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Chef Heidi

Chef Heidi    |    Weddings


The Rise of White Chocolate

True white chocolate has a beautiful ivory color and a velvety, buttery flavor.  Nibbling good white chocolate is all about the experience of flavor and texture.

Most of us know the general process of making chocolate but how is white chocolate created?  Dark, milk and white chocolate all begin the same way.  Cocoa nibs which are part of the cocoa bean are roasted and ground into finer and finer particles.  This creates a substance called chocolate liquor or cocoa mass.  Despite the liquor term there is no alcohol involved in this step.  At this point the chocolate liquor consists of  50-60% cocoa butter and 46-48% cocoa powder. 

Now the chocolate varieties begin to differ.  The light colored cocoa butter is separated from the dark “powder”.  Dark and milk chocolates will each be created from the cocoa powder by adding vanilla, sugar and/or milk with some cocoa butter added back in.  White chocolate, however, is fashioned from the rich cocoa butter.  The term butter defines the look and feel of the product as there is no dairy in cocoa butter.  Askinosie Chocolate, a chocolate producer in Missouri, adds goats milk powder and cane sugar juice to produce their award winning, white chocolate bar.  Each fine chocolate producer adds their own touches to their cocoa butter to create their unique flavor profile. 

There has never been more chocolatiers creating great white chocolate allowing us to have many nibbling experiences.

 WHITE AND WONDERFUL HOT CHOCOLATE

Serve with freshly baked oatmeal cookies!

 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon granulated sugar or agave syrup

1/2 teaspoon ground dry ginger

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. orange zest

5 ounces grated or finely chopped quality white chocolate, such as El Rey, Askinosie, Valrhona or Guittard

  • Combine and blend above ingredients in a bowl.

 3 cups milk

  • In a saucepan, heat the milk until very warm, about 175F
  • Add the white chocolate mix and whisk until the chocolate is melted.
  • Whisk constantly until the mixture is very warm, about 175F.

 Enjoy!  Chef Heidi

References:

guittard.com

allchocolate.com


Spring into bloom!

As I look out my office window, I see a steady fall of sleet, ice and rain. Yes, it is a bleak and miserable day, and all I can say is…thank goodness I love what I do! Seriously. I am immersing myself in spring time decor and all I am thinking about is the luscious smell of lily of the valley, the simplistic beauty of a bouquet of pink tulips tied with grosgrain ribbon, and the elegance of clusters of terra cotta pots filled with white lilacs in the center of each table. Spring is a time of renewal, warmth and cleansing. The definition of the verb “spring” is to “move or jump suddenly upward or forward”. I feel as though this perfectly describes this magical season. Flowers bloom, rain showers cleanse the earth, and there is an overall feeling of hope. What better time of the year to get married and start your life as husband and wife?! Not to mention, the flowers…my favorite season for flowers. I am firm believer in keeping any spring flower arrangement simple, clean and elegant. Let the blooms speak for themselves, and always think outside the box!

For all you spring brides out there seeking some inspiration during this slushy mess of day, I have written down some of my favorite ways to use spring flowers in your decor. One of these ideas is to incorporate the beauty of the blooms in your guest favors. If your centerpieces are clustered terra cotta pots filled with spring blooms, have each of your guests take one home at the end of the night. Rather than a candy bar, have a flower bar! Arranged pre-packaged flowers in silver pots similar to a flower market, and make these the guest favors. Or have guests make their own bouquets to take home. Another element I love to incorporate are branch arrangements. Balance out bowls of peonies with tall cherry blossoms centerpieces. Another idea is to have a tall branch arrangements at the guest book table and rather than guests writing in a book, have them write a note on pieces of paper that have been laid out with strings attached. Have your guests hang their wishes and notes to you on branches. Rather than your typical escort card, use small pots of moss with the guests name and table number and have this double up as a guest favor.

As always, I am full of fun ideas and I more than happy to share the photos that excite me. Enjoy!

Happy planning!

Sarah 


A Pink Resolution

Well, New Years Day has come and gone. 2012 is here, and lists of New Years resolution are in the hearts and minds of many of you. I have never been one to make such a list, that is up until a few years ago. I write my list down and keep it in my bedside table to read every morning when I wake up. A great way to start the day! One of the items on my list is to embrace my inner child as I work on the design details of some of our weddings. I always encourage our brides and grooms to bring as many personal ideas to the table when we sit down for our planning and design meetings, and when they do, some very magical things begin to happen. I especially love when couples incorporate childhood memories. This can be as simple as a color palette, as touching as the fabric of a childhood dress being used as the material for a ring cushion, and as cute as a childhood red flyer wagon used as a carrier for parasols for a hot summer wedding. For me, it is very simply the color pink. For years I tried to fight my love of this energetic and passionate color because I thought it was too “girly”, but after years of being in the event industry, I quickly realized not only is the color hot and chic, there are endless possibilities of color combinations. I especially like it with combined with a simple color palette of taupe and white. It is truly a versatile color that can bring a pop to any event if used correctly.

As you can imagine, my inspiration board is currently an explosion of pink in every different shade. Here are some images that hopefully will tickle you pink, and please take note of my favorite…mini pink cupcake ice cream cones. I mean seriously, can it get any better than that?!

Happy planning!

- Sarah


Tis the Season to be fearless!

In my experience, the winter is a time that people often shy away from life. Whether it is the holidays winding down, the winter blues for some, the hibernating as though we were bears for others, of just the general notion that spring through fall is the best time of year to plan a substantial event. This time of year brings great joys and, unfortunately, extreme cold. Being a native Canadian, the winter has never phased me. I find my inner child when I wake up in the morning and look out my window to a fresh snow fall. I am filled with joy and excitement when I hear we are going to be getting enough snow to build an igloo, and am even more thrilled by the cup of hot cocoa topped with roasted marshmallows that follows. Thankfully this wonderful region we live in allows me to enjoy the wonders of winter. This is a time of year to celebrate the magic, to be fearless and to think outside the box as we head into final planning stages for our winter events. My inspiration boards have been filled with color palettes that compliment winter’s whites, silvers and sky blues (staying away from the traditional red and white), guest favors that incorporate the coziness of a winter culinary delight such as a lemon souffle served in personalized ramekins, mini cappuccino’s featuring cinnamon dusted donuts on a stick, individual servings of Chef Heidi’s Black Truffled Creamy Mac and Cheese (to die for delicious), sweet tables filled with Chef’s Handmade Hazelnut Truffles, mini Apple Spice Cupcakes topped with sinfully delicious Dolce de Leche icing, a donut bar paired with a hot cocoa station, and the list continues. There is a reason the song you are hearing most on the radio these days has the line “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. How could it not be with endless possibilities of culinary delights?!

So, my friends, my advice to you is this…embrace the magic of this season. Be fearless! Make a snow angel! When March rolls around and we are still in the midst of winter, check back here and I will surely find a way to brighten your spirits with other inspirational ideas for events and entertaining alike.

I leave you today with some images from my inspiration board. When the cold really sets in, look to these for some warmth.

Happy planning!

-Sarah 

 

 

 

 


Who Counts the Fish?

In the last 15 years we’ve seen the collapse of fishing grounds as well as the decline of specific fish species.  As a user of fish purveyors I do my very best to keep abreast of fish populations.  But who do I rely on to keep me accurately informed?

There are government and independent groups around the world that monitor the fisheries and seafood stocks. In the a recent Food Arts magazine issue there is an article outlining the struggles of these groups to monitor the populations while struggling to maintain consistency in their goals. The struggle arises from the conflict of the goals, interests and missions of each group. 

“It’s a challenge to have that many different countries involved,” says Christine Patrick, NOAA spokesperson.  “They all have their interests and battles that don’t always align with what’s in the best interest of the fish.”(Food Arts, March 2011, pg. 50)

In 2010, President Obama signed an Executive to create the National Ocean Policy.

According to the White House website the Order established for the first time a comprehensive national policy for the stewardship of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes.  This will set us on a path toward planning for preservation and sustainable usage.

But as Warner Chabot, executive director and CEO of the California League of Conservative Voters, the nonpartisan political action arm of California’s environmental movement.  “Regulations can solve part of the problem. But regulations also can be very tough to enforce.  That’s why we need market solutions like Seafood Watch.  In a decade, it’s made sustainable seafood a mainstream issue. It has rocked the ocean conservation world.” (March 2011, Food Arts, pg. 50)

And that brings me to the organization I turn to, Seafood Watch of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.  These are the people who “count the fish” for me so I can fulfill my client’s wishes while aiding in the goal of sustainable fish populations.

Be an informed consumer.  Please see the following sites:

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx?c=dd

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/

http://www.blueocean.org/sushi


Where’s the Beef?

We offer a porterhouse, a cowboy steak, a filet mignon and a Kobe skirt steak.  But we would be foolish to ignore the most recent driving force in the restaurant world.  There is a wave of meatlessness flowing over chefs from coast to coast.  And it’s not just meat but any product produced from any animal. This includes all dairy, eggs and even honey.  This is not vegetarianism but veganism. 

 

 

 

If you are assuming the vegan talking to the waiter at the next table is a throwback to the ’60s you are probably wrong. People are turning to a vegan way of life for their overall health, hormone imbalances, environmental concerns, the National debt, animal rights, longer life, religion and food budgets. 

 

 

 

If any of these reasons don’t suffice let me announce the best reason to dine as a vegan. Chefs are falling over themselves competing with one another to create incredibly delicious vegan dishes.  Go to Vegas and the restaurants are bubbling with vegan choices.  Steve Winn, the casino and restaurant mogul, is requesting his star chefs add vegan choices to their already exceptional menus.  New York City leads the way with not only vegan menu additions but exciting vegan restaurants.

 

 

 

This past November, I took my family to NYC.  While there we celebrated Thanksgiving.  On that day most were in pursuit of the turkey but I took my family to Peacefood Cafe on the upper Westside.  They offered a prix fix menu and we dined on four courses of some of the best food I’ve experienced.  The chestnut soup was delicate and exceptional.  My entree featuring a rich lentil loaf was served with a luxurious mushroom sauce, a whole cranberry sauce, golden raisin stuffing, purple sweet potatoes whipped with coconut milk, roasted lotus root and lemon kale.  Not one of us missed the turkey. 

 

 

 

At Black Diamond Caterers, we use organic agave nectar as often as honey.  We make a Tunisian Stew filled with aromatic spices, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans and currants as frequently as we make Tunisian Chicken.  We make Himalayan red rice salad filled with pecans, scallions, apple and dried cranberries as often as we make tarragon albacore tuna salad.  And while my paella can be filled with shellfish, sausage and rabbit, we also make a delicious vegan paella with sunchokes and exotic mushrooms.  

 

  

 

Next time, treat yourself well and order the vegan dish. 


2011 is all about sexy..

2010 was the year of retro comfort foods in the world of food service.  Caterers and restauranteurs across the nation recreated meatloaf, mac & cheese, burgers and fried chicken in their likeness.  I dipped into the mac & cheese scene by adding Italian black truffles for eye rolling decadence.  I also tossed a slider burger onto the menus for our guests to order.  And order they did.  More events than not had my mini burger of hand packed, ground Kobe beef served medium rare with Gruyere cheese and my onion jam nestled on a rich brioche roll just out of the oven that day.

As 2011 rolls in we are adding new items to our menus.  We are predicting that 2011 is the year comfort foods get sexy.  Watch your favorite chefs for sexy cheese sauces like smoked blue cheese, mixes of meats and exotic fruits exuding sex appeal as well as pan fried poultry paired with sexy foie gras or luscious lobster.

I’m moving on my sexy now.  My menus are splattered with it and my 2011 clients are going to have a tryst with my food. 

My wheel of Rogue Creamery Smoked Blue is on its way from Oregon as I write.  An affair is about to begin.


Tempering Change

There is a down side to maintaining Facebook and Twitter.  Because I also blog I feel as though the mini thoughts I send out daily zap me of the interest and urge to create a written piece for my blog.  I love my blog so I will be putting a greater effort into maintaining it even if it translates into fewer Tweets. 

Recently, I suffered through the removal of Gourmet Magazine from existence.  I’ve been a lifelong fan.  My subscription has resulted in masses of Gourmet Magazines stuffed on every bookshelf, counter and storage box.  I simply loved the magazine.  I was thrilled with the most recent editor in chief, Ruth Reichl.  And when I received a note in November informing me that my subscription would be automatically transferred to Bon Appétit, another Conde Nast publication, I was less than thrilled.  I had passed this magazine in grocery stores hundreds of times over the decades only being enticed to buy one every few years.  So when I received my first issue I flipped through it as if I had a copy of the National Enquirer. 

Today I received my third issue.  When I opened the March 2010 issue I decided to give the booklet my full attention.  I read each page and every written word and I had a strange awakening.  I did find myself being pulled into some of the writer’s articles and I did examine the recipes with the sharp eye of a critical chef.  But it was page 32 that made me smile. 

The Restaurant Editor, Andrew Knowlton, is Bon Appitit’s “Foodist” and answers questions sent in by foodies.  I loved the answer to one question and I think it’s the best answer on the topic I’ve come across………….. 

Question:  “I often hear chefs on cooking shows and reality shows talking about a person’s palate.  “So-and-so has an exquisite palate,” they say.  What exactly does that mean, and can I train my own palate?”  -K.B.    

Andrew writes:  “When it comes to professional chefs.  I think a “great palate” is the ability to create or refine dishes simply by instinct.  I’ve seen some of the world’s most talented chefs, having tasted a flawed or incomplete dish, suggest improvements in a flash-adding a pinch of salt here or a squeeze of lemon there- with amazing success.  For professional eaters -and folks who simply love food- the term means something slightly different:  It’s the ability to identify flavors, ingredients, and even techniques in a particular dish. 

But what really defines a great palate, I think, is taste memory.  It has as much to do with your head as with your tongue.   …a well-developed taste memory comes with experience and the willingness to try new flavors.  ….” 

I think I might have a new foodie magazine.

march_10_cover-bon-appetit.jpg


Luscious Hard Cider

Michael and I are big fans of hard cider.  And it seems there are many who feel the same way.  Today on NPR you’ll find a great story  on hard cider at Poverty Lane Orchard in New Hampshire.  Give it listen and it’ll make you smile.

 

It was shared with me by Hick’s Orchard in Granville, NY, my absolutely favorite orchard.  Maybe it’s because I used to live near by once upon a time and I could barely wait for the apples to ripen.  Hick’s Orchard is the oldest U-Pick apple farm in the state of New York.  Their orchard is charming, beautiful and very fun.  Their classic apple cider is a premium product.  We go out of our way to procure gallons for as long as it flows.  A few years ago Hick’s started Slyboro Ciderhouse and they’ve never looked back.  The motto on their website is “reviving lost spirits”.  They make three varieties of hard cider; still, sparkling and ice.  These beverages are not to be missed.  You can find places to purchase them on the Slyboro website.  Or go there yourself!  It’s well worth the trip.

.hard-cider.jpgice-cider.jpg

Slyboro Ice Cider from Slyboro Ciderhouse

18 Hicks Road    Granville, NY


Cheese Please

 

Long, long ago in a land far away ………………cheese was born.  This happened around 3500BC.  Think about how long ago that was.  This is considered the Middle Stone Age.  A rudimentary form of the wheel was invented about this time.  The first domesticated animal, the ass, was adapted to be a pack animal at this time allowing long caravans which could carry items great distances for trade.  It was on one of these long journeys that cheese was accidently invented.  Milk was placed in a dried animal stomach for consumption and down the “road” the creator discovered curds and whey.  If that person could only know what he or she contributed to us.                                  

In the United States we find ourselves in an exciting moment in time with the Artisanal Cheese Movement.  It is hard not to notice the amazing cheeses being created in many states.  I believe many of the cheeses of this country will become as sought after as any cheese from Italy, France, Spain or England just as the world grew to appreciate the great American wines over these last decades.  The American cheese artisan has a fresh approach to cheese making that often involves twisting classic methods of the old world European varieties.  

Several of the cheeses I’m serving right now fit in that category.  Two are from Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, California, and are among the hippest, award winning cheeses out there.  The moment the box arrives I have knife in hand and begin sampling.  Another favorite I have is a Twig Farm cheese from West Cornwall, VT.  I love to serve this rustic goat cheese with Wood’s Boiled Cider elevating it to a heavenly treat.

pierce-pt-cowgirl-creamery.jpg                           twig-farm-square-cheese.jpg

 

        Cowgirl Peirce PT                                Twig Farm Square

 

At our Rock the Holidays Extravaganza I will be featuring a large station featuring cheeses.  I will be creating a decadent Truffled Mac and Cheese.  I’ve been making this for some clients and it is unbelievably good.  From the Panini Grills I’ll offer a classic Aged Cheddar on Rockhill Bakehouse’s Sourdough bread and a Provolone, Hot Cappy Ham, Pesto and Roasted Red Peppers on Rockhill’s Onion Rye and, finally, I’ll have a Smoked Gouda, Sautéed Mushroom and Onion Jam on Konto’s Nan.  I have tried all of these a multiple times and the last one is my favorite!  Lastly, I will also be showcasing a cheese fondue “river” with loads of items to dip.  And as if that was not enough cheese, I will be serving small farm cheeses, including those listed above, alongside my Dessert Presentation.

Make an effort to discover American cheeses.  

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