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“In Season” and Saving Some Green on your 2014 Wedding?

  
  
  
  

It may come as a complete contradiction, to wrap your head around saving money and booking a prime wedding venue during the high season. Asking the right questions and being opened minded, can help you capture a gorgeous and memorable site.

How so, you ask?

1.)    Dates are booked and on occasion a date is cancelled, leaving the venue eager to fill the space.

2.)    Friday evenings and Sundays create a unique opportunity both in savings and unique menus.

3.)    Wedding vendors may be inclined to offer a break or value add-on to fill these time spots.

If you consider a traditional wedding: it’s 5 hours with a cocktail hour, 90 minutes for dinner, leaving 2.5 hours for the fun, dessert, dancing and cocktail.

Ponder this, begin your Friday evening wedding a little later than usual, have an enhanced cocktail hour with both hors d’oeuvres & chef active stations going on at the same time. Then morph into traditional Toasts, First Dance etc. and phase right into the “party”, giving you plenty of time to thank attendees and enjoy your guests. You transformed your 5 hour reception into a paced 4 hour reception saving on the food, staffing and perhaps the Venue rental. It starts to add up to some serious green when you hit multiple areas that affect your overall budget.

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As for a Sunday, think about a Caribbean Brunch and take-off on an island theme. You can have some real fun with this and it’s a perfect lead into your Cancun or Bahamas honeymoon.

In Central Massachusetts, the stunning Tower Hill Botanic Garden is booked up for their Saturdays this season but has further discounted their Friday and Sunday events quite a bit, offering a great value for this one-of-a kind venue.  Pepper’s is taking an additional 10% off our normal costs for this terrific venue. Tell your friends about this deal!

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Likewise, Gardens-at-Elm-Bank, located in Wellesley, also has a few open dates to fill and they are open to meeting prospective couples and showing the gorgeous grounds of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

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Ok, so you see an opportunity to save a few greenbacks on a venue, what else you say?

Yes, to seasonal flowers? Many wedding flowers travel thousands of miles, increasing the cost and carbon footprint. Mixed media bouquets are both clever & contemporary, but can also save you considerable amounts of money. Speak to your floral professional and have an honest dialogue on their knowledge and recommendations. Our style & design specialist often mixes in vegetable, limes & herbs in her floral displays for a unique & seasonal look that really “pops”.

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Gifts for your attendants?

Etsy.com for those one-of-a kind and special gifts for the ladies.

For the guys, consider moneyclam.com as they have monogramed (or wedding date etched) money clips as well as one that has a built in bottle opener.

 

 

Icelandic Memories and Chevre Dreams

  
  
  
  

Looking out over our snow covered landscape brings back memories & visits to the charming landscape of Iceland. It’s such a special place, unlike any other food exploration trips we’ve taken.

I can picture the geothermal pools shooting up wafts of steam, surrounded by glacial ice and snow formations, the sturdy Icelandic ponies and the rugged culture of the locals who live life to the fullest. Exploring the glaciers in the middle of the winter in tricked out SUV’s & pick-up trucks with hideously oversized tires is a hoot, to say the least and a must during this time of the year. Snowmobiling in Iceland is unlike any NH trail, trust me.

Icelandic pony

Our good friend, Ann Starbird, goat farmer, Chevre maker extraordinaire is currently on a working sabbatical trip to Iceland and studying with an Icelandic goat cheese maker. Ann has made trek’s to Ireland and France in recent years to broaden her repertoire of goat making experiences and no doubt is being reflected in the wonderful cheese that she produces in neighboring Sterling MA with her husband Eric.

I had recommended to Ann to be sure that she visit my friend, the eclectic Chef Gunni from Vin Barin, the hip Wine Bar located in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. Ann reported back that she stopped on her first night and spent 4 hours with Gunni who was a very amiable host & connoisseur of wine & Icelandic cuisine.

Thinking of Ann and her wonderful Chevre, we’d like to share a recipe for a terrific Roasted Beet, Chevre & Pistachio for your enjoyment.

 

Beet & Radicchio Salad, Goat Cheese & Pistachio

Yield 6-8 portions

 

2 lbs. Beets, peeled & cut into ¾ inch pieces

½ cup EVOO

2 ½ tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar

½ tsp. Kosher Salt

To Taste Fresh Ground Black Pepper

1 each Garlic Clove, large (smashed)

2 tbsp. Tarragon, freshly chopped

1 head Radicchio, chopped into 1 inch pieces

½ cup Parsley, coarsely chopped

4 oz. Fresh Goat Cheese

2/3 cup Pistachios, toasted & coarsely chopped

 

This is easy.

Marry the beets: ½ of the olive oil & kosher salt in a bowl and toss until beets are coated and roast in a 375f degree oven until done. Could be 20-30 minutes. Let cool when done. Using a convection oven is best, as it pulls much of the moisture out of the beet, concentrating the flavors.

Dressing: Add garlic, herbs & vinegar to the bowl you used for the beets and slowly whisk in the remaining EVOO and adjust seasoning of salt & pepper. You might add a pinch or two of sugar if you’d like to take some of the end off of the vinegar.

Marry all of your prepped ingredients with the dressing, give it a toss and plate up and enjoy, with perhaps a chilled glass of Sancerre.

This salad is quite attractive when presented in a Bibb Lettuce cup as a base. Enjoy!

bibb lettuce

 

 

 

 

 

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Cake Design, How To

  
  
  
  

by Linda ~ Pastry Chef and Cake Designer

I have assisted many different people in designing a cake that suits their style, their occasion, or the person who will receive the cake. It’s an interesting process and one worth describing in an effort to keep it easy-going, creative and fun.

Recently a bride-to-be named Sue attended a cake tasting at Pepper's Fine Catering. While enjoying a variety of cake samples the conversation naturally turned to the design of her wedding cake. Sue brought an image of her ideal design. While the picture was of a particular cake she still wanted to add her personal touches to the deign. We spoke about the tenor of her special day, color schemes, the venue, etc. She mentioned that her reception venue was an antique car museum and she wanted something to go along with the period of the autos on display. I was very excited as the era was the 1920’s and I love that time! I suggested that I do some research, make a sketch and then view and discuss the ideas together. Sue was happy, I was happy, and off I went to investigate.

Like Sue, I surfed around looking primarily at design. This included fashion, textiles, architecture, and themes.

 

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To keep my research organized, I created a Pinterest board of interesting ideas to incorporate. Sue had mentioned that she wanted to add the color blue into the design. That went into my sketch along with the number of servings and size of the final cake. My sketch was a success! The bride liked the design concept but decided to decrease the size of the cake. We agreed on which tier to eliminate and I provided her with an estimate.

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Things to consider when creating a cake design; Preparation is key if you want to personalize your cake. Surf around, look at magazines, bring pictures, swatches and thoughts to the meeting, be open about your interests and needs. Think about the display and venue. Have a budget figure in mind, as unique designs will cost more. Expect the designer will share thoughts and advice. Speak your mind and listen too, the best cake designs come from a collaboration.

 

Winter Woodland

  
  
  
  

By Heidi Bouchard ~ Head of Style and Design

Finding myself on a bit of a roll in the “rustic department” I’m going to go with it and develop our next collection. At Pepper’s Fine Catering we are lucky to have wetlands and woods all around us not to mention extensive gardens to draw inspiration from.  I also just moved to a farm house that sits on over 600 protected acres and I have been taking long walks in the woods every weekend for inspiration.   

The name of our second collection is Winter Woodland, not to be confused with Winter Wonderland.  And although I am not exactly sure how the elements will be used or come together, the collecting will be most of the work and fun.  I’m not envisioning using these natural elements in a contrived or overly embellished way, but more in groupings that you would experience in their natural setting.

 

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The first step started in my front yard.  I collected and dried black walnuts from a tree that must be at least 100 years old. To get the casings off I gathered them on big trays to be dried in the sunlight.  About a week later they were laid out onto our cobble stone driveway where I ran over them with a golf cart, the popping sound was fun.  I put on gloves and peeled away the casings.  They were still covered with a pulpy flesh.  I soaked them in hot water, rinsed several times but they were far from clean.  I remembered how my Mom once said that my Dad used to wash dirty golf balls in her washing machine….it was worth a shot……they came out perfectly.  

Wish I could say the same thing for my washing machine, 1 wash and 2 rinse cycles later - its fine.

 

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Next I collected literally, thousands of pine cones, in all shapes and sizes. But this project is not over yet,   still tons more to forage for, stay tuned…

 

Fall Flowers and Inspiration

  
  
  
  

By Heidi Bouchard ~ Head of Style and Design

As beautiful as the classic look of fall flowers and greenery can be its fun to spice it up when possible. Several events each week need new table décor so working along with the Event Manager’s we get our creative juices flowing to create new designs that will excite the senses.

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Beyond the typical pumpkins, gourds and fall colored leaves this year I experimented with lots of ornamental baby cabbages, vegetables and herbs in the purple color palette.  On an early September trip into the Boston Flower Exchange I was enamored with branches of oak leaves that had been washed in a chalky faded lavender colored paint.  They were funky and unusual and I used them as the base in several buffet pieces and as accents in smaller guest table arrangements.

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The focal piece for an Apple Cider Donut Station at a recent wedding was white pine nuts with the husk peeled away and then bleached. These were used as vase fillers along with white winterberry which gave a stark contrast to the darker autumn hues of the station.

 

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Thai basil which has purple leaves from our garden, purple kale, baby eggplants, mint flowering with tiny lavender flowers along with mini peppers and even baby beets all came together in a beautiful hostess gift for a very special client.  It was wonderfully textural, sophisticated and fun all at the same time.

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Designing an Asian Station

  
  
  
  

By Heidi Bouchard ~ Head of Style and Design


Pepper’s Fine Catering owner, Susan Lawrence, recently came to me for help in designing stations for an Asian Inspired Gala.  She had a vision with some specific ideas.  One of them would be a major focal point set in front of the huge stage at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA.  To say the Hall and Stage are grand would be a bit of an understatement. It would have to be big and impressive as not to look dwarfed by the majestic nature of the room.

The station was Asian inspired, 32 feet long and would have 4 Chefs cooking and serving guests. We would need 8 wok set ups.

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The MENU

~Chinese Long Beans Stir Fried and topped with Crispy Five Spice Shrimp and Hoisin Sauce

~Handmade Pork Dumplings with China Moon Orange Sauce

~Vegetable Shoo Mai with Citrus Ponzu

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Susan and I collaborated with the culinary team and concluded that guests would start in the center of the station and flank off to the right and left. Immediately I decided that the major focal point to display would be in the center. In addition to having to be large I decided to also raise the table to give the station even more presence.

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Susan and husband and co-owner John have traveled to Asia many times over the years and have collected wonderful pieces that are displayed in our Tasting Room.  I often use them for very special events. The center arrangement soared to over 10 feet high and featured a huge gold hand-painted fan, dyed red Asian willow, bamboo and an oriental lantern.  The plates were set on glass covered trays filled with green bamboo rice and across the front of the tables were glass boxes with wheat grass and bamboo ferns.

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Pin lighting was added by Revelation Productions of Worcester which brought life to the display. A culinary and visual feast!

Delicious and Beautiful……that’s what we do best.

 

 

Holiday Creative Designs

  
  
  
  

By Heidi Bouchard ~ Head of Style and Design

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

As holiday event planning begins at Pepper’s Fine Catering celebrating Winter Weddings, Corporate Parties and Family & Friend Get-Togethers, it is our goal to create magic. Engage all the senses, taste, flora, scent, light, and the sound of cheerful guests.

I love helping clients with the myriad of choices available for design themes, and color palates.

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This year, I am inspired to take a natural holistic approach with just a touch of sparkle.  I began my research by digging out my collection of old home decorating magazines and reviewed some recent designs from our Country Barn Style weddings. I’m collecting everything gold, vintage, rustic and burlap to create some table displays that will include one-of-a-kind special handmade elements.

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Here are photos with some of the special handmade ornaments that we’ll be adding to our customers' holiday table displays this year. 

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I look forward to sharing with you more of our Holiday Designs for this 2013 season.

 


Sparkling Venues & Warm Apple Cider Donuts

  
  
  
  

Sparkling Venues, Private Holiday Parties

 

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The air is crisp, leaves are blowing in the wind and time to think about holiday party plans. We are fortunate to have so many unique venues throughout the state, available for memorable & private holiday party planning.

Consider the built in décor & ambiance of venues as an added plus, making for a minimal investment to create that warm holiday feel. The Elm Bank in Wellesley as well as Tower Hill Holiday Party in Boylston both host horticultural festivals that include quite an array of decorated trees and wreaths, offering terrific eye-candy for your guests.

Speaking of eye candy. The Connors Center & Estate in Dover located in Dover pulls out all the stops when it comes to decorating for the holidays. This charming property offers warm ambience for chilly days and guest rooms to boot.   A Connors Center Holiday is a terrific holiday choice for a private & personal event.

The Russian Icon Museum in Clinton offers a world-class collection of priceless icons, displayed in a unique space that includes former jail cells. Perhaps a wreath set upon the doors of the two cells for a whimsical touch?

Tuckerman Hall in Worcester has been fully restored to its original 100 year old charm with copious gold accents and a full well positioned poinsettia would clearly set a tasteful holiday tone.

Décor ideas, you say ?

Peppers event designer, Heidi Bouchard recommends natural colors, classic décor, candles and birch wood accents. Let a monochromatic use of red or green simply pop among the natural background. She also loves to add hearty herbs such as rosemary & thyme and the juxtaposition of artichoke, petite decorative squash and fruit in her floral displays.

 

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Cuisine plays such an important role in the memory of the great holiday gatherings. Go for abundant tastes & textures  and focus on small plates and hors d’oeuvres. Your guests have a blast with the choices and full control over how little or full they desire to be, but leave room for those petite squash tart Brule’s or classic chocolate or pumpkin buche noel’s prepared by our pastry Chef, linda Labarge. Recently we catered a wonderful wedding at the Worcester Airport and in lieu of a wedding cake, the bride chose simply, warm cider donuts.

Should you offer a theme cocktail ?  This goes without question. Have some fun. Eggnog & Rum, nah you can do better. Try this Pear and sweet spice cocktail offered from the NY Times: NY Times holiday cocktail recipe

Most of all, plan to have a relaxing time with your guests and put a little extra time into the pre-plan. You’ll be pleased with the outcome. Make Peppers part of your celebration planning, should you choose to relax and enjoy your guests.

 

 

 

~Happy & joyful holiday season to all of you from all of us~

 

Lululemon Event

  
  
  
  

By Sarah Blakeslee ~ Senior Event Manager

We recently had the pleasure of working with high-end Yoga and Fitness Apparel Company Lululemon to take their vision for their customer appreciation event and bring it to life. The exciting event took place at the Tower Hill Botanical Gardens, the perfect setting for a rustic fall garden look.

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After the guests enjoyed yoga in the open air great hall they made their way into the reception room to be greeted by staff members presenting fun and healthy appetizers.  

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Guests also got to snack on granola from the Granola Bar. They could choose from Homemade Cinnamon Sugar Granola or Chocolate Chipotle. All accompanied by various nuts and candy mix-ins. The Granola Station was truly a hit!

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A Cider Station provided the beverages for the evening. Offering both cold and hot apple cider served in Irish coffee mugs. Wine Barrels provided a unique table to display the glassware for the station. Note:These can be rented from Peterson’s Rental Company.  

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Before guests departed for the night they took with them Seed Bomb Favors presented on hanging branches by the exit.

70's Themed Wedding Event

  
  
  
  

By Sarah Blakeslee ~ Senior Event Manager

Choosing a theme for your wedding can be a big decision. You really want to pick a theme
that lets your personality shine through.

One of our most recent brides decided on a fun 70’s themed wedding. They transformed a
hall into a disco dancing 70’s club decked out with colored lights, fun linens and disco balls.
The guests enjoyed cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres in another room while having no idea what
they were about to walk into behind closed doors.

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When the doors opened you could see the excitement on all of the guests faces as they
walked into the room. They picked up their cassette player escort cards and followed the
floppy disk table numbers to their tables. These were just a few fun touches made by the
bride and groom.

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Pepper’s Catering own in House Designer adorned all the tables with colorful Gerber
daisies and created a truly spectacular blinged-out bar. Black spandex linens created a
unique look. Behind the smiling bartenders were Swarovski Crystal stands with various
shaped vases showcasing flowers and disco balls.

After Dinner was served, guests enjoyed the custom-designed hand painted flower cake.
Then danced the night away underneath the disco ball.

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  Images by 'Le Petite Studio'
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