Welcome to the first Foodista interview! In the future we plan to interview all kinds of people in the food world and share their experiences, ideas, and insights.
Today we are starting with Elizabeth Warner of Elizabethan Fare in Putney, Vermont. Elizabeth and I have been good friends since high school. After traveling the world, Elizabeth returned to Vermont, where she founded and runs her own catering company with her husband David.
Here's a bit of our recent conversation...
What are the Elizabethan Fare signature dishes? Can you share a recipe with our readers?
Grilled lemon and rosemary Chicken, Citrus Glazed Salmon with a mango fruit salsa and Maple infused pulled pork..great for rehearsal BBQs!
Citrus Glazed Salmon
Makes 8 servings
4 pounds salmon fillets (pin bones removed) Skin on or off
1.5 cups orange juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup Grand Marnier / or orange liquor
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Combine ingredients in heavy duty saucepan and reduce until the thickness is that of honey. Let cool. Prepare salmon fillets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Salt and pepper the fillets. Generously brush glaze onto fish. Bake until medium rare approximately 7-10 minutes depending on your oven. This can also be grilled. Brush on the glaze as you grill.
What are your culinary inspirations? Where do you get recipes?
Our backyard, so to speak. Southern Vermont is like a little Provence we have world class boutique cheeses, Grass fed organic beef, incredible varieties of local, organic fruit and vegetables as well as small batch ice creams made with hormone, antibiotic free milk. We cook using the freshest, most local organic products available. We bring in fish from the Boston Market and work directly with the fish market. Many of my recipes are mine from start to finish. I have an understanding of what works together and what doesn't, as I have been cooking for 20+ years. Some of my recipes are a combination of many recipes I have found on the Web and then adjusted to be my own.
What advice do you have for the home party-planner to make their events successful?
Plan ahead, prepare as many things as possible ahead. Don't be afraid to hire someone to help with the dishes, refreshing the platters etc. It is truly worth the expense, and you may actually enjoy your own party!
What's unique about catering in Vermont?
75% of our clients are from out of State, some of our clients have been from as far away as Holland and Denmark. I have had clients whom I have spoken to a hundred times and finally met on the day of their wedding.
Also you can have a destination wedding for a good price even today. We also have the weather.
What's the wildest party/event you've catered?
My own wedding. I had 234 guests at my wedding. We were married New Years Weekend at The Putney School. There was a candlelit ceremony just after sunset with a three piece classical trio playing Pachabel Canon as I walked down the aisle. I got married in burgundy and gold (no one had seen my dress, or knew before hand what I was wearing). The entire crowd of standing room only guests let out a gasp when I walked in, flanked by my divorced parents and preceded by my Labradors. We were quite a site. We had three acts to our wedding play, as I termed it. The classical, elegant ceremony followed by the sumptuous cocktail hour with over twelve appetizers and a jazz pianist playing. We brought in a 9 piece Merengue band from Boston for the dinner dancing and a DJ for late night dancing. I worked endlessly planning, preparing and organizing our wedding, I never ate. As a result, I slept for most of our honeymoon.
Can you share a story of catering disaster?
I am a detail person, I always plan for rain, cold heat etc. Two years ago we were catering a wedding in Walpole, NH when the rains kept coming . We made it through the wedding, moved furniture inside and set up a makeshift ceremony site (The ceremony was scheduled to be outside in an apple orchard overlooking a gorgeous array of fall colors). The next morning however was a disaster! My staff and I arrived to set up brunch when my phone started ringing. The sister of the bride called to tell me that the guests were trapped at their hotel in Keene, NH. The roads were flooded, their cars were underwater and grandparents were being airlifted by helicopter off of the roof of the hotel! Next the mother of the bride called and demanded a refund for the brunch, which was staffed and set up. I told her I couldn't give her a refund as my staff and the food were present; we also have an "act of God" clause in our contract. We ended up donating the food to the rescue workers in Vermont and NH in the name of the wedding. I spent the rest of the day with the Governor delivering food to firemen, policemen and rescue squads.
Who's hardest to deal with? Brides, Grooms, parents of the Bride, parents of the Groom?
It really depends on the family's dynamic. Many times I find I am also the therapist. I have had mothers of the bride who have been lovely to work for and then I have had mother's who...well...I don't like to talk about them. There are a few brides who need to be reminded that weddings aren't just about them, they are also family reunions.
Is there a single cooking technique/trick/tip you think everyone should know?
Marinate the day before if it is chicken, pork, lamb or beef. Never fish! You will end up with more flavor and a moister dish all around, especially if you are grilling.
What's your comfort food?
Roasted chicken cooked with wine and herbs, Basmati rice and steamed broccoli with lemon and butter. My 5 year old helps to make that favorite family dinner.