Wednesday, June 29, 2011

5 Questions for Chef Stephanie

Stuffed cremini mushrooms with truffled white beans

1. How did you become a Chef?

I have worked in restaurants since I was a teenager, but I did not attend a formal culinary school. I learned to cook in the kitchen, "jumped right into the fire" if you will...the term "self-taught" doesn't resonate with me because I know who I have learned from, Bella Frye of the legendary Whole Earth Restaurant in Santa Cruz, CA, and Eric Tucker of Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco, CA. I have also learned so much from all the other chefs I have had the privilege to slice and dice alongside. I learn everyday I pick up my knife and try something new.

Seared scallops with red pepper relish

2. What do you love the most about cooking?

I love the creative process and there are a few ways that I experience that.  First, when I meet new clients, we engage in a collaborative process of designing a menu that reflects who they are. It might include their ethnic backgrounds, places they have traveled or family traditions. Every menu is as unique as the people I am working with. Second, when I get into the kitchen to cook for an event, I have the opportunity to work with amazing seasonal ingredients. My challenge, as a chef, is to create the best possible food I can. Thankfully, the bay area makes that pretty easy for me!

3. Why "green"?

For as long as I can remember I have had an "environmental awareness" and that is visible in my lifestyle and my business. It makes sense to me to eat food that is less processed and not sprayed with chemicals and I want to feed my clients that quality of food. I love seeing how much compost vs. trash is generated during a prep shift, trash is so minimal! In my experience, it doesn't take additional effort to run a business that is environmentally responsible and I find it rewarding

Heirloom tomato salad with feta cheese and fresh basil

 4. Do you only cook for weddings?

I wish... people are so happy at weddings! Actually most of my events are celebrations and include Birthday parties, Anniversary parties, Baby showers, Bat name it. If there is something to celebrate, food is usually involved, and I am happy to provide it. Planning a wedding menu does offer a unique opportunity to work with clients in an intimate way and feeding people on such a memorable day is pretty special. I strive to create dining experiences that are equally memorable.

Mango and beef rolls with goat cheese and fresh mint

5. What is your role in Locally Grown Weddings and how do you work with the team?

As the Caterer in Locally Grown Weddings, I often meet clients at the beginning of their wedding planning process. This gives me the opportunity to introduce them to the rest of the team which typically results in a huge sigh of relief for them. When they find all these talented people on a creative team that has experience working together, it offers not only a convenience, but a guarantee that their wedding will be unforgettable and unique.

Locally Grown Weddings Featured Members:
Aurora Meneghello, Photographer

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Farm to Table with Chef Stephanie

Last week, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a local farmer and present a true farm to table dining experience at the Algarden Cafe, we called the "Candlelight dinner".  The farm to table movement has gained momentum in recent years as chefs look to have direct relationships with their farmers and ranchers. In addition, diners want to know more about the sources of the food on their plates and everyone is looking to reduce the food miles their ingredients are traveling. The average ingredient travels up to 2,500 miles. The path that food travels for a farm to table dinner is typically much shorter, only passing through the hands of the chef before arriving on your plate and, in this case, we are talking 13 short miles!

Patricia Algara tends a farm in Berkeley called the Algarden, where she grows vegetables, fruit, culinary herbs, mushrooms and almonds. She is also raising chickens and keeps bees. She is the owner of Foodscaping, a design build studio specializing in edible landscapes and urban farms. 

I started out with a trip to the farm in April to see what was growing and what would be available for a dinner in early June. I met the chickens and the bees and was impressed with the gorgeous edible flowers, huge fava plants and the variety of greens growing. I started my menu planning right away and enlisted Pei-Yee Woo to tackle the desserts

Chef Stephanie (R), Patricia Algara (L)

As the  dinner approached, I learned that some of the ingredients would not be available, like yellow beets, they were still too small. But others were in abundance, like kale and chard. So I set out to adjust the menu accordingly.

Even when it was time to harvest, the day before the event, we had a few surprises with the available ingredients and this is what I ended up with:

Edible flowers, lettuces, kale, chard, fava beans, potatoes, parsnips, red beets , spring onions and garlic, daikon radishes, mint, rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano, strawberries, lemons

And this is what it became:

Lettuces, edible flowers, strawberries, blue cheese and pecans

Parsnips, , parsley, lemon, chives, chive blossoms, chipotle aioli

Dikon radish salad with preserved lemons and arugula, Red beets with beet greens and chard

French lentils, fava greens, onions, roasted potatoes, eggs

Pistachio caramels
Lemon curd and strawberry pastries

The Candlelight Dinner was a huge success and a lot of fun! Please join us for the next event scheduled for August 4th. Email with any questions or to sign up!

Locally Grown Weddings Featured Members:
Pei-Yee Woo, Wedding Desserts 

Photographs courtesy of Chef Stephanie and Patricia Algara

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Five tips on Preparing for Make Up from Angela

How you treat your skin before that big day goes a long way.  Especially in our cold, windy San Francisco's "summer"!  Cold weather can create a lack of moisture, leaving your skin in a more vulnerable state.  Here are some tips to ensure that your skin has that beautiful, glowing texture that all brides desire.

1.) Always: Before you go to bed, remove make-up with a high quality make-up cleanser, tone, and follow with a heavy moisturizer.
2.) Especially during cold weather: Lips need special attention, so, always start with a moisturizer (I love Burt's Bee's) before applying lipstick.

3.) The Day before your wedding: Use a serum, after toning and before moisturizing. This will help your skin to retain a maximum moisture balance.
4.) The day of: Use a mild exfoliator (not a mask) to eliminate dead skin and create a smooth, clean surface.
5.) Please, no tweezing or waxing at least 3 days before to avoid any redness or swelling.

Now you are READY to let your make-up artist take over the reins, while you relax and enjoy your big day!

Locally Grown Weddings Featured Members:
Angela LaFlamme, Make-Up Artist
Aurora Meneghello, Photographer

Friday, June 10, 2011

Looking for a Fantastic Hair Stylist

Locally Grown Weddings is looking for a hairstylist to join our team of creative professionals!

About us: Locally Grown Weddings is a collective of San Francisco based female small business owners with an emphasis on green business practices.  We work together to provide truly unforgettable wedding experiences for our clients.  We know that planning a wedding can be a challenging, even daunting process.  WE are here to help.  Together we possess 25 years experience in the Bay Area's wedding industry.

Teamwork is essential to any successful event.  When working with Locally Grown Weddings team, you can be confident that each vendor is highly compatible with the entire group.  We work amazingly well together and have a lot of fun in the process.

About you: You are an amazing hair stylist with a strong emphasis on weddings. How are your business practices "green"?  Do you use green products?  Do sustainability and awareness about our environment play a part in your creative process?  If so, please submit the following to:

1.)How are you "green"?
2.) Pictures of your work or a link to your web-site

We are looking forward to hearing from you!
Locally Grown Weddings Featured Members:
Angela LaFlamme, Make-Up Artist
Aurora Meneghello, Photographer

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Not Just Wedding Cakes...

When it comes to wedding desserts, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the traditional wedding cake, with its many tiers and smooth finish. And with all the tools and ingredients available to pastry chefs these days, it's possible to create all sorts of delicious and inventive wedding cakes that really showcase a couple's uniqueness. 

But...what if you don't like cake, or you're just not that excited about having this as the finish to your wedding? When my husband and I got married a few years ago, that was a big dilemma for us. As someone who designs and creates wedding cakes professionally, it seemed only fitting that we'd have a lovely tiered confection to round out the big day, but we're both not really cake-lovers. Sure, we enjoy the occasional slice of cake, but it's not the first thing we'd order on a dessert menu. 

What did make us (and our sweet tooths) really happy was ice cream. The best endings to our dates was oftentimes stopping by the local ice cream parlor for a cone of something cold and delicious, so we chose to share our love of this all-season treat by having an ice cream sundae bar, complete with all the fixings. So much more us, and so much fun for each of our guests to personalize things according to their own tastes. And as we head into the summertime, ice cream bars are an awesome way to highlight the season's best produce in tantalizing and unique flavors that extend beyond the traditional chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. What about lavender honey vanilla, or strawberry with a balsamic caramel swirl?

Other ideas to consider for an alterna-wedding dessert could include: mini cream puffs filled with a variety of different flavored custards, fruit tartlets that showcase luscious seasonal fruits, a giant candy bar filled with homemade caramels, truffles, marshmallows, nut brittles, and more! Think of what you and your partner really love the most and chances are, this can be a delicious and visually stunning wedding dessert. The possibilities are endless, and your guests will thank you for giving them something just a little bit different at the end of the night!

Wedding Desserts by Pei-Yee Woo
Photography by Aurora Meneghello

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Madeline's Tip: How to Grow Air Plants

Air plants also known as Tilandsia are unique plants in the fact that they do not need soil to survive or grow. Though they don't require as much care as some other house plants they do have some requirements to survive and thrive. Below I have outlined general guidelines to care for your air plants.
  • Protect them from frost
  • Give them bright, filtered light
  • Provide minimal watering
If your home has dry air and lots of light the plants will need to be submerged in water for 2 to 3 hours every two weeks.  If your home has shade and more moisture in the air you can use a soaking mist once or twice a week in the summer, once a month in the cooler months.

For more in depth information about how to care for your air plants click {here}

Flowers by Madeline Trait
Photo by Aurora Meneghello