Champagne Bar: Two of the Loveliest Words in the English Language

Come warm yourself by our champagne fireplace.

Ain’t that the truth?

Earlier this month we shared some ideas for a Hot Chocolate Bar; after doing extensive research on DIY stations, including ignoring my children and eating an entire bag of butterscotch chips, I couldn’t resist creating a mini-series on this idea of DIY stations for guests.

Today’s Treat: Champagne

Service with a smile.

Service with a smile at Union Station.

Just writing it makes me happy.

Nothing says ‘celebrate’ quite like champagne. My friends, family, and that one know-it-all guy at Corridor 44 who thought I should eat something before having another glass of the nectar of the gods can attest that champagne is, by far, my own personal favorite drink. But you can’t drink it all the time. Because those other mothers at preschool would be jealous concerned.

I don’t need to add anything to my champagne – like dinner – but this is not about me. It’s about you AND me – and anyone else who appreciates a glass of bubbly. Like all of us at Epicurean Group. Parties are our game. And our job. Put those in whatever order you wish.

Let's pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

Let’s pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

The holidays are a perfect time to create a self-serve station for your guests. It allows for more socializing and less stressing. Always a good thing.

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later...

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later…

Today is New Year’s Eve so if you are hosting a soiree or simply want to do something special on New Year’s Day, may we introduce you to the MmmmMimosa Station? Simple elegance, with an emphasis on simple.

Yum.

Yum.

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

MmmmMimosa Station

Ingredients and Accouterments:

  • Ice buckets or other large bin filled with with ice
  • Four containers for fruit (try IKEA or the dollar store if you don’t have any on hand – or use the coffee cups from your wedding china set because, let’s face it, you’re not drinking coffee when champagne is available)
  • Four glass bottles for juice
  • Labels (for labeling juice and for guests to tag their glasses – I use paint sample cards – free! And any color you want. And did I mention free! )
  • Glasses (one per guest)
  • DIY labels
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Champagne or prosecco
  • Sparkling cider
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple (feel free to improvise)
  • Sugar cubes
How sweet are these sugar cubes?

How sweet are these sugar cubes?

Paint samples make great labels.

Paint samples make great labels.

Directions:

  • Chill champagne, prosseco, juice and cider overnight or in an ice bath
  • Pour juice in glass containers, write or print out labels and tie to the bottle
  • Place champagne in an ice bucket on the table
  • Place glasses, fruit, napkins, juice, labels, sugar cubes, and marker on the table

Pour yourself a glass and say hello to 2015 (and maybe a tiny-but-worth-it-headache)!

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Putting It All On The Table: Delicious Decorating Ideas

 

Cinnamon sticks smell so good...nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose...

Cinnamon sticks smell so good…nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Isn’t that how the song goes? We should know, considering the Christmas music starts earlier and earlier. I, for one, love all things holiday, except the wine stains on the carpet and the required weight gain (I am a certified expert at both – we all have our special talents).

After spending many years in the catering and event planning business, combined with my many years of overcommitting to social engagements that seem to always be at my house, I can set a table in my sleep. Well, not sleep per se, but bleary-eyed zombie-like state from too little rest and too many quality checks of the margaritas during the party prep. I never learn. Does tequila really go with stuffing prep or potato peeling? I say yes. Martha Stewart would be appalled, but Martha had three fewer children than I, and she has a driver, so I am right.

If anyone can pull together a beautiful table, it’s Epicurean. Why? Because Larry DiPasquale is a perfectionist and was born with incomparable taste.

Not that we have to set a gorgeous table, because once Epicurean’s food arrives and the wine is poured, we could be serving our fare on cafeteria trays and everyone would still be happy. It’s that good. I’ve told you about the risotto, right?

Anyway, table settings need not be fancy or frilly, but they do need to be pretty and functional. Here’s a sneak peek to some stunning but simple tablescapes that won’t have you reaching for the tequila.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

 

Use a painter's dropcloth as a tablecloth - so inexpensive you won't feel guilty throwing it out at the end of dinner.

Don’t want a bare table? Use a painter’s dropcloth as a tablecloth or cut them into napkins – it’s so inexpensive you won’t feel guilty throwing everything out at the end of dinner.

 

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

 

 

...or deck out your table in creamy white.

…or deck out your table in creamy white.

 

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests.

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests. I just noticed similar ornaments at West Elm – so cute!

 

This menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

This sweet menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

 

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Greenery isn't just for mistletoe.

Greenery isn’t just for mistletoe.

Gold accents paired with chalkboard paint keep this look from being too frilly.

Gold accents paired with earthy add-ons keep this look from being too frilly.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Holiday books get an elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Holiday books get elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This quick decoration adds some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This photo is clearly for decoration only, but by using something edible, you can add some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Keeping Score at Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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Obviously Peyton Manning and the Broncos team garners LOTS of attention on game day; and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But what happens before, during and after the game for our own Epicurean/Broncos team is something to brag about. If we were the type to brag, that is.

We’ve been the exclusive premier concessionaire at SAF for over 20 years. That’s a lot of football. It’s also a lot of work. And a LOT of fun. What does it take to make game day a winner (at least off the field – we can only do SO much!)? Well, the numbers don’t lie:

  • 1800 pounds of prime rib, tenderloin, strip loin, turkeys and rotisserie chickens (all leftovers are donated to We Don’t Waste) to feed guests in –
  • 133 suites during each game which leads to the clean up of over –
  • 600 hotel pans and –
  • 1000 sheet pans which are par for the course for our –
  • 150 employees on site each game day; they can often be found in our  –
  • 1450 square feet of walk in refrigerator storage – the envy of every chef that’s every seen it. We use every single inch during the busy season which includes –
  • 220 special events including corporate parties and weddings. To get geared up we spend –
  • 3 weeks of traveling nationally and internationally during the off season, allowing our chefs and leadership team to research new trends. And by ‘research; we mean eat and drink our way across the globe. Not a bad gig. By sampling foods in different regions of the country, we can customize game day menus to reflect the opposing team. Think fish tacos when we play the San Diego Chargers; fried ravioli for the St. Louis Rams. Tackling all of this takes –
  • Unlimited amounts of energy and stamina to tackle the 1.7 million square feet of space at the stadium which seats over 76,000 fans, not including us – the biggest fans you’ll find.

Creepy Cocktail Is So Easy It’s Scary

halloween-drinks

Halloween happens on a Friday night this year – all the more reason to add a spooky cocktail to the menu which, for me, usually includes an appetizer of candy corns followed by a main course of sixteen fun-sized Snickers.

Obviously it would be nice to have something festive to wash it all down.

This recipe comes from Your Southern Peach (a fabulous site I happened upon in my hardcore research). The original recipe works for kids, but I’ve added vodka to make it, um, way better.

Ask your pharmacist for a stash of syringes and feel free to use any glassware you like – these would be chic in a martini glass. So easy it’s scary. Happy Halloween.

halloween-shirley-temple

Bloody Shirley Temple (Grown Up Version)

Ingredients:

  • Sprite
  • Grenadine
  • Vodka
  • Ice
  • Syringes

Directions:

  • Pour sprite and vodka over ice and garnish with a bloody (grenadine) syringe.

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Leftover Oatmeal? Try this!

Muffins like to be surrounded by their friends : butter and hot cocoa.

Muffins like to be surrounded by their friends known as Butter and Hot Cocoa…

Oatmeal is on the breakfast menu every week at our house. Not that there is a menu, per se. There is simply an eat your breakfast situation – similar to that of lunchbox finds and dinner delicacies. You get what you get. You’re welcome.

You’d think I’d learn not to make so much oatmeal, but I was never good at math – so I always end up with more than needed. And I find it hard to sell oatmeal as an after-school snack.

You know what I can sell as an after-school snack? Muffins. Especially right out of the oven. Especially paired with a cup of hot chocolate. Especially on a blustery fall day.

Georgia is a muffin master...

Georgia is a muffin master…

So yesterday I asked our Epi kitchen pros if I could make muffins out of leftover oatmeal. The kitchen team totally loves it when I go to them in the middle of a busy work day and ask them questions like this. They act like they are super duper busy prepping for a huge event, but I know, deep down, that they would be disappointed if they didn’t have the chance to stop everything and discuss oatmeal muffins.

I realize that many of you out there don’t have access to a full kitchen of professional chefs so I am sharing this recipe with you. It’s fast, it’s healthy, and it’s delicious. And it leaves more room in your fridge for the important things. Like vegetables. And Chardonnay. Speaking of, these muffins pair well with Chardonnay.

There's simply no room for oatmeal...

There’s simply no room for oatmeal…

Epicurean’s Play It Again Oatmeal Muffins

Prep time: 10 minutes | Bake time: 25 minutes | Servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil, melted (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (my leftover oatmeal already included raisins and brown sugar – feel free to add these items or others such as blueberries, chocolate chips, etc. – creativity, like chocolate chips, is encouraged in the Epicurean kitchens!)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Butter or spray or line muffin pans.
  • Combine dry ingredients together in small bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, stir the egg, milk, and butter into the oatmeal.
  • Stir until well blended.
  • Combine the two mixtures and mix well.
  • Spoon each muffin cup 2/3 full of batter.mes out dry when inserted into the center.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Sour Cherries Offer A Sweet Dessert

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I recently made this fantastic Sour Cherry Crisp. At least I think it is fantastic, considering I didn’t eat it. No, no, not because I lack a sweet tooth (by now we all know that is a complete and total falsehood), but because I am gluten-free and was out of almond flour and was therefore very SAD. Sad, I tell you.

But every single person in my house devoured it, so I have proof that it was delicious.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s simple; all of the ingredients (besides the cherries) are in most kitchens. The other great thing about this recipe is that I actually have a cherry tree in my backyard, so I sent my four little minis out to pick lots and lots of cherries. This kept them busy for hours. Then how SAD was I? Not sad at all, I tell you.

Once the cherries were picked, we washed them and then pitted them, which offers a lot of opportunities for smashing, smushing, and comparing cherries to various body parts. The boys took the lead on this, because in this one instance, boys are better than girls.

Fresh Sour Cherry Crisp

Serves: 10

Prep Time: Depends on if you, too, have a cherry tree in your backyard and in-home child labor – if cherries are store bought, approximately 20 minutes

Bake Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups pitted sour cherries
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (if you are gluten-free like I am, and smart enough to have almond-flour in your pantry, not like I am, feel free to use it!)
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a large bowl combine cherries, white sugar and 4 tablespoons of flour
  • Pour into a 9X13 greased baking dish
  • In a medium bowl (let’s be honest here, folks, I used the same bowl – less dishes) combine 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour, oats and brown sugar
  • Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and sprinkle over cherries
  • Bake in preheated oven until for 45 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream or greek yogurt

 Submitted by Stephanie Blackford

No Bake Fourth of July Desserts – Let Freedom (From the Kitchen) Ring!

As you may know, I am a fan of desserts. Like, if I were a teenager, I would have posters of cakes on my wall. It’s that bad.

But I am also a fan of feeding my crew healthy, non-food dyed, non-creepy-chemical eats. And that core belief is part of the Epicurean Group Bill of Rights created by our forefather. Real food for real people. God Bless America.

There are several holiday desserts that fit the – um – bill. Or at least almost fit the bill, with a  little modification. And these treats are simple enough to do quickly, don’t require an oven, and won’t cause that post-dessert guilt. I spend my life feeling guilty about the desserts. But those who can not do, teach. Here we go:

Love this portable dessert!

Directions:

  • Puree strawberries in a  blender with a little bit of agave
  • Place strawberries, organic vanilla or lemon yogurt, and blueberries in a mason jar or drinking glass
  • Chill
  • Serve

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If you want to steer clear of the fake stuff, use 100% real chocolate, organic pretzel rods, and  an all-natural food dye to create red, white, and blue pretzel sticks – and skip the sprinkles (they are a mess anyway).Warm chocolate on the stove, dip pretzel rods, and place rods on wax paper in the refrigerator for an hour.

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Alternate bananas, strawberries and blueberries to create this edible flag! This is a great project for little tykes – keeps them busy for a good 8 minutes!

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These are made with Rice Krispie treats, but you can swap out pineapple for the stars – making this a great breakfast, snack or dessert.

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