The long shadows that are cast in late summer remind us of the turning season, yet how can we but enthusiastically build fires and cook as if outside time will sprawl endlessly in front of us. These are the most glorious days.
May is the most beautiful month in the Berkshires, especially after the intense snow of the past winter. It is also the official beginning of our catering season. Though we make parties in any season, there is just something about the gorgeous weather that gets our clients mouths watering.
Super farmer-lady Laura Meister started Farm Girl Farm in 2004 with a friend while completing a Masters in Documentary Video Production. At the time her intention was to make films about farms and food and farmers (quite ahead of her time I would say) but before too long she was fully immersed in her life as farmer, while her co-founder friend went in other directions. Today Laura cultivates acreage in North Egremont MA for a CSA with about 75 members and also sells vegetables to some 20 restaurants in our region. And she sells to us…
you can see the board still written up from last season- the neat rows of restaurant names under which she and her farm-girls list the chef’s order in a carefully orchestrated exercise to ensure that the right amount of produce gets harvested and packaged on the busy delivery days.
there we are listed on a special board- obviously a casualty of the big winter we had!
Jeremy and I paid the farm a visit during a spectacular day this week and got to see the awakening of the farm; garlic coming up strongly, little seedlings in the greenhouse and being hardened off, the fields being planted. We work carefully with our regional farmers to bring our catering clients the freshest and most special foods possible.
Have a wonderful spring imagining the little plants filling full of flavor that you will taste at your next event!
Happy New Year! We have been reflecting back on a 2010 bang-up-season, and have a lot of exciting plans brewing for you this coming year. The phone has been ringing as we begin to book our 2011 season with parties big and small.
When new customers call to inquire about our company, they usually have some idea about the type of parties we love to throw, maybe they have been to a Fire Roasted event, or they stumbled upon this very website. Frequently these potential clients have only begun to think about the event they are calling about- the details, such as the food- are not yet defined. We love to give them the low down on what our philosophy is at this point in the planning, because so much of Fire Roasted Catering’s work is fluid- we need our customer to understand that the menu is a work in progress. How can we menu plan so early in the season when the weather (which is a huge player in telling us what will taste best in a growing season) has not been determined? This and many factors will influence the final ingredients for any party we cater. This can be a challenge for some folks, but we look forward to the conversations that are like little opportunities to discuss our favorite subjects- that are: FOOD, SEASONALITY and LOCALITY.
So how does it work? We have a very good idea about the foods available in any given season, so in menu planning with our esteemed clients we work from those ingredients. As the date of a party grows near- we may have to modify those ingredients if they are unavailable or undesirable (remember the Tomato Blight of 2009?) On the other hand- the nature of farming aslo means some amazing treat may actually be available sooner or stick around later than usual- giving the menu an unexpected bonus.
We literally place our orders from the farmers the week of the event, planning for those foods to be harvested 1-2 days before the party- in fact, it is not at all uncommon for us to pick up the ingredients the morning of the party- and we always hit the farmer’s market to scan for an unexpected item that will bring the meal over the top.
We feel that this sort of menu planning is exciting and collaborative- it means we don’t have a static list of canapes, salads, and main courses printed on a sheet to show our customers. We have conversations, which is really what sharing food is all about.
Its been a busy few months of catering in the Berkshire and around. Our wonderful clients are as passionate about food as we are, and they have a LOT to be psyched about this summer with the introduction of our newest piece of FIRE COOKING equipment:
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce you to DANTE
Modeled after a photo in our dear Francis Mallmann’s brilliant book Seven Fires, Jeremy had this beauty built to offer extreme flexibility for fire cooking. By arranging the plates and grills in a variety of configurations we can cook many ways, one of the most exciting option creates an oven in which we can roast meats encrusted in salt, or pizzas using our amazing local wheat sourdough.
The white lump is a salt crust over North Plain Farm chickens which, to quote the venerable host from this particular party, Ruth Reichl, were “the best chickens I’ve ever tasted.”
Fire Roasted Catering has been having a wonderful spring in the Berkshires (and surounds) with plenty of gorgeous weather for grilling. We’ve so enjoyed meeting new clients who have been enthusiastically embracing the foraged foods that make spring parties so special. Grilled ramps and morels are the prizes that May delivers so graciously, with simple preparations that highlight their unique and delicious flavor profiles.
A highlight in May was the amazing event hosted by ASAP (The After School Arts Program) in Washington Depot Connecticut. ASAP is a Connecticut-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing artistic and cultural opportunities for children and adults. The annual fund raiser includes a silent and live auction and is followed by a wonderful series of readings of children’s work read by notable actors and others in the entertainment and literary world. Fire Roasted Catering was honored to be chosen as a ‘live auction’ item, helping to achieve the financial goals of this important organization.
Francis Mallmann at work
I was recently introduced to a chef who cooks and is inspired by the same principals that Fire Roasted Catering is based upon. Patagonian born Francis Mallmann is a chef, restauranteur, and super suave guy. After already having a prestigious career which included years of training in some of the finest French kitchens, and heading some of the most famous South American restaurants, Mallmann had an epiphany, to quote his friend Peter Kaminsky:
he was tired of being a French chef in a South American country. He began to move away from nouvelle cuisine and, as he said, “its decorative sauces that were perfected by a very few and poorly copied by thousands of chefs, including myself. I got very bored of all this three-star thing. It was my church for so many years. All those towers and decorations and too many things on a plate pushed me to go brutal and beastly in my cooking.”
His story continues with many brave and exciting moves which pushed him to develop the techniques he is now best know for. He currently has a gorgeous cookbook called Seven Fires which beautifully illustrates the foods and the feeling of cooking over wood fire.
My career trajectory as a chef, thought less illustrious, is not dissimilar. My interest in food is rooted in the traditions I was taught by my grandmother, whose tutelage inspired me to go to culinary school. In that environment I learned the classical techniques that intensify, deepen, and develop the flavors and textures of the ingredients that I use. Though I did work as a chef for five years (not including the dozen of years in kitchens before culinary school) I found the lure of entrepreneurism irresistible. To satisfy my need for independence I started a fresh pasta company which produced excellent hand made pastas using the freshest most local ingredients possible.
After selling that company I created Jeremy Stanton Catering, and returned to the rules of my grandmother: use the highest quality ingredients and the simplest preparations so that the inherent flavors of the food can speak for themselves. The next stage of my evolution came from an invitation to roast a whole veal calf for a Slow Food event, which I had never done before. Never mind, I thought, I know how to cook, I’ll spit roast it over a hardwood fire. The result was a mouth watering success. Fire Roasted Catering was born. Cooking with fire gives me the greatest flexibility, by using my custom built iron grill, and grill pans I have the ability to move the food quickly and easily. The taste of fire speaks to all of our carnal memories, standing around the fire as our food cooks is a communal experience, this taps into our base level of our humanity. It is fundamental.
Sometimes clients contact us wanting to extend their holiday celebrations with a roast. This past weekend Fire Roasted Catering participated in a ‘block party’ which was in a rural area in Southern Berkshire County. There is always a potential challenge to fire roasting, and this time of year tends to push that challenge beyond the normal hurdles. The night before the event was very cold, raining/sleeting, with extreme wind, fortunately by the time we needed to start the fire the rain had stopped, but the wind was not so kind. Despite the elements, the food was beautiful and delicious, to quote our client…
“I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t realize it was going to be transcendentally good”
We are available for all your holiday catering needs, rain or shine! Happy Holidays!
Over the years we have developed close relationships with the growers and animal raisers whose hard work in this part of New England make our lives rich and our business possible. Ours is a close knit community and many of the farmers we work with are close friends – like Laura Mister at Farm Girl Farm in Egremont, our buddy Dominic at Moon In The Pond Farm in Sheffield, and of course my brother Sean whose North Plain Farm in Great Barrington raises the most delicious pigs in the county (at least we think he does).