Fall is the best time of year to eat and to cook, in my view. It’s not cold enough for the full-on winter torpor that brings on overeating, oversleeping and other nesting activities that can result in summer babies if not applied cautiously. It’s the time when the appetite is honestly earned by a little late harvesting, putting the garden and yard to bed for the year and brisk walks to take in the twilit sounds and smells of autumn. The aromas of food are sharper and cleaner and turning the oven on suddenly seems like a great idea. You still have some of the late summer crop hanging around as wonderful cool weather greens and roots move in. Time to roll out the winter 2010/11 catering menu from Willy Street Co-op—see willystreet.coop/catering.
We’ve had a great year in catering with the full benefit of our talented catering coordinator, Thane Wienandt, on board. Called on to plan many a wedding this year nearly from soup to nuts, Thane rose to the call without fail and administered the services we have to offer while assisting Owners and other clients to source out other services needed for their events. Many of these occasions called for custom menus, giving our excellent kitchen staff a chance to break the boundaries of the normal workday and stretch their wings. We look forward to another great year of outdoor weddings and other special events in 2011, but now it’s time to wave goodbye to warm weather and hello to hearth fires and hearth food.
One ingredient that appears in droves around this time of year on menus and serves as a faithful warhorse nearly indefinitely is winter squash. Easy to grow, easy to store, hard to peel—two out of three ain’t bad. We’ll include a couple of dishes making use of this staple, including chicken thighs braised in red wine and rosemary and baked with wild rice in maple roasted acorn squash, gratin of butternut squash and Wisconsin Parmesan and a vegan squash “lasagna” inspired by a custom wedding dish that worked out very well this year.
Apples are another signature of the fall harvest and we’ll pay tribute to them on the winter menu with curry-glazed pork, apple and sweet onion kebabs, apple and sharp cheddar quiche and, of course, apple pie. Not to forget the mighty potato, without which I think it’s fair to say that much of cuisine as we know it would simply not exist, we’ll include twice-baked potatoes with chives and roasted garlic and a vegan sweet potato casserole with lime and cumin.
Before the winter is out, we also hope to feature some yeasted breads from the Willy Street Co-op Bakery on or as part of our menu and to see them in the retails as well. Look for classic dinner rolls, Italian table loaves and freshly made sandwich rolls in the next few months. We plan to weave the Willy Street Co-op bread catalog into prepared foods offerings as much as possible, both in ready-made and made-to-order sandwiches and in new catering menus in 2011.