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Friday, December 30, 2011

Designated Driver Essentials

As the Christmas holiday has come and gone and we've finally picked up all of that pesky wrapping paper debris, we find ourselves preparing for the new year. When most of us think of New Years Eve we think of many things: fireworks, confetti and excessive amounts of champagne. And while ringing in the new year with the traditional spirits can be fun, we must always remember to do it responsibly.

On an average day there are an average of 36 fatalities on the roadway, this jumps to 56 on New Year's Eve. A startling statistic that is sure to make all of us think twice before getting behind the wheel after a few drinks.

For those of us who are given the task of designated driving, we must make sure that we take the proper precautions to make it a safe night for all. First and foremost, drinking should be at a minimum, the customary glass of champagne to celebrate is fine, but follow it with a drink like soda water and lime or whichever non-alcoholic alternative you can come up with.

Over the years, over my many experiences being a designated driver, I have found some good tips and tricks for keeping all of my in-car guests happy. Stock up on these items and you will be set for a wide variety of circumstances.

1. Water.
As we all know, hours of drinking can result in great thirst. Not only does it help with that, it also can put a stop to what could be a terrible hangover the next day.
2. Snacks.
The number one complaint I get is hunger, so I typically stock the car up with filling snacks like nuts. It temporarily quells the hunger and usually holds them over until they get home or reach the restaurant. You can find some great nut mixes like these at Crate and Barrel.
Lovely Stripes Treat Bags
3. Sick Bags.
An unfortunate side effect of a long night of celebratory drinking is the sickness that sometimes accompanies it. I always like to have paper bags. You can always use the typical brown lunch bags, but you can find fun, trendy bags at Shop Sweet Lulu.
Herban Essentials Lemon Towelettes
4. Antibacterial Towelettes.
I swear by these. Whether you have sticky hands or just want to kill the germs on your hands after holiday mingling, they do the trick. I buy the large packs of these from
Italian Wool & Alpaca Knit Throw - Fog
A cozy throw is perfect, especially around this time of year. With all of the women in the car typically wearing dresses, they are very happy to have one of these to warm them up. I found this particular throw at Restoration Hardware.

6. Reading Material
If boredom strikes any of the people riding in your car, its always good to have something for them to look at whether it be a book, newspaper or your favorite magazines.

Follow these tips and you'll be sure to be everyone's favorite DD!

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Big Thanks

As I begin this post I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving. That time of year has come that we get to see far away relatives, eat excessive amounts of carbohydrates and wake up at the crack of dawn on Friday to get the deal on this year's hottest gift. I hope everyone has a nice long weekend and is able to pull through the almost iminent Tryptophan-induced drowsiness. I also would like to take the time to extend a big thanks to Laurie Kulikowski at The Street for mentioning Dennis Dean A Catering Company along with four other caterers across the country and highlighting our stories. If you would like to view the article click here. She saved the best one for last :)

Stay tuned for my next blog. Hint: Bubbles and squeak. Anyone Familiar?

Now is the time for me to roll up my sleeves and get elbow deep in turkey. Happy Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holidays and Hot Cocoa

As the holidays draw closer, they bring up many things.One: Beautiful Atlanta weather. Two: Delicious waistline-expanding eats (We can worry about exercising in January...) Three: Parties. All of which make for a busy caterer.
From the decorating, to the treats, to the joining together of family and friends, I can honestly say that it is the best time of year. And while I grew up in Wisconsin where the cold is much more intense, I can still appreciate a warm, creamy cup of Hot Cocoa in the mild Atlanta weather. I must say this is a few steps harder than the "just add water" kind with the hardened freeze dried marshmallows (No judgment if that's what you prefer!) but if you really want to impress the crowd and get the opportunity to break out the blow torch, I highly suggest you try this recipe.

1 (14oz.) can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
½ Cup of unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons  vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 ½ cups hot water
Marshmallow Topping*
Combine all ingredients except marshmallows in a 2 quart glass measuring cup.  Microwave on high 8-10 minutes – stirring every 3 minutes.  Top with marshmallow.

Please excuse me while I go take a nap after the excessive amount of marshmallow topping  that I just ingested.....

For more Holiday recipes click here.

For Holiday party ideas click here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fast Trip, Fast Meal

A few months ago, I was given the incredible opportunity to fly on a Delta jet to the Big Apple to view the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibit. Words simply cannot describe what I found before my eyes. From the line wrapped around the block to the actual exhibit itself, I was completely awestruck. His use of colors and textures as well as his innate ability to tell a story through a variety of different garments blew me away. If anyone  has the opportunity, I highly suggest they take it.

As my trip drew to a close and I found myself touching down in Atlanta, I realized that I had guests to entertain and soon! Upon raiding my cabinets, pantry and refrigerator, I found very little to work with. Fortunately, I did have the makings of an all-time favorite. That dish that brings you comfort, that dish that you can eat warm as a kid with a generous slathering of ketchup or cold as a sandwich. That's right...meatloaf. In my opinion, meatloaf can be enjoyed by anyone because you can go in so many different directions with it. In fact, my favorite isn't the traditional, old school type. My favorite is actually made with turkey. Not only does it taste delicious, but it also has the plus of having less fat. I also make it in a skillet which is a bit different but tastes amazing (not to mention it cuts down on dirty dishes!). So, to those out there afraid to stray from the original, I say take the  risk and try this delicious spin on your mom's traditional meatloaf.

·         2 ½ cups chopped Vidalia onions (2 large onions)
·         2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
·         2 teaspoons salt
·         1 teaspoon black pepper
·         1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
·         1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
·         3/4 cup chicken stock
·         1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
·         5 pounds ground turkey breast
·         1 1/2 cups pretzel bread crumbs
·         3 eggs
·         Ketchup (add to taste)

In an iron skillet over medium-low heat, cook onions, olive oil and Italian seasoning until thoroughly softened. Add Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and chicken stock  and mix until completely combined. Add salt and pepper.  Allow to cool to room temperature.( I was in a hurry and put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes)
After removing the skillet from the refrigerator, combine ground turkey, pretzel bread crumbs, eggs, and onions (Don’t over mix- it will result in tough meatloaf). Mix all ingredients well ( I shaped it into a round loaf, forming it into the shape of the pan).

 Spread the ketchup evenly on top (I added about a cup). Put the skillet in to the preheated oven and bake it for 1 1/2 hours- but check often and check for over or undercooking . Serve warm.
I hear that it makes an amazing midnight snack nestled between two slices of bread, but that’s just what I hear…

Friday, September 9, 2011

Grandma's Orange Cake

Do you ever find yourself desperately missing the dishes that you had as a child? Of course you do, and I'm right there with you.

The time came for my parents to board a Delta flight to Atlanta as they do every summer. And as usual, I was thrilled to show them around the beautiful city I call home, and take them to all of my favorite culinary spots. However, as many of you will find, the time you spend with your parents brings up nostalgic memories of times past, and in my family, memories and thoughts of good times often centered around the kitchen. If I had to name one dish that I missed and craved the most, it would without a doubt be my grandmother's Orange Cake.  

My grandmother was known for a number of delicious eats, but this heavenly cake had to be one of my favorites. From the  texture to the sweet orange flavor, I can practically taste it now. I came to the conclusion that I would attempt to make the cake for my parents, as they also had expressed on numerous occasions that they would do almost anything for a slice of the decadent dessert. So there I was on a mission (with the handwritten recipe in hand) to replicate this dessert that I had so loved growing up. I must admit, no one can exactly replicate their grandmother's cooking, but having said that, I did make a cake that in the end quelled those cravings and tasted pretty delicious.

Grandma’s  Orange Cake

·  1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
·  1 teaspoon baking powder
·  1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
·  3/4 cup sugar
·  2 large eggs
·  1/2 cup sour cream
·  1/4 cup fresh orange juice
·  1 teaspoon baking powder
·  1/2 teaspoon salt
·  1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch round baking pan with your favorite non-stick cooking spray. Beat butter & sugar together in mixer until fully incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time until each is mixed in. Add in all remaining ingredients until just combined-overmixing will result in a rubbery cake. Bake cake for 35 minutes. Check every 10 minutes with toothpick and watch carefully, as everyone's oven is different.

While the cake is baking, grab a saucepan and simmer glaze ingredients on medium. When desired consisently is achieved, turn heat to low.

When your cake has turned to a nice golden brown color, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. When the cake is cool to the touch, poke holes in cake so cake will absorb the glaze and become more moist as it sits. 
After you have poked the holes, pour glaze on cake. Finish cake with a dusting of orange zest.

I made this in the morning. Do you know how hard it was to convince myself that it wouldn't make a delicious breakfast? (And that my parents might want a slice!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pizza: Morning, Noon and Night

 As I begin this week's blog, I would first like to thank my first few readers. Your feedback has been incredible and I am so pleased to hear all of the positive comments. As suggested, I will have a recipe in each blog. Over the years I have acquired and created a number of mouth-watering recipes that I am more than happy to share. I hope that in this blog you are able to find inspiration, whether it be in one of those recipes, pictures of event decor or something as simple as a story of one of my travels.  Which brings me to the question: What inspires you? A person? A place? Things big or small? Feel free to leave a comment and share.

Interestingly enough,  this week’s recipe inspiration came about by the means of a good friend of mine who just returned from a trip from California.  After winning Delta Airline round trip tickets that they had so graciously donated to one of the many non-profits they support, she dined her way through wine country with her own Southern flair.

When she returned, my friend raved about a restuarant with breakfast pizzas. While I've had my fair share of cold Dominos for breakfast, she ensured that these pizzas have a bit more sophistication. Combining the unique flavors that California is known for, this breakfast treat is the epitome of freshness and comfort.

I loved the idea so much that I decided to come up with my own version: the BLT Pizza, a combination of soft fried eggs, crispy bacon, and peppery arugula greens.

This has been a true crowd-pleaser.  Of course, most things with bacon are, so don't be suprised if it disappears quickly. Share with friends, family or keep it for yourself (I won't tell)...

BLT Pizza
  • 12 ounces, weight Prepared Pizza Dough
  • Olive Oil, For Drizzling On Pizza Dough
  • 4 whole Eggs
  • 8 strips Cooked Bacon (Adjust to taste. I love bacon, and think the more, the better!)
  • 1 1/2 cups Grated Mozzarella
  • ¼ cups Grated Parmesan
  • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch Freshly Cracked Pepper
  • 1 cup Arugula
  • 1 whole shallot
  • 3 Sprigs Rosemary, stripped and diced (optional)
  • Cherry Tomatoes 
Liberally cover your kitchen counter with flour. Knead rosemary into dough and roll to a 1/4-inch thickness. Brush both sides of dough with olive oil and set aside. 

Preheat your grill to approximately 375-400 degrees. Once the grill is at the desired temperature, place the dough on the grill. Make sure to keep a close eye on the dough as it cooks, as it can burn quickly. Mark each side of the dough and move off of direct heat. Crack eggs onto the dough and close grill lid for 2 minutes.  

Once the eggs whites are opaque and the yolks are set, top the pizza with cooked bacon slices, cheeses, shallots and arugula. Cover again for 2 minutes or until cheeses are melted and arugula has wilted. Add sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

I know you're getting hungry. Word to the wise though; this is definitely a fork and knife kind of pizza. You don't want to end up with egg on your face (or on your shirt!) I have the dry cleaning bill to prove it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Milestone

A few weeks back,  a good friend of mine asked us to cater her sister-in-law's 50th birthday. A milestone in one’s life that signifies all that has passed as well as what is to come. As a gift from her sister-in-law's husband she was given a trip to Italy. However, since all the family and friends could not join them, we were given the task of capturing the true essence of the scenic mediterranean land.
Our canvas being a beautiful back yard with lighting provided by Mother Nature herself, we had the ideal backdrop for a true alfresco dinner. We created a long family style table dressed in a cotton polished burlap topped with a crisp white hemstitch linen. The center of the table was a collection of wood, wrought  iron and patina copper candelabras all accented with deep rouge peonies, set in blue whitewashed brushed wicker baskets. One of the elements of the table that I really enjoyed was the collection of items. Some old, some borrowed and some new; all from friends that sincerely care for the birthday girl.
 After the guests arrived to the champagne cocktail bar, they were escorted to the back terrace for a vast display of Antipasti meats, cheeses, pickled vegetables, grilled whole artichokes, olives and the chef's collection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. 
 Dinner was served buffet style in three waves for guest to help themselves. The first, offered bites of pear and endive salad, assorted grilled flatbread pizzas and an artisan bread display with classic Italian spreads and dips. Once the first course was cleared,  the dinner fare was presented for the guests to choose their own dinner. The dinner consisted of  wild stripe sea bass with thousand tomato fondue, braised veal osso bucco, balsamic glazed eight piece chicken, a whole parmesan wheel filled with a wild mushroom risotto and brown sugar glazed petite carrots. Lastly, dessert was a luscious cake made by a family member. It was to die for.

As the sun went down and moon came out, it was as if the stars in the Tuscan sky were transposed onto the Atlanta skyline.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Starting From The Beginning...

As I relaxed and enjoyed my Spiked Sun Tea this past weekend, I pondered what to submit for my second Blog Post. Then it occurred to me, perhaps I should start from the beginning-the roots of my passion for food, travel and design. 

Food: My love of food began as a young boy in my grandmother’s kitchen in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  My grandmother and aunt both were a huge source of inspiration when it came to cooking and creating new recipes and helped me hone the skills and techniques that I use to this day. I spent my summers on the family farm, learning how produce, meats and grains were cultivated and harvested.   I developed a deep-seated respect for the earth and everything it yields, and learned that there is no greater reward at the end of a hard day’s work than sitting around the dinner table with family and friends enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. 

Travel:  Growing up we did not have a lot, so our vacations consisted of camping trips. My Mother (yes, my family was a victim of divorce), would leave work and pick us up in her  awesome blue Ford Mustang. All we needed was a canvas tent, sleeping bags and a Coleman cooler full of food. 

Dinner was a true American classic; Oscar Meyer hot dogs and canned baked beans. Once the tent was set up, we set off to find the perfect stick for roasting our dinner over the fire. My brother and I would then sharpen our sticks to perfection, although I'm not sure whether it was more fun finding the stick or actually having the opportunity to use our Swiss Army knives (which were also great for opening cans).


Although we loved the flavor of a good old fashioned hot dog cooked over a camp fire, we always saved room for dessert; Sweet Pudgy Pies. For those of you that do not what a Pudgy Pie is, it is two pieces of soft, white Wonder bread, coated with butter, filled with canned fruit and pressed in a Pudgy Pie maker. Set on hot coals for about five minutes per side, and you've got yourself some good eats! I can practically taste that meal now. To this day, everytime I grill out, I get a little nostolgic for our time spent camping in Wisconsin.

Design:  My grandmother, an orphan of the depression, was adopted by a couple who were shoe cobblers for the Kohler family as well as the local factory workers. She lived a wonderful childhood of birthday parties, church get-togethers and Sunday dinners. She told elaborate stories of parties with beautiful silver service pieces, ornate floral arrangements, hand sewn dresses of imported fabrics, and the latest shoe fashions, which completely captivated me.  With my grandmother's influence, I learned the importance of presentaion, unique event aesthetic, and the utmost importance of proper etiquette; lessons I use on a daily basis.

Whenever I find myself in a creativity rut, I try to go back to where I started from to gather a little humble inspiration.  Just remember that your best ideas may come from the simplist memories from your past.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What We're Loving Now: Festive Summer Cocktails

As the temperatures rise, there is little better than a refreshing summer thirst-quencher. From cool citrus cocktails to simple southern sweet tea, this season's must-have accessory is the satisfying summery sidekick. Liven those long summer days up with this creative spin on your average summer libation.

Simple Spiked Sun Tea

6 cups water

5 black tea bags (Luzianne preferred)

1/4 cup simple syrup (adjust to taste)

1/2 cup bourbon (adjust to taste)

1 large orange (slice into rounds)

1/2 cup fresh mint


Fill large glass pitcher with water and tea bags. Sit in sun & allow to steep for 2 hours or until desired strength is reached. As the tea steeps, fill an ice cube tray with diced mint, add water and freeze until solid. When tea is ready, remove tea bags and let cool to room temperature. When cooled, add bourbon, simple syrup and mint ice cubes. Mix. Garnish each glass with an orange wheel.

Now is the time to find a rocking chair and a cool breeze....