I have been to many a wedding, as you would imagine.
The feeling of magic, love and happiness is so real in the air that you can feel it throughout your body. That feeling is always there for me because we get to know each client, seeing them at their excited stage, nervous stage, shut down stage and finally their epically ecstatic stage. We literally watch and help make this rainbow effect of emotion happen. I love it, every time.
Something new to me that made the hair stand on its end was being present for an engagement. Being a part of the planning process you know its going to happen, you’re not sure when but even as I type this thinking back, I am getting goosebumps.
Almost one month from the target date a young man contacted us with this idea that he wanted to make a reality. He had seen me recently on the Martha Stewart show (blog to come soon!) and wanted to create a special, intimate dinner for two. His plan was to ask his girlfriend to join him in building a beautiful life together.
Music to my ears friends.
In addition to this excitement, we were able to put together something we always wanted to - a winter party. Magdalena of Magdalena Events and Design, Elaina Mortali and are always scheming and dreaming logistically challenging dinners to bring people something that have never experienced. (see last years winter shoot).
It is true, typically from May - November our season is at full tilt.
Winter is a bit of an untapped resource of immersive outdoor dining experiences - especially in the North East.
Since time was of the essence, and a location for something like this was going to a challenge unto itself,
we got right to it. When planning a dinner like this, the day after Christmas in The Berkshires, there are many factors to take in.
Snow is beautiful! However, in order to get to someplace intimate, more often than not, you will have to blaze your own trail - something I was born to do.
In order for that glorious snow to stay, the temperature has to be cold, very cold. Here is where Heirloom Fire steps out from the crowd. The best way to combat blistering cold is with raging heat, which we have plenty.
There are so many factors working against you when planning any kind of event. Now take that and multiply it. You have to create a menu that is quick to execute and methods to keep the food, plates and drink warm. Every move has to have the least amount of steps in order to be efficient.
The beauty about working with such an A list team is that you can bounce ideas off of each other and have the confidence that the team is going to bring it and bring it hard. This allows you to bring your best game knowing you can trust in the people that stand next to you. Plus, this was the day after Christmas, people. I am a bit insane and love what I do with an immense amount of passion, and when we asked Magdalena and Elaina I couldn't be happier they were in without question.
The location that we settled on (which consistently delivers the most magical Berkshires experience in all four seasons) was August Moon. Set off in the back field surrounded by evergreens, you couldn’t ask for a more ideal locale.
I arrived in 4 wheel drive with my equipment and of course Magdalena was already setting her table, suited up head to toe in full snow gear. Yes it was cold, but there was no complaint of it being intolerable. I began setting my kitchen and shortly our assistant Kathryn and photographer Elaina arrived to get the last pieces in place and begin the shoot.
Just as the sun began to set, our guy pulled in the driveway and began to walk down the path lined with lanterns. By his side was his lady friend and their pup. This is where the adrenaline started to build for us, we didn’t know when he was planning on asking “the question”. Well, about 20 steps in and 50 yards out he dropped to one knee and began the process. Elaina, being the fast acting professional drew her lens, focused and took precision shots like an expertly trained markswoman.
The young man arose, gave his future bride a kiss and a long (warm) embrace. They walked down our path with large grins painted on and I couldn’t help but project “Well, are we still on”?
The man raised his arm with the sense of pure joy. This is the feeling I spoke about earlier., being a part of that experience, not really knowing these folks, however, knowing this life changing question and choice was going to happen. He did his part, now we were up.
The “dining room” was set in the middle of a sprawling field. Not a field surrounded with bare hardwoods, but pines and spruces in which snow still clung to. A deep green that contrasted the stark white of the snow elegantly. The table decorated beautifully, the chairs thrown with sheep skins and surrounded with crackling warm fire baskets. Even the pup had a seat next to the table, all bundled up.
Now, lets talk food.
As it was cold, we wanted something hot to knock the chill from the bones. To start the process of bone thawing, we poured them hot glasses of mulled cider spiked with bourbon from Berkshire Mountain Distillers, which is literally 5 minutes down the road.
We followed with a hot bowl of Red Kuri Squash Soup with Brown Butter Powder, Spruce Oil + Pickled Apple in fire charged bowls, of course. (recipe follows).
The next course was Whole Roasted Sea Trout with Fire Charred Cabbage, Light Pickled Beets + Shallots
The Heart of the meal was one of our Signatures - Our Hearth Roasted Chicken with Romanseco Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Seed Onions + Pancetta. It seems so simple but a perfectly roasted chicken, hot from the fire to warm you is something like soul food.
Lastly, the dessert was a Grace Hill Blue Cheese Panna Cotta with Sweet Potato Beignets cooked over the fire. Getting Beignet dough to proof in the snow is no small feat! The night ended with the couple roasting marshmallows over the fire and feeding each other s’mores.
This was a special night to be a part of. This got us all thinking, why doesn’t this happen more? The obvious answer is that it is much easier to go on a vacation, have a nice dinner inside of a warm restaurant and then make a stop at some gorgeous vista and propose there. That is all great and if that suits your needs, theres nothing wrong with that. Not all of our experiences are meant for everyone.
Also, at this point you should know that Heirloom Fire is a departure from your typical “caterer” as I have gone on and on…and on and on about it. We do things differently an create with Magdalena Events and Design dining experiences that challenge us to bring something truly unique and special.
All this being said, if you’ve read through this and the words or pictures have spoken to you, let’s talk. Whether it be an intimate dinner or a truly memorable engagement we would love to put together the perfect team and create magic with you.
Special thanks to:
Magdalena Events + Design - Design
Elaina Mortali Photography - Photography
August Moon - Location
Kathryn Campbell - Logistics
Winter Kuri Squash Soup with Pickled Apples + Brown Butter
4 lbs Kuri Squash, split vertically and seeded
1 tablespoon Oil
2 teaspoons Salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Sea salt to taste
Honey, maple syrup or sugar to taste
1/2 lb of unsalted, grass fed butter
1 cup water
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 t mustard seeds
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 t grated nutmeg
1/2 t salt
3 star anise pods
2 lbs Honey Crisp, Gala or other firm apple
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and with the oven open, place sheet 2/3 of the way in the oven. Drizzle the inside of the cut squash with oil and single with salt. Rub the oil into the squash as it will act as a heat conductor. Place squash cut side down on to the cookie sheet and move to the oven. Carefully push the sheet 2/3 into the oven and leave door open. Using a pitch or cup with a spout, carefully pour 1 1/2 cups water into pan. Gently push pan into oven and roast until squash collapses and is easily pierced by a knife, about 1 hour.
While the squash is roasting, preheat a large pot over the stove and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onion and carrot; saute until onion is translucent but has no color. When the squash is cooked and is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add it to the pot with the onions and carrots. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are completely soft. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Adjust the seasoning with the orange juice, vinegar salt and honey. This will take some doing and will require more adjusting than your likely used to, but you looking for a balance or sweet, salty, and bright. Take your time here.
Ladle or pour soup into 4 bowls, add your pickled apples around the soup, drizzle with brown butter and serve.
For the apples:
In a medium sized pot, add the first 9 ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and dice the apples in to large cubes. When pickling solution is at a boil, remove from heat and carefully add apples. Once the apples are at at room temperature they are ready to be used, though 2 days in a sealed mason jar in the fridge will do them better.
Add butter medium large sauce pan (avoid non stick here), and melt over medium high heat. Gently shake pan so butter melts evenly. Once the butter has completely melted, increase heat to high. You will hear the butter begin to bubble, this is the water cooking out. Once the sizzling has stopped immediately step in with a metal wire whisk and begin whisking the butter. The butter will begin to froth and make it hard to see the color. You are looking for a medium caramel color. Every few moment remove the pan from the heat and carefully tilt the pan to expose the butter itself. Once you have achieved the desired color, remove the pan from the heat. The butter will continue to cook so if you’ve slightly over cooked it, have another clean, cool pan you can pour it into to stop the cooking. Reserve until needed.
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