8 Event Pros Share Their Favorite Catering Items

Past BizBash innovators discuss the most innovative meals, cocktails, and desserts they have ever eaten.

By Claire Hoffman June 1, 2016, 7:00 AM EDT

(Pictured, left to right): Liz Neumark, Eric Michael, Frankie Solarik

Photos: Dan Hallman for BizBash (Eric Michael and Liz Neumark), Leanne Neufeld (Frankie Solarik)

“I will always remember an ingeniously simple dish I had at a farmhouse in Sweden in the middle of winter. Bowls were served without utensils, and the diner was invited to pick through a layer of fallen leaves (deliciously poached in herb tea) to find a warm root vegetable salad. It was the ultimate local dining experience, digging for your dinner. And it was unbelievably delicious!”
Eric Michael, owner and creative director, Occasions Caterers, Washington
2011 Innovator

“One of my favorite salads is anything ‘roasted beet.’ It is comfort on a simple level that honors simple ingredients and casts aside any pretention that underlines some of the food scene. One year ago, after a long drive from Chicago to Denver upon relocating my culinary consulting firm to be closer to nature, I decided to celebrate the transition at Denver’s Barolo Grill. From that focused-yet-thoughtful kitchen crew came some of the freshest concepts, but it was a new interpretation of their beet salad that was the showstopper. A schmear of whipped Haystack Mountain goat cheese provided the picnic blanket for the most flavorful, min- iature candy-striped and golden beets I’d ever had. They were overshadowed slightly by crispy red beet meringue rods protrud- ing from the center of the plate. Sprinkled with toasted pistachio and adorned with pistachio vinaigrette, orange gelée, and local micro greens, this was a mastery of flavor, texture, and simplicity. It was the perfect balance of humility and inspiration from chefs Darryl, Andrew, and John, whom I’m now happy to call my friends.”
Ryan Hutmacher, owner, the Centered Chef, Denver
2014 Innovator

“At Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain, I was served fresh pig-blood coco marshmallows and fungus potatoes that looked like river rocks. Chef Aduriz was demonstrating the bastion of creativity that drives his kitchen in a private atelier. Who knew pigs’ blood, when whipped, acts like egg whites? I struggled at first as I watched him whip the blood for 20 minutes.”
Joel Thévoz, C.E.O., Main Event Caterers, Washington
2013 Innovator

“I visited Seattle during a cold, gray, and cloudy week. I was not enamored with the city until I had dinner on my last night at Sitka & Spruce. I fell in love with a dish of grilled Brussels sprouts, perfectly charred and served on the stem they grew on. The accompanying smoked sturgeon mousse was an excellent foil. I flew home that night dreaming about their impressive menu, wondering how the chefs managed to cook those Brussels sprouts so evenly and perfectly.”
Liz Neumark, C.E.O., Great Performances, New York
2011 Innovator

“An experience I had when dining at Alinea in Chicago was fascinating. Chef Bagale and chef Achatz do an amazing job of creating an immersive and multisensory dining experience. There was one flavor combination that still resonates with me—it was a dish incorporating celery, rhubarb, and black licorice, with the fresh rhubarb dangling above the table that was then removed and grated fresh over the dish, incorporating a wonderful aromatic component and nostalgic smell.”
Frankie Solarik, co-owner, BarChef, Toronto
2015 Innovator

“I made a pilgrimage to Albert Adrià's restaurants, Hoja Santa and Niño Viejo, in Barcelona, Spain. The most spectacular creations came out of the kitchens. At Hoja Santa, during a 10-course extravaganza of local cuisine, we experienced new flavors and ingredients so inventive in their execution and presentation. My daughter's vegetarian courses were each fantastic surprises. Just to tip it over the top, we were witness to the entire kitchen staff learning they had been awarded their first Michelin star—and they’d only been open a year. What a thrill to be there to celebrate their innovative work.”
Rita Gutekanst, co-owner, Limelight Catering, Chicago
2011 Innovator

“I often shy away from what I call ‘culinary pole dancing’—that is, chefs creating new and highly technical ways of creating dishes that, well, often just don’t taste good. When I think of innovation that works, I think of my favorite dish in Los Angeles. It is the warm strawberry ricotta crostada at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica. I dream of this dish. It is the absolute perfect combination of sweet and savory for the adult palate—fresh strawberries atop a small bit of fluffy ricotta on top of a perfectly prepared pastry crust. It is seasoned with sugar, coarse salt, and a bit of thyme. The combination of textures is as divine as the flavor. The side of vanilla ice cream with fresh honeycomb in it is the final bit of heaven.”
Kimberley Bailey, owner, the Butter End Cakery, Los Angeles
2014 Innovator

“I was on business in Seoul, South Korea, two Thanksgivings ago. I wanted to immerse in the local food scene, and my guide took me off the foreigners’ grid to the hardcore locals’ food markets. There I had makgeolli, a traditional unfiltered alcohol that is slightly sweet and carbonated—it was the only thing to drink there, and there were bubbling vats of it. It was amazing amongst the stalls of pig heads and feet and dried fish.”
Peter Callahan, creative director, Peter Callahan Catering & Events, New York
2013 Innovator

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