Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Same Time, Same Place, New Year, By Erin

A new year always brings with it a new set of resolutions. Resolutions to eat healthier, spend less, save more, and dedicate time with family and friends. Personally, I’m already off to a great start in the health genre, having gone one full month without any alcoholic beverages. Call me crazy, but I find that after the gluttonous month of December, I have no choice but to reign in what I take, and so for the past four Januarys, I’ve completely abstained from all the beverages that I love, but don’t always love me, the day after. Big, bold, spicy California reds, and frothy local brews all make way for sparkling water and herbal tea. As hard as it is to join friends in bars or wash down my spaghetti with a glass of lemonade, I am always proud of the effort I’ve made and know it’s a small step toward a healthier lifestyle.

This year, my alcohol fast was more welcome than ever, having spent the holidays in Germany–land of the pretzel and home of the beer! I must have consumed more salt and malt in 10 days than I did in all of 2010, and my body was thirsting for a break when I returned. While abroad, I managed to ingest everything Southern Bavaria had to offer, from spicy hot street sausages tucked into tiny rolls and doused in yellow mustard, to Viennese style Weiner Schnitzel, fried to perfection, topped with a simple lemon wedge. I ate flaky apple strudel, sweet yet tart and warmed to perfection, and drank beer…lots and lots of beer.

What impressed me most about the German people was their sheer devotion to drinking beer. Beer in Germany is a way of life. It’s a religion. A “Bier Haus” is among the most lauded places in Munich, and after spending a few hours in one you can easily see why. But it’s not just the beer that takes center stage in these massive halls, but rather the experience of it all, or stammtisch as they call it. Stammtisch is not easily translated into English, but basically means a “regular’s table” or regular “get together” among friends. It’s basically like having a reservation for life. Once a week, or once a month, that same group of people show up to the same beer hall or restaurant, sit at the exact table and have an experience with one another. For eternity!

This whole stammtisch thing got me thinking. Why not make a commitment to spending more time with loved ones and dedicate a time and place to doing so? This simple act of wining (or “beering”) and dining is surely the stuff a good life is made of. And this is precisely what The Dinner Belle aims to do at each and every event we cater. We pride ourselves on creating an experience where people can eat, drink and be merry among those they love (or their doting customers!), with the hope they will meet again, same time next year, and do it all over. Repeat clients are a point of pride for us; as are the repeat celebrations our Tribe has been known to throw. Kimberly, for example, has an annual stammtisch for her Friends’ Thanksgiving. Nini has started one with her girls-only, Tribal holiday party, and my Man and I have one each and every year when we toast our anniversary at Po.

Photo Courtesy of Christine Tsai

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the Dinner Belle’s returning client business. Four of the six largest events we catered over the 2010 holiday season were for past clients who came back to us again. Once again, we paired up with our favorite lingerie boutique–Journelle–as they launched their 2nd NYC store in Soho, serving high-end canapés and our signature Crème de Violette champagne cocktail to over 150 guests. We teamed up with The Society for the 5th time, catering the launch of their “Underground Living Room Concert Series,” featuring a bevy of comfort-chic canapés, from homemade mac ‘n’ cheese minis served out of Chinese take out boxes, to pogo sticks, short rib sliders, and even truffle popcorn housed in old fashioned red and white striped boxes that were passed out to guests during the performance. We completed two more events with The Municipal Society of New York, one in November where we helped them christen their new offices in the historic Steinway building, and the other just yesterday at the Park Avenue Armory, almost exactly a year since the last Armory event we did for them (hello… Stammtisch!). Oh and let’s not forget one of our most beloved and loyal repeat clients, Topshop. Talk about same time, same place–Kimberly and her team were back at it again, bright and early, serving up breakfast to hundreds of eager Black Friday shoppers the day after Thanksgiving. Later this month, we will also be providing some top secret customized goodies for a Topshop Fashion Week promotional event February 11-13, so be sure to pop by the store to find out how you can win a $500 shopping spree!

Photo Courtesy of Christine Tsai

The Dinner Belle was also excited to welcome two new clients into our family: Forever 21 and KPF Architecture Firm. Nobody does a launch party better than The Belles, so on both occasions we sprang up (bright and early!) to cater a breakfast buffet press junket for Forever 21’s brand new 5th Ave Flagship store, while turning KPF’s freshly-painted designer office space into a winter wonderland serving 300 employees the week before Christmas. This festive menu featured our two signature stations along with one-of-a-kind passed canapés, including: Black and Blue Sliders, Short Rib Cushions, Christmas Crostini, and a duet of Pumpkin-Caramel & Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies paired, in addition to a Moscow Mule signature cocktail, garnished with skewers of candied ginger and cranberries. You can view a slideshow of some of our most scrumptious seasonal creations here, and Eat it Up!

Coming up in these snowy months ahead, The Dinner Belle will continue to serve both private and corporate clients, while my Man and I will be returning to Vermont as many weekends as possible to improve our ski skills and lounge by the fire. We’ve invited Kimberly and Mr. Mixologist to join us in March to see if we can’t turn Belle into a snow bunny once and for all. I have high hopes.

Photo Courtesy of Christine Tsai

In the meantime, The Dinner Belle feels truly lucky to be ringing in our 4th year in business, creating events that bring people together to commemorate a place, in time, each year. Despite these crazy bi-weekly snowstorms we’ve been enduring here in NYC that threaten our style–forcing us to wear layer upon layer of heavy, bulky clothing and Hunter boots–we are thankful for the beauty and simplicity of the snow when it falls. We are thankful to our repeat clients who have kept The Dinner Belle running and challenge us to keep coming up with new and innovative menus and event concepts. We are thankful for the two special men in our lives and to our families. And above all, we are thankful for Mamma Belle’s health and successful surgery; this being the greatest gift of all. Where the future may lead us, we can’t yet say, but we can be sure of one thing: this time next year we’ll still be celebrating life, love, friendship, and of course…food!

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