Holiday How-To: Catering
When it comes to holiday parties, you don’t have to do it all yourself
With all the excesses of the holiday season, the only thing we are guaranteed is a shortage of time to create the magic. So taking advice from a wiser, more socially savvy person, Mrs. P (Edward’s mother) we learned to share our vision with a fine caterer and write the check.
It seemed only appropriate that we would give Heidi Andermack and Amy Brown of Chowgirls Killer Catering a call, to chat. Since 2004, Chowgirls has been producing some of the best parties in town. Their focus is on fresh, organic ingredients prepared in-house. With an 80-person staff to handle everything from planning, food prep, finding a venue, bar service and floral, Chowgirls can simplify your entertaining process.
Knowing what kind of party you want to have is the first step before hiring a caterer. One of our favorite ways to entertain is hosting a brunch. It’s a simple early afternoon gathering of friends that doesn’t tie up the evening for your guests, who may be off to other holiday parties. With a simple party, you may want to take advantage of catering drop-off service. Freshly prepared quiche, perfectly sliced fruit and fresh-squeezed juices arriving at your doorstep saves you the hassle of waking up early.
We also love the cocktail party for holiday entertaining, but in our book, a cocktail party is really a kind of open house. Guests can arrive a little late and aren’t obligated to stay for the entire evening. It’s the perfect party on a busy weekend when many of your guests have more than one commitment. The provisions are canapés and other bite-sized appetizers. Chowgirls creates marvelous cheese and antipasto platters, in addition to a slew of hot and cold finger foods. We definitely recommend their Maple-bacon-pecan tartlet to keep guests talking.
Amy Brown advises using a bartender for parties of 40 or more. Having someone on hand to prepare your beverages not only keeps the party moving, it keeps your guests happy and safe. A bar doesn’t have to be a full bar—remember our old rule of sticking to one or two items on the menu (plus one for the teetotalers). Your caterer’s bar service should include handcrafted specialty cocktails, in addition to basic beer and wine selections.
A dinner party, even if you only have one or two courses, is the most formal holiday party. It is a commitment of the evening for guests (sneaking out early is the height of rudeness.) Hiring a caterer can make this a very easy experience for you. The catering staff can take care of everything from plating of the meal, to beverage service, to clean-up. If you’re a little more experienced at entertaining, a simple drop-off service of hot prepared foods or even ready-to-cook items could be all you need to deal with your time constraints.
One thing you’ll need for any holiday entertaining is a checklist. Having an idea of your needs before contacting a caterer will make hiring one a snap. The sales staff at Chowgirls provided this helpful list of questions to get you started:
• How many guests?
• What is your budget?
• How much would you like to spend per person?
• Is a kitchen accessible?
• Is the event formal or casual?
• Indoors or out?
• Any special dietary needs?
• Do you need supplies such as plates and glassware?
• Is it a drop-off service or do you need staff to stay though cleanup?
Know the limitations of your venue. With the question of an accessible kitchen come others: “Do I have space for the guests? Where will I place a bar?” In general, if the catering staff is on-site, they don’t want to work in the middle of the kitchen while it’s full of guests. A little space planning goes a long way.
Another common question is: “Do I tip a caterer?” That depends. Is there a gratuity included in the price? Your salesperson should be able to answer that question, but generally it’s 12-20 percent of the total cost of the event. Guests shouldn’t feel obligated to tip either, except with a cash bar.
Hiring a good caterer adds the air of sophistication that your party deserves. We’ve all seen, as one friend refers to it, the Mrs. Costco spread. Thanks, but save that buffet for your Super Bowl party in January.
So, step up your entertaining game and you’ll be rewarded with memorable food and rave reviews. As Chowgirl Amy Brown says, “Trust your sales representative. They are the gateway to a good menu and a successful party.”
Hop online a check out your local caterers. With the crunch of the season, why not give yourself a gift and save the dishes for someone else?
Chowgirls is available for private parties in addition to events at many public venues across the Twin Cities. They also have a unique private dining space adjacent to their kitchen, the Chowgirls Parlor. The venue is easily accessible at the heart of the 13th Avenue NE Arts District.
Chowgirls Killer Catering
1224 2nd Street NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Mintáhoe Catering & Events
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55411