At Inspired Occasions we are constantly searching for new and innovative dishes to wow and amaze our client's and their guests.
This website is designed to take you on a journey by bringing you into our kitchens to observe our culinary creative process from conception to final presentation.
As we create each new dish we will define our inspiration, discuss challenges, present our solutions and post some great pictures along the way.
So join us in the Inspired Occasions Research and Development Test Kitchen for some amazing new dishes! I guarantee an amazing journey!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Korean BBQ take 2

I have an addiction; it looms over me like a cloud, becoming larger and larger until it bursts into a torrential downpour over my being!  Ok a bit overdramatic but the feeling is the same, I am addicted to Korean BBQ. 

My brother was the first one to open my eyes to the wonders of Korean BBQ when we were running around the Korean neighborhood in New York City.  Our night had a basic plan; go see a movie, grab a bite somewhere in K-Town (as they called it), then Korean Karaoke and the bars to follow.  Sounded simple enough, but when we got to dinner I almost called the rest of the evening off. 

We walked into this little mom and pop restaurant, buffet, general store, potential herbal doctor business.  The smell was intoxicating, the sounds of sizzling meats, yelling conversations of family members packed ten deep on a 4 person table, and sight of bowls and bowls of fresh and delicious looking dishes made my head spin.  We took a seat and my brothers Korean friends started firing off orders in Korean to the server who, after feverishly writing, said a few words then disappeared. 

It was a crazy night in K-Town

We all grabbed a round of OB Korean Beer settled in for a feast.  When the waiter arrived I ate like a man possessed.  Every flavor was bright, new and unique.  The meat, the vegetables, The Kimchee other sides and the sauces made me never want to leave.  My brother had to almost pry me from the table so we could make our date with a Korean Karaoke parlor. 

So since then I get these cravings for the food, they sit heavy on my mind till I just have to run out and feed the beast.  But after eating my way through the entire menu at several different Korean restaurants around town I wanted something new, something a bit un-orthodox. 

Here is our new Korean Pulled Pork Sliders topped with a spicy coleslaw dressed with a pickled ginger and cilantro vinaigrette on a sesame seed bun… oh my!  We first started by marinating the bone in pork butt in a mixture of soy, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds and oil, green and white onion, our home made chili flakes, sugar and a dash of shaoxing wine overnight.  Then we covered the pan with all the marinade and braised it low and slow for 4 hours till the meat was fall off the bone tender.  Another 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven to add a caramelized crust to the outside and this piggy was cooked! 
The flavor profile was a full pallet emersion journey hitting every taste bud along the way.  And, taking a cue from traditional southern pulled pork, we topped the slider with a slaw made of red and green cabbage, carrot, cilantro, shaved red onion, and red peppers.  But to really make this slaw stand out against the unctuous pork we needed a dressing with an acidic bite -- a sweet and acidic pickled ginger vinaigrette with cilantro coated the slaw and perfectly complimented the powerful pork.

But why stop at sliders when this pork is just screaming for tacos!  Picture the action station, a steamer full of fresh steamed “taco” buns, a chafing dish stuffed with hot and delicious pulled pork, all surrounded by bowls of pickled carrots, cucumbers and ginger, our fresh pickled ginger slaw, and springs of cilantro.  A fun and unique spin to put on the classic taco bar!  A Korean “Taco”……Imagine then enjoy!

Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cut me a slab of that Cauliflower

Cauliflower is just the bleached version of broccoli, the most blasé of the new world cabbages, and the source of my newest creations.

I always had a strange relationship with cauliflower.  It was white, boring and the only reason I would eat it was because I covered the entire thing in cheese.  But as I grew into a more mature and experienced diner I came to understand and appreciate the subtlety of this mutated cabbage.  With the proper application of heat and time cauliflower became more than just a vehicle for cheese sauce, it became a meal.

Way back when this whole blog stated I wrote about our Roasted and Grilled Vegetable Carving Station, where we present a trio of different colored whole roasted cauliflowers for our guests delight.  The flavor and color achieved through high heat roasting was extraordinary and left me wanting more!  I started playing with the idea of seared and roasted cauliflower in more nontraditional roles, say sandwiches.

This little guy is my seared cauliflower slider with a fresh and spicy puttanesca sauce.  The cauliflower was sliced thick, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and then seared on a smoking cast iron griddle.  The cauliflower sizzled to a golden brown exterior and soft smooth interior.  The buttery texture of the cauliflower was enhanced by the different textures of each ingredient in the puttanesca sauce, which paired beautifully its flavorful bouquet of fresh tomatoes, garlic, capers, herbs and a touch of anchovy.  This little slider was an Italian flavor bomb that left you quickly reaching for a second… or third.

But its summer, and my summers are always sponsored by my friends south of the border.  Chips, guacamole, salsa and margaritas are the tunes by which my summer plays.  So why not take these cauliflower sliders for a flavor journey down south?  Presenting our Charmoula slider with house crafted guacamole.  First we rubbed the cauliflower with our signature charmoula blend of paprika, cumin, and cayenne; sear the slices on a hot cast iron griddle, then toss with our refreshingly bright charmoula sauce, a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, lemon and lime juice, parsley, cilantro mashed garlic and a bit of the charmoula rub.  The rub produces a wonderfully intense spice flavor which was cooled and mixed with the very fresh tasting sauce.  Then the intensity of the cauliflower was chilled by the smooth and chunky guacamole.  This slider will fit in perfectly on all of my summertime tables
Now sliders have their places, but what if you want a more substantial treat let’s talk about steak, cauliflower steaks.  We sliced the whole head of cauliflower into thick steaks, seasoned them liberally with olive oil, kosher salt and cracked black pepper, then seared the steaks to a golden crust.  These bad boys were packed full of savory flavors and a wonderful texture.
Why keep that wonderful puttanesca sauce only on the sliders, here we layer the seared cauliflower steaks with that rich sauce and freshly shaved parmesan.  The sauce helped turn this often bland vegetable into a rich and filling dish.

Not into the pasta sauce angle? Ok, how about a salt and cracked black pepper seared cauliflower steak topped with a crisp chardonnay sauce and served on a bed of black “forbidden” rice tossed with roasted cherry tomatoes and shaved brussel sprouts.  The intensity of the cracked black pepper and salt perfectly seasoned the golden seared cauliflower steak, and the chardonnay sauce (made with capers, shallots, vegetable stock, parsley, Dijon mustard and a big knob of butter) was the perfect dress for a wonderful dish.  The oven roasted tomatoes in the black rice bust with a rich and dark tomato flavor, and the shaved sprouts added a body and earthiness to the rich rice. 

But since it is summer lets revisit the charmoula slider.  Why not make a beautiful charmoula rubbed cauliflower steak, served over dirty rice topped with fresh avocado.  The spice paired with the sautéed pepper and onions in the rice was a perfect complement to the spicy and intense charmoula rub.  The fresh avocados added a perfect little note to finish off this deep south dish. 
Next time you peruse the vegetable aisle, take another look at cauliflower.  It’s not broccolis boring cousin anymore!

Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I Remember Pappa

Surrounded by mountains, the cool breeze waving through the pine trees and buffalo gently grazing in the distance sets the perfect stage for a Caribbean dining experience.  We may be at 9300 feet but tonight we are going on a culinary journey between old Key West and the beaches of Cuba.

Every year a few of us from LLIO pack up and convoy out to Crested Butte Colorado to cater a dinner party for Tour De Forks, a culinary benefit for the Crested Butte Arts Center.  The dinners are hosted in spectacular vacation homes every year showcasing the home, home owners and the visiting “Celebrity” chefs.  This year the menu, and the home, and the home owners were equally spectacular

My Dad and I talked a lot about this year’s menu.  We wanted to provide our guests, who by the way come from all over the country, something they have never experienced.  During our talks we were interrupted by a phone call from my grandmother, a south Florida native, who had to talk to my dad about her friend who was heading off to Cuba on a missionary trip.

“I tell you son, it’s not like it used to be.  Do you remember when we used to go to the keys and sit on the beach all day, fishing for crabs, lobster, scallops, and red fish and eat on the beach?  She lamented,
“Things have changed so!” 
“So true mom, but you just gave me a great idea so can I call you back later?”  He hung up and exclaimed, “Have I got a treat for you!  We are going to do a dinner tribute to Ernest Hemmingway (Pappa) and his love of both Key West and Cuba!”  Our culinary thread for the evening …..”I Remember Papa”…A Culinary Tribute to the legendary Ernest Hemingway.

The game was on.  What were those old classics that just sang the praises of the Florida Keys and Havana Cuba?  We started with the drinks, Cuban sangria made with red wine, brandy, triple sec, fresh oranges, lemons, limes and raw cane sugar left you expecting a salty ocean breeze to wash over you at any second.  No party with Pappa would be complete without his favorite Tom Collins, a potent concoction of Gin, fresh lime juice, and club soda, The Havana Rose with Guava, Cacacha Rum, Lime and Seltzer finally, as a nod to Key West, a fresh and bright Key Lime Margarita!

To pair with these cool drinks, and help set the mood for our guest’s Caribbean journey, we offered three tropical bites.  We started with fried White Gator tail bites serves with a tropical tartar sauce, spicy conch fritters with a traditional red sauce and our signature lime remoulade, and a classic Cuban treat of fried plantains topped with curry and onion spiced cream fresh topped  and mango chutney. 

We started the meal in Key West, Pappa’s home base, with a cold spicy seafood gazpacho with fresh lump crab meat, shrimp, cilantro, lime juice and ripe avocados.  This little “amuse” was a perfect balance of rich tomato flavor with a hint of clam, bright acidity from the lime juice, and a tropical kick from the cilantro perfectly matched the delicate flavor of the shrimp and crab.  The diced avocado garnish was the perfect texture to add balance to flavorful soup. 

Next we mentally transported our dinner guests to Cuba for a Havana Salad celebrating the bounty of the island.  Baby spinach topped with ripe mango and papaya, then (because goat is such a large part of the diet) topped with a seared goat cheese medallion, blood orange vinaigrette and garnished with crispy fried shallot rings,  The salad was finished with a sweet guava paste triangle and a Myers rum and pecan cornbread muffin that was spread with whipped tangerine butter.  What more do I have to say, a perfect mix of textures and bright fresh fruit flavors. 
Now grab your passports because we are hoping back across the Gulf Stream to Key West for a traditional baked sea bass.  The bass was braised with a in a combination of red, yellow, and red peppers, fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, bay leaves, oregano, basil and a splash of lemon.  The fish was baked to perfection, yielding to the guest’s fork like warm butter.  The sauce took on all the wonderful juices of the fish and created an unctuous broth that forced some guests to tilt their bowls to the sky to get the last drops.
But before we leave the keys we need one last quintessential dish, key lime sorbet.  The tiny cold serving of bright green, tart and tangy sorbet was a perfect pallet cleanser gearing our guests up for their next Traditional Cuban experience.

Ropa Vieja, or “old rope/old clothes”, is a Cuban peasant dish made from braised and shredded  flank steak cooked with red wine, tomatoes,  peppers, onions, garlic, thyme, and rich beef stock. .  After another two hours of low and slow braising, the meat was ready to plate!  We presented the ropa served on top of savory saffron rice garnished with fresh garden peas.

The last dish of the evening was a tribute to the islands, a celebration of the taste of the Caribbean.  A smooth and silky grand mariner flan topped with a sweet bruleed orange cap.  This was paired with caramelized pineapple on a sugar cane skewer.  The dish was finished with, my personal favorite, our signature chocolate habanera and lime ice cream.  A truer combination of Caribbean flavors I have never seen.

High up in the Rocky Mountains my dad and our crew transported those lucky few on a culinary journey back and forth across the Gulf Stream experiencing the traditions of Key West and Havana. If only for a few hours our guests had the opportunity to celebrate Hemmingway and “Remember Papa”.

Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!