Good Living & Great Chicken
Recently Susan and John visited Murray’s Chicken Farm in the Amish area of PA to meet with some of the farmers who raise our chicken as well as visit the plant that prepares these chickens for our catering clients.
Now you may wonder:
Why we would make such a trek at our own expense?
How do you feel about Murray’s family farmed chicken after seeing such a “behind the scenes” look?
Were the chickens given free range, great feed, treated humanely, etc.?
To see and speak with farmers and the staff at the processing plant who are as passionate about what they do each day to produce the best product they can, as we see in our staff, was very moving to say the least.
We know that Murray’s Chicken is unparalleled in taste as we've tasted 3 other well-known national & regional brands of chicken. Murray’s won the taste test, hands down. Now we have an even better grasp of their program. Murray’s chickens have plenty of room to roam (creative toys in which to romp & play), fresh air (cooled on hot days) along with pristine water and a nutritious vegetarian diet of corn and soybeans.
The farms are even inspected by the ASPCA and given their approval of ethical treatment.
Everything that Murray’s Chicken has done has been ahead of the market.
They were the:
First antibiotic free raised chicken.
First to be approved by the American Heart Association.
First to be Certified Humane.
The only chicken label approved by the USDA to have the word “lean” on the labels.
How fresh, you might ask?
We observed chickens that were being processed on Tuesday that were delivered to our kitchen on Thursday. From the farmer who is raising these happy birds to the trim staff who are hand cutting our wings and other parts, we walked away from our 2 day visit with Murray’s with total satisfaction that all of Murray’s claims are factual and earn the right to state that they raise their tasty birds in a kind and humane way. We are proud that we are a Murray’s customer.
It’s not often that you get to design a wedding from top to bottom, but with Matt and Sandie’s wedding this past week, we were able to do just that! I met with the bride and groom to walk through the Southborough Community Center, a lovely old house set on a beautiful property, to get an idea of what Pepper’s could do to bring their wedding vision to life. As we walked thorough each room, Sandie told me her vision, of rustic romance with lots of personal touches. She had bought plenty of pieces already that she wanted me to incorporate, so I went back to the design studio and started sketching, I sent over my sketches and a proposal and we were on our way, with a plan of building special pieces, staging pretty areas, and creating lots of floral arrangements!
We started by building an interactive photo display, which was placed on the deck by the front door. I used vintage doors to create a photo backdrop, created signage for the door and more directional signage (and you can’t forget # info for photos!) We then added hooks and family photos so that all the guests could pose with the couple even when they were occupied elsewhere! With a couple more props and hay bales to sit on, it was the perfect place for the couple and guests to pose for photos! We love photo stations because they can create some of the most fun photos a couple has of their guests!
Next was the welcome table in the entryway. We wanted to create a first impression upon entering the house, something that really gave the guests a clear idea of what the whole look and feel was. We built this with an old door as the top and wooden wine boxes as the legs. I then drew up a custom welcome sign and set up a little rustic-vintage vignette with old trunks, letters, and little drawers full of flowers. The bride and her kids had created these fun windows with photos and writing and wanted us to include them in the décor, so I thought the perfect place for this one was on the gift table, we paired it with their gift box, another sign made here at Peppers, and more flower arrangements, it was the perfect place for guests to drop off their gifts and cards for the couple.
After signing the guest book, guests headed into the great room for the ceremony, which was full of design details! First, we made this custom wood marquee sign especially for the couple, with hand painted details and vintage bulb lights, it was the perfect focal point for the fireplace where the couple would say their vows. Next we created this lovely floral garland for the fireplace and filled bud vases with flowers to give it some extra impact. Then we stacked wooden apple crates and filled them with flowers to more clearly define the ceremony area. It was a truly magical place for Sandie and Matt to say “I do!”
Last but not least, and of course for Pepper’s, one of our favorite parts: the food & drinks! For the bar, we built another backdrop of vintage doors, and created a marquee sign to designate the bar area. This was a cocktail style party, with lots of delicious little bites and appetizers for the guests to nosh on all evening long. So along with delicious passed hors d’oeuvres, we created this rustic stationary display for the tasty morsels that would be out all night long. With apple crates, a giant vintage spool top, a hand written menu sign and plenty of floral arrangements, this food display fit perfectly with the rest of the décor!
We wish Matt and Sandie all of our best wishes and thank them for letting us bring their wedding vision to life!
Pepper’s had the great pleasure to cater and design a Gala for the Trustees of the Reservation at the Old Manse property in Concord Massachusetts this summer, and since we’re not quite ready to accept that summer is over, we thought we’d share it now! We love events like this, that have not only a delicious menu but also lots of style and design elements for Pepper’s to design, create, and set up for clients!
The Trustees of the Reservation decided on a Revolutionary war theme, and even had a Revolutionary reenactment, muskets blazing and all!
On top of the passed hors d’oeuvres, we wanted to have an impressive cheese station for this event as there would be plenty of time while watching the revolutionary reenactment for guests to snack. With stacked wine crates for height and tea dyed reproductions of historical documents to add a historical feel to it all.
We carried this look through to our a delicious rum bar with copper cups, and our own wine barrel display.
When guests moved into the tent for dinner, they were lead to their tables with centerpieces of antique books and vessels filled with flowers. We actually scoured antique shops for all the unique vessels and books found at each table. Complimenting the antique books with newer hardbacks that were all spray painted and then hand painted with gold accents on the spine to make them blend in with the older books. We then built some lovely floral arrangements in everything from antique teapots to vintage metal beer steins.
Last but not least was our opulent dessert display, with all our tasty treats displayed on gilded mirrors, surrounded by candlelight, with a backdrop of colonial flag bunting. We loved creating all the design elements to complement this event and the property.
by Jody Boyajian
Senior Event Designer
Mango. Tangerine. Or just orange. Whatever hue you call it, this sunny color is sure to make a summer wedding original and memorable.
A recent bridal couple spiced up all aspects of their Larz Anderson Auto Museum wedding with a winning combination of navy and white chevron striped linens with orange charger plates, napkins and floral centerpieces.
Other details included an orange slice in each water goblet, orange paper lanterns throughout the tent, orange display linens and orange imprinted sunglasses for guests to wear during the outdoor ceremony. Even the bride and bridesmaids wore bright orange shoes!
This wedding had a cohesive and fun design plan that reflected the personalities and spirt of the couple.
Here’s to coloring your wedding with creativity!
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.