Friday, June 13, 2014

Fun Playing With Food Fit For a Queen, For the Last Time

Last weekend was the 25th, and final, Queen's Croquet. A party that began at my friend's house as a games night, which then got out of hand, the Croquet morphed from that backyard through three hotels over those 25 years. I was fortunate to be in charge of the food for the last 10 annual parties. From a mini kitchen, to no kitchen, to a battered commercial kitchen, my team and I cranked out all kinds of fabulous food to feed crowds from 75-125 people, including no fewer than 4 weddings. I shall miss The Queen's Croquet very much. Our theme for this last event was "At the Movies."

Friday lunch had been sandwiches the last few years. But we were recently gifted with a substantial cache of canned cheese products, and money being tight, Her Majesty requested that I utilize the cheese as much as possible. 

Thus,  lunch for the early arrivers was The Cheesiest.

First up, Beefy-Cheesy Casserole - GFS meatballs, potatoes, cheddar cheese sauce, mild salsa:

And, next:

Cheesy Chicken with Fresh Spinach. Cooked chicken, cheddar cheese sauce, fresh spinach, Corn Flake topping, salt & pepper

The catering commenced in earnest with Friday Dinner: Cloudy, With A Chance of Meatballs.

Three Cheese Spaghetti Pie

GFS Beef Meatballs
I usually make them myself, but couldn't make them for the price GFS was selling them for, so frozen it was.

From Scratch Marinara Sauce

Farfalle with EVOO

EScape from the Maelstrom Pesto: garlic scapes, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, EVOO, Salt & Pepper.
Virginia's property has an overabundance of garlic plants, which yield a lot of scapes this time of year. The Farfalle was described as a place to resto your pesto.

Cheeseburger Soup
The first full meal appearance of the cheese sauce haul was in this delicious soup! Cheeseburgers were, after all, the first food that rained down in the movie.

Silky Spinach Soup

What a tasty way to eat your vegetables!

Salad Bar

Banana Pudding
Dave Reckner, who so kindly donated the cheese sauces, also donated some pudding. Not Jello, but it did just fine!

Cherry Slab Pie
Caren Bachman made not one, but two slab pies. Given our theme, Cherry was necessary (and delicious)!

Blackberry Slab Pie
Not finished yet, Caren donated another sweet treat for the dessert table:

Bund Kuchen with Raisins
I regret that I failed to take any photos of Ernie and Nita Jones dishing up omelets to order for breakfast Saturday morning. Ernie, the Queen's Omeletier, served up AM deliciousness at 8 of the last Croquets, and though he does them for some other events, the Croquet omelets will always have a special place in my heart. Perhaps because they always followed Ernie's fabulous Karaoke by so few hours?

One tradition that began at Mary Lee's house over the long Memorial Day weekends, which continued to the end, was the Grill Out. People would bring their own meat and Mikey would grill day and night! Once we moved to the first hotel in 2001, it became necessary to re-organize a bit.

The Queen's Grillfriend, John Massura, would schlep a Weber all the way from Chicago to join Her Majesty's Weber in some outdoor part of the hotel property (in Dayton or Cincinnati, depending on the year), where Saturday lunch would be prepared. Some years, John even prepared Grilled Chocolate - just because he could!

Saturday Lunch:

Bratwursts, Half Pound Burgers

Hot Mettwurst, Smoked Sausage (Mild Mettwurst)

Plain Grilled Chicken, Honey Teriyaki Chicken

John's Maple Baked Beans 

Though I usually made the beans from dry beans, John wanted to make this recipe (which he got from Caren) for the last Croquet. I could not refuse him, and they were marvelous.

Cole Slaw a la Chef Eric Wells

Chef Eric, now the Executive Chef at Cleveland's Ligali Bistro, taught me this simple and tasty cole slaw dressing that has ruined me for commercial cole slaw products.

No such luck with the potato salad - I just don't have the time to futz with the potatoes, so GFS it is!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Amazingly similar in content to the Cheeseburger Soup from Friday's dinner, this dish was even more popular than it's predecessor. It was so good, I might make it again for another event, even if I wasn't gifted with cheese sauce.


And so we came to my final Croquet meal. Nita would be making pancakes (and I think Ernie took care of the sausage) for breakfast Sunday morning; again, I am kicking myself for not taking any breakfast pictures. But this dinner would be my last cooking project for the Croquet, other than heating and serving leftovers on Sunday for lunch.

Keeping with the overall theme for the weekend, dinner was dedicated to: Chicken Run.

These Chicken Pies (but of course!) were, I do believe, the best entree item Bob and I have ever made for a catered event. The filling was made in advance and frozen in pans, then Bob put together a simple crust that we baked down after the pans were hot.

Braised Chicken Parts
Parts is parts. But this simple dish was killer!

Baked Chicken Eggs with Spinach, Mushrooms & Bacon

The top pan was without bacon, for a vegetarian option. I found the recipe (at Smitten Kitchen), but Virginia made it hers. A very successful dish.

Scott started bringing his chili to the Croquet around the time we started holding it in hotels and donated a big pot of it every year thereafter. This year, it gave relief to those who'd had enough chicken!

Corny Chicken Feed Salad - made by Virginia from Theresa Gregory’s recipe!

More Cheese, Gromit! 5 different kinds of cheesecake, made and donated by Caren Bachman. Plus, there was one more plain one left for lunch on Sunday!

I realized as I prepared this post that I never took a photo of my very last Croquet dish - a pasta salad I created Sunday morning from a pan of leftover Farfalle, EVOO, Balsamic Vinegar, chopped ham and mushrooms originally prepped for omelets, and some broccoli florets intended for the snack table. It accompanied the leftovers we served for our last meal together. Oh well. For more information about The Queen's Croquet, and some non-food photos of the fun, visit here.

I have made many friends over these last thirteen years as I've been learning the art and science of catering. But the two I hold most dear are Virginia and Phil. They first got to know one another at the Queen's Croquet, and were married at a Croquet. I was honored to cater their wedding dinner! And so, this post ends with a couple of non-food photos; I could not have done all the above without their love, support, and most important, HELP!

Here, Virginia is a two-fisted soup stirrer.

And below, Phil busts suds Sunday after our final Leftovers Lunch.

The end.

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