Saturday, February 28, 2009

Maine Food Ambassador Program

I am pleased to announce that I will be starting a round of classes this week, to learn more about the Foods, Wines and Beers of the State of Maine as part of a certification program to become a Food and Wine Ambassador for the State of Maine. This is approximately a year long course with a series of rounds of classes on different topics, starting with cheeses.
The cheese classes will give participants the language to describe specific cheeses, ideas regarding how to serve and prepare cheeses, and help define Maine's niche in the wider cheese world.
As both an Innkeeper, and caterer I am looking forward to the expanded knowledge base I will receive and how it will apply to enriching both the Inns and the Event Side of our business.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Its Pancake Week...Have a Party!

What a great way to have an economical party! Celebrate Pancake Week by having a little Pancake Party. This is so easy, you can simply throw it together after you get home from work for a last minute get together...or celebrate with a more leisurely brunch over the weekend.

The combinations are endless, but don't get caught up or overwhelmed by all the choices. How about a build your own pancake buffet? You make the basic batter, and have a few bowls of additions for guests to choose their own combinations, like blueberries, bananas, or sugared pecans and cook to order. A few sides of bacon or sausage....some breakfast style cocktails like mimosas or bellinis and you have a ready made good time.
Do you know the history of pancake week? During the Middle Ages it was common practice to rid the pantries of all the extravagent food supplies like eggs, butter, flour and sugar in preparation for Lent. These ingredients frequently became big batches of glorious pancakes.

A few basic techniques to remember, and you will be the celebrated pancake host of the neighborhood. Pancakes are a bit like brownies...they are sooooo easy and delicious to make from scratch, why would anyone ever compromise with a mix from the store?

Here's all you need to know...Mix your dry ingredients thoroughly before adding any wet. Once you have added the wet ingredients into the dry...only mix enough to combine ingredients. Over beating will result in a tough pancake. Buttermilk is always a great choice, as it creates a light and fluffy pancake. Most importantly...

Take the time to separate your eggs, and beat the egg whites till stiff. Quickly and gently fold those stiff egg whites into your completed batter just before cooking. The result will be the lightest pancakes you will ever have.
As a Senior in High School...on awards day when everyone was receiving know, the academic awards for the studious braniacs, the athletic awards for the coordinated jocks, the arts and music awards for the gifted students.....I received an award for the best pancakes ever. Peach pancakes I believe was the award winning flavor. I thought it was kind of a joke at first, but when I made them for my peach loving Dad, I remember him sitting back in his chair, rolling his eyes, and exclaiming, "Oh yeah, these ARE award winning."
Your friends will love the idea of a dinner breakfast party, so break out the bowls and whisks and let me know what creative combinations you come up with!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Better" than Oreo Cookies

I am a little fickle when it comes to baking. I'll work on a recipe, make it often and keep tweaking...and then suddenly forget about it and move on to something else. Quite a while ago I had been working on an oreo recipe that I was pretty happy with, but it never quite got there....then like the weather in Portland...something changed and they fell of my radar. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen they popped back into my mind while pondering how to console myself in the kitchen during our latest snow storm. Ahh...problem was too much sugar in the actual cookie. Oreos are actually not very sweet, and just a tad salty. Back to the kitchen I went and quickly whipped up a batch....and they ARE quick to for all of us instant gratification people, this is sweet news! Initial reviews have been very of my wonderful housekeepers here at the Inn promptly announced that they were much better than the real thing because the filling is flavorful and not so waxy...and my darling of sweets, my king of all things baked is in love, love, love with this new version. His greatest critique was just that he felt too guilty to eat the whole lot in one sitting.

Oreo cookies
Makes 25-30
For cookie:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa (don't substitute!)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon a tiny pinch
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons rooms temperature unsalted butter
1 large egg,room temperature

1/4 cup room temperature unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
For cookies:
In food processor bowl (can use mixer...but this is SO fast!) mix flour, cocoa, baking soda,
and baking powder, salt and sugar. Pulse to mix thoroughly. While pulsing, add butter, and then the egg. Continue processing till dough comes together in a mass.
On a parchment lined cookie sheet, take teaspoons of dough and roll to a ball, and then with moist hand, flatten slightly to get that oreo look as they bake. Use two sheets doubled up if you don't have air pans.
Bake for 9 minutes, and rotate halfway through. Check....don't over bake!
Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
For filling:
Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl, and whip until light. Add low speed, add sugar and vanilla gradually. Whip on high for 2-3 minutes until nice and fluffy.
Using a pastry back with a 1/2" star tip, pipe on a good sized dollop of filling on half of the cookies (flat side). You have enough filling for a rounded size teaspoon worth on each cookie to get a nice generous filling.
Top with the flat side of the the other half of disks, matching like sizes up together.

This is a cookie that benefits from a smaller size when you are preparing them for baking. Too much dough, and they don't look like their namesake

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Patrick Groleau Photography

Patrick Groleau is someone I feel honored to be able to call my friend, as well as a trusted vendor. I have watched him on the event site working with people, in a very quiet, almost unassuming way. Not at all like any photographer I have ever worked with, he has a gift for catching the real moments, not the orchestrated ones. His candid shots seem to look like they are too good to be candid, and his shots that are posed, don't appear to be. He is watching several things at once when working...he is watching the timeline, the flow of the day, the light, the mood and bringing it all together to create a photograph album that will speak to a bride and groom for all their days.

When I asked Patrick to give me a little bit of a bio...I found myself smiling as I read how he became entranced by is very much the same path that I became entranced with cooking. He with his Dad, and I with my Father's Mother.

I've decided to put what he sent me here in his own words because they truly capture Patrick and what he is all about. Please do visit his website whether or not you are looking for a wedding photographer. If you are shopping for photography services, you will find that not only is Patrick very reasonable, he is indeed fair. That is a rare trait among professional photographers these days.'s to lots more weddings together! (yes.....I'll save you some lobster....)

... first memory of photography is one of standing tip-toe atop a stool in a pitch dark room ... once my father had immersed the paper in the tray full of smelly developer and turned on the faint yellow safelight, i was allowed to grab hold of the edge of the table and hoist myself up so that i could better watch the magic as the image he had exposed in his camera earlier in the week was slowly brought to view by the chemicals soaking the paper ... then, after the stop bath and fixer and two long sessions in the wash tanks, i was allowed to squeegee the pictures and place them in the drying racks ...

... later, much later, via some sort of under-the-table barter, he provided me with a cardboard box filled with rolls of outdated kodak print and agfa color slide films ... i can remember the day my ma came into my room and, after looking at the pictures i'd pinned up on the walls, asked, "these aren't the pictures you showed me, where are all the good ones" ... i pulled open one of my desk drawers and pointed to several envelopes, "those're the good ones" ... she peered again at the pictures on the walls, noticing that alongside each was a photograph cut from a magazine ... "what're these pictures" ... "those're all pictures from national geographic, ma, mine are all the ones i messed up taking" ... she stared at her seemingly crazy, son, "why don't you put up all the nice ones you've taken" ... "because i won't learn anything from them, ma ... i want mine to be as good as the ones in the geo" ...

... that's how i started ... later, after much reflection, i learned that i'd taken to photography because it so perfectly complimented my vision ..

Highlights on Vendors

A very interesting part of being an event planner and caterer are the vendors you work with along the way. Most are delightful people who are in the business for all the right reasons and truly feel as I do....that it is an honor and a priviledge to have been chosen to be a part of the special occasions in life. As always, there are exceptions and why they choose to do what they do escapes me. I think of the DJ at an outdoor wedding I catered a few years ago where no one had done their homework regarding power requirements. At the time I was with a company that had multiple and simultaneous events happening. It was not at all unusual for the caterer to have never seen the event site prior to arriving with truck and crew. We were totally reliant on the previous ground work of the event manager and had to trust that we would have what we needed to make each event happen. In this case we were sadly short of power. I immediately began to blow circuits when I powered up my oven, two warmers and lighting. After several hours of creative shifting, I was finally at a place where I was producing food, but at that point I was incredibly behind schedule. As the DJ arrived, the event manager brought him up to speed and at my request, implored him to give me a minute to power down before he powered up. He was impatient and would have no part of being a team player. When he turned on his equipment, he blew everything, and we were right back to square one. We made it happen, but it was a painful experience from start to finish. He made what was already a tough and stressful work environment much worse with his ego. Thankfully he was the exception! I have been blessed to work with many talented, kind, helpful and downright fun people through the years. I am delighted to highlight some very talented vendors in the southern, midcoast and central Maine areas that work very hard to make each and every event they are part of a little more magical than they otherwise would be.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A little fun with lobsters

While looking for some information on entertaining with lobster to promote the hard working men and women that provide live Maine Lobster for a living, I came across this idea, and just could not resist sharing it....

Monday, February 9, 2009

Today's Inspiration: Proposal Ideas has great ideas for making your Maine Wedding Proposal something to remember forever.

Now that you have found your perfect partner, you want to make sure the surroundings are as perfect as the moment.

Visit their site for some wonderful ideas to make your proposal as unique as your love.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Creative Dresses for the Independent Bride

There's nothing about you that is average. You strive to show your personal style in every aspect of your life. Then why oh why would you settle for the main stream style in your wedding dress? There are some designers out there now that will spin you right back on your heels with their edgy styles, totally off the beaten path, and oh, so beautiful. What a great way to support the efforts of the Indie designers than to choose one of their artful creations to walk down the isle in?

I am blown away by the work of Chrissy Wai-Ching. Her innovative, cutting edge style just rocks me. I find myself returning to her web site again and again just to have another look. She uses hand-dyed silks and customizes each dress to accentuate the style and curve of each bride.

kt Jean is a custom designer of couture design. Her work is pictured above. She is taking limited orders for this year, and can be contacted through her web site for orders.

While searching for truly unique options, I was so pleased to stumble across a blog that is all about Etsy designers for brides! You absolutely must visit the shop of London Demimonde

Another great option is to visit a recyled wedding shop as a commitment to sustainable living. Pre Owned Wedding Dresses has been around helping brides find the dress of their dreams and a far smaller price than a new designer gown. Remember your local thrift shops, Ebay, Goodwill and Second Hand Stores for the opportunity to find an amazing dress.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentine's Day=Engagements=How are we going to pay for this?

Let's face're in love, it's Valentine's Day, there's chocolate, champagne, candlelight, romance...what better time to ask your true love for their hand in marriage? Then, shortly after you realize that you have not only a huge task before you, but you actually have to pay for it all!
That in and of itself can be terribly stressful and frightening, especially in today's economy when we are all just doing well to get by week to week.

The very first thing you want to do is set up a separate savings account just for your wedding. Many couples start two accounts at this point, one for the wedding and another for the honeymoon. I posted recently about registering online for your honeymoon while you are filling out you other gift registry options. This is a great idea to offset those honeymoon related costs. Distinctive Honeymoons, Honeymoon Wishes and The Big Day are three main sites to choose from.

Your savings account should be with an online bank that pays high interest rates, like ING Direct. The great thing about these type of banks is that they don't have as much overhead as a brick and motor bank, so they have higher interest rates and they let you automatically transfer money out of your checking account and into a linked savings account with no fees. The goal you should have in mind to effectively save at a fairly rapid rate is to have 10 to 20 percent of each paycheck deposited into this account. This amount is based on having just about 12 months worth of saving. If you have less time, obviously you need to save at a much high rate per paycheck.