Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I've been neglecting this poor blog for awhile due to sudden new developments (!). I'd like to redesign and update for the new year.

Your patience is appreciated!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Crappy Office Kitchens

Not all catering gigs are in beautiful vineyards or elegant townhouses. Here are two more summer cocktail parties where I worked out of crappy office kitchens.

Tuesday, July 28th: A cocktail party at The One Club, 21 E 26th St, a non-profit organization for the recognition and promotion of excellence in advertising.

On the menu
  • Artisanal Cheese Display with fresh and dried fruits, served with baguettes and assorted flatbreads
  • Mediterranean Sampler of Provencal Chicken, Moroccan Shrimp, Smoked White Bean Spread, Eggplant Caponata, and Focaccia
  • Skewers of Spanish Chorizo, Cheese, Roasted Zucchini, and Piquillo Peppers
  • Spicy Gazpacho
  • Chicken Shumai
  • Wild Mushroom Pizzettes
We were told 60 people but of course it turned out to be over 100. Food quickly ran out and we were desperately understaffed. The portable oven came in a box filled with rain water and the tiny office kitchen was a mess before I got there. Not an ideal situation, but we survived and the client left happy. Another disaster averted.


Wednesday, July 29th: A cocktail party at Herman Miller, 1177 Ave of the Americas - another high-end office furniture designer. (Sorry no pics, it was around this time my camera broke...poo)

On the Indian-inspired menu:
  • Basmati Rice and Grilled Shrimp
  • Vegetable Samosas
  • Garam Masala-spiced Beef Skewers
  • Paneer Cheese and Roasted Tomato Pizzettes
  • Curry Chicken Salad on Potato Cakes
Working out of what looked more like a copy room was difficult enough for this 200 person cocktail party, what made it worse was that the room was still in heavy use by the employees. Random people coming and going to make copies, get coffee and steal food did not make us happy. We left annoyed and smelling of curry.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Winery Wedding Reception

Saturday, July 25th: Wedding reception at Wolffer Estate Vineyards, Sagg Harbor, East Hampton.


On the menu
  • Crabmeat Salad in Pate Brisee Boats
  • Mini Salmon Crepes
  • Prosciutto Foie & Fig Canapes
  • Cured Beef with Cheese and Pistachios
  • Frisee Salad with Cranberries & Walnuts with a Lemon Viniagrette
  • Spinach Risotto with Asparagus & Peas
  • Baby Lambchops with Purple Potato Puree
  • Cheese-Herb Souffle
  • Filet of Sole with Butter Sauce served with Haricot Verts
  • Individual Vanilla Meringues with Raspberry Coulis


It was the most perfect summer day. The indoor tasting room was set up elegantly for dancing and a long table for dinner was set up on the veranda overlooking the blooming vineyard.
A bride couldn't ask for a more gorgeous wedding reception...

then there's the mother of the bride. Not only did she complain about every tiny detail of the setup and venue, but every course was problematic - not enough dressing on the salad, not enough salt on the fish, lamb was too cold. At one point, she actually stormed into the kitchen and started incoherently giving orders and yelling at the chefs. This has never happened to me before. Complaints usually go to the catering director on the floor, not to the frantically working cooks holding sharp knives and hot pots. Thankfully, the catering director put a stop to it all and asked the client never to contact the company again.

There are nice clients and not so nice clients, just as there are nice people and not so nice people. In a service industry where the customer is always supposed to be right, it is difficult to know how to react when things go sour. Unfortunately, it's something that can probably only be learned through experience.

As for my first trip to the Hamptons, it really was not all that it's cracked up to be. All the beautiful houses are hidden from public view by tall hedges and gates. With only one main road, traffic is intolerable. The beaches are overcrowded and only reachable through private grounds. Finally, in my limited experience, the people aren't so nice and live far from what most of us call reality. I'm much more agreeable to the nitty gritty city.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Food for Fashion & Furniture

On July 21st, I traveled down to 440 West 14th St. for another solo catering gig at the offices of Diane Von Furstenberg and for once I didn't mind prepping in the office kitchen. If there were a top ten list of office kitchens, Diane's would rate number one so far. It makes me think Diane appreciates food, or at least her office designer does.

I'm not typically one for high-end fashion, or more accurately I can't afford it, but the pretty print dresses and shiny silks made me wish Diane started a H&M line. But for those of you who are, I took a quick peek into their style room and it looks like Egyptian prints are in for the Fall.

I plated a couple cheese and charcuterie plates, filet mignon on a crostini, mushroom truffle pizzettes, and chive-chicken skewers in a mad rush and hauled ass out of there for another catering gig uptown.


A 20 minute subway ride uptown on the A train and I was at 4 Columbus Circle in the offices of Steelcase, a high-end office furniture designer. Two other chefs were already frantically plating food out of a typical crappy tiny office kitchen/copy room. Mini lobster salads, shrimp skewers, roasted eggplant endive cups, duck canapes and chorizo on polenta cakes were among the menu items.

I thought working two gigs in one night would be exciting and challenging, but I really did not enjoy it. I like seeing an event run from beginning to end. To have to leave only 2 hours into one party and come into another party for only the last 3 hours left me feeling somewhat incomplete. It's nice to see a party come full circle, from setup to breakdown. Someday I'd also like to be involved in menu creation and client tasting and finally be able to see a menu go from vision to paper to plate.

In the meantime, back to paying my dues...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I am not a baker, part III

Two of my close friends came to NYC to celebrate their birthdays. Both are (or are aspiring) Opthamologists. Their frustration ensues when I confuse them with Optometrists. I think I should be excused because I have perfect vision.

Let's clear this up, shall we?
Optician: Adjusts glasses.
Optometrist: Tests vision, prescribes glasses/contacts.
Opthamologist: Detects and treats eye-related diseases/disorders.

Gotta love the running comments/questions though. Hilarious.

"Eye doctor school must be hard. How do you guys figure out which letters to put on that eye chart thingy? Why is the 'E' always on top? Who invented the purple contact? You must be really good at using those teeny tiny screwdrivers. Hey! I think the Lens Crafters by my apartment is hiring, I'll get you an application!"

The cake took me about a day and a half since I made my own fondant out of marshmallows, powdered sugar and water. The cake is mocha with mocha buttercream, an old family recipe.

My first fancy cake turned out pretty good, although now all my friends are expecting fancy cakes for their birthdays. I'll be sure to continue to use these cakes as delicious methods to make fun of them.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stowaway Lobster, Whispering Argentinians, and Yuppy Art

Three catering events last week for three very different clients.


July 14, 83rd & York: A lobster dinner for 12 guests celebrating their father's 80th birthday.

On the menu

Passed Hors d'œuvre
Mini Crab Cakes
Baked Clams
Shrimp Cocktail

Steamed Lobsters served with sweet corn, roasted beets, crispy potatoes, and tomato salad

Individual peach cobblers and Bomboloni (Italian donuts)

Not only were we tipped nicely, the extra live lobster stowed away in my backpack and surprisingly survived the bus ride home. My husband and I had no choice but to cook it up and eat it with some beurre blanc and steamed rice at midnight.


July 15, 53rd & 2nd: A cocktail party for 18 Argentinian government officials, all of whom were suspiciously whispering throughout the evening. I'm sure they were discussing how awesome the food was.

On the menu

Passed Hors d'œuvre
Grilled Saffron Shrimp with Guacamole
Endive Goat Cheese Petals
Lobster Empanadas
Filet Mignon on Toast Points
Wild Mushroom Pizzettes

Tipped even nicely-er and had a pleasant walk home - a whole seven blocks. I hope more gigs are held in my neighborhood.


July 16, W 25th St & 10th Ave: An art gallery opening for about 200 yuppy art buyers and browsers.

Passed Hors d'œuvre
Mini Italian Pizzettes with Pesto and Tomato
Roasted Tomato and Olive Tapenade Canape Porcini Mushroom Soup served in Mini Puff Pastry Cups
Coconut Tuna Tartar on Fried Yuca Chips
Sesame Seared Tuna with Avocado Mousse on a Sweet Wonton Cracker

Passed Desserts
Chocolate Mousse filled Mini Ice Cream Cones

The pompous artsy music playing in the gallery was also piped into the kitchen. Attempts to dance and sing along to the tunes failed hilariously.


An Argentinian government official, a yuppy Chelsea art dealer and a lobster walk into a bar...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wedding at NYPL

I must brag that my wedding reception was gorgeous, despite some last minute drama - e.g. a change of venue due to the original reception hall SINKING INTO THE HUDSON (!?!). Since the change occurred only four days prior to the wedding date, the managing company promised they would make it up to us with a generously decorated reception hall, a few food extras and a discounted price. The new venue, Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, turned out better than the first with amazing food, window walls overlooking the Hudson river, and fantastic interior decor. It remains the best day of my life thus far.

If I had to do it again, I think I'd stick with the river view reception hall, but wallet-permitting, a reception at the New York City Public Library isn't too shabby either. On Saturday, July 11th, I helped cater a wedding reception at the famous library and had a behind the scenes look at another version of the best day of someone else's life.

My day started at 4pm at 40th street and 5th avenue - the loading entrance of the library. I was given a special events pass and made my way into an area of the library off limits to most. For a building over 100 years old, the employee-only areas are surprisingly modern. I rode the service elevator to the third floor, met up with the others in the staff lounge and was given a short tour of the "kitchens". Now, when I say "kitchens", I mean the various random corners of the library in which we set up for service. There's the hors d'œuvre and dessert station in a narrow room off the first floor grand entrance hall, the cold kitchen in a corner hallway on the third floor landing, and the hot kitchen in the third floor spare coat room.

Working wonders in small spaces, indeed.


On the menu

Passed Hors d'œuvre
Fried Sage Leaves and Lotus Root
Crunchy Cheese Spoons with Yellow Pepper Mousse
Thyme Tuile with Tomato, Goat cheese and Basil
Poppy Seed Boats with Crabmeat and Red Caviar
Mini Crepes with Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream and Chives
Lobster Salad in Corn Baskets
Sesame Tuna Tartar in Cucumber Daisy

Amuse Bouche
Cold Tomato-Watermelon Soup with Puff Pastry Square

Grilled Shrimp and Heirloom Tomato Salad, Balsamic Vinaigrette
Caprese Salad Tower, Balsamic Vinaigrette

Pasta Course
Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage Butter

Main Course
Filet Mignon with Horseradish Sauce
Purple Potato puree, Sauteed Dragon Beans, Carpaccio of Heirloom Cauliflower
(cookies were just used for the demo plate)

Cookie Tower
Macaroon Pyramid
Mini Lemon Bars
Fresh Fruit Skewers
Warm Bomboloni (Italian Donut) filled with Vanilla Cream, Chocolate Mousse or Apricot Jam
Gelato Station
Vanilla and Chocolate Mini Milk Shakes


Upon entering the main lobby of the library, guests were greeted with cocktails, various food stations and a generously decorated seating area. They were then escorted to the third floor dining hall where two long tables seated 180 people. After dinner service, guests were asked to return to the cocktails area for desserts and aperitifs. Finally, those who felt the urge returned upstairs where the dining area was converted into a large dance hall.

Towards the end of the evening, I found out that the wedding was for the daughter of a certain executive producer of the Harry Potter movies who shares the same last name as the movies' leading actor. Although there's no blood relation, I was told Harry Potter himself was in attendance. I tried not to geek out in front of the other chefs, but as a HUGE fan of the books and movies, I could barely contain my glee. After various attempts, I did manage to steal a glimpse of the bride, her bridesmaids and the towering wedding cake, but unfortunately no Potter. I'll have to settle for the hopeful thought that he enjoyed the dinner I helped create. It's something I'll brag about to my fellow geeks at midnight on Wednesday.

Up Next: This week I have three dinners at private residences in Manhattan and next week I have two cocktail parties in the city and a full day of catering in the Hamptons. I'm looking forward to seeing some really swanky apartments and homes. Plus, the closest I've ever been to the Hamptons was getting hit by the Hampton Jitney bus while crossing the street near Grand Central. Let's hope that's not some sort of bad omen...