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, July 22, 2014

Peas, mint and pasta

Tis the season!  Summer is in full force and gardeners everywhere are finally harvesting the fruits of their labors.  One of my favorite gems of the season are the bright green sweet peas.  Hot or cold fresh sweet peas just say “summer is here, enjoy it!”

The pairing of peas and mint is a classic on par with red wines and chocolate.  We wanted to extract those flavors in an inventive and delicious new way.  Our direction led us to pasta, fresh made, rolled thin and cut wide.  The end result of all this testing was a perfect summation of the season, light, vibrantly colored, and full of the sweet flavors of summer.

To backtrack, making pasta is one of my favorite activities.  A full sensory immersion, from the sound of the rollers to the touch of the dough as it is stretched and thinned; it’s my form of meditation only with a tasty end result. 

Our summertime pea pasta starts off with a puree of sweet peas, mint, garlic, lemon zest, black pepper and olive oil.  The color looked almost counterfeit it was so bright green and the flavor was incredibly intense.  Mixed with flour and an egg the dough was created, waiting for its time to be rolled and cut.  This pasta was a bright green, with an incredible texture and aroma, it would be perfect as is, or finished with a little lemon oil and fresh grated Parmesan 

Turning this pasta in a main course dish, we tossed the hot pasta right out of the pot with a little grated Parmesan for a slightly cheesy bite.  We paired this with poached salmon filed cooked in seasoned water with lemons, green onions and garlic.  Topped with a toasted pistachio, cracked black pepper and lemon olive oil and a dollop of crème fraiche this dish hits every note flawlessly.  The intensity of the mint and sweetness of the pea is not lost during cooking, while the light coating of Parmesan adds a body and substance to the delicate pasta.  The pistachios and black pepper provide a perfect foil for the smooth textures of the salmon and pasta with the crème fraiche creating a soft sauce for it all. 

Now this is not the end of this recipes tale, not by far.  Take the same pea and mint base and add some parmesan and toss that with hot penne and top with grilled chicken and the pepper/pistachio oil for a perfect lunchtime buffet.

In the height of the summer pasta may not seem like the best “course”, but using the flavors of the summer at their best you can make a truly memorable and extraordinary dish.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One note, edless possibilities

One note, how many ways can you really express one note and make something beautiful?  One note expertly played, especially in the culinary medium, can take you on an incredible journey.  Highlighting one ingredient to build an entire culinary experience around has become a new trend and showcases a chef’s versatility and creativity.  We stretched our culinary muscles recently and created a menu centered around the Midwest’s most famous crop, corn.  So sit back and enjoy the story of our Amazing Maize Menu.

When planning a menu around one central ingredient diversity is key, in textures, presentation, and flavor combinations.  Corn was a perfect medium to work in because of the versatility already built into the ingredient.  Each succulent corn kernel is bursting with the sweet and savory flavors of summer.  Corn meal on the other hand is a perfect combination of sweet flavor and course texture. 

To start our corny experience we needed a flavor bomb in a very small package.  We needed something to capture the dinner’s attention and get them ready for the journey to come.  A quick, spicy and smooth soup shooter is the perfect way to excite the taste buds.  A spicy roasted corn soup, enhanced with jalapeno, sautéed onions, carrots and cream, pureed till velvety smooth then topped with a drizzle of spicy and smoky ancho chili cream.  Sweetness and smoke dance on your tongue while the spice tingles your mouth and throat demanding more!  

Playing off the smoke and sweetness in the amuse we delighted our guests tongues with a fresh and crisp salad straight from the south west.  Lightly smoked corn kernels were layered with julienned chayote squash, fresh arugula, and dressed with a simple sun dried tomato vinaigrette.  We made this dish so much more than a simple salad by passing to each table charmoula grilled prawns and charmoula grilled and flaked salmon.  Add on some savory goat cheese and scallion corn muffins and you have just experienced a trio of corn preparations and we are not through yet!

For the entrée we had to allow the corn to shine without being too overshadowed by the main proteins on the plate.  Since we are pulling from a southwest influence why not create a savory corn pancake with diced bell peppers, red and green onions seared to a golden perfection.  This was our base for the “main event”, 8 oz. salt and pepper encrusted filets, roasted to a perfect medium rare paired with a chipotle and apricot glazed sea bass, a fire charred sweet pepper medley, and grilled spring asparagus.  The corn popped as you bit throughout the pancake, which soaked up all the rich juices from the filet.  The sweet and smoky heat of the chipotle glaze complimented the intense flavor of the sea bass.  

Working with all the intensity of the grill in many of our dishes meant that we needed something to pull back and showcase the sweet side of corn, while still providing a bridge between the previous course and dessert.  We paired rich and sweet chipotle chocolate cake with some sweet and salty caramel corn ice cream, all finished with a prickly pear sauce.  The slight smoke and heat in the chocolate made the cake seem richer and more decadent.  But the ice cream was the star, a perfect mixture of sweet corn, dark caramel and coarse salt evoking memories of childhood, crunching on bags of sweet and salty caramel corn.  

This dinner was about proving a point, that you can take one ingredient and showcase all the various forms and flavor profiles it can take on.  From savory to sweet, smoky to salty, corn was the perfect ingredient to create an “A-maize-ing” evening.  What will be your ingredient? 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Charleston Final Days

Our last and final days in Charleston were packed with adventure, education and some delicious southern delights. 

We went “Back to School” at the Culinary Center for the Top Sommelier wine and food pairing session.  The lecture hall was packed full of people, wine glasses, bottles of water to cleanse your palate, and the anticipation of what was to come.  Four of the top Sommeliers in Charleston gathered to share their knowledge of food, wine and hurl insults at each other over some of the finest wines around. 

They brought us in gently with several white wines; some creamy and smooth while others were crisp, fruity and dry.  The chef, who had a very difficult task ahead of him, paired these whites against an open faced bahn mi sandwich with spicy meat and pickled vegetables. 

After the introduction was over our wine guides ramped things up with some bold and aggressive reds from distant corners and local hills.  While each explained his reasoning behind his wine choice his peers would hurl playful insults and colorful jabs.  These people not only loved their wines, they wanted to teach all of us in that room just a little bit more.  The chef paired these reds with a beautiful pork mole on a crispy and slightly sweet arepa.

But enough wine, time for a taste of what Charleston is famous for; Oysters!!!  At the Pluff mud oyster feast we donned our protective gloves, selected our weapon of choice (a small wood handled oyster knife), and dove right into never ending piles of hot and steamy oysters.  Not content to be labeled a one trick event, chefs from all around Charleston were present showcasing their take on classic oyster pairings and fare.  A beautiful spring day, some great local beer, and some sweet southern blue grass echoing off the concrete floor of the barn and into our souls, what more could anyone ask?

\Charleston has a natural beauty all its own.  The history, the cuisine, and the people all exude pride in what they (and their ancestors have built).  Each old cobblestone tells a story, and no matter where you are, you could find someone to tell you that story over some great drinks and fantastic food.  Till next time Charleston!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Charleston Day 2

 Day two brought us a taste of local flare in the Open Air Artisan Marketplace where numerous venders peddled there goods and wares to the delights of all.  In here we met blacksmiths, distillers, candle makers, marshmallow chefs, and one guy who was extremely passionate about his sauce. 

After sampling some of the best artisan creations around, we decided to take our own tour down King Street to see what else this city had to offer.  While traveling down the road we were stopped dead in our tracks by a few windows full of glittering sterling and crystal.  We had to explore this shop, and in doing so we found more than we bargained.  A traditional southern table was laid out upstairs complete with grilled tenderloin, pimento cheese tea sandwiches, and fruit salads.  The charm was contagious and soon we were talking silver, traditions, and our favorite pieces.  It was a perfect experience of true southern hospitality. 


All this tradition worked up a mighty thirst.  It was time for our trip to four of charlestons premier local breweries.  We tried some fantastic brews and met some even more incredible people. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Charleston Wrap Up day 1

The Charleston food and wine festival is a wonderland of activities, food, drinks and enough local products to send a locavore into a coma.  This year we had the opportunity to live it up in Charleston and enjoy all the sites and flavors of this historic southern city, while sampling cuisine from some of the best chefs in the South.

It’s very hard to summarize all the excitement, culinary delights and festivities into a short and sweet post so here are some of the highlights from an amazing weekend of eating, drinking, laughing and enjoying life to the fullest in a beautiful southern city.

Our first introduction to the festival was at the Opening Night Ceremony.  Featuring all of Charleston’s hottest and most sought after chefs flexing their culinary muscle to wow and stimulate the masses. So many great delights to tantalize our taste buds left us all in massive overload.  A good night of sleep was required, the next day was going to be demanding.