Saturday, 29 December 2012

A blast from the past

2012 has thrown more than it's fair share of issues at us, the worst of which was the loss of my mother in November following a catastrophic car accident.  

Yep, that one in the front, that's me!
Although not my birth mother, N had been married to my dad since I was seven years old, after my own mum passed away, and I was devastated by her death.  This is me as a bridesmaid at their wedding, trying desperately not to smile as I had recently lost a tooth!

Today, I was going through some paperwork, trying to get some year end filing done, when I pulled out a couple of files, and sandwiched between them was a rather yellowed sheet of A4 paper, with three handwritten recipes on it, that she had given me some 20 years ago!  I have no idea what it was doing in the office (I didn't even think I still had it,) let alone amongst the accounts files.

So, in homage to a dearly-loved, and much-missed, mum, here they are - bear in mind they date back to the 70's and are unlikely to find their way onto our menus any time soon!  Also, seeing the note to the last recipe, worryingly, the other two must have featured in cookery books of the day....

Showing off her outfit for a family wedding in 1992
Bean, Potato & Bacon Casserole

1.5 - 2lbs potatoes
1 medium sized onion
6oz lean bacon
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 16oz tin baked beans
salt & pepper
1/2 pint milk
1oz butter or marg
Garnish - parsley

Peel potatoes & onions and cut into thin slices, cut bacon into small pieces. Fill a 3.5 pint casserole with alternate layers of potato, onion, bacon, parsley & beans, seasoning each layer lightly.  Cover top with layer of potato.  Pour milk over.  Brush potato with melted butter.  Cook in a moderately hot oven (Gas no 5, 375'F 180'C) for 1 3/4 hours.  Serve hot garnished with parsley.  Serves 4-6.

With my wonderful dad

Steak & Tomato Casserole

1oz butter or marg
2 medium sized onions - sliced
3 sticks celery - chopped
1 small tin cream of tomato soup
1 large tin braised steak
1 small tin carrots
salt & pepper

Melt butter in a large frying pan.  Fry onion and celery until soft. Add soup, braised steak and carrots.  Bring to boil, add seasoning & pour into a casserole.  Cover and cook in a moderate oven - Gas 4, 350'F, 170'C for 5 minutes. Add dumplings to casserole, cover again and continue cooking for 20 minutes.  The stew can be cooked entirely on top of the cooker if liked. 4 servings.

With Skip, the most bonkers collie ever born!
Liver casserole (recipe out of my head)

1lb Ox liver
1-2 onions - chopped

Fry the onions in a little oil until soft. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.  Coat liver in seasoned flour and fry in a pan until brown on both sides.  Remove to casserole dish.  Put onions on top of liver.  Pour about a pint of water into frying pan, add oxo beef stock cube.  Bring to the boil and pour over liver and onions.  Cook in oven at 150'C for 1.5 - 2 hours.

Yep - culinary masterpieces all of them, and what I grew up on - no wonder I went looking for my own chef as a partner in adult life, eh?! Still, I'd give a lot to be sitting round her table being served any one of these now.  

10/1949 - 11/2012

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Please be patient....

As a small family business, we've recently been hit hard by a family bereavement, and so have been away from the office for a while.  If you have emailed us or have been trying to contact us, then we apologise for the tardy response, but hope to be able to get caught up with work commitments shortly.

Thank you for your patience at this very difficult time.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Eight questions to ask your caterer.

When planning a wedding there are a multitude of things to consider, across a range of suppliers.  Most of our clients, especially those planning a wedding, have never used caterers before and so other than the obvious questions such as menu choices, cutlery and china patterns and colour of the tablecloths, many of the more mundane, but still essential, questions go unasked.  Some of these questions may well apply to other suppliers too.

We thought it would be helpful to put together a little checklist of things you ought to know....

1) How many other weddings or events is your caterer involved with on your event date?

Unlike many caterers, we limit the number of events we work on each day so we can be sure only the best and most trusted staff work on your event.  It also means that, in the main, the Thames people you speak to from the start will work with you throughout the process and be there on the day, so you can be sure of a friendly face and know that your event team know all the carefully planned details.  This way you know that your event isn't just another day to us.

2) Who from your caterer's team will be there to manage your event on the day?

Again, because we limit the number of events, you will have ample opportunity to get to know your likely event manager over the planning period, and it will usually be one of the company's directors.  If there is a reason why another event manager will be working on your event, then we will always make sure you have met that person well before the event.  It is this level of personal hands-on service that we believe makes the difference.

putting the final touches to a marquee wedding

3) What is the staff to guest ratio?

We assign staff levels depending on the size of the event and the venue.  We allocate a service team of six waiters per 80-100 guests or 8 -10 tables. If there are more than 100 guests, we repeat the formula, so no team has to deal with more than 100 guests.  If there were 140 guests, for example, there would be 2 teams looking after 70 guests each, 400 guests would be 4 teams, and so on. Each team has at least one chef, depending on the menu type.  Each service team has a team leader and there is an overall Event Manager.  For larger events our Head Chef will oversee the kitchen.

4) Is the food prepared on-site or cooked elsewhere and transported hot or reheated?

temporary kitchen
We want our food to reach you at it's best, and that means freshly cooked for service.  If your venue doesn't have a kitchen, we can provide a temporary facility, including ovens, hot cupboards etc.  Under certain rare circumstances where there is no facility to cook on site, such as Henley Town Hall, and where the venue is within a short distance of our kitchen, we can transport food hot, although we prefer not to do this.

5) Does your caterer use strictly fresh and seasonal ingredients, or do they use frozen and pre-prepared products?

Thames Catering's chefs use the freshest and highest quality ingredients, and where possible we source these from local suppliers.  All meat and eggs are free-range and we will use organic produce if available within the client's budget.  All our dishes are made for you from scratch by our chefs.

6) Does your caterer employ their own staff or use an agency?

We have an excellent team of waiting staff and chefs that we use for our events.  We recruit them ourselves and train them where needed, ensuring high levels of friendly and discreet service.  On larger events, we may supplement these with agency staff, but we have one agency that we work with on a regular basis and who tries to send us a core team of staff for our events, so they all know how we work and what standards we expect.

The team at Henley Boat Races, 2012, Temple Island Meadow

7) What insurance cover and licences does your caterer have?

All caterers must hold food hygiene certification, so make sure you ask to see a copy of the certificate.  We also have public and product liability insurance to the value of £5m and employers liability insurance to the value of £1m.  Lastly, we are personal licence holders for the sale and supply of alcohol, and if your venue doesn't hold a premises licence, we will be happy to obtain a TEN for your event.

8) How will your caterer go above and beyond to provide a unique experience for you and your guests?

With our superb food and professional and efficient event management service, we make sure every event is a day to remember for our clients.  We offer an unparalleled level of flexibility in planning both menus and front of house details with all our clients, giving a genuinely bespoke service.  Our On The Day service means clients can relax and enjoy their event knowing all the other little details are safe in our hands.

A little thank you from one of our clients

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Working with SeeSaw

Recently, we offered to help a local charity, SeeSaw, with their annual canape and drinks reception, being held in the grounds of one of the beautiful Oxford colleges.  To give you a little more information about the charity, here's what they have to say:

"Oxfordshire children’s charity SeeSaw has been called “The great little charity with the big heart”. SeeSaw supports young people who may be struggling to come to terms with the death of a mum, dad, sister or brother.

About a third of bereaved children can experience severe difficulties and need extra help.  Without expert support at this critical time, these children can face emotional problems in later life.

SeeSaw’s aim is to give bereaved children in difficulty the support they need, so that they can move forward and face the future with hope. 

Because volunteers give their time for nothing and several members of the small core staff are part time, the cost of providing this service are kept to a minimum. 

This means that for just under £300,000 a year SeeSaw is able to provide a comprehensive service to the whole of Oxfordshire, offering advice and support to families, advice and training to professionals, literature and resources and dedicated, tailored grief support for children.

SeeSaw is a charity and relies on donations from the local community, the corporate sector and charitable bodies in order keep its vital service going.   SeeSaw has helped over 2500 children since the year 2000."

As I lost my own mum when only five years old, this cause is close to my heart, and so we were really pleased to be able to help SeeSaw thank their donors, patrons and volunteers.  We supplied a range of canapes, including gingered chicken cakes with coriander, lime mayonnaise and mango, tiny parmesan shortbreads with feta cheese and roast cherry tomato, griddled scallops on a croute base with sweet chilli sauce and creme fraiche, artichoke & gorgonzola foccacine, mini burgers with pickles and ketchup, and mini fish and chips in bamboo cones!  To round off the evening, we offered sticky orange and almond cakes with greek yoghurt and pomegranate seeds and cherry frangipane tartlets.

We were lucky with the weather, and the rain held off long enough for the guests to enjoy the garden of the President of the college.  There was beautiful harp music to accompany the bubbly and nibbles, and everyone seemed to have a relaxing time.

Sometime after we'd offered to cater for the party, Jane remarked that they had a rather special patron who would be attending the event.  And so we found ourselves catering for a 2-Michelin starred chef - none other than Raymond Blanc!  Raymond very generously agreed to have his photograph taken with the staff, and was friendly and funny, joking that chef wasn't generous enough with the chips in his canapes!  It was certainly a night to remember!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

80th Birthday Celebrations

"Tim and I had a wonderful week-end of celebration.  The support you gave us was fantastic.  Nothing appeared to be too much trouble and any problem was anticipated and rapidly sorted.  Your staff were all very helpful and capable and our grandchildren loved being trained as servers.  The food prepared by Patrick was perfect for the occasion - delicious,  well presented and just the right amount for Golden Oldies.  We have received so many glowing comments from our guests about our Caterers,  they were obviously impressed. 

Thank you both very much for making our Party week-end so successful.   We will be recommending you locally for events large and small as your service and attention to detail were outstanding.   If any potential clients would like a reference, please refer them to us by e.mail or telephone.

Best wishes
Tim and Helen Woods Ballard."

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

All the places we have been.....

"I just wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you for all the effort you and Patrick put in to making our day so special and ensuring that everything ran smoothly - we had an absolutely perfect day from start to finish, the food and service was impeccable and we had wonderful comments from our guests on the food, so thankyou so much!"

Polly and Peter got married on 19th May, and held their country garden reception at Polly's parents farm in Oxfordshire. In our original first phone conversation, Peter told us he had a friend who was a Michelin starred chef, so we were immediately under no pressure whatsoever to be brilliant! Luckily, we quickly went on to agree a sophisticated menu that satisfied Peter's foodie qualities while being suitable for production in a marquee.

My favourite part of the day though, and the bit I want to tell you about, was the theme of the wedding. Based around Polly and Peter's travels, the tables were named after various places they had been.  Polly made the name cards and on the back of each was a photo of the two of them in the relevant location and a little explanation as to the significance.

Polly had also made the pretty bunting to go around the marquee and which really set the English Country Garden tone.

The main table plan was made from and old trunk, with the name card suspended on white twill tape.  Guests were invited to 'find your destination' and to 'Live the Life You Love'.

This was a lovely simple theme that would be so easy to make yourself, and really added a personal touch to the day.  People often forget when naming tables, that although the scheme might be meaningful to them, many of the guests will not be aware of the significance, so to tie in the names with the occasions, as Polly did, adds an extra, very romantic dimension.  The trunk then brought the theme together and was a really unusual touch.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Tana & James, 28th April 2012

Last weekend was our first outdoor wedding of this year, and we had high hopes when we started the planning before Christmas.  Perhaps the fact that the night of the tasting was also the only significant snowfall in Henley this February should have given us an indication of what was to come.

The plan was always for the ceremony to be held outdoors in the beautiful garden, which Sandra, Tana's mother, worked tirelessly to turn from winter gloom to a spring delight.  Last minute bedding and some stunning architectural planting meant that, in spite of the relentless rain in the week before, the surroundings did look lovely.  

We had alternative plans for a wet day eventuality, but we all knew Tana and James' hearts were set on the ceremony being outside, and after a nervous morning, a last minute decision was made to take advantage of a lull in the rainfall and go for it!  Our staff placed the fantastic Ice Chiavari chairs out onto the lawn and white seat pads were added at the very last moment!  Some of the guests were a little taken aback at the fact the ceremony would be under the trees, but with the help of umbrellas, blankets and a plethora of pashminas, everyone soon got into the spirit of things.  Even when the bride kept everyone waiting for 15 minutes, there weren't any grumbles!

We don't normally get to see the ceremonial part of our client's big days, so it was lovely to be able to watch this time, although I have to confess to a tear or two! 

Fiona from
Henley Ceremonies led a beautiful service, with the  mothers of the bride and groom being invited up to light a candle as part of the ceremony. Tana's cousin, Eve, gave a beautiful unaccompanied rendition of 'When I'm 64', by The Beatles, which was note perfect, and even added her own personalised lyrics part way through.

After the ceremony, guests moved inside for canapes and champagne. The chosen menu had a mediterranean slant, and for a walking starter we served tiny parmesan and rosemary shortbreads with feta cheese and sun-blush tomatoes, ciabatta crostini topped with white bean and sage puree, with diced tomatoes and olive oil, griddled beef fillet served on a croute with salsa verde, proscuitto-wrapped scallop brochettes with bearnaise dipping sauce and smoked salmon blinis with creme fraiche & dill.

While the guests enjoyed the food and drink, (and being honest, a little warm by the fire) our staff moved the chairs back to the marquee, and completed the set up there.

Tana and James had chosen a modern stretch-style marquee, from Lime Marquees, and had gone for a sophisticated, neutral palette of white, black and grey to decorate it.  The grey check napkins, bunting and cake tablecloth were really brought together by the black lace runners which gave real depth and richness to the colour scheme.

The flower arrangements were again down to Sandra, with lovely cream roses and foliage in the stands bought in South Africa.  Each place setting had a tea-cup and saucer filled with roses & rosemary, with a luggage tag name plate.

Baskets of ciabatta and rustic breads greeted the guests on arrival in the marquee, along with bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip.  The main course was served in a tapas style, offering lots of top-ups to the guests. There was herbed roast sirloin of beef, served rare; pan fried sea bass fillets on a minted fennel and radish salad, and a selection of antipasta including   
Serrano ham, salamis, bresaola, & chargrilled vegetables.

At the bride's father's request, there were bowls and bowls of garlicky parmentier potatoes, and succulent baked black figs stuffed with roquefort cheese and wrapped with proscuitto.  
Cold salads included green French beans with toasted almonds and coriander vinaigrette; beetroot and borlotti bean salad with pine nuts and balsamic dressing; sliced vine tomatoes with red onion, basil and olive oil, and a rocket and sweet potato salad with red onion & citrus dressing.

Once we'd been to each table with seconds.... thirds.... and in some cases fourths (top table!), it was time to move onto dessert - a trio of raspberry creme brulee, chocolate cups filled with dark chocolate mousse and raspberry and lemon brandy snap baskets.  The meal was rounded off with coffee, tea, champagne and speeches.
Once dinner was over, the guests once again repaired to the house while we cleared four of the tables from the marquee, to give room for the band and dance floor.  

After the cutting of the cake and the first dance, once the music got started, the guests really got in the mood for dancing, and in spite of wind and rain throughout the evening, the majority of the guests were to be found on the dance floor - with the exception of around half an hour when we served burgers with bacon, cheese, guacamole and tomato and a selection of genuine Cornish pasties from The Chough Bakery in Padstow - even the Cornish guests were impressed with those! 

The party wound down at around midnight, and special mention has to go to our wonderful bar staff, Aggie, Hannah, Helena and Rhiannon, who kept smiling throughout the evening, in spite of working in the client's bar made of a sideless gazebo which wasn't waterproof!  The girls rotated between bar service and clearing, and I suspect there were happier than usual when it was their turn to collect empty glasses and plates from the marquee and house!

The road conditions on the drive home later that night made me realise how lucky we had really been, weather wise, and we could have had it a lot worse.  So maybe the sun, however well hidden, was shining on Tana and James after all.....

Monday, 16 April 2012

new focus

We've been a bit absent for a few days, trying to get caught up with quotes - it's lovely that they're backing up, and next year looks like being very, very busy!  

We've also been working on slightly changing the focus of this blog, and making it more wedding specific, so it can be a source of useful information about every aspect of the day for anyone planning a wedding.

We'll keep the occasional fun posts too, but in the main, we'll be weddings, weddings, weddings!

So, all you brides-to-be, please drop me a line and tell me all the things you'd like to see, things you find useful from other blogs, and if you'd like to get involved with us as we work with you through your planning stages, sharing your experiences and eventual big day with our readers.

Look forward to hearing from you - pop a comment in the box, and we'll be in touch.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Wedding case study - Nicole and John

"I wanted to thank you both for a great day!

I had such a great time at my wedding...much better than ever imagined.I can't believe how lucky we were in the end with the weather...but still I think I would have enjoyed it even with floods.  The organisation was great, the food was delicious, the cocktails, the music,the 'revealed dance floor', and everything ran so smoothly thanks to you. We have had so many compliments on everything you can think of at the wedding!"

Nicole Marsh, Henley on Thames

Nicole and John wanted a wedding day that would reflect both their backgrounds - English and Mexican.  Nicole's mother had been Mexican, and was sadly not around to help with the wedding plans, so it was important to Nicole to find a way to include her mother in her day.

Nicole asked us to help with all aspects of planning the day so we sourced and recommended suppliers for the marquee, bouquets and church flowers, cocktail bar, wedding cake and car, while Nicole sourced the photographer and mariachi band, and the reception flowers were taken care of by a family friend.

The wedding ceremony took place in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Henley. The florists provided a beautiful arch of flowers over the main entrance and decorated each pew end with a beautiful cream rose with ivy and organza ribbon.  The church window sills were filled with cream candles and there was a gorgeous low flower arrangement in front of the altar.

Nicole and John then travelled by Beauford Tourer, from London Legend, to the reception which was held in an L-shaped marquee in the garden of John's parents.

There the English & Mexican theme continued, with frozen lime, melon or strawberry margheritas and Pimms and lemonade arrival drinks, and the guests were entertained during the drinks reception by a traditional Mexican mariachi band.  Canapes were served, again a mix of Mexican and English, along with dipping bowls of guacamole and tortilla chips.

The L-shaped marquee was comprised of a welcome foyer with chill out areas, in which the bar was set up, and then off to the left was the main dining area, beautifully decorated in ivory and creams, with gorgeous arrangements of traditional English country flowers including roses and peonies in creams and pinks.  In the archway between the two areas was the white chocolate wedding cake, decorated with summer berries.

The wedding breakfast started with goats cheese and red onion marmalade tartlets and moved on to a pre-ordered choice of fillet of beef medallions with pink peppercorn sauce & dauphiniose potatoes or fillet of sea bass on a bed of crushed new potatoes and artichoke hearts.  Dessert was the wedding cake with a delicious summer berry compote and fresh cream.

After dinner, and the speeches, the mood changed and the Mexican flavour really took over.  The chillout marquee was lit up with red and orange uplighters, stunning bright hot-house flower arrangements appeared and the dividing lining wall was spectacularly ripped away to reveal a hidden black and white dance floor and swing band. 

Nicole and John had told us of a wedding they'd been to in Brazil, were the guests were able to make their own cocktails from a selection of white spirits - either rum, vodka or gin and add in fruits from the bowls on top of the bar full of berries.  We arranged for the same idea, with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, the range of spirits and mixers and a couple of flair bar tenders thrown in!  The guests really got into the 'spirit' of it (sorry!) and a great many cocktails were sampled.

The evening food was also Mexican - steak fajitas cooked in a giant pan in front of the guests and served with soft tortillas, sour cream, guacamole, grated cheese, shredded lettuce and salsa.

The party went on until well into the night, and the next morning we were back there to clear away the debris!  John and Nicole had such a wonderful day that they have subsequently recommended us to many family and friends.

If you'd like to tailor-make your wedding day to suit any aspect of your life or heritage, then why not give us a call - our bespoke service means we can be as flexible as you need us to be, and with weddings being the investment they are, why not be sure you're paying for something you really want, unique to you?

Monday, 26 March 2012

Look who came to tea!

Yesterday, we spent a beautifully sunny day by the banks of the Thames, watching boats glide past in the water, families picnicking around us, Pimms on tap....  And then around about 4pm, Sir Matthew Pinsent himself dropped by for a cup of tea and piece of fruit cake!

Sounds idyllic doesn't it?  We were lucky enough to be asked to provide the catering for the Henley Boat Races 2012, which sees the Oxford and Cambridge University boat teams pitted against each other for a series of races, with the finish line being up by Temple Island Meadow.  

We were set up in a marquee, offering hog roast pork baps, barbecue burgers and hot dogs, some lovely middle eastern inspired kebabs using prime Copas turkey, and delicious carrot and sesame burgers for our vegetarian friends.  Along with this was a selection of fresh fruit and snacks, with some tasty homemade cakes to round off the day.  The 'Best Chocolate Brownies in the Universe' were definitely the best sellers!

We also had a full bar service on offer, who provided draught Brakspears bitter, along with a selection of other draught products, wines and ciders and soft drinks.

We had a fabulous day, everyone was in such high spirits, the sunshine really made the day, and we can't wait to be asked back again next year!  

Our thanks to Devinia and Hugh for letting us be involved.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Henley Boat Races

This weekend will be a new experience for us - we're providing the catering for the Henley Boat Races being held on the river in.... yes, you've guessed it, Henley-on-Thames.

We're going to be based in a marquee up at Temple Island Meadows, and are providing a range of yummy dishes, including roast pork baps with stuffing and apple sauce, 1/4lb homemade burgers with the works, hot dogs, carrot and sesame burgers for the veggies, and a whole host of fantastic home made cakes.  There's fruit and salads too for those more health-conscious visitors!  

In addition to the lovely food, we've got a full bar, serving draught bitter from Brakspears, who are sponsoring the event, as well as other beers and lagers, cider, wine and a few spirits.

Temple Island Meadows are up at the start of the famous Henley Royal Regatta course, and are an ideal location for any type of event.  We have catered for weddings on the site, with gorgeous marquees being provided by Henley Contracting, and with ample parking or mooring available alongside, you can choose to arrive by car or other vehicle or by boat. The venue lends itself brilliantly to either a formal sit-down meal, or something a little different and more relaxed such as a Thai banquet cooked in giant pans in front of your guests, or a barbecue.  Last year we provided a full Dubai brunch themed wedding reception with a range of Middle Eastern dishes being cooked on barbecues in an open kitchen area and then served to the guests via different buffet stations.

If you'd like further information on catering at Temple Island Meadows, drop us an email and we'll be happy to discuss your event. 

Friday, 9 March 2012

Summer Celebrations 2012

Following on from our last post about ideas for the Jubilee, we've come up with two great special offers to help get your party plans underway.

Both would be fantastic ways of celebrating the event, especially with that long weekend of 2nd - 5th June, stretching ahead of us, just crying out for a social event, whether you're a royalist or not!  Our afternoon tea offer is just the thing to give a bit of style to your weekend get-togethers with friends and family

Of course if the royal events are not your thing, then there's a summer of sporting prowess to either cheer about or cry about! 

Starting with Euro 2012 from 8th June until 1st July when hopefully a new England Manager will lead us into European football glory - will we all be using Shakespeare's immortal words: "The game's afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"

Wimbledon next, starting on the 25th June, and with Andy Murray's recent defeat of Djokovic, dare we pray for English glory in the men's final on 8th July? And what of the ladies? Not much hope of a British victory there I suspect, but could Venus Williams add her 6th victory to edge closer to Navratilova's record of 9 wins?  In true Wimbledon style, strawberries and cream would be the perfect end to either of our offer suggestions.

And then, on 27th July, London 2012 starts with the opening ceremony.  Can we play the home team advantage and come away with a decent clutch of gold medals, and heads held high until the closing ceremony on 12th August? 

Hardly time to draw breath before the Paralympics, from 29th August to 9th September.  From humble beginnings as a rehabilitation programme for injured British servicemen held in Stoke Mandeville in 1948, this has grown into an International spectacle. Traditionally Great Britain does well at these games, and since 1960, we are 3rd on the overall medals table with 1447 in total, behind Germany and the US, although we're joint top of the golds table with 23.

Phew! If that hasn't got you all excited and in the mood for a party, I don't know what will!  So, here's the details of our offers - go on, take us up on them - you know you want to!

1) Save £200 on your summer garden party

Celebrate 2012 in Britain with a party at home, and we will provide a chef and giant pan free of charge.

Choose from dishes such as:
Indian or Thai curries
Oriental stir fries

Applies to events held between 1st April and 30th August 2012.
Themed disposable partyware also available – ask for details.
2) Free vintage china hire on afternoon tea parties for Diamond Jubilee Weekend

Up to 10 guests.
Offer applies to events booked by 30th April for 2nd – 5th June inclusive.
Offer is subject to availability.
Equals a saving of £100.00.

Contact us and quote 'pan2012' or 'tea2012' to take advantage of these great offers.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

That's the way to do it!

Further to my recent blog post regarding vintage tea parties and their resurgence in popularity, take a look at this amazing post on The Pretty Blog for some real inspiration!

Quirky Tea Party - pink & turquoise decor inspiration.

Now I'm off to pretty up my plans for tomorrow's market stall decor!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Now, let's face it, how many of us could cope with 60 years in the same job?  

Although there are clearly some perks to being Queen - nice houses, travel for work, extensive clothing allowance.....  

Anyway, celebrating the Jubilee seems like a great excuse for a party, and if you missed out on a street party for last year's big Royal event, the wedding, then maybe you're thinking of getting something organised for this year?  

But you don't know where to start, right?  So go along to, where there are some great ideas and a pack you can request which includes posters and invitations - everything you need to get the ball rolling. 

And if you want some inspiration for a theme, then why not go Best of British, or do some research and get everyone to bring a dish from each of the 6 decades.  

And don't forget the themeing - disposable bunting, plates, cups, napkins even multi tier cake stand and sandwich stands are all available to really set the mood - how about a union jack printed chocolate bar for each guest? We know just the place for these...

Let us know if you've got anything planned, and we'll keep you up to date with anything else we hear about.  Don't forget to invite us along - we'll bring the best chocolate brownies in the universe!

Friday, 2 March 2012

More tea, Vicar?!

We're very excited to be working on a new collaboration with our friends at Fuschia Design.  Fuschia provide beautiful vintage china hire and also themeing and dressing items for all kinds of events, and we're teaming up to offer beautiful vintage afternoon tea parties.

With scrumptious menus including delicious sandwiches and rolls and homemade cakes, not forgetting of course, scones, jam and cream, there's also a lovely selection of teas.

For that special occasion, or something a little more grown up, why not upgrade and include a glass of Pimms or even Champagne for your guests?

We'll be writing more about this exciting new development over the coming days, and hopefully sharing some lovely images of Fuschia's vintage china, along with some of their themeing ideas.  

Friday, 17 February 2012

Notes from the kitchen....

Snapped on a rare day off!
Head chef, Patrick has taken over the blog today...

At Thames, Catering & Events we want people to be excited about and enthused by our food.  So a lot of thought goes into the menus we produce for our clients. 

First, and foremost, it has to be what they want - we try and incorporate as many elements specifically relevant to each client as they wish. Secondly, we need to be sure we can produce it, to the best standard, at their chosen venue, which can sometimes be in a temporary kitchen in a marquee in a field!

trio of desserts
Once we've agreed a final menu, it’s onto the tasting.  Hosted at our premises in Henley, the clients are served the full menu, including canapés if required.  We take photos of the food as it is served, so that we can use those to ensure any other chefs working with us on the event can see exactly how the food is to be presented, making sure it meets clients’ expectations.

We also recommend prospective clients take up references – it’s easy for a caterer to provide a meal for two in a commercial production kitchen, but the clients’ need to be satisfied their caterer can do this in a tent in a field for 150 hungry guests!

After the tasting, there’s a break for the kitchen until the big day approaches, while Pennie keeps in touch with the clients, working on the front of house and event management aspects of the day.

prep menu showing special diets
While we do events on any day of the week, Saturday is naturally the most popular, especially for weddings. The prep menus for the week’s events will be brought to the kitchen on Monday, with all final numbers and special dietary requirements having been confirmed the week before. From these final menus, I write my prep lists, I will go through all the finer detail to ensure we haven’t missed anything important, and double check the front of house equipment orders include everything we need to serve the particular dishes. I then also compile my order lists and place all the food orders for Thursday delivery.

Once Thursday arrives, its all systems go!  For the kitchen, this is probably my busiest day as I like to get as much done as possible. Each event will have an allocated chef, who will also start the prep for whichever event they will be cooking for. Why is this?? This ensures they are familiar with their menu, and also whilst he works through his prep list, I will be able answer any questions he may have (and decipher the writing! – Pennie). The first day’s prep lists may take 6 hours, may take 14 hours, but we work until it’s all done - this is part of the job when using the freshest produce.

prepping one of our chicken main courses
Friday comes and with it more prep! Also, importantly, we go through the job stacks in our walk-in fridge and check them off against our menu. (As food is prepped for each event, we use stacks of clean, brown bread crates to separate each menu in the fridge – a ‘job stack’.) This will highlight anything we may have missed, crucially at a time when we still have time to fix any problems.

Also on a Friday, most of our hire equipment gets delivered to the site. At this stage, I’m reliant on Pennie and her team to set up the temporary kitchen and check everything is working correctly. After all, no one would want to me or the chefs to turn up on-site to produce a hot meal, only to find the ovens didn’t work! Once I am happy that everything is as far prepared as it can possibly be, only then will I finish for the day.

Event day arrives, and this generally means an early start, usually being at the kitchen by 6am. I generally finish any outstanding prep myself, usually having canapés to finish, desserts to garnish and bread to cook. Again, we check the menu against the food loaded on the job stacks.

Why this obsession with constantly checking?? Well, sometimes some of our jobs are over 40 miles away - too far to be coming back to get something if we’ve forgotten it! Also, we don’t want to disappoint our clients, and making it as seamless and stress free on our side as possible means we can do the best job towards making their big day really special.

job stack in a catering tent

So, it’s into the van and off to site, Once there, it’s all hands on deck to get the food unloaded and into the fridges, and then the magic starts! Service can be a very stressful time in the catering tent (!! - Pennie), but more so if you’re not organized, so that’s another reason why we pay a lot of attention to the finer detail.

If the menu includes a cold starter these will be plated just before service starts and will have the final dressing as the waiting staff take them to the guests’ tables. Once we’re happy the kitchen is ready to go with the next course, the starters are cleared and we start sending out the main dishes.  This is a carefully choreographed process with the service teams working closely with their chefs to make sure all the hot dishes goes out still hot, on hot plates, presenting all this carefully prepared food in it’s best possible light.  Once the main course is served, it’s down to the chefs to get the cold desserts plated up, and again these have final dressing as they go out to the tables.

All in all, service of a three course meal will usually last for 2 hours and is very satisfying once finished and it has all run smoothly.

cooking giant paella
Often a wedding party will have more food in the evening, this may be a hog roast, or even a curry cooked in front of the guests. This is my favourite way of cooking as it allows the guests to interact with me and talk about the dish I am serving and also gives me chance to gauge feedback about the wedding breakfast.

Then comes the hard bit. By this point, we’ve often been on our feet for around 12 hours, but we now need to start breaking the temporary kitchen down so that the hire equipment can be collected on the Monday morning. Our van will also need to be loaded with the equipment we have brought with us to be taken back to the kitchen and unloaded.

Around 16 hours after we started, the kitchen is locked up and it’s time for the chefs to head home.  This is common during the summer months as Pennie and I like to work on every job we have booked, giving the client a recognizable point of contact for the day. 

Sunday is clean down day. The kitchen, all the equipment & the van will be cleaned down in preparation for the coming week.  And on Monday, the cycle starts again.

Days off?? These are at a premium during our summer season, although we try to make it up during October and November, once the season ends.

As I hope you can see, Pennie and I put a great deal of effort into making our clients’ event days special.  We believe this personal commitment is the extra added value that distinguishes us from other caterers.  We hope you’ll come to believe this too, as you book us for your next big event!

Thanks for reading