The Tasting Room

January 28, 2020

Guest writer Michelle Cousins gives tips on catering for your big day.


With engagement season upon us, we reached out to the best event and wedding planners in Utah to see what tips they had to make the catering at your big day the best it can be! Follow our 9 week series and see what they all had to say!

Michelle Cousins from
Michelle Leo Events 

Michelle Cousins, owner of Michelle Leo Events, is an award-winning event designer and planner enjoying her 10th year of business. Michelle's company has been recognized by Vogue, Brides Magazine and Martha Stewart as the best wedding and event planning team in Utah and the company recently received it's 9th Best of State Award for event planning and bridal services. Michelle loves planning events in the Rockies but as an avid scuba diver, you'll find her spending her free time in the Caribbean exploring the underwater world with her husband, Michael.

Make sure to discuss the wedding cake with your caterers.

The wedding cake is often provided by a specialist other than your catering team. While most caterers plan on cutting and serving your cake (along with providing the needed rentals/disposables to serve it), this service is something you need to verify your caterer is, in fact, planning to provide (never assume). And, be aware that additional costs may apply.

Our planners are often asked if it's necessary to hire a separate bar-tending service outside of the hired caterer.

Unless this is a unique requirement of the venue, we suggest allowing your caterer to handle all bar services. This way, all food and beverage services are provided under one contract. Furthermore, your caterer has a plethora of experience in determining what your alcohol quantities should be in ratio to your guest count. They are also knowledgeable of any and all state laws associated with alcohol services. Speaking of which, Utah has many unique laws regarding alcohol services so make sure to discuss these with your caterer to gain a firm understanding of what is and isn't legal when it comes to bar services at your event.

Don’t eliminate a caterer from your shortlist just because you dislike the sample menu on their website or the one provided in your initial proposal.   

Understand that you CAN customize your menu with a caterer (they expect it), and the first menu is simply a starting point to get ideas churning. Schedule time to sit down with your prospective catering team to discuss your tastes and preferences. In turn, they'll have many questions for you that will enable them to create a custom menu based on your likes and must-haves. Keep in mind these experts can help provide you with many options and suggestions that you otherwise would never consider so utilize them as a valuable resource in customizing the dining experience!

Design and menu that will enhance the overall event design.

At MLE, the custom event design proposals we provide our clients include suggested cocktails and food presentation ideas because we understand that the culinary experience is a crucial part of the overall guest experience. Food is as much design as any place setting or floral arrangement so don't forget to design your menu with the same care and discuss the visual presentation with your caterer to ensure things align with your overall event vision.

Respect the Process!

(This tip applies across the board regarding all vendor processes). You are responsible for making sure you understand a vendor's process once explained (ask questions if you need clarification- they want you to understand), and then allow them the space to do what they do best! Planners and caterers have executed thousands of weddings. They have perfected processes over the many years they have been in business and are pros at soliciting the right information and asking the right questions. Their goal is to provide you an incredible event design, the most delicious menu, and the best overall experience at a price that fits within your budget, but you have to let them! This requires faith and patience on the client's behalf as great things don't happen overnight. Don’t try to skip steps or rush your hired professionals, respect their process. Be patient and let them show you what they can do. They'll put their best foot forward when you trust them and allow them the time to do so!

Don't forget to check in next week to see more tips!

January 21, 2020

Guest writer Mara Marian gives tips on catering for your big day.


With engagement season upon us, we reached out to the best event and wedding planners in Utah to see what tips they had to make the catering at your big day the best it can be! Follow our 9 week series and see what they all had to say!

Mara Marian from Fuse Events

Mara Marian is the owner of Fuse Weddings and Events, a boutique wedding planning and design studio specializing in destination Park City and Deer Valley weddings. With over a decade of experience in our local market, Mara boasts numerous industry awards, wedding magazine features and serves as the current Vice President of the WIPA Utah Chapter. 

Be sure to research your venue and confirm whether they have an in-house option you’re required to use, or if they allow outside caterers.

Be sure to also note that oftentimes, if they do allow an outside caterer, it’s from a preferred list. Although a preferred list can seem restrictive at first, think of it this way: the venue has essentially taken all the necessary research off your plate. Their list is packed with pros who are familiar with the venue and will be versed in the unique challenges of working there as well as having a proven track record of making the venue’s clients happy - if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be on the list.

Have a budget in mind, and don’t be afraid to share it.

There’s a common misconception in weddings that if you share actual budget, creative partners will exceed it. This leads to many clients mistakenly giving a lower budget than what they actually have to work with. This creates a lot of unnecessary wheel-spinning that could be avoided with an honest conversation. Sharing your honest budget allows the caterer to show you what they can do with your budget. If your caterer tells you something isn’t possible within a given budget, believe them. A caterer who isn’t afraid to say no will help you avoid potential disasters and disappointment later.

Listen to your caterer’s recommendations, and ask what their shining star options are.

If you’re working with a caterer to plan a polished but casual welcome BBQ, you’re going to want to select someone who’s versed with BBQ and has served such a menu many times. Asking a caterer to really step out of their wheelhouse is certainly possible, but it may not result in their best work.

Realize you can’t please everyone, and design a menu reflective of you and your partner.

That being said, don’t impose your dietary restrictions on others. Any reputable caterer can handle gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan and other requests, but that doesn’t mean your entire wedding should be subjected to it. You can work with your caterer to plan a menu that honors your dietary restrictions and preferences while also being mindful of the many others attending the event. 

Schedule a tasting, and if possible, have it in season.

Another common wedding misconception is the purpose of a tasting. Many clients imagine that a tasting is an opportunity to try the food, to determine if the caterer is the right fit. Although there is some truth here, assuming you’ve done the research and are working with the right caterer, the tasting is really about fine-tuning the menu you’ve selected on paper: do you prefer a chutney to a pesto, are the garnishes what you imagined, would you rather serve risotto or quinoa alongside the main - these are all things you can easily determine during your tasting. Having the tasting in season allows your caterer to present the most accurate version of the menu possible. For instance, trying your watermelon feta salad in March could be underwhelming here in Utah. 

Don't forget to check in next week to see more tips!

January 15, 2020

January Recipe of the Month: Quinoa and Winter Vegetable Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash



serves 4
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 acorn squash
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup onion (diced)
1/4 cup Brussels sprouts(chopped)
1/4 cup carrots(chopped)
1/4 cup kale(chopped)
1/4 cup turnips(chopped)
1/4 cup parsnips(chopped)
1/2 cup balsamic reduction
salt and pepper to taste


Cut your acorn squash in half. Scoop out the inside of the acorn squash and remove pulp and seeds.  Oil, salt and pepper the squash and cook in an oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until tender.
Using a sieve, thoroughly rinse quinoa until water runs clear. Place rinsed quinoa and broth, and salt into a 4-quart saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to a low. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes.
Melt butter, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and diced onion. sautee until onions are translucent- 2-4 minutes. Add vegetables and garlic. Sautee until vegetables have a golden color on the outside and are tender in the middle- 5-7 minutes.
Toss quinoa and veggies together.  Salt and pepper to taste. Take this mixture and fill the center cavity of the in roasted acorn squash. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.  Serve hot.

December 12, 2019

December Recipe of the Month: Candy Cane Danish


1 1/3 tsp Active dry yeast
1/2 c warm water(98-102 degrees)
2 oz brown sugar
3 TBSP  sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 oz eggs( 1 large egg and 1 yolk)
1 oz butter(melted)
11 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of cardamom(optional)
for lamination
4 oz butter
1tsp flour
1/2 cup of cherry/ raspberry/ strawberry jam
4 oz cream cheese
1 oz egg( the egg white from above)
3 TBSP of brown sugar
2 TBSP butter
1 cup powder sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1-3 tsp milk
Add Yeast and Sugar to warm water in mixing bowl- use your dough hook attachment. In a separate bowl, melt butter and add sour cream. mix until combined. Add vanilla and eggs to slowly add them to butter mixture. Add butter/egg mixture to your water. Mix just until combined. Add flour, salt, and cardamom. Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
In the meantime, mix together butter and flour for lamination. Place in between two pieces of parchment and press into a 5x4" rectangle. Place in the fridge until the dough is ready. Butter should be cold for lamination but don't put in the fridge for longer than 30 min or it will be too hard.
You will now laminate your dough- see our last week's blog post for the in-depth instructions on how to do this.  3-4 turns for danish dough. About 1 less than you would do for croissant dough.
Refrigerate overnight
Pull out and roll out into a rectangle that is about 1/4" thick and about 18x8".DSC_0708
Take a pair of kitchen sheers and cut 1 1/2" strips on the long side of your dough. They should be about 3/4" thick. You should get about 24-30 on each side. Make sure to count so you have an equal amount for the pleating.
Mix together your favorite kind of red jam(Our pastry chefs use their homemade whole fruit jam!) And cream cheese, egg, and sugar. Set aside. The mixture should be kind of thick, similar to a filling for a cheesecake.
Using a pastry bag, pipe a stipe of your filling directly in the center of your pastry dough. Your stripe should be about 2" wide. You want a nice amount inside but not so much it explodes out of the pleating while baking.
Then you will take the strips you cut and alternating each side pleat them together. Make sure to kind of tuck them into each other and pinch so your pleats don't come undone while baking.
Once you have it pleated transfer to a parchment lined  sheet pan. Gently shape into a candy cane.
Let rest and rise until it has grown a little less than double. I like to brush mine with cream and sprinkle with turbonado sugar but that is optional.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Pull out and cool completely,
Mix together butter, powder sugar, vanilla and milk to make an icing and glaze over the top.
If you have any questions let us know! Happy Holidays!!

December 4, 2019

How to laminate dough


Delicious, delicate, and flakey pastry is created by building layer upon layer of dough, butter, dough, butter, dough, butter, and so on - a process called laminating. Laminating dough isn’t easy - it requires understanding, practice, and finesse. Still, laminating dough is definitely within reach of amateur home chefs and bakers who are willing to make the effort. We’re excited to share our well-tested recipes and tips to help you succeed and enjoy homemade flakey pastry!  

The Dough

Generally, pastry is made using enriched dough - a dough that has a higher concentration of sugars, fats, and/or dairy.  Your specific application and desired final result will determine which particular recipe you may use. Whole milk is a very common dairy in pastry recipes and creates you a very flakey dough that crisps well. Using sour cream in lieu of milk to make your pastry softer and more supple. Brioche creates is signature light and airy texture by going heavy on the eggs. We have included one of our favorites and broadly applicable recipes below.
  Pastry dough needs a flour with enough protein to hold all the fats together. However, too much protein when overworked by the lamination process will create a tough dough. Cake flour won’t have enough structure. Bread flour will get too tough. All-purpose flour is your best bet for nearly all pastry.
As with all food, the ingredients matter more than the tools or the procedure. And since butter is a key ingredient in pastry, don’t cut corners here. We recommend a high fat / European (sometimes labeled Irish, French, English, etc.) butter. European style butter is perfect for laminating dough because it has a much higher fat content (~97% vs ~80% in American style butter), as well as it tends to have a stronger savory flavor. The higher water content in American butter will steam when baking, creating puffs in the layers. Yes, this makes your pastry fluffy, but not flakey. And when you taste the fluffy and flakey side by side, you’ll know which the flakes are what we’re chasing! 


Turning: Creating the Layers 

Building the layers in pastry dough is a laborious but intuitive procedure we call turning. With each turn, you fold the dough (which creates more layers of dough and butter), and then rolling thin so you can create even more layers through more turns. With each turn, the layers increase by more (often double or triple) than the turn before, so you end up creating a lot of layers quickly. The more turns you complete, the more layers your final pastry will have The more layers you have, the flakier your pastry will be. . 

  Calculating the layers you’ve created can be confusing as the layers grow exponentially. We generally use a tri-fold turn. Think of rolling your dough into a rectangle (like a piece of paper) and then fold your dough into thirds (like a letter). We find the tri-fold helps maintain precise control and consistency. So, once you have done the initial turn of dough with butter, 3 layers will have been created. On the next turn, tri-fold again, you will have 3^2 or 9, on your third turn 3^3 or 27, on your fourth turn 3^4 or 81, etc.

Different types of pastry generally have a specific range of layers.

  • For Danishes, turnovers, pain au chocolat, beef wellingtons, etc: 27 layers or 3 turns
  • For croissants: 81 layers or 4 turns
  • For kouign-amanns: 243 layers or 5 turns *Note when laminating for kouign-amanns you are creating layers of dough, butter, and sugar
  • For puff pastry: 700-2000+ layers or 6-7 turns *Note the final count should vary on preference and application. For example, with a weighted pastry like mille feuilles, you’ll want more layers. Whereas, you’ll want fewer layers for a classic puff pastry.

Now that you have a foundation of understand and some of tips in hand, let’s move to an actual recipe:

Culinary Crafts favorite recipe for pastry


    • 1 1/3 tsp Active dry yeast

    • 1/2 c warm water (98-102 degrees)

    • 2 oz brown sugar

    • 3 TBSP  sour cream

    • 3 oz eggs ( 1 large egg and 1 yolk)

    • 1 oz butter (melted)

    • 11 oz all-purpose flour

    • 1/2 tsp salt


      For lamination

    • 4 oz butter

        Mix  yeast, sugar, and warm water in mixing bowl. If using a power mixer, use your dough hook attachment. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Add sour cream and whisk until combined. Whisk the eggs, then slowly add them to butter mixture. Whisk just until combined. Add flour and salt. Mix on low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides.

    Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.

      In the meantime, beat your butter.You can cheat a little and use your mixer for this, but we recommend doing this by hand with a rolling pin, since the butter will incorporate less air and stay colder. You want the butter to be as dense and cold as possible, while still having made it pliable. You can sprinkle the butter with a small bit of flour so it doesn't stick to the counter or your pin if needed. You may need to fold your butter and pound out multiple times. Fold the butter into roughly a 4”x 5” rectangle (should be ~¼” thick), place in between two pieces of parchment and set in the fridge. Remember, the butter should be cold but still pliable. Getting the butter to ~60 F (or about 15 minutes in the fridge) is a good target. Timing the butter and dough to be ready to leave the fridge at the same time is a good strategy.    Roll your dough into roughly a 15” x 6” rectangle (3x wider and 2” longer than your butter rectangle). Place your chilled butter right in the center of the dough. Then fold the long ends of the dough over to cover the butter (like folding a letter). Because of the tri-fold, your rectangle of butter and dough should be roughly 5” x 6” again. Now roll out the small rectangle until it’s back to 15” x 6” again. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, and tri-fold again (in a new direction this time). The 90 degree rotation will bring the open ends to the center and help keep the butter inside your dough. Fold and roll repeatedly - making a 90 degree rotation with each turn - as appropriate for the desired number of layers.   Patience is key to successfully making great pastry dough. When you roll out the dough and butter, your focus on rolling carefully with gentle, even pressure, using a rolling pin. Do not try to muscle the butter in or press too hard. It should take 8-10 minutes for each fold. Focus on rolling the dough out in one direction towards the open ends. Rolling the dough along the 6” length. Back and forth, consistent and gentle until butter is incorporated. Throughout this process, you want to keep your dough about 60 degrees —not quite refrigerator temperature, but colder than room temperature. Depending on the temperature of your working space you may be able to do 2 turns in between chilling.   At this point you have laminated dough. You’ve done the hardest part. Congratulations! Now simply shape and bake as appropriate for your application.   Check in next week to see one of our favorite holiday recipes using your laminated dough!                 

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