The Chef’s Table

amici Favorite Recipes

There is no doubt that our executive chef, Miguel Godinez is the lil’ trick in our pocket. Let’s face it, we are in the business of all things food and this guy and his team make killer grub, every single time.  Amici is known for his style cuisine – fresh, authentic and simple, yet flavor packed.  We thought it would be interesting to know what his Thanksgiving day spread looks like and of course, we weren’t the least bit surprised to learn that it’s all things Miguel – classical with his own twist.

Miguel’s Thanksgiving is festive in the most wholesome sense – centered around the food, socializing over the stovetop, and family kickball.  Yes, family kickball and they take it very seriously; the women (even 90 year old abuela, Katalina) wear tennis shoes with their dresses.  With 40 people to feed, it’s not uncommon to have  5+ turkeys, multiple hams and side dishes galore.

Here’s what Miguel is bringing to the table:

The Bird:  or in Miguel’s case, it’s plural – birds.  If you have had the priviledge of tasting meat prepared by Miguel (which is always moist and tender), you will understand why he chooses two smaller birds versus one mammoth 24 pound gobbler.   When it comes to turkeys, bigger isn’t always better – “they spend extra time in the oven and have a tendency to cook unevenly,” says Miguel.  A chef’s worst nightmare is a platter of dry meat.  Miguel bastes his turkey in a blended sauce of pasilla chile, garlic, cloves, onion, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil.  To ensure the meat is of the utmost moistness – Miguel stuffs the cavities with green apples (in addition,  it adds a wine like flavoring.)

The Ham:  Just as the nursery rhyme goes, sweet and spice makes everything nice and Miguel loves a smoked ham with a dry rub of brown sugar and ancho chile.  It’s incredibly easy to prepare as the piggie simply does it’s magical thing while baking.

The Sides: Rounding out his contribution to the the Thanksgiving menu, Miguel adds traditional sides of cornbread, white corn baked with a hearty bit of butter, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, fresh green beans with crispy, caramelized onion, and Yukon gold mashed potatoes with a hint of roasted garlic.

The Desserts:  Miguel’s wife kicks the winning home run with her addition of champorrado, a classic Mexican hot chocolate along side the traditional pecan and pumpkin pies.  Really, can you imagine savoring a steaming clay mug filled with this creamy, chocolate masa beverage that clearly does a bang up job of rounding out the cozy warm feelings of the day?

From our table to yours, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope your day is filled with glow of traditions both new and old!

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 2.07.49 PMRecipe for Champorrado

Don’t let a few of the ingredients intimidate you!  If you are in Arizona any Latino grocery (we like Los Altos) will carry piloncillo which is simply a brown sugar with a slight molasses flavor made from pure, unrefined sugar pressed into a cone shape, Mexican chocolate (best brand is Ibarra), and Mexican cinnamon which in
Mexico is known as “canela,” isn’t actually Mexican at all.  According to the website Cinnamon Vogue, Mexican cinnamon with its soft, easy to crumble texture and subtle, sophisticated flavor is actually imported from Sri Lanka.

 

Unique Tastes in the Feast of Gratitude

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Amici Shares Thanksgiving with a Twist

It’s turkey time! Besides hamburgers and hotdogs on 4th of July, we can’t think of another holiday with more of a national menu than Thanksgiving. Of course, the bird is the center of attention, but heirloom family dishes are all part of the recipe for all things Happy.  Every clan has their own unique expression; for many of us that might be marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, Grandma’s oyster stuffing, Aunt Sally’s infamous green bean casserole with crispy onions and of course, a big, brined herby turkey. But let’s say your soiree is large – being caterers and all things creative, we’d like to suggest that perhaps you might be able to justify serving the traditional array as well as a few turkey day twists.

Three members of team Amici share their gobble worthy takes on Thanksgiving: all things regional, a booze infusion, and a plant based harvest.

Excited by the idea that perhaps the Native American’s were the first “localists,” with their unique ability to live entirely off of the land, Lori decided on a menu that celebrates regional flavors. Of course, the first Thanksgiving would have included a uniquely different array of ingredients than the tastes of Arizona.

Southwestern Showstopper

                                              Southwestern Caesar with Cilantro Vinaigrette                                                                      with cornbread croutons, pomegranate seeds, cumin dusted pepitas

Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

Chipotle Whipped Sweet Potatoes topped with Honey Roasted Grapes

Lime Cilantro Mashed Potatoes

Adobo Brown Sugar Glazed Turkey with Poblano Pan Gravy

Jalapeno Scented Cranberry Relish

Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Toasted Cinnamon Marshmallow Swirls

Our young gem, Whitney is inspired by all things boozy. No, she isn’t dedicated to the art of binge drinking; on the contrary, her millennial awesomeness has led her to study! She’s fascinated by the history, subtle flavor profiles and nuances of all things distilled and recently completed her Certification in Spirits (a sommelier, but for alcohol.) Naturally, creating a menu infused with the flavors of liquor is fitting.

Hoppy Thanksgiving


Beet Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese

Brown Mustard Beer Can Turkey

Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Shallots

Scottish Porter Pan Gravy

Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Butter

Ruby Port Cranberry Sauce

Jameson Chocolate Pecan Pie with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Cider Spiced Apple Pie

Vegetable loving and the resident Amici hippie, Molly is stirred by what is so often challenging for the Thanksgiving Day chef: vegan and vegetarian options. With these dietary choices being the new normal, today, we are blessed with wildly creative recipes and ingredients that even omnivores will adore. Animal products are deliciously substituted with almond milk, olive and coconut oils, vegetable broths, and tofu (amongst many other substitutions.)

Herbivore Holiday


Roasted Sweet Corn Cakes with Vegan Garlic Cream

Sweet Potato Pillows with Roasted Grapes, Balsamic Drizzle and Cumin Dusted Pecans

Roasted Butternut Squash, Apple and Pecan Salad with Greens and Maple Dressing.

Sweet Potato Napolean: Smoky Black Beans, Millet, Sautéed Greens & Vegetable Gravy

Baked Wild Mushroom Pot Pie topped with Scallion Whipped Potatoes

Aromatic Roasted Root Vegetables

Black Forbidden Rice Pilaf with Grilled Sweet Potato, Pomegranate, Pecan and Scallion

Vegan Maple Pecan Pie with Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

     Live Coconut & Cashew Cream Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

 

A Riddle

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What do Thomas Jefferson, Julia Child and Amici Catering have in common?

Could it be the France connection?  Remember, Thomas Jefferson spearheaded the Louisiana Territory acquisition and Julia  (she feels like she would be a fabulous friend, hence the first name reference) introduced the United States to French cuisine.  France is a good guess; but , nope, even though it is on trend, we don’t plan on introducing pate or beef bourguignon to our menu.  And the answer is…

PASSION. FERVER. ZEAL. EXCITEMENT. DEDICATION

Thomas Jefferson had an unwavering passion for innovative, creative new thought as well as inventions.  As if the Declaration of Independence, Louis and Clark expedition and doubling the size of the United States during his presidency weren’t enough, he can also take credit for the first copy machine, hideaway bed, spherical sundial, revolving bookstand, pedometer and yes, even a macaroni extracting machine.  He clearly had an extraordinary excitement and dedication that he applied in all areas of his life.

Nobody can forget Julia Child and her remarkable, often hilarious zest for food and life (really, you must take a few minutes to watch this video of her as it will make you smile)!  Believe it or not, she was quite innovative as well.  Amidst publisher skepticism, she brilliantly identified that demystifying French cooking was something the modern 1960’s American housewife would latch onto. Really, in an era of expansiveness, breaking through the mystery of a male dominated industry enabled wives to have their own unobjectionable moment of rebellion.  Julia seemed to understand that “we’re going to bake it and set it on fire,” just might be the alternative to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

So, how does this translate to Amici?  I imagine Thomas Jefferson had an energetic expression similar to Julia’s – a proverbial fire of intensity and vibrancy.  It’s a spark we know well and I believe sets us apart.  At Amici, catering is an art form that stems from our client’s dreams and keeps us constantly looking for innovative application, transformation, and fusion.  For example, just this morning Lori and I were tasting a seemingly ordinary key lime tart (which was delicious on it’s own), but wouldn’t it be lovely as a first course? Imagine the iconic tangy sweet custard and buttery crust served warm and smothered with a crispy, lacquered shredded duck and cherry reduction?

Although, we certainly can’t profess to ‘lighting anything on fire’, we can own every bit of what Thomas Jefferson and Julia possessed.  We innately bring dedication and passion to every single conversation, proposal and event.  And… truth be told, our pushing the envelope is one hell of a good time.

 

Amici tastes BUGS!

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“Always let your conscious be your guide.” ~ Jiminy Cricket

Jiminy would be glowing with pride over our most recent epicurean adventure, CRICKET FLOUR (technically speaking Jiminy is actually a grasshopper!)  Watch this VIDEO for a fast synopsis on cricket flour and why Pinocchio’s long legged sidekick would approve.

As expected, we are foodies.  Each of us at Amici is on the hunt for the latest food trends when it comes to ingredients, style and concepts.  However, here’s the deal, to capture our fancy, the “latest, greatest” has to taste delicious. Stretching our Western palettes, we decided to step on board with 80% of the world and give entomophagy (eating bugs) a whirl.  No, we did’t harvest and roast our own bugs, but rather, ordered a bag of Orange Ginger cookies from Itty Bitty Foods.

Watch our VIDEO of cricket flour cookie tasting..

Sorry, Itty Bitty Foods, your cookies don’t cut it.  Mom was right when she said that moderation is key and in your case, Itty Bitty, our taste buds unanimously agreed that the substitution of butter with coconut oil and cane sugar with molasses was simply put, “healthy ingredient overkill.”  Yes, we are Julia Child’s old school and believe that everything tastes better with butter; and without getting too scientific and boring you with the retro nasal route and the nasal pharynx talk, there is a reason cookies made with butter taste better.  The fat in butter develops the soft, chewy texture we all love in cookies and is the flavor carrier for the fat soluble ingredients like vanilla.  So, perfect for the healthy, non-butter loving crowd, but crunching our cracker-like cookie left us missing the vibrancy of orange and ginger.

BUT WAIT! We haven’t thrown in the towel on the “gateway bug!”  The old standby Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie prepared with cricket flour instead of the traditional wheat flour was DELICIOUS and MODERATELY HEALTHY.  The cricket flour added a nutty, toasted flavor and the texture was more fibrous like a breakfast bar, but DELISH!

Drum roll, please…  Get your glass of milk ready; we have added them to our menu! Letting our conscious be our guide, we love the idea of introducing a product that can be prepared in a yummy way, but better yet, packs a punch to a global crisis.

Click here for the Neiman Marcus Recipe

FLOUR POWER – Could flour actually have sustainability power?

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Environmental Concerns and Food – is there a connection?

Absolutely!  We can pat ourselves on the back as gone are the days of the gas guzzling SUV’s, but we (Phoenicians) have a long way to go in our embracing the environmental cause; however, we have latched onto the “green” food trends of locally sourced, organic, and minimal processing.  Like iconic food cities (Seattle & NYC), we too love our urban farms, farmers markets, grass fed meats, vegan options, and farm to table.  Yet, I wonder if Phoenicians are looking to improve their environmental footprint or if we are eating healthier after experiencing that real food, made simply actually tastes better.  (Hey!  Amici’s tag line… Real Food, Made Simple!)  Could cricket flour serve as a barometer to this question?

Yes, you read that correctly; crickets are more than frog food.Read More

Enjoy your AZ Summer Wedding

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Summer, generally speaking is the height of wedding season; however, in the Southwest, summer and weddings are typically like oil and vinegar – they just don’t mix.  Unless you live in AZ, you can’t fathom the concept of a “dry heat,” which really does feel like you are standing in front of an open oven.  Let’s face it, not every couple can afford or desires to spend “in season” pricing or for whatever reason, the stars haven’t aligned and a Saturday in July is your wedding reality, here are some tricks to help you turn the idea of a summer wedding in Phoenix to peanut butter and chocolate… a lovely combination.

Were the color experts of Pantone visiting Phoenix in July when they  forecasted this year’s hue trends?
You don’t have to take a class in color theory when picking your signature hues, just keep in mind that colors can affect people in specific ways and one of your goals might be to temper the oven like Summer Wedding Blog_miniheat.  Luckily for you the trends Pantone highlighted project an air of coolness – think blues like ethereal marine and scuba blue, greens like woodbine and lucite that play off the colors of newly sprouted leaves and fresh grass.  Picture the iconic colors of summer represented in flavors of ice cream fit perfectly with the trend of understated brights and paler hues – accents of strawberry, or limoncello pair beautifully with the succulents of the desert landscape.

Don’t fool yourself; unless you are getting married in a hot air balloon 7,500 feet above seal level, you aren’t going to get a break in the weather.  So what, it’s hot…. there are tons of perks to a summer wedding and with proper planning and consideration to the heat, it will be fabulous.  Here are 5 important things to remember:

1.  Remember the weather in every single wedding decision – chose items that fit well succulent bouquets, sleeveless dresses, AZ casual tuxedo (classic tommy bahama shirts), even a “naked wedding cake” as buttercream frosting just doesn’t hold up in the heat.

2.  Do yourself and every woman in your wedding party a favor; keep the make up artist all day or at least a good portion of the day.  Your make up will smear and touch ups will make you happy.

3.  Pick the right venue – no question, indoor is paramount.  However, if you chose to have a sunset ceremony consider having fans and parasols for your guests (seriously romantic, right!).  Also, fans, swamp coolers, misters are well worth their rental cost.  Some of our favorite indoor venues are The Icehouse, The Elegant Barn, and Soho63

4.  Choose your vendors wisely.  This probably isn’t the time to give your best friend who graduated with a patisserie certification her/his first ‘real’ gig.  When it comes to your flowers, make up, cake and even photography this is the time to bring the experts who understand the complexities of transporting and managing items that are sensitive to heat.

5.  Not all menus are alike, especially in the summer.  I know we are biased, but on your wedding day, your caterer can truly be your best friend.  Here’s why – a good caterer is not only creative, but also understands the nuances of creating the right menu.  The last thing you want is for you or your guests to feel the tired, sluggish feel of post Thanksgiving.  The ideal menu should be filled with light, flavorful dishes that are full of seasonal fruits and veggies, lighter starches, seafood and grilled meats.

Let the experts at Amici be part of your plan this summer!

 

Food for Thought – Super Sister and Circle the City’s 10th Annual Garden Tea

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Truth: Being a caterer is hard work that involves arduous hours, often beginning in the middle of the night or ending in the wee hours of the morning. But there is an extensive list of perks that make the dark circles under the eyes worth it. At times, I have to pinch myself to remind me that yes, I actually did pass through the iris scan of the high-tech facility of Taser International and yes, I really did stand in the kitchen of a gigantic home that I could swear Frank Lloyd Wright himself could have designed, complete with ten car garage and helicopter parked inside. This is just a small sampling of some of the incredible venues at which Amici was fortunate enough to cater. However, occasions like the Super Bowl, birthday bashes, and of course, many amorous couples tying the knot are just as much fun. But last weekend, for the second consecutive year, we catered an event that continues to tug on our heartstrings, as it is a tremendous story of humanity banding together to bring a dream into reality.

The story of Circle the City sounds like it could be a documentary that has gone viral with Oprah’s help. I’m sure the film would be titled, Supersister – The True Story of a God loving Physician who built a Respite Center. The protagonist is our local hero, Adele O’Sullivan, who during her service as medical director of the central Phoenix Homeless Shelter, dreamed a colossal dream: to build a local medical respite center where homeless men and women can recover from injury and illness in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. Organically, word spread of Sister Adele’s mission and work. Donations started coming in and religious/philanthropic organizations began asking how they could help. This brings us to the Circle the City Tea (where we come in), which is an equally inspiring story! Eleven years ago, a local Catholic MOMS (Ministry of Mothers Sharing) club of 12 women was approached to orchestrate a fundraiser for Sister Adele’s cause. Sister Adele’s “12 disciples” (as she affectionately refers to the cadre) quickly decided to host a Spring Tea, and much to their surprise, 160 of the 200 people invited attended! Ten years later, the event continues to grow at an incredible rate (we served 554 guests this year). So, from humble beginnings as a simple dream, the earnest efforts of a nun-physician, the tenacity of 12 heart-centered women (and countless other contributors), a partnership with Hospice of the Valley was established, and in 2012 Sister Adele’s vision of a respite center came to fruition.

As expected, the event was gorgeous and included the iconic decor of an afternoon tea – our favorite touch being the collection of mismatched teapots, tea cups and saucers that have loving been procured and stored by the “12 disciples” over the last ten years. This year, we added our own special flair to the auction tent – our 360 degree table. Part functionality, part costume (a server is positioned in a center cutout and her costume flows seamlessly into the tablescape), the 360 degree table creates the look that we lovingly refer to as the Barbie in the cake table.” Good sport, Whitney, was adorned in her finest hostess apron while serving handcrafted raspberry pop tarts from Bertha’s Café!

When the last dish was packed up, our aching feet reminded us of the homeless population that have a tender spot in our hearts. But we also felt our own connection to Adele’s story when seven years ago, we dreamed our biggest dream and decided to follow our passion and embark on the creation of Amici Catering (and a team that is like family) in a way that was synonymous to the way we live – ethically, community consciously, and always from the heart.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.


Harriet Tubman

2015 – Our Best Super Bowl Yet!

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When most of us think about the Super Bowl, I think it is fair to say that we usually don’t venture far beyond the revelry, advertising, halftime show, and of course, the game. But this year was dramatically different for everyone on the Amici Team, as our involvement in the festivities extended far beyond our wildest dreams. As many of you know, we were selected as one of the official vendors to cater the Super Bowl, and so naturally, many of our friends, family, customers and fellow colleagues have asked about our experience. Here are a few of the most common questions we have been asked, and a behind the scenes look at an official NFL Super Bowl party:

Were you “discovered,” or did the Super Bowl Genie grant you one of your wishes?
Well, if there was a Super Bowl Genie, it would be called the Arizona Host Committee, the non-profit organization entrusted with the role of liaison between the NFL and local stakeholders in creating a united, seamless, and vibrant event. The Host Committee created a program called Business Connect – where 400+ local Arizona businesses applied and were considered for inclusion in an online database that the NFL, its sponsors and their affiliates use for event referrals. Amici submitted an application for consideration… and voila! We were selected for the database and made the first cut. From there, the NFL’s Los Angeles-based event production company did the planning.

Out of the millions of events in the city, what Super Bowl event did you cater?
Amici was one of 40 local caterers/restaurants to prepare the food and beverage for the NFL VIP Tailgate Party. The NFL hosted the event for their guests which included owners, sponsors, partners and VIP guests. 10,000 people were invited and yes, we were in awe being in the presence of people we usually see in magazines.

From Mexican to Italian and lots of yummy menu choices in between, how did you decide what to present for the tasting, and what did they choose?
Well, the Southwestern theme helped us narrow down the choices, so we presented these ideas:

  • Pork Carnita Slider with Jalapeño, Prickly Pear BBQ Sauce and Dried Cherry Kale Slaw
  • Poblano Bratwurst Corndog with White Cheddar Dipping Sauce
  • Baja Shrimp Cocktail – a flavorful Gazpacho of Mexican Gulf Shrimp, Cucumber, Cilantro and Tomato
  • Vegetarian Black Bean Lettuce Wrap w/Black Beans, Grilled Sweet Potato, Cotija Cheese & Yogurt Salsa Drizzle
  • Churro Donut with Chocolate Chile Glaze Dusted with Cracked Cactus (a candy made from prickly pear juice)
  • And they chose… (drumroll please)… Baja Shrimp Cocktail and Black Bean Lettuce Wrap.

Since the chosen theme was “Flavors of the Southwest,” can you describe the décor of the event? Are we talking saddles and cowboy boots?
The event team envisioned a more modern take on the theme, and less of a western feel, so thankfully, not a saddle or cowboy boot in sight. This was tailgating at an entirely new level.

The event was held in 100,000 square feet of tented space and 120,000 square feet of open space with two separate stages and two well-known performers (we are limited as to how much we may disclose), well-placed seating sections that those of us in Arizona fondly refer to as the “outdoor living room,” and as expected, half a dozen bars situated throughout the venue that were far from your neighborhood sports bar, as these were adorned with ice sculptures! The décor was Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired, and the space was innovative, modern and fresh, using geometric shapes and linear lines, patina-rich raw metals, shades of chartreuse and purple, and various species of cactus.

Were there any glitches or “the house is on fire” moments at the event?
In the catering industry, a glitch is simply a hiccup in your day. In Arizona, a party planner’s worst nightmare – especially when half of the space is uncovered – is RAIN! In this case, thankfully, the rain stopped just in time to lay the wood flooring, which had an interior grass overlay (mimicking a carpet inlay) which further enhanced the outdoor living room effect.

It was entirely clear that this wasn’t the party planner’s first rodeo and that their specialty was large scale, multiple-day events. They had a clear design and vision, and their attention to detail – along with hiring well-qualified professional teams – enabled them to pull off an event that truly spoke well for our State. We love to work with kindred spirits, and for us that means organizations that value thorough planning which promotes an amazing sense of teamwork. When this happens, the results show and the environment remains light and relaxed.

So, they paid careful attention to supporting locally-owned businesses. Were there any other community-conscious initiatives at the event?
Yes, it was refreshing to see an organization pay equal attention to our local environment as well as the economic impact. Thankfully, with the scale of the event and the amount of trash inevitably created, they were aware of this footprint and requested that vendors prepare food items that could be presented in edible containers, as well as utilizing compostable service ware. In addition, arrangements were made for perishable food (that normally would be thrown away) to be recovered through the local charity, Waste Not.