Cook With Me's Blog

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Hats Off To Dining Catering Grand Opening

It was such an awesome time with me friends, family and clients. I was moved by the response and turn out to my Grand Opening/Menu Release/Wine Pairing. The idea is to expose customers to my dishes that they haven’t had. It gives me the opportunity to do what I love to do, cook me favorite dishes for my favorite customers. And guess what, they had great time with each other even though it was their first time meeting. Contacts were made and networking happened. I’m trying to figure out when to hold the next one because I still have clients that had other engagements and couldn’t make it.

And what would the evening be without great wine to pair with the great food. Thanks to Florida Orange Grove Wine for sponsoring this portion of the event. All of your wines were well received meaning they went fast but the star of the evening was your Hurricane Class 5. This was the favorite of the night.

 

June 14, 2016 Posted by | Let's Talk About Food | Leave a comment

Let’s talk about your catered food experience!

When Scott and I started “Hats Off” we were full of enthusiasm about cooking our dishes because so many restaurants where we dined were so average. The more we investigated about restaurants (specifically franchises) we found out why the restaurant cuisine was rather average.

  • – Some of your favorite restaurants are serving pre-frozen, warmed up food. With the exception of some steak houses this is true with many restaurants where you’re paying top dollar. Think about it. If a restaurant has about 35-45 different items offer on their menu, can all those ingredients really be fresh and served before they go bad? One or two slow nights would be financially devastating. No wonder your lasagna order was cold, it was frozen 15 minutes before you got it.
    • o Here is a test you can do to see if your restaurant is using pre-frozen meals. Ask for an ingredient to be switched or left out. They will give an excuse like it would back up the kitchen or some nonsense like that.
  • – Now lets talk about things like proteins and it’s freshness. Take chicken for instant. One reason why restaurants probably serve boneless skinless chicken is because if the bone were left in you could tell it had been frozen because the bone would be dark. I must stress that there isn’t anything wrong with the chicken; I’m just talking about fresh foods versus frozen food in restaurants.

Now when you have a catered event, there should a difference, right? Unfortunately, in many cases, there isn’t. Many of the caterers use frozen products. Scott and I learned early on that this was unacceptable to our vision.

Just so you know Hats Off Dining Catering actually prepares 85% – 90% from scratch. The 10% of pre-made items are things like sausages, bread, mayonnaise, etc. In the market I’m in most customers can’t afford to pay for the man-hours it would take to produce these items on a large scale. I reserve making these items for smaller more intimate dinner parties and personal chef services. This is where I find these little details are really appreciated.

What this mean for you is the freshest ingredients. I’m shopping for your menu the day before your event. I’m prepping your food the night before and cooking the day of your event. This includes entrees’ and side dishes. I created every recipe to be special. Clients who have taken my cooking class know this first hand.

So please inquire about whether or not your caterer is using pre-packaged frozen food for your special event. If you’re comfortable with that, fine. If not, give Hats Off To Dining Catering a call, 978-50FRESH, 978=503-7374.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Let's Talk About Food | Leave a comment

2015 What a great year!

2015 was another blessed year for Hats Off To Dining Catering, Inc. So many events during the year, big and small, were so special to me.

Another good shot of the Ross's at the stove 020815

Newlyweds like the Ross’s who wanted to cook better took Hats Off To Dining Catering Cooking Class.  One of my very best clients, Henderson Taylor, arranged a Valentine’s Day dinner for a group of 20 of his close friends.

And I taught my first “Kids Cooking Class”. They were awesome and we had so much fun. I also had a chance to let Kiyah help me with this one, which was a real plus.

HOTD Kids Cooking Class Photo

Thanks to Young Smiles Pediatric Dentistry and Spa for sponsoring the class.

 

In 2015, I also did my first Bachelorette Party for one of Alison Barney’s best friends! It was so much fun!

Me with Morgan Alison Michelle and April 030615

Alison's group at the table 030615

I had one of the best cooking class ever with Kristee, Darlene. I got to teach Seafood Gumbo. We had a ball.

Four Ladies at the dinner table

 

I had one of the best cooking class ever with Kristee, Darlene. I got to teach Seafood Gumbo. We had a ball. They invited me back for a dinner for four.

 

 

They invited me back for a dinner for four.

Kristee and Darlene with Boyfriends

 

 

 

My lovely wife, Ella, signed me up for a craft event to sell my Crab Cakes. I had my doubts but I appreciated her support so I participated. We sold out of a hundred Crab Cakes in the first two hours and had orders for more that weekend. The director of the community center where the craft fair was held invited me back to provide Soul Food for Dr. Martin Luther Kings Jr. Day on 01/18/2016. And it looks like we will be doing other activities there too. It pays to listen to your wife.

Crab Cakes Plated

Anne Hoel has been a customer for about 6 years now. She took advantage of my Crab Cake offer during this holiday season for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her husband even bought some for one of his clients. Thanks Anne for your continue support.

Anne and Mark Hoel Photo

 

I was privileged and honor to cater a wedding reception for one of my Network Of Greater Brandon group members. I loved when I get to do something new. They order a Raw Oysters Bar so I got to shuck Oysters for the first time. It was a fun experience! Thanks Laura and Randy and Laura’s parents Jim and Jean!

Laura and Randy Photo

 

 

 

 

 

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Events | Leave a comment

There was some great cooking at the Harrison Cooking Class tonight. 03/22/15

The Harrison’s are such a nice family. Harrison Class Kissing 032215We had a great class which there daughter purchased for them. After much discussion with Ilene, we decided on them learning my Fork Tender Beef Roast.

Ilene and me Harrison Class 032215

As many of my close friends know I don’t share this recipe; let alone teach someone how to cook it. But I did for the Harrison’s. I’m glad because they really enjoyed it.

 Me and The Harrison's Plating Dinner 032215

There daughter joined them and learned how to make the Pan Seared Salmon, another favorite. She was just as nice as her parents and did a great job cooking the Salmon.  You know she must be nice because i just don’t let anyone wear my Chef coat.

Michelle cooking her stir fry with me Harrison Class 032215

Salmon and Stir Fry Harrison Class 032215

And for dessert we had Banana Foster.

Banana Foster over Vanilla Ice Cream!

Banana Foster over Vanilla Ice Cream!

We had to change one of the ingredients and man did it turn out wonderful. I’m making it this way from now on. If you want to know the change and why it’s better, you’ll have to take my class.

 

Here are few highlights:

 

Harrison Class knife skills 032215Me Demostrating how to cut the roast Harrison 032215Louis cooking Mushroom Fries Harrison Class 032215Louis, Michelle and me Plating Harrison Class 032215

 

Thanks Lou and Ilene!

 

 

 

 

The Harrison's and me - Cooking Class 032215

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Cooking Class, Events, Healthy, Let's Talk About Food | Leave a comment

Mary’s Breakfast Cooking Class w/Me 03/21/2015

Mary is an experienced home cook and has traveled the world but she just couldn’t cook eggs. So her daughter, Allison, hired me to enlighten her about Eggs.  So I showed her Eggs Benedict.  She now knows how to make Hollandaise Sauce and Pouched Eggs.

Mary Lewinski and Me w:Eggs Benedict 032115

Eggs Benedict

She also learned a few omelets

 

Mary Lewinski and Tim holding Omelette 032115

Tim enjoyed the Egg. Cheese, and Mushroom Omelet

Mary w:Western Omelette 032115

Western Omelet

Mary really enjoyed learning to cook the breakfast meals and Tim enjoyed eating them.  Thanks Mary!  And Thank you Allison for thinking of Hats Off To Dining Catering, Inc.

March 22, 2015 Posted by | Breakfast, Cooking Class, Let's Talk About Food | Leave a comment

I am so “Blessed” to be honored again with the “Best of Brandon” Award!

HoFCrystalBlack.png.md.cc.DEK-MRYK-43442015 Award CrystalBlue.png.sm.cc.DEK-MRYK-4344

You look at your body of work in a given year and you think “this past year was pretty interesting and fun” and hopefully profitable. Loving what you do is such a blessing! One of my favorite quotes is –

“Doing what you want to do is Life, and there is no real satisfaction in living if we are compelled to be forever doing something which we do not like to do and can never do what we want to do.”

Walter Wattles

That’s why I do what I do, for the love of it.  To be rewarded is really an unexpected honor. To be rewarded for the fourth year in a row, as the “Best of Brandon” is confirmation that maybe others like what you’re doing too. To all my supporters and critics, thank you. My Supporters keep me going.  My Critics keep me improving.

Thanks to my wife Ella. Thanks to my daughters, Areatha and Keandra and to my grandkids Kiyah, Tyrone and Tyree. Thanks to my crew who are also my friends Mandy Matlock, Kiana Goulh, Heather Weston, and Harold Brown.

 

Ironically, one of my favorite clients who is responsible for so many referrals I don’t have a photo of him.  A huge Thanks to Henderson Taylor!

Here are just a few my other clients which made this possible also.

Me and Alison 030615Mulligan Class Group Photo 022815Ross's at Stove 020815

Kiana, Darlene Green, Me, and Tonja at client's 60th Birthday Party

Kiana, Darlene Green, Me, and Tonja at client’s 60th Birthday Party

HamiltonClass013115GroupReadyToEatJoyandRobCookingClass081314photo-233

 

 
Me and Juanita Jubity 12102014

2015 Award CrystalBlue.png.sm.cc.DEK-MRYK-4344HoFCrystalBlack.png.md.cc.DEK-MRYK-4344

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March 14, 2015 Posted by | Awards | Leave a comment

April Griffith’s Bridal Dinner Hosted by Alison Barney! March 06,2015.

This was refreshingly different event. Alison called and asks if I could cook for six beautiful women.

Me and Alison 030615

It was a real tough decision but I said yes, really fast. Lol.

Alison and her crew 030615

 

Alison wanted it to be special for April. We did multiple small plates, which included:

  • My Crab Cakes and Baby Spinach Salad.
  • Rosemary Chicken with a Zucchini, Squash Medley
  • Pan Seared Herb Crusted Rib-eye Steak w/Roasted New Potatoes and Baked Asparagus

Salad Photo 030615

Rosemary Chicken and Squash Zucchini Medley 030615Ribeye Steak New Potatoes and Asparagus 030615

Here are few more Photos from the party:

Alison's group saying grace before eating 030615Alison's group at the table 030615 Me, Heather, Michelle and April 030615Me and Alison 030615

For dessert, they had the ever popular “Strawberry Shortcake My Way” which the guest of honor really seemed to enjoy.

Strawberry Shortcake Alisons Event 030615

Thank you Alison!

 

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Let's Talk About Food | Leave a comment

The Mulligan Cooking Class on 02/28/2015 was very educational for the students.

When Megan called to inquire about the class she was very specific that this threesome had varied likes and dislikes. We settled on a menu of Pan Seared Salmon w/Stir Fry and Basmati Rice.

Salmon Plated Mulligan Class 022815

What I really enjoyed was their questions. You could tell they had been curious about cooking, cutting and ingredients for a while with no one to ask. It was great!

Me giving instructions to the Mulligan Class022815

Here are a few highlights:

Marianna Nicotera at stove 022815

Marianna Nicotera Photo Preparing Mushroom Fries 022815

Mulligan Class Mushroom Fries 022815

Mulligan Class Knife Skills 022815

Marianna slicing Strawberries Mulligan Class 022815

Phil cutting Bell Peppers Mulligan Class 022815Nice shot of Bell Peppers 022815

Marianna slicing Salmon Fillet Mulligan Class 022815

Marianna seasoning the Salmon Mulligan Class 022815Phil slicing a Salmon Fillet Mulligan Class 022815

Their Review

March 8, 2015 Posted by | Let's Talk About Food | Leave a comment

The Ross Cooking Class on February 8, 2015 Was Fun!

What I really enjoyed about teaching my dishes is when both husband and wife really enjoy food. The Ross’s were that couple. I also like showing how a client can overcome what they think they dislike to enjoy the over all meal.

Ross's at Stove 020815

In the case of the Ross’s it was Samantha not liking onions and the dish they wanted to learn to cook was Jambalaya. Well as many of my friends and family know, I use onions in many of my recipes, including Jambalaya.

Ross Class Samantha at Stove 020815

I probed and found that her dislike was more texture and the fact that it was difficult for her to cut them because the fumes burned her eyes. She was okay with the flavor. My solution was to sauté onions ahead of time and pureed. By pureeing the onions we eliminated what she didn’t like and she learned how to make a delicious Jambalaya.

Shot of Jambalaya 020815

For those of you interested in this class, it is a longer class and has quite a few ingredients so it is more expensive but well worth it.

 

Here are a few views of their class.

Another good shot of the Ross's at the stove 020815The Ross's at the counter cutting 020815

 

There is a lot of chopping preparing this dish.  But it’s well worth it.


Ross's at counter with Samantha smiling 020815

They also enjoyed dessert.

Ross Cooking Class Dessert 020815

Their Review

March 8, 2015 Posted by | Cooking Class, Events, Let's Talk About Food, Meat Recipes, Review, Seafood Recipes | Leave a comment

January 31st Cooking Class with The Hamiltons and Friends

I had the pleasure of holding a Cooking Class for the Hamilton’s and their friends Jackie and John.

HamiltonClass013115MeWithGroupAtCounter

They chose my now classic Herb Crusted Rib-Eye Steak served with Roasted New Potatoes w/Sauteed and Baked Asparagus.

HamiltonClass013115SteakPlatedWithSides

I paired it with a delectable wine from Florida Orange Groves Winery.  It paired well and they really enjoyed it.

blackGoldDry

Black Gold is a very delicious Black Berry wine.  Check out their website at http://www.floridawine.com or stop by their winery in St. Petersburg,FL. You’ll love it!

Here are a few photos from the class:

My Sous Chef, Kiana and I had a great time.  The students all seem pleased and now they know our recipes and techniques.  Sign up now for your class at http://hatsofftodining.com/cookinglessonsathome.html

February 2, 2015 Posted by | Let's Talk About Food | 1 Comment