Monday, September 28, 2009

Napa Style

By Allison Jackson

Thanks to a referral from my good friend Rickie Niceta at Design Cuisine, I found myself in the very fortunate position of being hired to help plan a Napa wedding weekend for a lovely couple from Dallas, Tracie and J.W. I had not worked in Napa before, but it was a homecoming of sorts for me. I was born in San Francisco, and my grandparents lived in St. Helena for a time. Planning this wedding was such a special opportunity to revisit childhood memories, not to mention see how the area had changed and just how entertaining happens in Napa.

And here is what I learned…Besides the beautiful vistas, immediate access to rare cult wines and unparalleled focus on all things culinary, Napa is serviced by some of the most cutting edge vendors in the industry. By way of example, we hired Paula Le Duc Fine Catering as the caterer. No matter what kind of crazy request I threw at their staff, I couldn’t get a “no, we can’t do that” response.

Can you double decant all bottles of wine? Check.

Can you fashion a cocktail hour in a wine cave, involving absolutely no heating of food? Check.

Can you custom design a five course menu paired with incredibly rare wines you will have no opportunity to taste and then prepare that over-the-top meal in a galley kitchen? Check.

Pretty incredible.

The other thing I loved about working in Napa is that because there is so much natural beauty everywhere you look, the entertaining style is very relaxed. There is tremendous attention to quality and detail, but the overall Napa look is very natural, organic and informal. And someone who gets that is Kathleen Deery. Kathleen Deery is a supremely talented floral designer based in San Francisco. She blew me away from moment one. Kathleen has this ability to size up a client’s taste, assess the venue and on first try absolutely nail a look that is so spot on, it requires no adjustments. Her look for Tracie and J.W.’s wedding was based on a pale pink and ivory color palette, with touches of rich eggplant for originality and sophistication. At long rectangular dinner tables, Kathleen used fragrant free peonies, passion flower and natural grapevine to meet J.W.’s one floral request – that the flowers not conflict with the sensory food and wine experience. The overall effect was at once so intentionally styled and artful, yet so effortless in feel. So Napa.

Below are some of my favorite images from the weekend.

Starting with… Bluegrass and Texas BBQ at Meadowood. And for those of you who don’t know Meadowood, a party there almost always involves croquet on the lawn in dress whites. We just added in colorful cowboy hats for some Texas flavor!

Next up… a wine tasting and make-your-own rustic pizza party at the St. Helena warehouse of wine experts Stefan Blicker and Corey Pierce. Stefan and Corey set up the wine, and Stefan’s wife Joanne set up everything else. It turns out Joanne just happens to work for Knickerbockers Catering, and Knickerbockers just happens to have a state-of-the-art brick oven that turns out rustic pizzas in less than 2 minutes. Why doesn’t every catering company have one of those??

And then onto the wedding…

All guests were transported via limousine caravan from the Villagio in Yountville to Hall Rutherford. Hall Rutherford is an operational winery as well as the private residence of Tracie and J.W.’s friends, Kathryn and Craig Hall. This property is exquisite in every way, and the view is absolutely breathtaking.

The ceremony was held near the residence in front of a gorgeous sculpture and surrounded by Rutherford’s legendary Sacrashe Vineyard and hillside beauty.

After the ceremony, the party got started with cocktails in the wine cave. The cave features an incredible chandelier comprised of 1500 Swarkovski crystals and is meant to represent the intricate root system of a grapevine. Absolutely magical! Guests were then invited for dinner on the terrace, timed just as the sun was setting. The Martini Brothers Band provided Sinatra tunes as guests were treated to the likes of hand cut papardelle with truffle butter and Liberty Farms duck breast with pickled bing cherries. And lucky for us…Perfect Endings – celebrated cake design company to many a Hollywood star – just happens to be located in Napa and was there to provide the wedding cake. You know you are working with a fabulous cake company when a simple white chantilly cake is so exquisite, even a wedding planner can’t stop eating it.

Finally… the night ended with an afterparty set in the winery’s tank room. The sleek, stainless steel tanks worked perfectly as décor for a cool, hip late night lounge. Equally cool and hip DJ Walter Vela of Oye Productions provided the music and kept guests dancing until the wee hours.

All photos courtesy of Jennifer Baciocco. Her photos speak for themselves, and Jennifer couldn’t be a sweeter, more professional and hardworking event photographer. Mille grazie Jennifer!!!

Trend: DC Caterers Go Local

By Jenna Allen

Residents of the Washington metropolitan area are frequently trendsetters in adopting environmentally friendly changes in the way they live. One of the current trends involves the use of locally produced food products.  Currently, the  metropolitan area boasts some of the most innovative farmers’ markets in the country. These days a visit to one of the fifteen plus markets found throughout the region could mean rubbing elbows with the likes of José  Andrés (of Jaleo and Zaytinya fame) or even Michelle Obama, not to mention other capital city celebrities who just can’t resist the allure of local produce. With a surge in excitement about supporting local growers and producers, it has become apparent that sustainability is not just a buzzword. For some, buying from local growers has become the motivation for a completely new outlook on how to think about acquiring and preparing food. 
Locavore groups are helping to generate what is being dubbed the local food movement in this country and in numerous countries throughout the world. Though the accepted definition of a locavore is an individual who seeks out locally produced food, many locavores have put a finer point on this definition and try to consume food that has been produced within a narrow geographical area, such as within a 50, 100, or 150-mile radius. One of the main arguments for becoming a locavore is to promote sustainability. Less need for environmentally deleterious transportation and processing make locally grown goods more attractive. 
This increased interest in locally-produced goods prompted me to ask how the principles of the local food movement are being applied on a larger scale in catering. To find some answers, we contacted two of our favorite catering companies to work with, Alison Fisher at Main Event Caterers and Steve Dunn at Well Dunn Catering.

Pineapple Productions: In the last year, have you seen your clients’ interest in locally-sourced menus increase?

Main Event: Interest has dramatically increased over years past starting in 2008. There is a lot more demand for information on pricing and availability but we are finding that it is not turning into actual purchases. Most clients that end up buying locally sourced products from us are green/environmental companies, environmental lobby groups, animal rights groups, or themed events.  We propose locally sourced options when possible and, as an alternative, we also suggest organic products, which can reduce costs by almost 50%. This has been a more popular choice by our clients.

Well Dunn: There has been a substantial increase in interest concerning locally-sourced and organic menus, in particular with weddings who are looking to “go green.”

PP: Farm-to-table, which some individuals describe as eating food grown within a 100-mile radius, has become a popular term in the culinary world and is often a misleading claim. Many times it is nearly impossible to source within such a small radius chefs are forced to source beyond their “local” farms. How difficult is it to source entirely locally in this region?

ME: It is rather complex. The local farms that can meet our demand stretch well beyond the 100-mile mark, forcing us to recognize a 200- 400-mile radius as local to increase the supply and variety of product and the quantities that we need. To complicate matters the catering equation requires that we have 100% supply of the contracted menu. Mainline distribution guarantees a consistent supply whereas local farms in many circumstances cannot guarantee availability and or exact quantities. Sometimes these restrictions on availability require us to order from several farmers at a time if possible.  Since most of these products are perishable, we work on an average of a 24-hour window of delivery to plate so without reliable quantities we compromise the quality of our events. Restaurants have the flexibility of selling dishes until they run out or even to pull off ingredients from daily menus when faced with variable deliveries. In catering we have a contractual obligation to provide as promised at a specific time and date. Without iron-clad control over the supply chain we leave ourselves vulnerable.

WD: Well Dunn has been sourcing produce locally for almost twenty years as I have had a particular interest in the farming community of Rappahannock County.  Many more items have been available during that time, especially poultry and dairy products and now we are starting to look to local farms for lamb and beef.

PP: Seasonality of certain ingredients is bound to affect the availability.  Is there a certain time of year where it is simply impossible to source a menu that uses all locally-grown (within 100 miles) ingredients?

ME: A 100-mile “locavore” menu can be achieved all year round but is limited so our clients need to be flexible. We could easily do a 50-person event in mid January and create a winter menu of bison, winter greens, beets, oysters etc.  But try to do the same menu for a group of 500 and we run into supply issues.  The larger the event, the more difficult it is to achieve.  For the DC catering industry it is feasible but not practical and potentially not profitable.

WD: Seasonality is a challenge, so we work with farm schedules to try and sell products available at the time of an event.  Today I had a tasting for a wedding in May and I incorporated ingredients such as asparagus and strawberries, letting the client know that local sourcing should be available at the time of the wedding.  I think it actually makes menus more interesting to work within the parameters of the seasons.  I just wrote a menu for a dinner in November using locally grown “sweety pie” squash and serving it with a tiny grilled cheese Panini made with local cows milk cheese

PP: How much of a cost difference is there between a locally sourced menu and a standard menu? Can you plan an affordable menu for a client that uses all locally-grown ingredients?

ME: A locally sourced menu adds an average of 100% to the cost of the menu and can limit the clients’ choices. Size of the event is also a factor, 100 vs 1000. So for example, it would be almost impossible to source fresh tenderloins of 60 heads of cattle at any one given time. Furthermore, the local farmer is currently set up for retail distribution to CSA’s [Community Supported Agriculture], farmers’ markets, and drop zones - not wholesale, so the discounts we receive are minimal or non-existent and are passed on to the client.

WD: Cost is a major difference using local ingredients, but I think many people would rather pay the same price and serve a fricassee of locally raised free range roasted chicken served over a polenta cake made with locally milled corn, than a piece of beef from a cattle lot.

PP: Why do you think the local movement and the increase in self-dubbed locavores have become so popular? Do you think sustainability is the main goal? What do you think are the other reasons contributing to this movement?

ME: Locavore is an outgrowth of the environmental consciousness that has made recent inroads into our society. This momentum has gained popularity because people are much more receptive to health and environmental concerns and understand the added benefits of local and organic farming.

WD: The urban farmers’ markets have brought a huge awareness to people of local farms offering different and delicious foods that can’t be had in major grocery markets. People want to feel connected and nourished by what they eat. So I think sustainability is certainly a concern, but I think there is an emotional component to eating food that you know was sourced locally.

PP: How has your business been affected by the local movement?

ME: We are much more attuned to the growing demand and in turn are developing the channels of distribution by supporting local producers and businesses.

WD: We have been affected primarily by promoting local menus that we feel are different and unique to appeal to a more sophisticated culinary audience.

PP: How has your business made efforts to become more environmentally-friendly?

In addition to an advanced recycling program and the use of solar energy in their offices, Main Event offsets the amount of energy used from Dominion Power by purchasing energy from a wind farm. This energy is funneled to the “grid” and reduces the company’s reliance on non-sustainable energy. The company also purchases carbon offsets to mitigate the effects of fuel emissions from their delivery trucks and from employee cars.

WD: We were among the first caterers to create a complete recycling program both in house and on job sites.  We also have an energy consumption plan that follows the amount of energy consumed (using programmable thermostats and zone energy use) to match our sales goals so we have reduced overall energy consumption as we have increased sales, which is not an easy feat!  We are also installing a $5000 roof top photo solar unit on our sales office so hopefully we will be energy neutral there in the next year! 
As far as food goes, we strive to use local products and have actually worked with one farm with ideas for product development.

PP: What changes to your business do you anticipate in the future as a result of this increasing interest in eating locally-grown ingredients?

ME: We are continually seeking out new producers and supporting their operations by purchasing their products. In some instances we have converted a percentage of our purchasing from mainstream to local, such as in dairy where we have shifted 25% of our purchasing this year (50% more expensive to us). We believe through simple economic demand the markets will shift over time to improve availability, cost and supply of local products. We are excited to take our part in supporting this burgeoning marketplace and shifting away from large agribusiness.

WD: I think all caterers will continue to develop menus using specific local ingredients as eating local foods has become more than passing fashion.  With the popularity of authors like Michael Pollan films such as Food Inc going mainstream I think the appreciation of local foods is becoming part of American culture in the same way it has been in Italy for several centuries.
 There is every reason to believe that caterers in the Washington metropolitan area will continue to adopt new strategies to increase the use of locally produced products and improve their environmental practices generally. One of our other favorite caterers, Occasions, recently held a party which focused primarily on local sources. At the party local flowers from a sustainable farm were used for décor and food was sourced from local farms through the organization Fresh Farm Markets, which recently opened a farmers’ market steps from the White House. In response to the increase in interest of sourcing locally, local food producers are likely to make the availability of their products more predictable and priced more competitively. The final product will be partygoers who know that they are having a good time and, at the same time, know that they are improving the environment.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Eating and Shopping Through England

By Elizabeth Duncan
Having lived in the English countryside for four years as a child, England holds a special place in my heart. This summer, my mother and I decided to escape the D.C. heat and go back to some of our favorite places in England, as well as to visit a few sites inspired by art, literature and film favorites.

We started our trip in Harrogate, a town we lived near in North Yorkshire. Harrogate is most well-known as a spa town, with historic baths dating to the 17th century. To me, though, the number one thing to do in Harrogate is eat at Betty’s Tea Room. I could eat every meal, every day at Betty’s, and I often do because it is one of those places that never changes and never disappoints. My “usual” order consists of Yorkshire Rarebit (toast with lots of melted cheese) with heaping spoonfuls of their AMAZING tomato chutney and a pot of Betty’s Tea Room Blend tea. I am so obsessed with their tomato chutney and tea that I regularly order boxes of them from Betty’s By Post.

Next, we went to Derbyshire to tour the beautiful, historic Chatsworth – the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. I had recently read Amanda Foreman’s biography about one of Chatsworth’s most famous residents, Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, who was the wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, a friend of Marie Antoinette, a fashion trendsetter, a political advocate and an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales. The house and grounds have been featured in several films, including as Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley in the 2005 film production of Pride & Prejudice. I found this herringbone and plaid riding coat at TopShop. Wouldn’t it be perfect for riding through the flowering poppy fields with my own Mr. Darcy?!

We then drove through England’s beautiful countryside on our way to Cornwall and the charming sea-side town of St. Ives. St. Ives has been a draw for artists since the early 1900s because of its endless supply of breathtaking beach scenes and its unique quality of light. I was inspired to buy this nautical striped tunic from another of my favorite British stores, Warehouse. My mother is an artist and I like to dabble, so we spent our days capturing the scenery with brushes and cameras. On our second night, we discovered Alba Restaurant on the main promenade - they have INCREDIBLE fresh, delicious seafood and stunning local artwork.

Our trip came to an end in London, where the shopping, eating and people-watching were at their usual heights. I’m super excited about this lovely fascinator that I found at Miss Selfridge and this perfect little black dress by Ted Baker to bring a little extra something to my event wardrobe. By far the highlight of our time in London was our dinner at Yauatcha, the new Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant from Alan Yau, the talented restaurateur behind Wagamama (which, incidentally, will be opening in my neighborhood in DC in 2010). The dim sum was delightful, the pastries combined unique flavors and looked like pieces of sculpture, the décor was tranquil and contemporary and, seriously, I had one of the best cocktails ever – a citrus martini featuring passion fruit juice. To top it all off, Leonardo DiCaprio was seated two tables away from us!

Back in D.C., things are full swing with a busy fall season. Thankfully, here are just a few ways we can all enjoy a touch of Britain right here in D.C. - throw a tea party for friends or enjoy the high teas offered at the Washington National Cathedral or the Hillwood Estate and Museum; some tasty eats at CommonWealth, a new gastropub in Columbia Heights; see As you Like It at the Sidney Harman Hall.

Photo credits: 1. Betty’s, 2. Betty’s By Post, 3. Flickr-DanLewry, 4. Elizabeth Duncan , 5. TopShop, 6. Elizabeth Duncan, 7. Warehouse, 8. Alba Restaurant, 9. Elizabeth Duncan, 10. Elizabeth Duncan, 11. Ted Baker, 12., 13. Flickr-Boxbuilder, 14. Flickr-Issarocks

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dream Wedding

By Liza Tanner

I have my dream job.  I get to spend my time dreaming up, planning and attending fabulous parties and weddings.  It’s a hard life, but someone’s got to do it!

One event that I would love to plan is a sophisticated, formal, black and white wedding, with a splash of color.  Black and white décor always creates elegant and timeless ambiance.  The addition of one bright color -- in this case watermelon pink -- adds a touch of fun girly romance totally appropriate for an uptown evening wedding. 

I fell in love with the black and white damask pattern featured in these invitations from the Papeterie.  This pattern is so transferable to other aspects of a wedding -- table linens, wedding cake design, graceful throw pillows on an outdoor seating vignette... the possibilities are endless!  Throw in caviar spoons with vodka sips and a society orchestra playing Sinatra tunes under an architectural clear tent.  I would hang vintage chandeliers from the ceiling to add in more sophistication.  The bride would dance the night away in the ultimate watermelon pink Louboutins and send guests off with hand packaged black and white French macaroons before making a getaway with her groom in an antique Bentley.  Perfection!

First Row:
The Invitation: Papeterie
The Cookies: Karen Tran Florals photographed by Darin Fong Photography on Southern Weddings
The Dress: Desiree by Christos
The Cake: Diann Valentine of TNT’s Wedding Day on InStyle Weddings

Second Row:
The Caviar: Martha Stewart Weddings
The Shoes: Christian Louboutin Red Nooka Satin Pumps

Third Row:
The Table Setting: Glenn Certain Studio photographed by Agnes Lopez on Southern Weddings
The Bouquet: photo courtesy of Andrew Reilly Photography for Pineapple Productions

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Welcome to the Pineapple Productions blog, Pineapple Post! Pineapple Productions is a boutique event planning company based in Washington, D.C., that specializes in social celebrations, such as weddings, mitzvahs and corporate parties. We believe that entertaining, whether a relaxed dinner for two or an elaborate wedding for more than 200 guests, should be personal, thoughtful and inspired by what you love. We are surrounded by an abundance of inspiration in our daily lives, from our home life to the city streets, from the places we visit to our childhood memories. Mostly, we are inspired by the people in our lives who encourage us to do what we love and to live passionately every day. We hope that by sharing some of the things that inspire us we can not only share a piece of ourselves, but we can also introduce you to new ideas for hosting your next gathering or event.