Being Customer #1
Have you ever been the first customer of a business?
While participating and donating samples of our catering cuisine at a benefit for the Worcester County Food Bank nearly 17 years ago, I met with Ann Starbird from Crystal Brook Farm. Ann was sampling the first offering of her yummy Chevre and I was taken aback with the delightful tang, mouthfeel of her delicious cheese. Before the doors opened for the general public, I found myself placing our first order and therefor begining a long relationship, offering Ann’s local Chevre to the delight of the customers of Pepper's Fine Catering. In the first year that Ann was in business, we were buying up nearly all the Chevre she produced, which for a small business can be both a godsend and a leap of faith. While we have always sought to be the best caterer in the area, offering enjoyable cuisine crafted by a passionate culinary team, being customer number 1 to a local farm will forever remain a highlight and speak volumes to our culture.
Fast forward to this past Thursday when Pepper's Fine Catering collaborated with Crystal Brook's Chevre, Lilac Hedge Farm (grass fed meats) and our gracious hosts, Indian Head Farm in Berlin. MA to produce their first Farm-to-Table dinner. Tim Wheeler’s family has been farming on their land in Berlin for over 200 years and it is a spectacular farm in which Tim’s wife Janet has raised another generation of Wheelers to continue the traditions of farming.
The setting of our 70 foot long table overlooking the berry fields couldn’t have been more idyllic. The torrential rains of the evening before had given way to blue skies.
The wafting aroma of spit-roasted pork steamship provide by Lilac Hedge Farm, the charming & enticing food display and table settings by Caitlin Spaulding, Stylist extraordinaire, along with set-up Chefs Tom Little and Matt Bauce together created an over-the-top cuisine experience for the 70 guests. All of the fruits and vegetables were picked within 24 hours of dinner and the creative chefs crafted a menu that showcased the nuances and tastes of the unique terroir of Indian Head Farm.
Imagine... fresh Kale Caesar Salad, stuffed eggs 3 ways with Lilac Hedge's fresh eggs, Vegetable Ratatouille, Corn Pudding as well as 5 other enticing dishes and a three berry desert in the Garden Shed with local musicians who popped in for the fun of it.
It took a team effort to provide such a memorable feast, and we are so thankful for the farmers that we were able to feature and support. Also a big thank you the volunteers from Pepper's and Indian Head Farm for their exceptional help as well as the guests who didn’t hesitate to be the first to experience this amazing event. Tickets sold out in 3 days of the Indian Head Farm (to table dinner) - it is likely the dinner memory of the summer.
Here's to Customer number one!
Farm to Fork, Farm to Table, call it what you’d like.
We’ll call it fresh...
Do all strawberries taste the same?
Head over to a local farm, say Indian Head Farm in Berlin and bring your sweet tooth and napkins.
Eat slowly. Savor the vibrant color, the aroma after your first bite, then the overwhelming essence of strawberry and the excessively juicy berry oozing of goodness ( this is where the need for napkins comes in ). OMG. After consuming a dry, shipped from across the country berry from a super market, you’re sure to have an epiphany.
This was my experience a few weeks back when I had stopped over to Indian Head Farm in Berlin a few weeks back and picked up a few baskets of strawberries & blueberries. I met with Tim and Janet Woodward and began chatting about the farm, their produce and their love for what they produce. The Woodward’s had shared that they would love to host a dinner in which lovers of “fresh” could experience what they do, each and every day.
60 seconds. That’s about how long it took me to commit myself and Pepper's Fine Catering to join with the Woodward’s and cater a farm to table dinner event. We all became animated while walking over the fields. The ideas were flowing and we broadened the concept to include products for other local farms as well. No doubt that we would invite Ann Starbird to bring over some of her delicious Chevre from her Crystal Brook Farm. Eggs would come from Lilac Hedge Farm and Tim would source the Steamship of Pork from another local farmer and so began the menu considerations.
We have already began crafting a few new ideas and this past Sunday we tested out a grilled zucchini, sweet corn & goat cheese salad with a fresh rosemary, lavender salt dressing.
Having shopped at Indian Head for some 25 years makes this an easy evening to wrap our heads around and be forewarned to purchase tickets asap. We will only sell 50 at 50 dollars each. The menu, farm and the evening will far exceed your expectations and chef Lawrence will also throw in a barrel of his craft brewed beer made with his best buddy, Tim McGee to complement the tastes of the evening.
The Farm to Fork Dinner is to be held on Thursday, Aug. 14 from 5-8pm, with volunteers from the farm as well as Pepper's Fine Catering will be putting in collaboration with Indian Head Farm at their 232 Pleasant Street location in Berlin.
Many of our friends in the restaurant industry who are so used to having every resource at their fingertips will often ask us if we are playing with a full deck when we speak about the challenges with catering, such as:
Setting up temporary kitchens in garages, under event tents, the unfinished basement or in the field with no power or running water
Relying on a tent to cater a gala event for 300 guests, in 30 degree weather and rain in the forecast
Packing up two truckloads of equipment for an outdoor wedding, setting up and then repacking at midnight under moonlight
Perhaps we are a little insane, but there are a number of things that motivate us and keep our catering team happy, receiving thoughtful accolades every week from our joyful clients is a key motivator. We always look forward to Mondays, as it is when we receive numerous Thank You notes of praise for “exceptional cuisine and attentive service to our guests”.
Recently a film crew from Nightline Prime on ABC arrived to film a real estate broker open house that we were catering and the on-air interviewer went ga-ga over our Lobster BLT Salad on editable spoons as you can see in the previous link. Her expression and joyful sounds were priceless, once she gave it a try. That’s what we’re talking about.
It’s those reactions that we receive and knowing that we serve memorable cuisine and award-winning catering services to each and every event drive us to do it again and again. We never get tired of reading Thank You notes from our clients never and as challenging as catering can be, it is also one very rewarding service to provide.
Catering isn’t just about the food. While we admittedly are a food driven company, we are equally driven to service, as well as style and design. Yes we do have a style and design director who is charged with
enhancing all of our work with panache & to best complete the vision of our client. Great food presented with style completes the efforts of all of our group.
Lastly, the third leg of the Pepper’s Fine Catering trilogy that forms the basis of our everyday is the fabulous and attentive service staff. They are the directors of first impressions and we always get a mention in every thank you note on how pleasant and attentive these key members are to a catering event experience, led by our proactive event managers who execute their well thought out plans for service.
We are so fortunate to have such a terrific “service oriented” team in our midst and offer you this question, wouldn’t you prefer to relax and enjoy your party and guests like never before by engaging the team from Pepper’s at your special event?
Thank you to all of our loyal foodies, who have engaged & challenged us to do it once again, as good or better than the last time.
by Jody Boyajian
Senior Event Designer
It’s so exciting to see weddings take on personalities of their own with creative design elements.
Here’s a fun idea from a recent Elm Bank wedding for those who want to think outside of the box for their wedding entertainment: outdoor games.
The father of the bride and the groom built a giant Jenga game and also created a customized dart board with a heart-shaped target. The wedding guests enjoyed being out in the gardens and getting their competitive juices flowing. This relaxed vibe added to the casual feel the couple wanted for their special day.
Gone are the cookie-cutter weddings of days past. Long live creativity!
What fun games have you played at a wedding? Let us know in the comments below. For more creative wedding inspiration, check out our Pinterest boards or visit our Wedding Cake site.
by Jody Boyajian
Senior Event Designer
Graduations. Bridal and Baby Showers. Weddings. We are now in the midst of full-blown celebration season! And with that comes gift giving.
Everyone wants to offer a present that is memorable and reflects the recipient’s taste and style. And, we just heard of a most unique bridal shower gift that we wanted to share.
The bridesmaids for a June bride created a personalized “Date of the Month” organization file. Some of the items included a gift card to the ice cream shop where the couple had their first date (for the month that they met), sports tickets to a team that they both root for, seasonal activities that they enjoy for the appropriate month and more – 12 in total for a year full of memories.
What a clever idea that can be customized for so many celebrations! And with many bridal couples already owning most of the “stuff” they need, this is a fabulous alternative.
Love, love this idea!
by Jody Boyajian
Senior Event Designer
Looking for some inspiration and ideas for your wedding? Personal touches are one of the ways to make a wedding extra memorable.
A recent couple did just that – hand lettering, painting and framing oh-so-beautiful signs for the various elements of their Elm Bank wedding: welcome and direction signage to the ceremony site, gift table board, bar, dinner and dessert menus.
This takes DIY wedding projects to a whole new level!
But the pièce de résistance was the life-size love letter to each other in the bar/lounge area. What a great way to celebrate their union and individuality.
“I Love You More Than…”
So sweet and heartfelt. Definitely a wedding design element their guests will remember.
It's no secret to successful real estate agents, who are looking to sell multiple properties or that extra special “designer showcase home”, that attracting the right prospect calls for the some “out of the box” thinking.
People seek to imagine themselves in the right home and setting the stage with furniture, lifestyle function and special activity is certainly an important strategy that many progressive developers and real estate brokers deploy to move the sales of homes.
While the depiction of Annette Bening in her role on American Beauty and her quote of “I will sell this house today” depicts a harried broker scrubbing the tiles, dusting up a storm, savvy brokers deploy numerous tactics to move a high end piece of property.
Hosting an open house, especially a broker open house, is still a strategy that has numerous other benefits besides finding the right buyer. This is where, as in life, putting together a well thought out plan will drive a higher percentage of results. A high end broker open house should also attract sharp agents who also sell to the upper level marketplace and have a Rolodex of contacts who can expose the Host agent to a network of new contacts.
As a caterer who has been called on by dozens of agents who seek a tasteful and memorable solution for custom beverage and clever food stations that really showcase a home and its special nuances, we have achieved the highest amount of raves by placing food and matching beverages in focal points around the home and property that gets visitors to slow down and take a moment to capture a home’s unique aspects of architecture, views or simply it’s terrific and useful design. We recently catered a gorgeous open house that was featured on a segment of Nightline Prime on ABC. You can read more about it in this article in the Telegram & Gazette.
Toll Brothers, a nationwide upscale home builder employs these strategies and takes it a step ahead in some of the following ways.
Inviting the right guests, such as public officials, Chamber of Commerce, brokers and other “influencers” that network with people who speak with those who may be in the market for something special.
Schedule your open house after “working hours” for higher level of attendance.
Enlist local vendors who represent what is special about the area. Local craft brews (we featured Jack’s Abbey beer recently), farmers market, Spa and other lifestyle types of vendors. Everyone wins with this exposure.
Go digital & use social media to further boost awareness and interest. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest are getting more powerful by the day.
So take a page from Annette Bening’s character and make the home a sparkling presentation, hire a great catering company to help you, the broker look great and with all of this advance preparation, relax and enjoy your Open House Event.
By Heidi Bouchard ~ Head of Style and Design
Our menus at Pepper’s Fine Catering are always evolving. We recently debuted a new station, Deviled Eggs. This was the brainchild of Senior Event Planner Jody Boyajian. During frequent trips to D.C., her family often patronizes a local hotspot called The Founding Farmers where the first thing they order is a platter of deviled eggs.
She brought the Deviled Egg Station idea to the attention of the culinary team who added their twist with flavors like Buffalo and Sour Cream & Chives. She then sold the concept to two customers with corporate themed parties.
One of the more recent events was for an Audi Vehicle Debut Party, located at a Boston area car dealership. The client’s ideal design was for an upscale, sleek, modern and night-club aesthetic. Their chosen colors were shiny red, silver and gold.
To achieve the look we started with spraying eggs metallic red. The light bulb went on for added glitz.
Rolls of chicken wire behind one of our storage buildings would frame our vessels.
Old tarnished wire was sprayed with adhesive and coated in silver glitter.
10 dozen plastic eggs were sprayed gold.
Raffia/Hay was sprayed gold and added to the bottom of the vessel.
One vessel was layered with Hay and Eggs.
A glittered chicken wire column was filled with eggs and the slipped into a glass vessel and then addedto the Deviled Egg Stations for that finishing touch.
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.
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!