Two Decades and Still Inspiring
Sep 08, 2018 12:00AM
● By Brian Saucedo
By Rita Calvert
Executive Chef Brett Cureton, Pastry Chef and Bakery Manager Lila Wrye, and Evie Turner, the Vice President of the Main & Market Catering, Cafe & Bakery, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how their diverse food operation has excelled for the past two decades.
The team decided to share a brilliant recipe from their catering repertoire called the Club Plate.
Chef Cureton, you oversee a huge bustling business with the cafe and catered events. What inspires you to come up with new recipes and special events?
We have come a long way in building this company’s reputation. I am always researching means to develop the most innovative menus and recipes. Clients may give us their vision, and then we brainstorm. It’s always exciting to be challenged, no matter how big or small the event that we are catering may be. We also love to tie in our catering offerings with new items we run as specials in the café. I read every food magazine out there looking for new ideas, which can be adapted to our arsenal of culinary excellence.
Chef Cureton, tell us how it feels being a winner in the Mid-Atlantic James Beard Dessert Competition.
This was one of my greatest accomplishments. I was about two years out of school (Baltimore International Culinary College) when I was reading my ACF magazine (American Culinary Federation) and saw the competition was being held in D.C. I was the pastry chef at what was The Main Ingredient. The owner and I put our heads together and started thinking about dessert ideas. The Chocolate Raspberry Linzer Torte was born. Surrounded by top pastry chefs from all over the country, I found myself new to the scene in D.C., and came away with People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice awards. It made me feel on top of the world, and it gave me the inspiration and a push to continue on as a pastry chef for many years.
Pastry Chef Wrye, how do you beat competition since your pastries are quite famous?
I read a lot, and I’m very curious and inventive by nature. I am constantly scouring recipes, new and old, for ideas.
The finger desserts look delicious and beautiful. Are these desserts always available in the Cafe?
Our finger desserts are not available in the café, but we offer assorted breakfast pastries, cupcakes, and whole cakes or by the slice in our café dessert case daily. Our attention to detail is matched by few. We work very hard every day to make sure our desserts and pastries are beautiful to look at. They are delicious to eat. Finger desserts must be pre-ordered (by the dozen) and be placed through our catering department with advance notice.
As a food stylist, I understand how presentation plays a crucial role in a successful meal and event. Tell us about some of the themes Main & Market comes up with for catered events.
Our clients lead the way when it comes to themes and décor. They give us an overall visual of the event, and we proceed by proposing a menu and then arrange a tasting. We have catered events with themes such as A Dockside, Havana nights, Alice in Wonderland, High Roller Poker, A Clue Party, Great Gatsby, Kentucky Derby, and of course, a Royal Wedding All Day Celebration.”
Can you give us a bit of a primer on “visual eating?” Explain first, how you define that term.
There are many ways to answer that question…a cake can be too beautiful to eat. A cake may look sweeter when it is surrounded by a candy table. When a dish is served to me, I look at the focal point first and begin with what I think is the best bite… perhaps all three components at once to fully experience the taste. That is why grazing on small plates is so attractive to people; you can see and taste an array of different foods. Presentation is key. Food is personal to guests—especially these days when being a foodie is truly a hobby to most.
Evie, how does your passion for catering and attention to detail create the ultimate experience in this area?
There are no clients or events that are the same. This is why I love what I do. Knowledge, trust and experience are necessary to execute an event successfully. I believe when you walk into a party, and the table is set with a variety of savory and sweet foods, guests immediately feel welcome, comforted and elated. Every aspect
of a party should enhance the menu and cocktails should be refilled with ease, colors should pop, and lighting should be soft. Guests do not want to leave, but when they do it is with a smile and maybe a takeaway donut muffin for the next morning.
Please tell us about your Private School Lunch Program.
The Main & Market Private School Lunch Program delivers tasty, homemade bag lunch alternatives to 17 independent schools in five Maryland counties. Since 2010, we have prepared a healthful, nutritionally balanced meal including entrée, vegetable, fruit, and dessert for students at an affordable price point. The lunches are made in our kitchen each morning and our reliable delivery staff brings meals to schools that otherwise do not have a food service in-house.
Wild Mushroom Ragout on Polenta (Pictured below Title)
This is from our club plate selection and is a stellar vegetarian selection.
1 quart vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 cups yellow cornmeal
4 tablespoons butter (optional)
Bring the vegetable stock, heavy cream, thyme, salt and pepper to a boil. Add the cornmeal in a slow steady stream, whisking the whole time to make sure no lumps form. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the polenta thickens and becomes creamy. If desired, stir in the butter once the cooking is complete. Pour into a greased pan, and allow to cool overnight in the refrigerator.
Wild Mushroom Ragout
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
6 cups wild mushrooms
1/2 cup fresh diced tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until translucent. Increase the heat to high and add all the mushrooms. Stir regularly and cook the mushrooms until they are soft and almost all the water has evaporated from the pan. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and lower the heat to medium. Reduce the liquid in the pan until very little remains. When cooking is completed, toss the chopped parsley into the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. This can be made a day ahead, and simply reheated with a bit of red wine.
Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
Sauté garlic and shallots in the oil over high heat until translucent. Add the white wine and cook until it has been reduced by half. Add the heavy cream, lower the heat to medium and reduce that in half. Add the gorgonzola, and season to taste with salt and pepper. As an optional step, you can blend using an immersion blender to create a smooth sauce.
Portion the cooled firm polenta into half-inch thick slices and cut into your desired shape. Place in a preheated griddle pan with a little butter or oil until it is crispy and warmed through. Top with the warm mushroom ragout and a drizzle of the gorgonzola cream sauce. Garnish with fresh greens such as watercress or arugula.