By Lisa Balschunat
The winter holiday season is a bustling time
for food service businesses, and area caterers
are in the thick of it.
They have conquered Thanksgiving and
are now immersed in planning and preparing
for holiday parties, Christmas events and New
Heidi Hoyt, executive chef and owner of
Black Diamond Catering in Saratoga Springs,
said she is seeing “a bit of an up-tick” in corporate
holiday parties. “It has been tight for the
past few years for all caterers,” she said. “People
in business were all doing the right things in
this economy, but I think it’s going to be a very
good season for catering.”
Black Diamond offers extensive menus in fine dining for weddings, formal occasions, corporate events, galas and conventions. Their professional chefs make all food by hand using fresh ingredients with local farm products, free-range meats, wild fish, specialty imported ingredients and “delicacies from small artesian purveyors.”
This year, according to Hoyt, people are looking for great casual food. “The trend is warm and fuzzy,” she said. “They are looking for flavor and comfort food — for that feeling of home — and cheese is huge this year.”
If someone is looking for a wine bar from around the world, deeply spiced African dishes or an Apres wedding brunch with rich linens and chair coverings, Black Diamond knows what’s hot and trendy. “If it’s in Martha Stewart’s magazine, we’ll get requests for it,” Hoyt said. “If it’s in a bride’s magazine then local brides are looking for it.”
Chef John LaPosta, owner of Maestro’s at the Van Dam at 353 Broadway in Saratoga Springs, is well known for his culinary expertise and for “putting love on a plate.” Customers can enjoy his American bistro specialties not only in the historic former Rip Van Dam Hotel, or on the pillared and heated porch area, but in their own homes or business offices through Maestro’s boutique catering option.
Boutique catering has been a part of Maestro’s repetroire for the past few years, LaPosta said.
“The restaurant is my primary focus,” he said, “but we do offer catering for up-scale private engagements and business affairs,” he said.
A sampling of offerings created to tantalize the taste buds include mini Maryland crab cakes, mini chilled tenderloin sliders with caramelized onions, and duck confit bruschetta.
“People are looking to us for creative ways to serve appetizers and meals with elegance,” LaPosta said. This year, he said Maestro’s has been catering about 50-50 to private parties and drop-offs to smaller offices.
At Zest, a personal chef and full-service catering business in Ballston Spa, owner Carol Kuchar said she is booked through Christmas. Zest caters for large events, weddings, house parties, brunches, tea parties, intimate dinners for two, special celebration, backyard barbecues and more.
Zest uses the “freshest ingredients, loving prepared, from simple to elegant presentation.” Zest customizes menus to match the seasons and is presently is featuring holiday pies, cakes, tarts and gift basket filled with homemade pies, cider donut bread pudding, chocolate chip pie, hot cocoa, homemade English muffins and local jams.
“We also offer gluten free, dairy free and vegan option on our catering menu, and never duplicate the same menu twice,” she added.
This season, Zest’s bookings are about 50 percent private parties and 50 percent business events. Kuchar employs three part-time employees and hires extra staff when needed for large events.
Eight years in the catering business, but 17 years in the deli business, Brian Brumley, and his business partner, Anthony Gargano, of Spring Street Deli & Pizzeria have been “on the map” on the east side of Saratoga since 1996.
“We can cater to anyone’s needs,” Brumley said. “we have great cooks and we can create any item you’d like. we make everything from scratch. we are reasonably priced and put all of our food in serviceable containers. we drop off and set up. Our containers are disposable. You don’t have to pay for servers and the clean up is easy.”
New this year, Spring Street is “on wheels” with a wood-fired pizza trailer. “we toss, sauce and cheese the pizzas right on location. The unit is self-contained and a pizza is ready in 90 seconds,” he said. “we can pull into yards and parking lots, you name it, wherever you want us to set up we can be.”
Brumley said Spring Street makes everything from scratch, roasts their own deli meats and offers six soups daily.
“The soups are made fresh and we right now have this competition going on within the staff to create the craziest soup.” Light appetizers, vegetable samplers, vegan options and local turkeys have been topping the list of recent catering orders taken at Healthy Living Market and Cafe in Saratoga Springs.
With its doors open the past eight months at 3065 Route 50 location, Heather Cuedak, catering lead, said, “We are seeing people order more health conscious items. They are steering away from fried foods and are asking for gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options.”
Healthy Living offers a veritable feast of catering selections including creative New York cheese platters, Mediterranean assortments, classic crudite, piled-high fruit, custom sandwiches and wraps, fresh salads, root vegetable sides, breakfast egg tarts, muffins, scones, pastries, Uncommon Grounds bagels, boxed lunches, Tierra Farm’s coffee and desserts.
“When it comes to catering we try to take the stress of planning away from the customer and put it on us,” Cuedak said. “We are more than happy to work within any budget to assist a customer with a company or private party.”
Healthy Living, with headquarters in South Burlington, Vt., is known for building strong relationships with local farmers. “People are more aware of where there food is coming from,” Cuedak said. “We get down to grass roots to build strong relationships with local farmers to provide our customers with the best possible food.”
Healthy Living presently offers produce from Slack Hallow Farm, Argyle; Denison Farm, Schaghticoke; and Kilpatrick Family Farm, Middle Granville; meat and poultry from West Wind Acres, West Charlton; Buckley Farms, Valley Falls; Sunset Farm, Argyle; and Adirondack Rabbit Ranch; Lake Luzerne; dairy from Batternkill Creamery, Salem; Meadowbrook Farm, Clarksville; Ronnybrook Farm, Ancramdale; Argyle Yogurt Farm, Argyle; Butterworks Farm, Westfield, Vermont; Polymeadows Farms, Shaftsbury, Vt.; Kriemhild Dairy Farms; Hamilton; and Old Chatham Sheepherding Company; Old Chatham; and Johanna’s Raw Foods/Snacks, Saratoga Springs.
The market is also aligned with 10 local bread makers, six coffee roasters, 14 regional brewers; seven New York state wineries, and 28 other local food makers of hummus, kombucha, granolas, pickles, juices, peanut butter, chocolates, sauces, salsas, herbs and more.