Saturday, September 19, 2009

Beckwith Event - A GRAND SUCCESS!!


The man of the hour - The Reverend and Dr. Micheal Bernard Beckwith! I cannot believe that we did not even get to meet! Running the catering at the event and keeping the people happy took precidence over everything. I can only hope that some day in the future we will cross paths again! What an amazing inspirational teacher!

Part of the platter of samples that Susan and I hand delivered to Dr. Beckwith's "green room." We hope he was pleasantly surprised with our offerings as they were all vegan and mostly raw. Dr. Beckwith and his wife follow a similar diet! On this platter, starting with the small cups with red fluid at "noon" and going clockwise were: zesty gaspacho, pesto pizza, toona boats on celery, baklava and lemon vanilla cream stuffed dates, blackbean garlic salad, walnut herb pate stuffed mushrooms, thai broccoli salad. On the inside of the plate are chocolate dipped strawberries, key lime mousse with vanilla cream and pistachios, chocolate coconut balls and more stuffed dates! We were on a tight restricted budget, so our contact insisted we use those little ugly plastic cups, but, you know what? No one noticed! They were too busy flipping out over the food!

The note we left for Dr. Beckwith in his green room wishing him a wonderful stay in Philadelphia and thanking him for his "light"!

Dr. Beckwith's mostly raw foods in his green room! We hope he was delighted with our additions! His wife, Rickie, oohed and ahhh'd at the platter we created for her and her husband and heartily approved our bringing it upstairs for him to eat after the event!

The VIP Reception in the basement of the Tindley Temple. This room was transformed from blah into fabulous by a team of inspired volunteers of the Common Ground Organization. Just incredible what a little lighting, some trees, christmas lights, gorgeous linens can do to a room. Simply amazing!

Dr. Beckwith led everyone in prayer before digging into the mostly raw hors d'oeuvres!

Our team of volunteers in the kitchen at Tindley Temple! In the back left is Lynn Robinson, a customer at Arnolds Way, Mitzi, Megan from Arnolds Way, the gorgeous 6'5 brother of Susan, Craig Wollman of NYC, a voice over artist and talented musician, my fiance, Cliffy, me, Susan and her hubby, Mark.

Susan and me and Craig! I look so breasty! It must be the bra! They ain't that big!

Beautiful natural Susan and Mitzi. Susan is a former model with Ford and Elite. She is truly one of the most beautiful women i know, inside and outside. She radiates.

My coworker and friend, Megan, otherwise known as "Megabites". Is she not the most adorably cute thing you have ever seen? The guys all FLIP for her. Everyone is in love with her! In the back is Mark, and Lynn Robinson. Lynn once took my class at Arnolds Way, a 6 week 80-10-10-makeover session. She's getting more and more into raw foods and loving it!

Our incredible team creating chocolate covered strawberries. UNREAL!

Uy, where is Meredith Frantz when you need her? Meredith is not only THE most gifted raw chef i know, she is the most gifted and talented raw food photographer, ever, in the whole world. Have you seen the pics on her website???

These photos do NOT do justice to the food. Cliff snapped them on his way out midafternoon before the party. Pesto pizza is up top left, Thai Broccoli below and stuffed mushrooms up top right. We had 3 big bowls of broccoli salad, at least 10 trays of stuffed mushrooms and 10 trays of pesto pizza. 4 pesto pizzas got eaten up in NO time from the buffet table and our volunteers "butlered" the rest on gorgeous gold chargers. Same for the mushrooms.

Two trays of toona boats with tri color hummus in the middle. The spectacularly gorgeous crudite which we shamefully did not get a pic of was still in the fridge which accompanied it.

More scenes of the table before it was complete. There was a lot of food. In fact, there was really the RIGHT amount. Enough to feed everyone at the party, AND our staff of volunteers. We also got to take some home for ourselves, so it worked out PERFECTLY. This perfection is ALL due to Susan's amazing talent for planning. We figured EVERYTHING out before hand. If each strawberry, for example, gets 1 Tbsp of sauce, how much sauce do you need to cover 200 strawberries? 200 Tbsp....or so many cups. I THINK it's 18 Tbsp per cup. Or nearly 10 cups, am i right? I'm not sure, you have to ask her!!!! Every dish was figured in this way! How else do you know how much to make, having little catering experience?

A ghostly vision of me!

The amazing menu! Almost ALL of the credit goes to MARK AMAN, the amazingly talented genius who spearheaded the creation of the final menu presentation, painstakingly creating, editing, designing, printing, mounting and displaying it! You are a genius, Mark!

The wonderful and beautiful and my 'rock', Susan Aman - my catering partner, friend and 'sister' in the raw!

Susan's husband, Mark Aman, an ultra gifted guy in so many ways I'm having great difficulty coming up with adaquate words to describe his many talents!

Big hair and in leopard print, that's me prepping over 100 cabbage leaves for Rainbow Cabbage rolls, a "sushi" looking creation, that yielded 200 vibrantly colorful rolls, that were dipped in a 'to die for' creamy ginger garlic sauce.

It takes a LOTTA Savoy cabbage to get 100 good usable leaves! Red cabbage is too challenging to yield as many leaves as we needed without ripping them, as is plain green cabbage. Savoy is a better choice as it is much easier to 'peel' due to the rippled effect of it's leaves.

Thank GOD we had the kitchen at Tindely Temple to use. Tell me, where do you store the vats of food, produce, cold drinks, completed trays needed to feed 175...unless you have a walk in refrigerator? Tindely graciously allowed us access to their kitchen all week, although we only ended up using it for 2 complete nonstop days. Oh, yeah, how do you brew jasmine tea for all of those thirsty throats unless you have a 5 GALLON pot???

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hello again, ladies!

It's been a few days since i've written....I absolutely did not have one second to write, but you were always in my thoughts! This has probably been the hardest, most challenging, most FUN, exciting and joyous workweek i have ever had in my entire life. Now that it is over, there is a huge sense of relief, and pride. It is so good to connect with you again and update you on the last few days!

I've missed you! Drop me a line to say hello or leave a comment. I so love keeping in touch with you!

This last week was an absolute whirlwind of planning and creation, 16 hour work days daily since Monday, sleeping mostly every night at my catering partner, Susan Aman's house, so that we could maximize our prep and planning time together and get done everything we needed to to make the food for the Micheal Bernard Beckwith event here in Philly (last night, Sept. 18th at the Tindley Temple downtown). We needed to feed 175 people mostly raw vegan hors d'oeuvres, 8 selections, plus 6 desserts, plus two beverages, for a one hour VIP Reception to meet Micheal Beckwith (and mingle with the upper echelon of spiritual notables in Philadelphia). It was an awesome success! There were RAVES about the food all night. The Beckwith people and the Common Ground Organization were blown away by our calm organized kitchen, amazing staff, not to mention the food!

Susan and I have called ourselves "Mostly Raw Catering" as I have been raw for 3 years and Susan is mostly raw and makes some delicious cooked bean dishes. So, between the two of us, everything we create is...'mostly raw'! For last night's event, there were 2 cooked bean dishes: a tri-color cooked garbanzo bean hummus (red pepper, mint parsley and lemon), and a black bean wild rice salad in blackbean garlic dressing, everything else was raw.

As for the planning and prep, Susan and I made all of the pate's, fillings, puddings, and sauces at her house (which is incredibly beautiful by the way, and so well stocked and organized, so it was an absolute joy in which to create together). The rest of the prep was done on site.

Working with Susan, at her home, for the last week.....was an absolute JOY. We read each other's minds, completed each others thoughts, tasted and corrected each others creations.

It was a true collaboration of the best sort. My weaknesses are Susan's strenghs and vice versa. I want to overshop, she's more reserved. I throw things together by taste, she's a stickler for documenting. (Speaking of documenting, Susan created the most elaborate incredible spreadsheet detailing all of our shopping, recipes, shopping needs, equipment needs, comparitive price shopping. UNREAL.) I dig my fingers and hands into food loving to feel the food and get right into it. Susan is so attached to her little red spatula she could practically wear it as a necklace! I like things sweet. She likes them tart. (Allowing her to keep the lime pudding tart was stressful for me, but, i realized, after tasting so much sweet at the sweet table, the tartness was an absolute DELIGHT! And the jasmine orange honey-sweetened tea I made was delightfully refreshing not so sickeningly sweet as i would have desired.) I'm fearful and a worrier, "What if, what if, what if...???" and she's calm and confident, "No problem!" It's a comical, and inspired pairing that just works!

I had so much fun with Susan, laughing, chopping, blending. After cooking, we watched the Food Network together and brainstormed and dreamed about all that we could do together, write books, open a restaurant. I'm so excited for this collaboration and what the future holds for us. We must have handed out at least 40 business cards last night, so here's hoping for more success!

Collaboration is not without it's stresses, but it's worth it. There were a few tears, a few miscomunications, minor friction and disagreements. For the most part, this collaboration feels so good and so natural, like a comfy shoe. Lots of respectful totally honest discussion and processing, lots of hugging and open and honest supportive communication led the way. I'm so grateful to Susan for her immense warmth and openness. We could not have survived the rough patches if it were not for her huge heart, her loving demeanor and her belief that everything would work out wonderfully. We might not see eye to eye about how sweet something should be, but we compromised and worked through it. And the proof is in the pudding, the event and dishes were an amazing success. We could NOT have done this without each other...and i wouldn't have wanted it any other way! Without Susan's keen eye for detail, problem solving and management, her high standards and love of beauty and organization, this event would have never been the success it was. And had it not been for Mark's amazing artistic flair and patient non-stop work to see projects to completion, the food would not have been so GORGEOUSLY displayed, nor the dishes cleaned. His help on this project was indispensible.

Did i mention being fed by Susan and Mark daily and afforded the most comfy sleeping arrangements in her gorgeous and cozy guest bedroom? What wonderful hosts! No needs of mine were overlooked and i felt like i was 'family,' part of their raw family! Susan and Mark are both inspired raw chefs who whipped up the most incredble smoothies daily, made mind blowing salads for lunch and pate's for dinner. Oh, god, i never ate so good. Those were the fun breaks amidst all of the intense labor and prep.

You really don't know how labor intensive raw food is until you attempt to make it to feed nearly 200 people!

When things got overwhelming, a quick call upstairs to Susan's gem of a hubby, Mark (her amazingly artistic, sensible, intuitive, delightful, super funny, kind, supportive, workhorse partner) did the trick. And, when things really got overwhelming, a jingle to Susan's mom and pop, Mr. and Mrs. Wollman, was all that was needed. Mom and Dad were over in a flash to help in whatever way they could. When the task of reeming over 100 citrus fruits and zesting over 50 to make a key lime mousse looked daunting, a call to them was all that it took!

Taking on the assignment of key lime pudding was an exciting thrill, because it's so good and yummy we wanted to share it with everyone, until you realize you have to feed 175! A few avos in the Vitamix for a home version is a cinch, but to feed 175???? The amount of citrus juice and zest we needed was unreal. (Not just for the pudding, but for all of the dishes.) (Citrus is KEY. I purchased 5o lemons and 50 limes from the Restaurant Depot and we used another 50 at least!) The pudding ultimately landed in a huge bucket..., can you imagine??? While Mom and Dad Wollman were juicing, I was prepping over 30 huge avocados. Purchasing them at just the right time took some planning, too. They need to ripen just in time! Some had so many spots to cut and clean out which made my neck ache. To clean all these made the process a long one. Cutting into a pristine avocado was a relief and a joy. With Mark and Mom and Dad Wollman jumping in at a minutes notice, we were able to do in one afternoon what would have taken Susan and I an entire day to complete.

That was just the lime pudding...there were 13 other dishes as equally labor intensive to complete! The 8 entrees included: Zesty Gaspacho, Herb Walnut Stuffed Musrooms, Rainbow Cabbage rolls with Thai dip, Toona Boats, Pesto Pizza, Black Bean salad with garlic dressing, Orange Thai Broccoli salad, veggie crudite with tri color hummus. We brewed jasmine tea and filled 150 glasses with it, no easy task, and filled 120 glasses with Poland Spring water. There were at least 15 more pitchers of tea available. For dessert, we offered: key lime mousse with vanilla cream, chocolate covered strawberries, vanilla lemon cream stuffed dates, baklava inspired stuffed dates (pistachio, walnut, honey, cinnamon) and chocolate coconut balls. Oh, god, rolling each ball...stuffing each date...first slicing and pitting. HOURS and HOURS of prep. I let out a long "whew" just thinking about it. Luckily, we both enjoy that kind of stuff. Backbreaking prep, but still fun.

Sleeping over at the Aman's afforded Susan and me long long days that began at 8am and didn't quit until 11pm or later. (Susan lives about an hour away from me in Chalfont, PA, and I was literally too exhausted to drive home, so a comfy bed 2 steps downstairs was too inviting to pass up!)

Speaking of sleeping, i haven't done much of that in the last few nights. And tonight, i went to sleep after midnight and awoke at 3:30a.m.

So, that's that, folks! It was SO MUCH WORK, but ultimately, a grand success, many people were exposed to raw foods for the first time ever and we received so many compliments and requests for our card. Wish us luck on our next project...whatever that may be!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Needing a break after all of the stress, luckily, i don't have to work until Wednesday. Monday I have a decompression/review powwow with Susan. Today I celebrate finally Rosh HaShannah with my family...and then there's a few days to relax and sleep and wind down.

(I can't believe the opera i sang less than a week ago feels like MONTHS ago - so much has transpired this week, it's been overshadowed.)

Soon i'm on to more musical performances. I have 5 retirement homes gigs coming up in which i sing my show "From Opera To Broadway" with my accompanist, Alex Ramirez. Our show is a musical review of piano and vocal numbers from Gershwin to Puccini to Rodgers and Hammerstein to Lloyd Webber. The people just LOVE it everywhere we've performed it.

The rest of September and October are busy with these concerts, and then hopefully November will calm down. In February, I sing an italian concert at Dock Woods and a new opera by Donizetti in April. "Calgon, take me away!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How did i fare with the food? Well, we did a lot of taste testing, and i awoke every morning bloated from salt, but that was the least of my worries. I probably burned calories from work! And over the last two "push" days, didn't eat much until the end of the day. But, then i overdid it out of sheer exhaustion and starvation. I've gained weight from the salt and from the gourmet, but considering all i've been dealing with, i have totally cut myself a big big break. I'm still doing great and have lost a persons worth in weight. I hope to join a program at soon to help resolve the emotional eating and to start resolving my food issues. I know there is a happy balance for me in the 80-10-10 world AND the gourmet world. I just have to find it!

Last night, i wound down with a plate of leftovers when i wasn't even hungry. Stress relief...and fun. That's bad. Hopefully Carlene can help. Now i have awful reflux layrngitis, froggy groggy throat. Dropping the fat all the way down again can help me get back on track. Since i have a lot of singing coming up, i have to get the reflux laryngitis under control again.

How are you? Keep in touch.

xoxox michelle joy


katie said...

total YUM!

Pat said...

All of the food looks wonderful. I may need another lesson :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, the food looks wonderful and congratulations on the opera. I have missed the absence of the blog, even though you said you would be prepping for the catering event, I still checked every day.

I actually got to see Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes give their talk this week and think I have become somewhat of a raw food internet junkie. I felt like I knew them from their TV show and most people there didn't really know who they were. Too bad I am not an actual raw food eating junkie instead - that would be much more productive but appears to be harder to put into practice.