[Republished with permission of McClendon's Select, 2/13/12]
In the past I have worked for Fortune 500s, government agencies, national charities and local 501c3s, but there is nothing quite like working with your family. Having a family business means everyone has to pitch in, that weekends and national holidays don’t always mean a day off, that you had better learn new skills fast, and that job titles don’t mean much, since everyone has their name on the door. It is a blessing that I count daily. It is also not for the faint of heart.
Pat Christofolo is someone who understands this all too well. She grew up working for her family and has carried that tradition onward. She is a legend in the Valley, but while restaurants and catering may be her business, it is family that is her life’s calling.
First and foremost, can I share that Pat greets you like a long-lost friend, even if you are newly introduced. She did the first time I met her and she still does. She welcomes with a hug, not just a hello. She wastes no time offering you a seat, something to drink, asks if the temperature is okay. That is just who Pat is. She wants to make sure that you are served, comfortable and at home. No wonder she has been in the business of serving people since the early 70′s.
Pat comes from a family of restauranteurs. Her father opened up the Italian deli Capistrano’s in Tempe in 1974. Pat started out by going in to work with her Dad every day. She watched her father give up a lot to start the business, but she also learned how customers respond when you give them what they are wanting. The deli was renowned for its hand-made foods and for delicacies in from New York that you couldn’t find elsewhere in the Valley. The work was hard, but gratifying and she says this exposure to the family business early in her life has shaped her family and own businesses as an adult.
By the early 1980′s Pat was a new mother and was looking to create a business that worked for her and her young son, Dustin. She started a sandwich shop, Out to Lunch, and then another and another. After a decade, she sold the business and ventured into catering. It has by chance that she was called for her first catering job when a law firm called wanting an omelette bar for an event they were holding. She started Santa Barbara Catering as a result. But the difference between a restaurant and catering weren’t lost on her, and Pat got involved with the International Caterers Association looking to learn more about trends, food styling, and how to build her business. She now serves as their President Elect. Her success did not go unnoticed. In 1997, Wayne Smith, the owner of the Farm at South Mountain, asked Pat to take over the Farm Kitchen. She then went on to start Quiessence and the Morning Glory cafe. Chef Greg LaPrad is now at the helm in those kitchens and Pat continues to run both Santa Barbara Catering and the Farm Kitchen. She is not one to sit still.
In the past year and a half she went into business with family once again. This time with her son Dustin, opening the House at Secret Garden.
She and Dustin have always been very close. They were bonded in a way that only a family that does business together can understand. It was very much shaped by the relationship Pat had with her own family growing up with their restaurant. She had watched Dustin in the kitchen over the years and saw how natural it was for him. She saw his attention to detail, his thoughtfulness about the food he was preparing, and importantly in the restaurant business, his palate and understanding of flavors. Her son has the same spirit and passion for preparing and creating good food that she saw in her father and herself. As any good mom, and business owner would, Pat made sure that if Dustin was serious about cooking that he learn the business. He worked in the front of the house at Quiessence and then went on to culinary school at the French Culinary Institute in New York and then in Italy. I wrote once about Dustin and what he is doing at House at Secret Garden. His years of growing in the family business have certainly served him as well. The culinary talent in that family is inherent. (You can read that post about Dustin and the House at Secret Garden here.)
Pat has always been passionate about cooking seasonally. She shares this with Dustin too. As a caterer she knows that to serve foods in season, means planning in advance. With events being planned sometimes up to 18 months in advance, Pat has taken care to educate her staff on what foods are in season throughout the year, so they can help their clients plan accordingly. She has seen the shift in customers education and passion about eating seasonally and having organic, local produce served. Pat was the first caterer in town to change to greener, more environmentally-friendly paper products. She says that it is not acceptable to not be interested in where your food comes from, or how it is grown.
Pat’s newest venture is Palette, the cafe at the Phoenix Art Museum. Just looking at the menu makes me hungry. Once again, Pat has taken her love of good food, her years of experience and her dedication to fresh, simple flavors and created an outstanding menu. Truffled wild mushroom macaroni and cheese alone is worth a trip to check it out. The Farmer’s Market Omelet on their brunch menu is another I want to investigate. It comes as no surprise that Pat has been able to turn a museum cafe into a destination dining spot. Palette is open during the day Wednesday thru Sundays and on First Fridays for evening events. Palette offers catering for special events at the museum from Santa Barbara Catering. If you are looking for a caterer somewhere else, Pat’s Santa Barbara Catering is the preferred caterer for many of the top event venues all over town. Just thinking about all she does is exhausting. I am not sure where she finds the time or energy, because Pat clearly gives every venture 100% of herself.
This past fall, Sean and I were invited to enjoy a evening at the House at Secret Garden for a dinner honoring local food producers. It was a beautiful evening with a fun mix of people who share our same passion for producing and enjoying good food. With Dustin’s incredible dishes coming out course after course, and Pat’s perfect touch for bringing people and food together, it was an evening we are still talking about. Pillsbury Winery, Crow’s Dairy, Hickman’s Family Farm, Black Mesa Ranch, The Meat Shop, Queen Creek Olive Mill were but a few of our dinner companions. If you wanted to know where local food comes from, it was all around the tables inside the Secret Garden’s Urban Barn. And like us, these businesses are not just local, many are also family ventures. Which made it all the more fitting that it was Pat at the head of the table, where the matriarch of Valley dining should sit.
To read more the evening, you can find the article The Arizona Republic wrote here. All photos courtesy of Santa Barbara Catering.
The fourth annual CaterArts Master Culinary Catering Conference, put on by The International Catering Association, was held this year in Louisville, Kentucky on August 8-11. We sent Chef Brooke to this prestigious conference to bring back the latest culinary techniques taught by some of the nation’s top chefs.
Opening night started with a party for all the attending chefs. The theme of the night was “The Art of Food”, the menu for which was the result of a collaboration of chefs from coast to coast. There were many trays passed around, and the servers wore t-shirts explaining the dish on the front, with the chef creator(s) on the back. Some of the dishes included: Pulled Pork Mini Tacos with Mango Salsa and Micro Cilantro by Chef Jason Mezrano of Kathy G Company, Grilled Vegetable Towers including Grilled Polenta Cake, Sauteed Spinach, Grilled Eggplant, Tomato Jam and Mushroom Duxelle by Joanne Purnell and Ken Barrett, as well as a Peanut Butter Captain Crunch Crab Cake and Black Garlic Petit Filet with Wasabi Mash and Edamame Succotash by Chef Mark Baldwin.
Chef Brooke shares some of the new and interesting things she experienced and learned: “One of the classes I took was called ‘Old Spice’, which went over the importance of salt. Even though it may be the oldest spice in the world, there are still new ways to use it. One use that I learned was to grate a large piece of Himalayan pink salt at the table, very similar to the way a large wedge of parmesan is grated at some restaurants.”
Chef Brooke also attended the “Mixology” session where she learned some trendy drink recipes for evening events, such as the “Rosey Palmer.” This drink is rosemary-infused lemonade added to sweet tea vodka. Another cocktail that she learned how to make was a “Green Tea Lemon Drop” martini.
In her final class, Chef Brooke was exposed to “Molecular Gastronomy” which has been featured on shows such as Top Chef and Iron Chef America and experienced by diners in some of the best restaurants in North America. Created in this class were Caviar pearls and “dippin’ dots,” where classic dishes were deconstructed and brought back in a whole new texture, shape, form and flavor using liquid nitrogen and other chemicals.
Now armed with vast knowledge of emerging trends in the culinary industry, Chef Brooke is more ready than ever to create new dishes and drinks for Santa Barbara Catering’s clients. Dishes that will be the talk of the town!
You’ll be hard pressed in this day and age to find a sizeable group of people without food allergies. As people’s knowledge of food allergies becomes more prevalent, the food service industry is working towards solutions to accommodate clients while still impressing them. Serving a plate of raw vegetables is no longer an acceptable solution, and Santa Barbara Catering is up for the challenge.
Personally, having a gluten allergy, I am all too familiar with the struggles that people with food allergies face and how important it is for food purveyors to be knowledgeable about food allergies and the food they are serving to ensure that it is safe for guests.
Recently at the Phoenix Art Museum, Santa Barbara Catering executed a wedding for over 200 people where the fare was 100% gluten free. In addition, we catered to lactose allergies, onion allergies, peanut allergies and a variety of other individual dietary restrictions at the event.
As the bride and her family had severe gluten allergies, they wanted to make sure that they would be safe to eat the food at the wedding but also wanted to show people how delicious gluten free food can be. And delicious it was!
The menu contained a variety of indulgent treats to entice guests from start to finish. The event started with hand passed appetizers such as:
Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus Served with Hazelnut Pesto
Beef Short Ribs Risotto Cake Served with Sweet Potato Risotto and
Chipotle Braised Beef Short Ribs
Spicy Cold Clear Tomato and Crab Gazpacho With Diced Avocado
Brie and Green Apple Quesadilla With Raspberry Dipping Sauce
Fingerling Potatoes Roasted in Rosemary and Olive Oil
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Grilled Summer Vegetables Seasoned to Perfection
The meal did not end there. In addition to a gluten free wedding cake, guests were invited to sample chocolate mousse, pistachio crème brulee and were even surprised at the end of the night with late night munchies including:
Quesadilla with Corn Tortilla with Salsa & Sour cream
Gluten Free Mac & Cheese
French Fries Served with Ketchup, Ranch and Mayo
Given the array of the menu, maybe eating gluten free isn’t so bad after all?
-Blog post written by Executive Event Manager, Melissan Falcone
One of SBCC’s favorite events to be a part of in the valley is serving as partner and official wedding caterer of The Farm at South Mountain. For those of you who haven’t been to The Farm, we highly suggest you make it your next outing. The serene property is set on 12-acres of grass lawns lined with canopies of pecan trees, creating a truly picturesque fairytale setting. This historical land has been carefully nurtured and kept pristine since the 1920s, and the organic gardens elucidate the main focuses of The Farm: tranquility and sustainability. Being an outdoor venue, the lush setting gives any event that beautiful garden-party charm. Clearly we can’t get enough of this organic oasis, which is why we are passionate about creating delicious menus for their spectacular wedding events.
We recently got the inside scoop from our friends at The Farm and learned they have one time slot still available for booking on one of the most desired dates of the year: October 10, 2010. Brides-to-be, you’re in luck! 10/10/10 is an incredibly highly sought-after date to get married for a few reasons.
The number 10 represents total perfection. Many brides believe having a wedding on the 10th is good luck for the wedding to run smoothly and for the marriage to run forever.
Furthermore, the number 10 three times in a row represents perfection all around – the perfect 10 wedding! Aside from the having the date that your guests will never forget, couples can rest assure that everyone will be able to attend. The Monday after October 10th is Columbus Day, so most friends and family members will have the day off and ready to celebrate a long weekend.
There are endless possibilities for styling save-the-dates, invites, and monogrammed wedding favors around 10-10-10. Of course, getting married at 10:10 AM at The Farm (warmly named “The Valley’s Favorite Escape”) will make the wedding even more memorable, and an absolutely Perfect 10.
For morning weddings such as this, the Wedding Brunch Buffet is one of our most requested menus. It features a collection of gourmet breakfast and lunch dishes that range from light to more indulgent. First, guests may enjoy an assortment of breakfast breads, bagels, pastries, or a bakery basket. Some favorite items include cheddar-chive biscuits, blueberry-almond coffee cake muffins, and glazed orange cakes served with whipped butter and homemade blueberry-ginger preserves. For the main entrée, popular choices include Poached Salmon served with grilled asparagus and lemon-mustard dressing; Chicken Panini with wild mushrooms and brie cheese; or the Breakfast Scramble made with farm fresh eggs, goat cheese, red onion, and zucchini. Side options include a fresh fruit trifle made with the season’s freshest fruits, a vegetable caponata, and many more fresh and delicious choices.
Learn more about weddings at The Farm at South Mountain online or call The Farm at (602) 243-9081 to book your Perfect 10 wedding.
So exciting for all of us here at Santa Barbara and for our client! On May 14, the International Special Events Society (ISES) held its fourth annual Arizona Event Industry Awards (The ZONIES) at Chase Field. ISES honored Arizona’s top industry professionals from 2009 in 13 award categories. Santa Barbara Catering Company took home the award for Best Corporate Event under $25,000 for our planning and execution of the “Agency Event of the Year.”
Zion & Zion, one of Phoenix’s top five full-service marketing agencies wanted to celebrate the opening of its new facility just off Mill Avenue in Tempe with a by-invitation-only party for over 200 guests.
They wanted to present dishes in a creative ways to reflect the creativity of their agency. In addition they wanted to incorporate southern-comfort foods with an elegant touch, while not straying from their environmentally-friendly values.
By generating new trends for the industry, such as the DJ performing on the ceiling of one of the Zion & Zion conference rooms, to the specialty lighting and the unique presentations of the fare, we’re proud to say that our event execution received rave reviews from invited media and secured us a 2010 ZONIES award.
“Something borrowed, something blue. And something shaken, something stirred.” The New York Times announces the return of the “signature cocktail” for brides and grooms this season. We love the idea of a designer cocktail that celebrates a couple’s unique taste.
Let Santa Barbara Catering Company‘s bar chefs help craft a memorable drink to celebrate your love while satisfying your favorite flavors. Call us at 480-921-3150 and schedule your wedding or event tasting today!
It is hard to believe that just last week I returned after spending two blissful weeks in Barcelona. Our hotel was on the edge of the city overlooking the beaches of the Mediterranean. The art and the architecture were amazing and served as a great pastime to keep us busy between meals.
Oh, that’s right… the meals!
Tapas – a caterer’s inspiration. Hundreds of ideas on small plates and passed hors d’oeuvres combined with the energy of a bustling Tapas restaurant creates the excitement that foodies love. We enjoyed every imaginable croquette (a mixture of meat or veggie formed into small ovals dipped in bread crumbs and then deep fried), roasted eggplant atop crostini with a dab of Romesco, grilled spring onions with fried potatoes, whole shrimp- grilled to perfection, mussels escabeche, cod every which way and gazpacho served in wine glasses. (see photos)
The dining schedule is quite different than ours. Imagine lunch served between 2pm and 4pm while dinner doesn’t open until 8:30pm. Only the early birds show up at 8:30pm while 10pm is the prime time to dine! The dinner menus helped me understand true Mediterranean food; plates of warm beans, delicious salads, roasted meats, paellas and the delicious flavor of warm olive oil. The meal ended on a sweet note with creamy custards for dessert while still savoring delicious local wines.
Last but not least, I will always remember Barcelona as the place I began my love affair with anchovies. Whether marinated, served warm, cold or fried they were a whole new experience. Lots of ideas to include in this year’s seasonal menus…