Tuesday, August 19, 2014

buzzing around the big apple BBQ festival

Pearls on Swine 
Q' as far as the eye could see
Smoke got in my eyes
It was an week of incredible highs and unfortunately lows too (My beloved Aunt was in hospice) - but on the high side earlier this summer I got to put on my queen bee hat and meet one of NYC's culinary legends and restaurant genius' - Danny Meyers, who as part of his restaurant empire, also owns several great catering companies.   Here's my not so great selfie, representing caterBuzz as press with Danny Meyers and USHG's Blue Smoke's Executive Chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park.
Meeting Danny Meyers was the sauce on the Q - Equally amazing was the opportunity to meet and visit with the Big Apple BBQ pitmasters and experiencing the range of genuine American regional BBQ in my own backyard!

My first mission at the  the Big Apple BBQ Block Party was to welcome and surprise CaterBuzz member Randy Twyford, of Twyford BBQ, Jacksonville, Ill and his BBQ buddies with some of New York City's finest smoked delicacies - aka genuine, fresh from the oven, Big Apple bagels with smoked salmon and a "schmear" (NY talk for cream cheese spread on a bagel) !!

This man is another amazing BBQ industry resource - Meet David Knight, founder and owner of Ole Hickory Pits, whose forward thinking vision and can do smile has made him the Knight in shining armour for many a BBQ pitmaster from coast to coast and even across the pond! David brought it 17 Old Hickory Pit BBQ rigs to assist the pitmasters with extra "fire power" to produce the volume of BBQ necessary for the two day Big Apple BBQ Block Party Festival. 

David regaled me with BBQ stories and folklore and was the magic ticket to enter any Pit Master's inner circle at the 12th Annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party.   When I noted how calm the NYC crowds at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party were, David shared with me a secret in the Que world that, just like bee keepers use smoke to calm the bees, that all the smoke around Madison Square Park had a calming effect of the usually hyper New Yorkers festival goers.   That and the deliciousness of the offerings filling their tummies and bringing happy smiles to the faces of the attendees.
The New Pork Times All Access
Big Apple BBQ Block Party 2014
David Knight took me on a private tour whose first stop was to visit with THE LEGEND Mike Mills of 17th Street  BBQ fame out of Murphysboro, Illinois, where we sampled BBQ hospitality and naturally were quickly offered a taste of what the 17th Street Grill was dishing up for the public.  Their Signature Ribs and Tangy Pit Beans, dished up for us by the Legend himself !!  Read about Joshua Bousel
an Eater reporter who was "embedded" for 2 days with the 17th Street Crew doing  prep and setup  on Friday and Saturday - always fun for us caterers to see and hear the back stories. 
The  17th Street ribs are layered with smoky spicy depth of flavor and each bite rendered tender falling off the bone meat ... I sucked each bone dry searching for yet another bite of that succulent magic dusted  baby back pork.   Mike's signature tangy pit beans - a melange of 5 different beans complimented the meat and yet stood firmly on it's own merit...these were baked beans of my childhood memories - sweet, tangy, soft, spicy, rich and succulent - each bite a masterpiece!!

In the rendition that the 17th Street Crew served up at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, baby limas were the "5th dimension" rounding out each perfect bite !!
I am beyond thrilled to have had the opportunity to spend some time chatting about catering and Q with Mike Mills "THE LEGEND" and his spitfire daughter Amy Mills Tunnicliffe "THE HEIRESS". Check out Amy's awesome BBQ attire - it's no wonder she's known as the BBQ-fashionista!
Amy's fashion forward logoed boots
might even make Mary Crafts-Homer jealous!

lucky me, the talented + humble
Mike Mills personally inscribes
a copy of his BBQ Bible to me, the Queen Bee
caterBuzz member, Randy Twyford, was in the Big Apple
assisting his BBQ buddy,
PitMaster Chris Lilly,
of Big Bob Gibson BAR-B-Q (out of Decatur Alabama),
at the Big Apple BBQ Festival NYC June 2014
still dreaming of the La. Andouille sausage that Blue Smoke grilled up!

sorry Garry Roack, Ubon Pitmaster
I was so busy drinking the delicious BBQ Bloody Mary 
that I neglected to get a picture of it ...
Hill Country BBQ - in Manhattan and Brooklyn
delicious brisket and fixings - check out that bark!

not so long ago it was hard to find 'real" BBQ joints in NYC
Dinosaur BBQ - which originated in upstate NY 
helped to change that dynamic
John Stage, Pitmaster
Pappy's Smokehouse St. Louis the Hog Whisperers

'the Pig Apple', 'Peace Love and Bar be Cue'
"I like Mine Rubbed', 'The Hog Whisperer', 'Eat My Meat'

clever tee shirts spotted around the Big Apple BBQ Festival

very very 'punny' tee shirts
from various pitmasters

Danny Meyers and Martin's BBQ Joint Owner greet at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party
Western Tennessee-Style Whole Hog -  on a bun with slaw + pickle
pit crew of the future...
adorable !!
ironic - eh!

Monday, July 7, 2014

caterBuzz Culinary Capers adventure - a visit with a Taste of Honey Catering, Staten Island NYC

The Benefits of Sharing Insightful Information 
Guest Blog Post By Susan J. Stalnaker
"Florida Queen B" and Co-Owner
Catering By Robert / Event Concepts. FL

photos by Heather Gunther, Catering by Robert 
along with additional
with comments and photos from 
CaterBuzz QueenBee Lisa Teiger

During this Independence Weekend, it is nice to reflect back on our choices to pursue the role of the independent caterer.  Without the restraints of having to answer to the "corporate headquarters" or conform to big company "specs," we can call ourselves truly free to explore the many possibilities of sharing trends and techniques with other comrades in the catering field.

This was the reason we at Catering by Robert became associated with the program offerings of ICA (International Caterers Association) in 2000, and CaterSource later in 2008.  We were amazed during our first ICA conference in Washington, DC, the willingness of caterers all over the country to freely and passionately share ideas and inspiration with us. 

It helped our Catering by Robert event business and staffing talents grow in many ways during the last 14 years. Catering icons such as Frank Puleo, Joy Wallace and Tim Lundy, all were part of this influence.

I am happy to see that the spirit of "sharing ideas" still exists within our CaterBuzz community - which with nearly 1,300 members, is an extremely active 24/7/365 virtual catering community, with  opportunities for "buzzie" members to meet face to face happening more frequently.

Our most recent experience came during a work-study opportunity for our kitchen manager/on-site chef Heather Gunther. Although she and her children live here in the Tampa Bay, her husband resides in NYC because of his specialized architectural job with a Manhattan-based firm.
photo credit:  Lisa Teiger, Queenbee, 
©caterBuzz.com social media network
With Heather's frequent visits to NYC, I felt it would be great for her to shadow a fellow caterer there. Lisa Teiger, our savvy CaterBuzz moderator (the global catering social media forum on facebook)was instrumental in setting this up with Evelyn Gaudet Rogers of A Taste of Honey catering in Staten Island this past week.

Lisa Teiger, Queen Bee of caterBuzz, joined Heather on her special work-study adventure that revolved around A Taste of Honey's July 1st fundraising event for the Tunnels To Towers Foundation in Lower Manhattan. A 9-11 related fund-raiser, its funds go toward programs founded in memory of fallen firefighter Stephen Siller.

This event, A Tribute to Old Glory, featured the live speed painting and auctioned works of artist Scott LaBaido. Proceeds went toward the "Building for America's Bravest" which constructs smart homes for severely injured service men and women.
Heather and Lisa began their day by trekking to Staten Island via subway, transfers, and ferry.  The views from the ferry made the trip a delight but the real treat was meeting Evelyn, who was a gracious hostess and gave them the full tour of the event facilities in the 10-acre Nasens Park, as well as a mini historical tour of Staten Island enroute to her kitchen from the ferry terminal.

While Catering by Robert no longer exclusively manages an event facility as we did at the India Conference Center from 1998-2005, Heather saw Evelyn's immense potential for expanding into the on-site vintage wedding realm at Nasens Park.

Evelyn Rodgers,
Taste of Honey Catering, Staten Island, NY
checks the menu prep list
for the evening's fundraiser.

Most of the day was spent prepping the 10 hand-passed appetizers that were to be served during the three hour cocktail party at the Manhattan Broome Street event site, as well as sharing food and trend ideas amongst the three caterBuzz members.
our Buzzies members love to share information
and ideas about what works in their home market.
- Notice Evelyn's hands never stopped moving
and Heather never stopped working.
Chefs love to talk food!

Heather's favorite hors d'oeuvre was Taste of Honey's hand made vegetable strudel triangles.  Evelyn showed Heather and Lisa how to combined a mixture of ricotta, parmesan + shredded mozzarella with a medley of finely diced vegetables that were sauteed with garlic and EVOO.  The filling was then formed into phyllo triangles, brushed with butter and lightly pre- baked, ready to be finished to a golden brown on site at the event later that evening.

Note from Lisa - it was fun to watch and help Heather learn a new techniques for making hors d'oeuvres that she could take back home with her and share with the CBR crew.

Heather appreciated the extra steps Evelyn and Taste of Honey crew had to take in order to transport the hot and cold items all the way into Manhattan - especially with increased security driving through the tunnel.

Here in Tampa, Florida, we have the luxury of everything arriving in our Catering by Robert trucks, that can be parked right in front of the event facility back door.

Also, we do a great deal of on-site finishing preparation and start-to-finish cooking. This is Heather's main job for us. She was amazed at the limited facilities and the challenges the culinary staff had in the small preparation space of the event site.

"Cabinets were emptied and the Taste of Honey crew utilized every inch they could find for our on-site prep," said Heather.

Chef Brian of a Taste of Honey Catering, Staten Island NY
explains the setup to visiting Chef Heather
One snafu the culinary staff faced was no oven on site. At the last minute, Evelyn had to run out and purchase a portable convection oven to finish off some of the hot food. Heather felt this was a fete in itself from a logistics standpoint.  (note from Lisa: Although the event planner had promised there would be an on site oven, fortunately the wholesale restaurant equipment district was only a few blocks away - offering a great product, albeit at a very high price - but caterers do what they have to in order to get the job done)

"If we had this situation in Florida, we'd run to the truck parked right out back, or even to Sam's Club just 10 minutes away! This was an eye-opening challenge I never thought of," reflected Heather.

The catering staff was mostly focused on the food with limited guest table decor both indoors in the gallery space, and on the roof-top outside. All of our normal events include a great deal of intricate set-up and design for guest and food presentation tables. Heather said it was refreshing to focus solely on the food for this event.

downtown Manhattan Roof Top Event Bar - Taste of Honey Catering, Staten Island, NY
The anticipated number of guests was 250 over the 3 hour period with the waitstaff constantly circulating amongst the guests offering hors d'oeuvres.  Taste of Honey used white square or rectangular ceramic plate presentations with simple flower garnish, assembled fresh in the prep area at the event space.
Our thanks goes out to Lisa Teiger, queen Bee, caterBuzz and Evelyn Rodgers, A Taste of Honey Catering, for their culinary exchange program success. I hope other caterBuzz members, aka Buzzies, will consider opening their doors to more of our up-and-coming culinary stars.
Chef Heather rocking the Culinary Capers Visit 
with caterBuzz Mascot Roll-eBee
Photo: Lisa Teiger, caterBuzz Social Media Network
Chef Heather of Catering by Robert, Tampa, Fla
on the rooftop of the event venue
with the new World Trade Center to the left
Photo: Lisa Teiger, caterBuzz Social Media Network