin orange, toasted almonds, red onion, and an orange vinaigette
  • spicy roasted red pepper pasta salad, bay shrimp, Amity's spinach, and parmesan
  • artichoke halves with aioli and garlic butter
  • grilled flat iron steak and chimichurri
  • grilled salmon and tarragon lemon butter

Hannah's wedding menu:

  • marcona almonds, piquillo peppers, spanish olives


  • cheese filled saffron risotto balls with sun dried tomato dip
  • mushroom bruschetta with marinated morels, oysters, and criminis
  • garbanzo bean salad spanish style
  • Paella from Saffron (holy smokes that was good, cheers Chris!)
  • Patisserie truffles and almond bars


"It was delicious and people are still talking about the food. THANK YOU for bringing us all together with food! Everything was delightful. I have mailed you a check for the balance, please let me know if you do not receive it. Our photographer is out of town for the next week or so, but if I get any pictures of the food, I will be sure to forward them along. The blog is cool!
Talk to you soon,"

Hannah Israel
Dunham Cellars


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Watermill Wine Dinner

Hello John,

I heard nothing but raves about your dinner!! The lunches were unbelievable!! Thank you - it is so nice to just email and know that everything will be done and done well!

Thanks, Jacqui - Owner Blue Stocking Tours

I have a policy with my wife that seems to work pretty well. She asks if a pair of jeans looks too tight, or an outfit looks too funky, and I tell her the truth. Sometimes it hurts, but at least she knows I am being honest, and it cuts down on the number of outfits she tries on (by a couple). And she appreciates it, because she knows I am not blowing smoke just to get out the door. She does the same to me with food. In fact, she is so tough a begrudging "It's pretty good" is a home run in everyone else's book.

So in keeping with the honesty policy I have to tell you dinner Saturday night was ok. The appetizers were great. The soup was a bit too sweet and lacked something. The salad greens were fantastic but the side of porkbelly confit was overcooked and a bit of a mismatch. The lamb was mid-rare to medium, but underseasoned and a bit blah, the side veggies were pretty good. And the Patisserie dessert and local strawberries were out of this world (as always Matt!).


- wonton crisp, lime shrimp salad, radish, avocado, dill
- crostini, white bean puree, pork confit
- baguette slice, brie, apple butter, fresh pear

  • Walla Walla sweet onion soup, caramelized onion custard, thyme brown butter
  • Welcome Table Farm's greens, dijon red wine vinaigrette, pork belly confit, balsamic marinated radishes
  • Fehrenbacher Farm's leg of lamb, creamy polenta, local english peas, carrots, and swiss chard
  • Patisserie's chocolate vanilla almond mousse cake with Milton's strawberries


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Doubleback Winery Launch

I nominate the Doubleback Winery launch party as the best private party of the year! 160 plus guests, hosted by Walla Walla's native son Drew Bledsoe, honoring his winery venture with winemaker Chris Figgins. Hilltop at McQueen Vineyard with the Walla Walla Valley spread below, and the windfarm peaking over our shoulder; the setting couldn't have been more perfect... maybe a bit more perfect minus the wind.

Guests were bussed in from the Marcus Whitman, champagne served en route. We greeted them with wonton crackers topped with spicy ahi tuna. The wines weren't too shabby either. Leonetti, Pepperbridge, Le Ecole, Waters, a German gewertziminer (sp), Grammercy, and a couple others I can't recall.

The Menu: flat iron steak chopsticks with soy ginger dipping sauce, bruschetta white bean puree and pork confit, grilled shrimp and scallop skewers with herbed butter, endive goat cheese mouse lemon zest candied hazelnuts, artisan cheeses, and bonnie's asparagus with aioli.

Did I mention the windfarm? It was so windy the tent was tethered to heavy machinery. When guests arrived the busses were employed as windbreaks. Still the tent sides bulged, linens whipped over the buffet tables, and the hanging lanterns swung violently. The roar of the wind in the tent is a sound I will soon not forget.

Our cooking location was thoughtfully blocked by haybales and some careful Volksy parking. Unfortunately our 'kitchen' was on loose dirt and we had not the time, nor resources, to place it elsewhere. Creative cooking, plating, and wrapping saved the food from healthy doses of dust. And shockingly, despite the wind, the sad sack of a grill, and the dust, we pulled it off. Given proper circumstances the food would have been better, looked a tad nicer, and been warmer (!). But it was good, damn good. And if we are ever scheduled to cook in Florida during hurricane season we will be primed and ready.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Meet The Staff

Next time you visit the panini bar, say hello to the staff. Ethan (the young one on the right) a budding culinarian is the panini builder. And Chris (the cool looking glasses wearer on the left) will be your panini griller. Not pictured is Etasha, the Whittie money exchanger (she can tell you all about biochemistry, yet fails to make correct change... watch her carefully). I will not be there for quite a while due to other events.

We are thrilled to be selling Bariani Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Bariani Balsamic Vinegar. The Bariani's make some of the finest olive oil I have ever tasted. And they started the business by selling it at the Sacramento Farmer's Market (where I cut my teeth on, and gained inspiration from, local and fresh produce). We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Also pictured is a menu from an Abeja Wine Dinner last Summer.

Last week for Bonnie and Jerry Close's Asparagus Egg Pancetta Panini!!!!!