Quite The Spread
DINING TOGETHER AGAIN A TREND TO SAVOR
ALTHOUGH we have sprung forward from the past two years of constraints and worries, the impact of the pandemic has left an impression on the ways we gather and enjoy culinary entertainment. Here’s how a few Colorado food industry professionals predict we will be eating for the near future:
LET’S GO OUT
Al fresco dining was the safer way to enjoy food with friends last year. Entertaining outdoors will be popular by design instead of necessity this year, says Syd Sexton, COO and general manager of Catering by Design. With hosts trying to use as much of the outdoors as possible, Larry DiPasquale, chair and founder of the Epicurean Family of Businesses, developed a mobile kitchen where chefs pull up to a location and cook on-site. What perfectly suits an outdoor setting? A good cut of meat on the bone, like a tomahawk or ribeye steak, or Colorado lamb, perfectly grilled on location.
LIVE WELL, EAT WELL
Good-for-you food is top of mind for resi- dents in a state known as one of the healthiest in the nation. “People are more active, and I see us continuing to move toward more organic foods,” says Randall Baldwin of Baldwin Catering. Consumers are asking caterers for vegan cuisine as well.
Once, vegetarian meals were a second thought, but now hosts want vegetarian dishes included in their dining experience, says Sexton. At one party, Catering by Design chefs prepared “charcuterie” but substituted vegetables for the traditional cured, smoked and pickled meats. Items included curried pickled cauliflower, smoked tri-color baby carrots and spiced beets, and Japanese eggplant.
ROOTED IN FLAVORS
“Colorado is a melting pot of all kinds of flavors,” says DiPasquale, but one trend he sees is foods with roots in the Caribbean and Hawaii. His menu includes Caribbean Stuffed Wings—chicken wings stuffed with pork, shrimp, mushrooms, onions, celery and cilantro and served with fish sauce.
Caterers also take advantage of local and seasonal foods whenever possible. Sexton might serve pan-roasted Colorado striped bass dressed simply with lemon, parsley and a dab of pesto with a side of quinoa and Palisade peach tabbouleh salad, for instance.
In times of uncertainty, we crave something from the past to hold on to. For DiPasquale, that means comfort food. Soups are making a comeback, he says, and one of his most popular items is hand-tossed Sicilian pizza, made with a thick crust. One of his favorite made-from-scratch dishes is risotto drizzled with 12-year-aged balsamic vinegar and topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
“Family-style dining went away in 2020 because we felt we couldn’t touch the platters or be that close together, but it has come back with a vengeance,” says Sexton. “It’s that feeling of familia and community and good vibes. We all just want to celebrate together.”
LET US SERVE YOU
Chefs once again are preparing food in front of guests at catered events, says DiPasquale. Food stations also are popular, says Sexton. Both offer opportunities to enhance the experience as chefs explain the farm-to-table process. DiPasquale offers a french fries station with five options, including the popular sweet potato fries tossed with honey, vinegar and Hawaiian sea salt.
Sexton recently offered an interactive, throwback dessert station, trying to keep the dessert innovative. “We just keep amping them up.”
Nonalcoholic and lower-calorie beverages are not new, but they are more popular than ever. “Cocktails and mocktails are the first things guests experience, so they cannot be an afterthought,” says Sexton. “You can’t just take out the alcohol and see what you have left.”
DiPasquale agrees. “We have a mixologist on staff who comes up with several different blends to accompany the menu we are developing. We’re trying to make specialty drinks that are mature and fun and quenching.”
Cynthia Pasquale is a Denver writer.