When to Call a Caterer

Have you always assumed that only big events need to be catered? That only businesses or people planning weddings need a caterer?

No? Oh good. Then you already know that a caterer can do:

Holiday Parties
SuperBowl Parties
Family Reunions
Funerals
Baby or Bridal Showers
Company Picnics
Company Parties
Church Events
Family Meals
Administrative Meetings
Bachelor or Bachelorette Parties
Breakfast
Brunch
Lunch
Dinner
Brinner
Appetizers
Dessert Bar
Birthday Parties

Phew! And that’s not even the full list! Anything you are doing could very easily, and sometimes more cost-effectively, be handled by a caterer rather than doing it yourself.

Sometimes hosting a party is a lot like Pinterest. That lovely wreath that you could buy in the store and might cost you $20? Oh hey! Let’s make it ourselves and it ends up costing you $80.

The same can be said for food items. While you think that it is simple to build a menu, buy the ingredients, make the food, what we sometimes forget to factor in is our TIME. Our time is our most valuable resource. Is preparing the dishes for whatever event is going on the best way to utilize your time?

If the answer is no, that is when you should call a caterer.

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Is That Really a Thing?

This weekend we had the pleasure of serving a meal for a wedding. The decorations were beautiful. The bride and her dress were beautiful. And, since it was an outdoor ceremony and reception at a local county park, most importantly the day was beautiful.

When the bride and I started discussing her meal six months ago, she was in a slight panic. Her caterer that she had originally hired had decided that he couldn’t afford to do catering anymore after a disastrous showing at RAGBRAI last year. Unfortunately, that was the case for a few caterers in our area. Not so much that they went out of business, just that business hadn’t been as expected for such a big event.

In any case, she was frantic to find a new caterer and we had met at the bridal show a couple months previously. She had tried the food, but of course, already had her caterer picked so had passed us by at that point.

Fortunately she remembered us in her time of need.

As we discussed prices and what her budget was, we started throwing out ideas for her menu. We did the usual pork sandwiches, hot buffet, yada yada yada.

Then she asked if we had ever done breakfast before.

A plan started developing for her to serve Brinner at her wedding reception. Yes. It was served at 5:30 in the evening. That is the best part of Brinner…also known as Breakfast for Dinner.

Her menu consisted of pancakes, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage links, and bacon.

Quite possibly one of the best wedding meals we’ve ever done. It was delicious. It was creative. And most importantly, it was fun.

Remember, this event you are planning? It is your special day. You need to decide what kind of message you want to send your guests.

You want it to be memorable.

Five Questions to Ask Your Caterer

Occasionally, I will get messages wondering about our services. Not surprising since people want to get the most bang for their buck. Many times, the bride (or party-planner) isn’t sure what questions she (or he) should be asking so here are some ideas for you as you prepare for your next party.

  1. Do you have a food license?
    This is probably the most important question. There are a few reasons you should consider this (and why you should consider not have family members or friends prepare a meal for your wedding or party guests).

    First, you have your safety issues. If a business has a food license, then that means someone from the health department has been out, checked over the area where meals are being prepared, and deemed them worthy of cooking for others. When you rely on family and friends to cook your meal, no matter how wonderful a cook they are, there is no one checking on their food handling capabilities.

    Second, a business with a food license, takes the liability if something was to happen to the guests at your party. While we all hope this should never be an issue, do you really want to risk family members being blamed for food poisoning? Catering businesses need to prove that they have the capability to provide safe food, and know the proper temps for serving food.

  2. Do you have references?
    Another excellent question. References mean that a caterer has been doing this and has a track record of making people happy: providing a good menu, food that tastes good, and price that is affordable. A good caterer should be able to provide at least three recent (within 3-6 months), non-family references. Even better is when they have repeat business, but as a caterer, that can be slightly more difficult depending on how often a person plans a party.
  3. Do you require a deposit? What are my payment options?
    This is a double question, as money tends to be. Be sure you know, up front, what you are expected to pay before an event and when the final payment is due. It’s also a good idea to check on whether the deposit (and payments made) are refundable in case of a change of plans. Many caterers do require payment in full by the event. Other financial questions might be whether they accept credit cards and checks. I would be leery of a business that accepted cash only.
  4. Will I get a written quote? How long is the quote good for?
    Make sure a caterer is willing to give you a written quote prior to making any definite plans, but find out how long they will honor the price they have given you as well. You will want time to research your catering options and credibility of potential caterers. Nailing down a caterer a year in advance is great from the standpoint that you can mark that off your “to-do” list but it is also one of the most expensive (and remembered) parts of your wedding so you want to make sure you have made the right decision.
  5. Do you provide servers? Tableware? Do you charge mileage?
    Along with these questions should be whether there are additional fees. Also, make sure to read the quote/contract. If these things aren’t covered, ask the question. The last thing you want is to be surprised by additional fees on the day of your party.
  6. Choosing a caterer doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to be prepared, do your research, and know what questions to ask.

Recipe of the Week – Cake Brownies

For our last Recipe of the Week installment, Mark has opted to make his brownies. We carry these in the food truck every day and, not gonna lie, the guys out at Morton love them.

brownie

These brownies are simple to make, but you do need to be careful, if you overcook them even a little they get hard quickly. Do it right and they stay moist and yummy for days (if they make it that long!). And, if you really think they need more, you can always top them off with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting!

While desserts have never been our “main course” with our catering business, we have found the sometimes the simplest of recipes can create quite a following. Make sure you stop by and get your own brownie this week!

Recipe of the Week – Rhubarb Custard Bars

The recipe this week is actually a dessert that will occasionally make it to family reunions on my dad’s side of the family. Truthfully, I’m not sure which one of my dad’s cousins I got this from, but I absolutely love this dessert.

20150901_074006Rhubarb Custard Bars are best completely chilled. Don’t get me wrong. There is not a single time I would turn down this tasty treat. When chilled, however, the bar will hold it’s form much better. It’s easier to serve and (most importantly for grazers like me) it’s more convenient to pick up and eat without a plate or fork. 🙂

I mean really. Who doesn’t love a crust that is made strictly from flour, sugar, and butter? And chilled? The whipping cream helps to cut the tartness of the rhubarb and then the topping is where the sweet comes in. Who am I kidding? The whole dessert is sweet! It is definitely one of those desserts that keeps the family coming back for more!

rhubarb custard bars


Recipe of the Week – Russian Dressing

This week, our special in the food truck is a Rueben so Mark decided to share his Russian Dressing that goes on the Rueben as the recipe of the week.

For those that like sauerkraut, the Rueben is a great way to use Russian Dressing. Me? I’m not a sauerkraut fan so I dipped my roast beef sandwich in the dressing yesterday (not that the roast beef needed it, but it was so yummy!).russian dressing

Simple, easy, and so delicious. What a great way to spice up your regular sandwich by using this as a sandwich spread!

And if you like Ruebens…check out our food truck this week and give the Russian dressing a try!

Recipe of the Week – Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

First off, anyone who knows me, knows I love sugar. Dessert is one of my favorite meals. While we do not do a lot of “desserts”, Mark is actually a pretty decent baker if I do say so myself. He does many of our cakes for our personal parties and my favorite, that I doubt he will share is secret on, is his peanut butter frosting.

But I digress…

Today’s recipe is his cinnamon cream cheese frosting. I’m a sucker for a good cream cheese frosting. In fact, I’d take that over a buttercream frosting any day, or worse, that fake frosting that you get in some “big box” stores.Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

This frosting is smooth, creamy, and above all delicious! I love frosting when it stays smooth and not crunchy, even when the cake isn’t quite fresh. This frosting can also go quite well on cinnamon rolls, brownies, cupcakes…but really, what CAN’T you put frosting on??

20150818_075534I love how it looks too. Cream cheese frosting is light, fluffy, and white. Really white. In fact, it looks pretty plain and boring. But by adding the cinnamon to it, you have added intriguing flecks of color to your frosting. Not enough to change the coloring, but enough to draw you towards trying it just to see what flavor the flecks provide. It’s unfortunate that pictures just can’t do the real thing justice when it comes to showing the subtle flecks of cinnamon. Guess you will just have to try it to see what I mean.