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!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Culinary Ambasadors

We are going to do something a little different this week on Culinary R and D.  On Sunday I am heading to the great North East for a Culinary Learning Journey through New England!  I will be doing daily updates on the Culinary R and D facebook page with food pictures and ideas on new dishes to create back at Inspired Occasions.  Sooo this week I am going back in time and writing about an extraordinary experience Lon and I took part in last spring.  Enjoy!!

Every once in a while you get a chance to really shine. Not just for yourself or those around you, but for an entire city! That was the opportunity my dad and I had last spring at the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix Arizona.

A little bit of background here; every year the top rail freight carriers convene for an amazing four day conference. This year there were over 1000 of the top rail executives and their largest clients gathered together on the fertile oasis of the Wigwam Resort. During the conference, each carrier would host one or more event- “Proms” as the event planners called them, to entertain and show their appreciation to their customers and executives. 

Kansas City Southern didn’t want to go with the flow this year. They wanted to do something different that represented their spirit of ingenuity and uniqueness. 

Several months before the conference KCS approached us to do something special, something intimate, different and exciting.  We were tasked with creating an evening that would stand out from all the other parties.  Something that would keep people talking. What could be more exciting than a father - son chef’s demonstration dinner!

After several weeks of planning with the Wigwam Event and Culinary staff, Lon and I flew to Phoenix and immediately started prepping with the Wigwam chefs for the dinner. 

It was an amazing menu showcasing the best of the south west, with a flourish of Midwest flair. And for each course, Lon and I were walking the diners through the creation process. Part of the show was providing additional tips, tricks, and secrets to help make them a culinary success at home.  The rest of the show was pure entertainment!

We started with a beautiful Lobster Ceviche made with coconut milk and fresh chilies served on fried plantain chips.  The sweet coconut milk added a rich yet slightly creamy component to perfectly balance the subtle lobster. 

Next, a personal favorite of mine, Baby Greens, Arugula, and Watercress with a Sautéed Goat Cheese Medallion, Asian pears, Spiced Pepitas, and drizzled with a Prickly Pear Vinaigrette! 

Then we showcased the big boys, Balsamic Glazed Pan Seared Sea Bass on a bed of Grilled Corn relish with Grilled Fennel and fresh Cherry Tomatoes followed by fork tender Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs with a Parsnip and Potato Puree. Sautéed King Trumpet Mushrooms and Sautéed Patty Pan Squash completed the entrée presentation. 

The Trio dessert was a perfect way to end the meal, Brandy Snap Cookie Basket with Fresh Berries, Our signature Chocolate Habanera and Lime Ice Cream and Mini Lemon Tarts with Blueberry Tarragon Compote.
The dinner was amazing; guests were laughing, joking, clapping and enjoying every second of the Culinary Show. We had the opportunity to present a culinary side of Kansas City to people from all over the nation that night, and repeatedly we heard, “That was the best meal I have ever had!” 

Lon and I were so honored to demonstrate to the guests of Kansas City Southern Railroad that Kansas City is so much more than BBQ.  We have some of the most talented and creative people in the nation serving up the best drinks, food and entertainment rooted firmly in our fantastic city. Kansas City is the best kept secret in the Nation, and, as “Culinary Ambassadors”, we are doing our best to spread the word!

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Great Pumpkin

Pie, Jack-O-Lanterns, and Halloween costumes for babies.  During my childhood these were the reasons for pumpkins existence.  In fact outside of my grandmother’s famous pumpkin pie at thanksgiving, I really could care less about this strange squash.  But I am a little older, a little wiser I hope, and ready to re-evaluate the culinary choices I made in my youth.   As I have discovered, brussel sprouts are delicious, Eggplant has more uses than fried, and pumpkin is not just for pie!

I wanted to go as far outside of my norm as possible with this article.  I wanted to find and develop new dishes to capitalize on pumpkins sweet and less understood savory side.  And like all good development days I started with the most important meal of the day, breakfast.  Here we have our soon to be famous Pumpkin Crème Brule French Toast with Caramelized Pecans and topped with a Chai Whipped Cream.  We first make a rich brown sugar syrup with butter, poured   this into the bottom of the casserole dish, and then shingled sliced challah bread into the dish.  We whipped some pureed pumpkin into our custard along with vanilla, sugar and a little triple sec.  The custard was poured over the bread, left to sit for overnight, then baked till puffy and golden.  We topped this with a sprinkling of caramelized pecans and a healthy dollop of our house made chai whipped cream.  The custardy smooth bread yielded to the fork while the sweet crunchy pecans popped with each bite.  The sweet and spiced chai whipped cream added the final kick to take this dish over the top!

With a satisfying breakfast behind me I set my mind to lunch.  I have always found that squashes and heat worked so well together, and pumpkin demands a dark and spicy heat!  With this in mind I set about making my favorite lunch time favorite, Pizza!  We sautéed some homemade sage sausage till it was golden brown and crumbly, then we sweated some diced red onion and garlic in the rendered fat.  To this we added some chipotle peppers in adobo and pureed pumpkin.  We lightly seasoned this with some salt, pepper, homemade pumpkin pie spice, a pinch of sugar, and a dash of cayenne.  We layered this spicy sauce with our crumbled sausage and a mixture of shaved fontina and gruyere cheese.  The crust was crispy and delightful, with the spicy thick sauce which melted perfectly with the pungent creamy cheeses.  The sage in the sausage added the special final touch to turn this pizza into a rich and satisfying meal.

Lunch over, and as the Italian say, “Hurry and finish your lunch, we are late for dinner.” Since I was a small child I have loved mac and cheese.  Loved, loved like the wind, loved so much I would eat it for every meal of the day hot or cold, loved like Bill Cosby loves puddin pops, you know I loved it!  as I grew my tastes changed.   Sure I will still get down on the blue box every now and again, and so have my ideas of what all can make up your mac.  Mac is a beautiful cold weather comfort food; it makes you feel good and happy, just like beer.  So why not combine them?  Here we took some pumpkin, cream and our local Boulevard Pale Ale, mixed with some sautéed red onion, homemade pancetta and gruyere cheese. We seasoned all this with a few dashes of local honey, a little pumpkin pie spice a dash of cayenne.  The sauce turned a deep orange color and became silky and smooth carrying all the flavors in a delicate symphony of taste with each player in perfect harmony.  The crisp chunks of pancetta added body and spice to each spoonful.

But what meal or day is complete without something sweet for dessert?  But we have all had pumpkin pie, mouse, cake and dip…. Boring and so last week.  Why not mix two great things, dessert and an after dinner drink!  Introducing our Pumpkin Ale float with house crafted salted caramel ice cream!  We used a Schlafly pumpkin ale, from St. Louis Missouri, to bring a rich pumpkin kiss right off the bat.  The flavor was a trip through every taste bud starting with the light bitter from the beer and quickly working its way to the pumpkin spice and then finishes creamy and sweet from the ice cream.  A perfect mix of flavors and textures creating a perfect drink that leaves you begging for another glass! 
Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!