Category: News

Red Table Catering Blog: Holiday Artisanal Foods and Christmas Treats from Brooklyn

Brooklyn Kitchen at the Meat Hook

If you squint your eyes hard enough on a blustery evening, eyes, watering just a bit from the cold and the wind, the traffic lights and taillights of Williamsburg blur into the gaslights and oil lanterns that lit these streets some 130 years ago. Everything softens a bit and it’s easy to imagine horse-drawn carriages and sleds bearing holiday delicacies and stocking stuffers from the neighborhood’s many artisanal food purveyors to rowhouses up and down Grand Street.

Okay, maybe I’ve watched Miracle on 43th Street one dozen too many times (or is it A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?). But Christmas in NYC is truly a special time and place, and because we’re foodies at heart, we love touring the neighborhood for some favorite local Brooklyn foods to give our friends and loved ones. (Sometimes we do taste them first, just to be sure.)

Here are a few of our top picks for artisanal foods in Williamsburg and the surrounding area. They’re made, packaged and sold by truly lovely people we’re honored to call our neighbors and friends.

But stock up quick, because many of these holiday treats will go quickly….

Top Brooklyn Artisanal Food Producers

Campbell Cheese Shop

Campbell Cheese Shop

502 Lorimer St.

Brooklyn, NY 11211

Get directions

This homey little grocery packs a lot into a little storefront: Top-notch groceries and fancy snacks, but most of all the cheese: A large and ever-rotating cast from little dairies in the NE to classic European offerings and some truly fun “Cheese Towers” for parties and special events. The homey and welcoming vibe only sweetens the deal…..


The Meat Hook

The Meat Hook

397 Graham Ave.

Brooklyn, NY 11211

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Another fantastic little shop that started with a laser focus—butchering local meat from small, family-run farms in NY State—and expanding into packaged goods like dynamite sausages and even a little restaurant based inside Threes Brewing. Sweet cream butter and rendered leaf lard as stocking stuffers? You bet your booty.


Fosters Sundry

215 Knickerbocker Ave.

Brooklyn, NY 11237

Get directions

Another fabulous meat / treats / little-bit-of-everything market. Fancy artisanal treats and sustainably raised meats mingle behind the little counter, and if you’re cooking a holiday feast yourself, you’ll find dynamite proteins of nearly every description. Of course, if you’d prefer to sit back and let someone else do the cooking, you know how to reach us….


Interboro Spirits and Ales

942 Grand St.

Brooklyn, NY 11211

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It’s a bit dangerous having Brooklyn’s only craft brewery and distillery just down the street from us. From incredibly flavorful beers of all description to barrel-strength whiskeys, what Interboro dreams up using grain, yeast and water is truly inspiring. Visit the little tasting room and take away cans, growlers and bottles as gifts.


Nick And Sons Bakery

Nick And Sons

205 Leonard St.

Brooklyn, NY 11206

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Another dangerous neighbor to have! Inspired by a trip to Iceland, Nicholas Heavican began a journey deep into the heart of the loaf, so to speak. Look for an inspired list of toasty bread items, seemingly more than the tiny storefront could possibly produce. And follow them on Instagram only if you can resist the temptation to drop everything and hop on the L or G trains for a closer look….


Porto Rico Importing

Porto Rico Importing Co.

636 Grand St.

Brooklyn, NY 11211

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A visit to this narrow and impossibly fragrant coffee merchant is truly a step back in time. With dozens of varieties of imported coffee beans and loose teas to choose from, it’s a safe bet you’ll find something for the beloved caffeine addict in your life. Porto Rico is a classy, old-school kind of joint, and we hope it never changes.

How Do I Arrange Liquor Service at My Catered Party or Special Event?

Bar Services

As we plunge into the holiday party and special event season in New York, clients come to us with all sorts of questions. And given that end-of-year celebrations often involve some sort of alcohol service, one of the most pressing is: How do I legally serve alcohol at my catered New York party or holiday celebration?

Many of us find dealing with alcohol service intimidating, largely because it requires interfacing with the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA). And as we all learned in grade school, when you deal with authority figures, there’s the possibility you’re going to get punished for something.

I understand this fear. But believe me: While serving liquor at a party does demand attention to the legal details, it’s not rocket science. And most importantly: Unless you’re trying to break the law, you’re not going to get punished.

So let’s dive into the thrilling (not thrilling) world of liquor service permitting. By the time we’re done, you’re going to feel like an expert.

New York State Liquor Service Requirements

Pouring shots

Let’s start with a little bit of terminology so you understand the parameters. Most—if not all—of us have interfaced with an establishment possessing a “Liquor License,” such as a restaurant or bar.

However, when you’re planning a special event—whether it be a general holiday, Christmas or hanukkah celebration or party, or any other kind of special event—and you want to serve alcohol, you’ll be requesting a “Temporary Permit.” This is a legal document that allows you to serve alcohol at a commercial property that does not possess its own liquor license.

As a “civilian,” you have two options open to you if you want to serve alcohol. You can apply for a “Temporary Beer, Wine, & Cider Permit,” which allows you to serve these beverages at your event. The permit is good for 24 hours, and the fee (as of November 2018) is $36 per bar at the event.

However, the NYSLA only issues a maximum of four Beer, Wine & Cider Permits per address per year. And it also places strict restrictions as to where the beer and wine can be purchased from.

The second—and from our perspective, far easier—option is to work through a caterer such as ourselves. Here’s how it works.

Make it Easy: Caterers Can Arrange New York Liquor Permits

Perfect Bar setup

When caterers acquire a liquor license, they’re permitted—and in fact required—to handle the permitting process for all of their events that take place on commercial properties. This places the responsibility on them to handle such details as:

-Filing applications with the NYSLA at least 15 days prior to the event date.

-Getting written acknowledgement from the event space landlord or property manager that alcohol will be coming on to their property.

-Filing detailed floor diagrams with the NYSLA listing entrances and exits, restrooms and bar locations.

-Informing the local NYPD Precinct that the event space will have alcohol on the property during the specified date and time.

-Filing a copy of the full menu for the event, and averring that they as the caterer are providing the food so as to meet the minimum requirements under §64‐a of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. (Trust me: You don’t want to read all, or any of §64‐a of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.)

-Acknowledging that our employees or subcontractors will serve as bartenders; this includes adhering to all applicable laws: No serving minors, no serving intoxicated persons, etc.

-Acknowledging that we as caterers are providing all alcohol to be served. If you’ve received alcohol as a charitable donation from a distributor or manufacturer and wish to sell it there’s—you guessed it—another permit required. We can help with that too.

We’re Here to Help: Taking Responsibility for Liability at Special Events

Wedding shots

Of course, these services don’t come for free. Though some caterers run it differently, we fold the cost of permits and licenses into the overall beverage fee for any given contract.

That said, over and above attending to the many details required to obtain a temporary alcohol permit for your event, there’s a single overarching reason we advise clients to work through us and our license: Liability.

Because we—not you—are the license holders, the responsibility for providing a safe and legal event and for being held responsible for any legal liabilities falls on us.

Because we do everything we can to make your event smooth, hassle-free and fun, we feel it’s worth it to transfer this responsibility onto us rather than having it be a worry in the back of your mind on your big day.

We’ve dealt with hundreds of events per year since 2005, and we consider ourselves to be fairly well versed. If you have any questions whatsoever about alcohol service or the permitting process, we’re here to help. You know how to reach us.

How to Hire a Party Rental Company in NYC

Chairs at 501 Union

Party, Wedding and Event Planning in New York City

If you’re reading this, you’re already on the right track towards finding the ideal caterer for your special event. But regardless of whom you hire, even if you’re planning a simple event, you’re going to need all the “stuff” that goes with the food: Tables, chairs, decorative elements and so on.

This can be a confusing part of the process, but it needn’t be. As busy NYC caterers, we help many clients navigate the world of party rentals on a daily basis, and we’re here to make the process easier, not more complicated.

So continuing our series of informational blogs—revisit our “Wedding Tastings,” “Wedding Cakes,” and “NYC Special Event Venues” articles for reference—let’s launch into the world of New York City party rentals.

What Event Rentals Include

Though caterers provide all the food for your event, and typically much more (Red Table is happy to arrange serving and waitstaff, and we also have full NYSLA licensing to serve any and all alcoholic beverages), one thing we don’t provide are the things your guests will actually eat with: Plates, flatware and serving dishes, as well as the tables, chairs, and kitchen equipment.

That can add up to a lot. In addition to the expected—tables, chairs, dishes and flatware—there are all the “unseen” items you might not have anticipated, such as:

    Garbage and recycling receptacles
    Red carpets and velvet ropes
    Serving dishes and utensils
    Permits, if applicable
    Specialized equipment for off-the-grid events: Power generators, climate control, portable stoves and more

So before you consider hiring a party or wedding rental company, sit down with an expert to fully understand the parameters of your event. Are there aspects of the job you may not have been aware of?

That expert could be a dedicated party planner—never a bad idea when the scale of your event starts to feel overwhelming—or it could even be us. While as special event caterers we don’t possess party equipment, we’re well-seasoned—sorry, catering joke—and we’re happy to help guide you through the process.

Contracting with a Wedding Rental Company in New York City

Perfect Table Setting

While there are any number of rental organizations you can contract with, you may not be aware that many of the better rental outfits insist on working either party planners or through caterers such as ourselves.

That works both ways. It means the client can be assured of a smooth, trouble-free interaction, with access to clean, well-maintained and modern equipment. Rather than having to inspect the gear to assess its safety, the only real reason to see it in person is to formalize the style and palette for your event.

And for their part, the rental company knows that their gear—some of which is quite expensive—will be used properly and safely, and handled by a company they trust (in this case, that’s us!).

Needless to say, we work with many Brooklyn and New York City event rental companies. Some of our go-to’s include:

ZNC Solutions:The handmade farmhouse tables are a must!

Party Rental LTD.:Specialty items like hammered copper mugs add an artisanal touch

Broadway Party Rental:A massive selection characterizes this NYC event rental mainstay

If you do decide to take the independent route, tread carefully. How are your interactions with representatives from the rental company? Do you get a sense of competence and professionalism? And needless to say, reading customer review from sites like google.com, weddingwire.com or yelp.com can be extremely helpful in assessing a vendor’s track record.

If you’re ready to get an estimate, be sure that it’s a “hard quote,” meaning there are no hidden costs or surcharges that could pop up later. These could include services you assumed were included, like delivery and late-night pickup. Some party rental suppliers also charge for chair cushions—over and above the actual chair rental—as well as setup and breakdown fees.

Some people obsess over the fees assessed for missing or broken items. Our advice? Don’t sweat it. It’s a party. Things will happen, but true disasters—an entire tray of Champagne flutes crashing to the floor, for instance—are very rare.

Why Party Rentals in NYC?

Some folks want to know why they should rent at all. Couldn’t they just buy the items—typically at Ikea—and then keep or sell them?

That’s not as crazy as it sounds; for not a whole lot more than the price of a rental, you can buy flatware, plates, glasses and more.

But in New York City—where most residents don’t have the luxury of storage spaces or even walk-in closets—it’s a no-brainer. Our advice? Do your research, hire an event planner the minute you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed, and then contract with a qualified event rental company to provide you with everything you need.

Especially if it’s your own wedding or party, the point is to enjoy the day, not spend it worrying that you’ve failed to prepare.

We hope it’s clear by now: We’re always happy to help. We have years of experience connecting clients with rental companies, and we love being a source of information, expertise and perspective. You know how to reach us.

Finding A Special Event Venue in NYC

In a way, our job as Brooklyn caterers is simple. (It’s not, actually, but hear me out.)

We help clients conjure up their dream catered meal, figure out the most effective, expedient—and delicious!—way to transfer that dream to the plate, and then come game day, ensure that every single guest gets the exact same experience on every single plate.

Simple, right?

But the setting is just as important. And time and time again, we find that selecting a venue can be among the most challenging parts of the event-planning cycle.

Why? For starters, there’s sheer numbers: Renting a venue is expensive. People worry they’ll make a mistake in choosing, and be left regretting their decision when the space doesn’t live up to expectations (or when hidden costs get, well, unhidden).

For perspective, we reached out to Jules Miller, founder of The Revelry Cooperative, a boutique event space consultancy. Her advice to those booking an event space?

“Before signing a contract with a venue, make sure you are aware of all the costs associated with the rental, such as staffing, A/V equipment, administrative fees, etc., and what the insurance requirements are to make sure all your vendors are able to meet them. With a raw space, I always recommend clients get quotes from a few different vendors in each category so that they have an idea of what the cost of the entire event will be.”

Another challenge with venues is simply finding them. Given their physical size, venues can be oddly invisible. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at an event and someone’s said “I wish I’d known about this place when I was getting married!” Even in a city as established as New York, event venues pop up all the time, and it often takes a while for them to show up on the radar.

Because we interface with multiple event venues every day, we have a pretty good idea of what’s out there, and we try to present clients with a mix of established and up-and-coming venues to choose from.

So with that in mind, and with the New York City holiday party and special event season fast approaching, we wanted to highlight a few venues you might not know about but are well worth investigating.

Sound River Studios

A capacious open gallery space in Long Island City, Sound River is like a blank palette awaiting your color. That’s not to say it’s bland or uninteresting; the sprawling, 5,500 square foot indoor space features 30-foot ceilings painted in cool white. As photos attest, it’s an invitation to play and have a bit of fun with lighting design (one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to add a splash of drama to the event).

Sound River Studios

Speaking of drama, the venue is directly on the East River, affording a truly unique experience of the city (not to mention a fantastic view). And at the end of the day, that’s what great spaces do: Take us out of the ordinary, and make us feel like we’re in a place we’ve never been before. Even if it’s only for a few hours!

Special bonus: You can arrive by boat, get married on the pier, and have water taxis bring your guests to and fro. Pretty sick!

The Bordone LIC

This space is also located in Long Island City, one of our favorite—and least-known—neighborhoods. It’s home to art galleries and museums, sculpture parks and much more. It’s also a great place from which to step back and admire the incredible living entity called New York City.

The Bordone

For background on the venue, we turned again to Jules Miller of The Revelry Cooperative. She tells us:

““The Bordone was once a one-story warehouse. The owner and his son-in-law decided to build on the property in order to rent the space out to commercial tenants. Fast forward a year, and the owner’s daughter came to check out the progress. When she stepped out onto the third-floor terrace, with the most spectacular, unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline, the vision of turning it into an event venue was born. In my 10+ years in the events industry, I have never seen outdoor space to match The Bordone.”

Similar in size to Sound River Studios, the Bordone offers a slightly different twist on the “outside looking in” New York City event venue experience.

The Green Building

Located in Brooklyn, this historic space was once a brass foundry. These days, it’s a wide-open, brick-walled harkening back to the City’s former incarnation as a center of industry.

Events at the Green Building have a very different flavor than those overlooking the City. While the space is still open and inviting, with a private walled courtyard entered through dramatic glass doors, there’s a feeling of privacy and intimacy here, even with a large crowd (the venue accommodates up to 250 guests for cocktail events or 160 for sit-down meals).

This has the effect of focusing attention inwards a bit. Not better or worse than the open and expansive venues, but just a little taste of what kind of magic different venues bring to events.

The Green Building


More than anything, we hope this gives you food for thought when it comes to selecting a venue for holiday parties, a wedding space, or any special event. Yes, the numbers can get big, but it’s very hard to go wrong when you work with beautiful spaces run by experienced and helpful staff. More just a question of how you want the event to feel for your guests.

And just as importantly, for yourself.

We keep a running list of our favorite special event venues in and around New York City. If you ever need help or support finding an events space for your catered event, drop us a line. You know how to reach us.

Hey Look: We Made a Restaurant!

Thompson Brooke

Well, it finally happened: We opened a restaurant in Williamsburg. It’s called Thompson Brooke.

As you might expect, the last few months have been pretty crazy. Designing a restaurant from scratch is a combination of big-picture questions—is it the right location? what does the neighborhood really want to eat?—to an astounding number of little details. Is this the right shape for the plates? How to best dry the malt vinegar for the fries? Does everyone actually love pickled chilies as much as I do? (Yes. They do.)

Yankee Whaler Potato Boats

But most of all, creating Thompson Brooke—the name refers to my grandpa, by the way, not to me!—has been a trip down memory lane, right back to childhood.  

The first dish I ever created was “Brookie Bread.”  My sisters Liz and Sarah came up with name and it stuck. The key was that it had to be made in the humble toaster oven, because my parents wouldn’t even let me near the gas appliances until I turned 15.  

Brookie Bread was quite a sensation in our household. I began with day-old bagels, toasted with butter and honey till the honey was close to burning and the edges of the bagel were dark and crunchy. Next I made a paste of brown sugar, maple syrup and peanut butter, spread that over the top of the bagel, and toasted that mess again until I saw smoke. Once I saw the smoke I pulled the bagel out and let it cool.

If there was whipped cream, I’d top the smoldering heap with it and then eat it with a glass of milk in front of the TV. If my luck broke just right an episode of Moonlighting would be on.

An aside here: I credit Moonlighting with setting me down the path of a true cineaste. Cybill Shepherd was my first celluloid crush and she led me to The Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich and the “New Hollywood” movement, and from there to Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski, and European cinema.

The sweet Brookie Bread was so damn good I started messing around with the savory foods in the fridge too. Broiled bologna, Steak-umm, cheddar cheese, deeply caramelized (that is, burnt) onions, each layer stacked on top of a dark-toasted, butter-soaked “everything” bagel.  

When the cooking was done and everything melted together I topped the contraption with Cheez Whiz, Ted’s (not Frank’s) red hot sauce, and paprika mayonnaise. I would chase it all down with a 16 ounce Pepsi, ice cold from the glass bottle. (This was when these glass bottles came in eight-packs and each bottle promised a 10-cent return.)  

So, what’s this got to do with Thompson Brooke? Through all the trial and error (as you are probably picking up on, a lot of error), food was always one thing: It was fun. It was a way I learned to express my creativity, fed my family (I’m not saying it was healthy for them), and most of all it was something that brought everyone together.

The Bar at Thompson Brooke

So now, when I’m designing dishes for Red Table Catering or at Thompson Brooke (with the able help of chef Clyde Hagerty or Sam Sherman and many others) my goal is to prepare foods that are refined but are also really fun as well. I try to convey the sense of satisfaction I got when the Brookie Bread was just right, the drink was cold, and Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis were there to sprinkle a little TV magic on me.

Cakes!

Wedding cake with fresh flowers

Wedding Season in NYC Means Wedding Cakes in NYC

As a busy wedding caterer in Brooklyn, we find ourselves researching and preparing a lot of different cuisines. I mean a LOT of different cuisines: In addition to the ingredient-focused, Brooklyn-inspired food we built our reputation on, we’re called upon to deliver meals ranging from classic Italian to Latin American to soul food to Vietnamese to New England clambakes…you get the idea. A lot of different styles of food for which we need to prepare and tool up and then execute perfectly.

But if there’s one thing we’ve learned in years of catering weddings in Brooklyn, corporate events in NYC, giant engagement parties in upstate NY and seemingly everything in-between, it’s this: Everyone—or, nearly everyone—loves cake.

Fresh flowers

Few words are as evocative of celebration as “cake.” It really doesn’t matter who the guests are: Where they’re from, how they identify culturally, how old they are. They want to try that cake.

Frankly, it doesn’t even matter how hungry they are: They’re going to take a piece of the cake. But will they finish it? And it’s here that where things get interesting, at least from the chef’s point of view.

Custom cake toppers

Fancy or Plain? What Makes a Great Cake?

If your childhood was anything like mine, chances are you weren’t chowing down on fancy cake. I’m thinking more supermarket sheet cake, prepackaged jobs with frosting so bright and sweet it hurts your teeth just to think about them.

That frosting had to be painfully sweet and blatantly artificial for a couple of reasons: For one, the cakes were typically not exactly fresh. And for another, the frosting’s job was to hide the fact that underneath it all, the cake itself was really not very good.

Since then, food nostalgia has become its own genre, with chefs replicating aggressively trashy foods like Frito pie and Kraft mac ’n cheese with premium—and premium-priced—ingredients and techniques engineered to taste just like the $1.99 entrees of our youth.
Our approach is a bit different.

Chocolate with custom topper

Our take on cake mirrors our take on food: The ingredients come first, period. If you don’t have great ingredients to start out with, it makes it a lot harder to end up with a killer cake.

And while we have to admit to being pretty darn impressed by some of the architectural cakes out there right now—check out the truly impressive work at NYC wedding cake shops like Cake Alchemy and byPensa—our taste is a bit more straightforward: Give us a carefully made, moist, dense and toothsome crumb, either naked or perhaps with a white frosting, with edible or candied flowers or berries for garnish. It’s clean, elegant, drop-dead delicious and beautifully embellished for presentation.

White flowers

Actually now that you got me thinking about it, my personal favorite of ours is a lemon pound cake with passionfruit filling and a white chocolate or lemon vanilla frosting. But hey, that’s just me. Like all of our cakes, it’s made in-house by chef Jay Reifel, who also happens to be executive chef at Edible History.

Chef Jay Refiel

Wedding Cakes: How to Choose?

I want to point out that wedding cakes aren’t the only ones we make: There are birthday cakes, mitzvah cakes, anniversary cakes, and many others.

But wedding cakes are the ones that tend to get the most attention from clients, and for good reason: They’re kind of a symbol of the entire wedding. That’s just one of the reasons we focus special attention on them, too.

There are a few ways clients select their cake. Sometimes they see a photo or read a description in our gallery and BAM! They just have to have “that cake.”

Other times, we’ll include cake as part of a client’s tasting meal, a topic we’ve written about previously.

And on occasion, we’ll stage a cake-only tasting, though we prefer to include it as part of a meal so you get a better idea of what the entire experience will feel like.

As for pricing: Our wedding cakes start at $1000, and we add $7.50 per person after 100 guests.

We don’t typically manufacture cake toppers, but our ideal cake would be an elegant, three-tier white cake, embellished with bright flowers and a signature cake topper designed by our couple and made by one of our skilled partners.

Any other questions? You know how to reach us. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

Love,

Brooke