Love reading about food? Us too!

Here’s where you’ll find helpful articles on topics like wedding venues in NYC, how to interface with the world of catering and weddings, tips on booking wedding tasting dinners, our fave new flavors, and whatever else catches our fancy.

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

New York Wedding Tastings

As caterers here in New York City, one of the things that keeps us busiest is hosting wedding tastings. But for many clients, tastings are actually one of the least understood facets of the wedding-planning process. So we wanted to give you a little taste of the tasting experience.

Chef Jay Refiel

Earlier this month, we prepared a tasting for Dan and Jess, a lovely couple from right here in Brooklyn. The meal was prepared by our very own chef Jay Refiel. When he’s not serving as our pastry chef and kitchen historian, he’s turning out mind-boggling tastes from the past in his role as executive chef at Edible History.

Wedding Catering in Brooklyn

Wedding catering is kind of a unique undertaking. There are elements of restaurant dining —creating unique, one-of-a-kind plates, and then ensuring that every guest receives the same consistent and precise dish—and also banquet service, in which large numbers of people have to be served quickly and efficiently, and the first plate served has to taste (and look) exactly as perfect as the first one did.

We typically host tastings at our Williamsburg location. This is often our first or second in-person meeting with our clients, and it’s where the bones of the wedding reception or gala dinner are set out and agreed upon. We get a sense of the clients’ style and personalities, and that makes it easier for us to suggest specific vendors to complement their vision, as well as provide accurate quotes for rentals items.

Plating NY Strip with Gremolata

Wedding Tasting Meal: The Proof in the Pudding

Just as importantly, tastings are an opportunity for clients to get to know us as well, to ask us as many questions as they like, and—not least—to sample a ton of tasty food. We take careful notes regarding their likes and dislikes, and adjust the final menu accordingly.

One of our greatest challenges in proposing tastings is when we are doing a menu based on the season of the event, not the tasting. So for instance, in Winter the tomatoes won’t be nearly as good as they will in Summer, and off-season items like asparagus may be harder to source as they’re being flown in from the Southern Hemisphere.

Here’s one little tip from the trenches: In our experience, many clients are unclear on the financial arrangements for tastings. That’s why we make our policy consistent and clear: We ask for a $100 flat fee prior to scheduling the tasting; afterwards, if the couple wants us to hold the date, we ask for a deposit of 50% of the projected total.

Concentration

All in the Details: NYC Wedding Venues

Now it’s time to arrange visits to rental outlets—where we’ll find everything from plates and glasses to garbage cans—and tour potential venues. This is a hugely exciting phase of the process, both for the clients and for us! It’s where all the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming wedding really start to sink in, and you realize: It’s really happening!

On that note, stay tuned for future blog posts as we’ll share behind-the-scenes tours of some of our favorite wedding venues in Brooklyn and beyond….

Now I may be biased, but I should mention that a tasting at Red Table may just be one of the greatest meals you’ll ever have. A dozen-odd dishes you requested, in a private dining setting, with your future spouse? Doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

There’s a reason we’re consistently rated among the very best wedding catering in Brooklyn. If you have any questions whatsoever about tastings or the typical wedding meal-planning timeline, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Dan and Jess

Dan and Jess’s Tasting Menu

Passed Apps:

Mango, crab, chili and basil on a spoon
Duck breast and pistachio skewers
Fried chicken biscuit
Pork bao
Truffled mac & cheese tartlets

Salad:

Wedge salad with blue cheese, cherry tomato and bacon lardons (Yesss!!!! Anytime I see lardons on the menu I get excited!)

Pasta:

Housemade gnocchi with sugar snap peas, green beans, meyer lemon and pecorino

Entrees:

NY strip with gremolata (pictured here with Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes)
Chicken tagine with Moroccan spices and lemon pan sauce

NY Strip with gremolata

Sides:

Herb-roasted fingerling potatoes
Roasted baby Brussels sprouts, spicy caramelized apples, thick-cut bacon

Breads:

Skillet cornbread with butter and sea salt
Focaccia, extra-virgin olive oil

Dessert:

Flourless chocolate cake with salted caramel
Vanilla cheesecake with candied plums