Feasts for the Holidays

’Tis almost the season for holiday events. To help inspire your plans for merry fall and winter gatherings, we’ve rounded up some ideas for festive fetes.

By Sara Perez Webber

Chowgirls Killer Catering
Minneapolis • chowgirls.net

Last December, Chowgirls Killer Catering’s co-founder, Heidi Andermack, hosted a Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner party for close friends at Workshop, a tech design studio located in a restored warehouse in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District. She had adopted the Sicilian tradition after attending a Christmas Eve seafood feast at a friend’s house during college. Her friend’s mother cooked up “a mind-blowing spread of seafood dishes” for the family. “There were a lot of big voices and big personalities,” she recalls. “The characters, the atmosphere, the food. I ate it all up!”

For the seven-course meal that highlights at least seven different seafoods, Chowgirls’ chefs and stylists created a lush warm setting in the Workshop warehouse. The meal was anchored by two recipes from Andermack’s friend’s Sicilian mother—a light seafood salad featuring calamari, shrimp, clams, bay scallops, lobster and crab mingled in Italian dressing; and a rustic dish of calamari with roasted organic potatoes in red sauce, seasoned with oregano and balsamic vinegar.

Guests were welcomed with a “Tin Fish” course created by Chowgirls Chef de Cuisine Arianna Baker Kern, a tempting display of smoked oysters and local trout served with Parmesan and Taleggio cheeses, with sardines, tuna and calamari packed in artful containers from Jose Gourmet. In light of citrus season ramping up in December, Chowgirls co-founder Amy Lynn Brown concocted a Pomelo Gin Fizz, a grapefruit cocktail spritzed with rosemary and prosecco, paired with a hearty seared sea scallop with creamy polenta and Valencia orange brown butter cauliflower.

The menu was rounded out with a shrimp scampi inspired by Andermack’s mother-in-law; lobster pappardelle adapted from Spiaggia, an Italian restaurant in Chicago; and herb-stuffed tuna with artichoke hearts, a dish Andermack learned at Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily. The finale was pizzelles and biscotti handmade by a Sicilian friend who couldn’t attend.

For the long table, Chowgirls’ stylist, Meg Gilliland, designed a candlelit edible tablescape with freshly baked loaves of bread, citrus, artichokes, persimmons, pomegranates, fresh herbs and bottles of olive oil. The décor was further personalized with colorfully illustrated menus and place cards by Andermack’s husband, illustrator and type designer Chank Diesel.

Photo by Becca Dilley

Holiday Event Tips

from Heidi Andermack, Chowgirls Killer Catering

Pick dishes with a personal significance to the gathering, perhaps family favorites, and think of ways to interpret and elevate the recipes. We’ve often worked with clients to provide a new twist on their family traditions.

Highlighting produce that’s in season is a great way to shine flavors at their peak and, especially if it’s grown in your region, support the local economy. Instead of feeling limited by the choices, embrace the challenge of doing something creative and new with that ingredient. Brussels sprouts and butternut squash are great platforms to get people enthused this time of year.

The most exciting winter ingredient is citrus. Although lemon and lime juices are often profiled in the summer as a refreshing drink, winter is when a myriad of citrus is really bumping. Blood oranges, Meyer lemons, tangerines, Cara Cara oranges and ruby red grapefruit bring a little sunshine and loads of flavor to the cold winter days. Think of ways to incorporate citrus throughout your menu, in savory and sweet dishes, as well as drinks.

Photo by Becca Dilley

Culinary Crafts
Salt Lake City • culinarycrafts.com

Sixty-four lucky guests ended the year on a delicious note with a 13-course pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner by Salt Lake City-based Culinary Crafts. The meal took place on Dec. 31, 2017, in the catering company’s downtown venue, The Tasting Room, with a one-night-only menu curated specifically for the event.

Simple décor—twinkle lights, pomegranates, evergreen branches, holly berries and ornaments hung in windows—reflected the holidays while allowing the food to take center stage. After starting with a passed hors d’oeuvre of fig cannoli, guests embarked on a culinary journey of 13 labeled courses that emphasized seasonality.

“The Orchard” featured gooseberries with ahi tuna and shaved foie gras, followed by “The Larder”—French toast, buttermilk syrup, crème fraiche and caviar. “The Mill” offered herbed levain, black pepper brioche and whole wheat breads, while “The Pot” consisted of wild mushroom bisque with mascarpone and black garlic crouton. From “The Farm,” guests enjoyed squash and citrus salad with sorrel rhubarb dressing; from “The Sea,” seared and smoked sea scallop, fresh uni and creamed corn; from “The Range,” fried chicken with pickled radish, kumquat and ginger salad; and from “The Pasture,” dry-aged barrel-cut rib-eye with parsnip and truffle risotto.

The menu gave a nod to “The Old World” with pomegranate, basil and calvados sorbetto, while olive oil cake with caramel zabaglione, poached pear and olive oil pecan granola came out of “The Oven.” The dinner wrapped up with “The Cave”—Utah artisan cheeses with raw honey, homemade jam, toast and lavash—and “The Conche”—Amano, Ritual and Millcreek chocolates, all produced in Utah. “The Barrel” cocktails included barrel-aged High West and blood orange old-fashioned, barrel-aged Beehive and key lime gimlet, non-alcoholic barrel-aged cherry and Meyer lemon soda, and barrel-aged cognac 75 for a midnight toast. “One guest came up to us afterward and said, ‘I don’t know if I will remember New Year’s Eve 2017, but I will remember this meal. I will remember the feelings inspired by this event,’” recalls Meagan Crafts Price, marketing manager at Culinary Crafts, which was founded by her mother Mary Crafts. “That’s one of my favorite quotes ever. It’s what we are aiming for.”

Holiday Event Tips

from Meagan Crafts Price, Culinary Crafts

Make food the centerpiece of your next event. Food is nostalgic and powerful. It is what brings people together.

Keep it seasonal! That’s the biggest recommendation I have for any event. To have the freshest food and the best “wow” factor, design your menu around what you can get locally and in season. Some of our favorites in Utah for fall and winter are pears, beets and squashes.

Choose the style of service carefully. The style of service is one of the biggest tools you have in creating an environment for your party. We are always trying to introduce new styles to our clients. From family-style to chef dinners, action stations to cooking classes and tastings, broaden your thoughts on how to serve your delicious menu.

Pomegranate, basil and calvados sorbetto

Forklift Catering
Boston • forkliftcatering.com

To help celebrate Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston Home event last December, Forklift Catering created a seasonal selection of hors d’oeuvres and desserts that helped get the 250-plus guests in the holiday spirit. The event, which took place in the Innovation and Design Building, fêted the winter 2019 issue and the 68 winners of the prestigious Best of Boston Home award. Party Rental Ltd.’s saturated orange, gold and black shantung linens helped give the décor an edgy vibe.

Decadent passed hors d’oeuvres included duck and gruyere croquettes with Forklift’s citrus marmalade, Thai beef tartare on black rice crisps, mini lobster grilled cheese, and chicken and waffles with New England maple syrup. These were served alongside an abundant charcuterie grazing station that featured meats, pâtés, cheeses and Forklift’s pickles. Colorful dips such as beet hummus, muhammara, butternut squash dip and cilantro lentil dip helped round out the inviting display. Guests ended the night on a festive sweet note with fresh cranberry tartlets and rich butterscotch pot de crème.

Thai beef tartare on black rice crisps. Photo by Jill Person of Person + Killian Photography

Holiday Event Tips

from Kristen Campbell, Forklift Catering

The holidays are a fun time when people are looking to indulge! Take the opportunity to showcase more decadent options that people will be avoiding come the new year. Pair with champagne to keep things light, and don’t forget lots of desserts!

Holiday Event Tips

from Robin Lindsay Legere, Party Rental Ltd.

Texture and color are so important when it comes to designing holiday tablescapes. Touchable table linens, like a soft velveteen or woven rattan, elevate the dining experience, and modern, earthy tones like marsala, plum and charcoal may seem a bit untraditional, but they complement a holiday spread so beautifully. They also look amazing with metallic accents and candlelight.

Cranberry tartlets. Photo by Jill Person of Person + Killian Photography