Spring has finally arrived in southwestern Ontario, and our thoughts are already turning to summer dining. We are blessed to be located in one of Canada’s most bountiful regions, where an abundance of locally-grown fresh… More
Hosting a dinner party is a great way to build relationships and create a circle of friends that will last a life time.
And since December is such a busy month for social occasions, we thought it would be the perfect time to ask Elm Hurst Inn & Spa’s executive chef, Michael Davies, for some tips to help you make your evening a night to remember – minus the stress!
Create a menu, write a grocery list, and make sure you are well organized. Prepare a familiar recipe, perhaps with a new twist. If a dish can be made a day ahead, save yourself some last minute stress. If you’re hosting as a couple, divide the duties beforehand, to avoid any last minute arguments.
Use your best
Why wait to use your best china, cutlery and linens? Seize the moment and enjoy the occasion!
Decorate your table
Fresh flowers or candles make an instant impression. But make sure people can see over them.
Start on empty
Always start the night with an empty dishwasher and bin. It will make clean-up so much easier!
Get yourself ready first
This way you simply have to slip off your apron to greet your guests.
Break the ice with some cocktails
When guests arrive, offer them something special to drink. This will set the tone and get conversation flowing. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss who will be the designated drivers.
Skip the appetizer
Instead of serving a formal appetizer, offer stationed or butlered hors d’oeuvres. This gives you and your guests more time to mingle.
Have a seating plan
To keep things interesting, guests should be seated boy/girl/boy/girl, and couples should not be seated next to one another.
Stick to two courses
A soup or salad followed by a main course is plenty, takes less time in the kitchen (both to prepare and clean up) and will give you more time to sit down and enjoy the meal.
Keep dessert simple
Choose a dessert that can be prepared ahead of time, or that only requires some last minute assembly. Try a delicious scoop of ice cream served with some fresh fruit, or an assortment of pastries from your favourite local bakery.
When Chef Michael Davies first shared his Harvest Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe a few years ago it received rave reviews!
We’ve recently had several requests for a repeat…so here it is again – just in time for Halloween….
Harvest Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 35 large cookies
– 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
– 1 cup white sugar
– 1 cup golden yellow sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (canned will do in a pinch!)
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp. baking soda
– ½ tsp salt
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– ½ tsp ground ginger
– ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
– ¼ tsp ground cloves
– 2 cups milk chocolate chips
– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray or line them with parchment paper.
– Using a mixer, beat butter until smooth. Beat in white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until mixture is light and fluffy.
– Beat in eggs one at a time; add vanilla extract and pumpkin puree gently mix.
– Mix together all dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture slowly until all mixed. Add chocolate chips.
– Scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cookies are browned around the edges.
– Remove cookie sheets from the oven, allow to cool and rest for 2 minutes. Remove from tray with spatula, cool on baking wire racks.
– Cover with your favourite icing [optional]. We used buttercream and grated pumpkin.
These make a delicious after school snack paired with a glass of milk. Or enjoy with a cup of coffee, your favourite tea, or even hot apple cider.
Chef Michael Davies has been the Executive Chef at Elm Hurst Inn & Spa in Ingersoll, Ontario since 1996. His stepson, Chef Trevor Stephens is the Chef de Cuisine at Idlewyld Inn & Spa in London, Ontario.
If you’re planning a wedding, you probably already know that wedding show season is in full swing. And with so many vendors under one roof, attending a bridal show can be a great place to look for new ideas, scout out the latest trends, and meet local wedding professionals. But it can also be a bit overwhelming.
So here are five tips to help you get the most out of the experience:
Do some homework
How many vendors will be in attendance? Some shows are held in large convention halls with hundreds of booths. Others are more exclusive ‘boutique’ affairs.
Most will have a website where vendors are listed. Take some time to check it out to get a sense of the size of the event, and to identify vendors – florists, photographers, deejays, venues – that you don’t want to miss.
Many events also allow you to register in advance, offering ticket discounts and other incentives.
Don’t be shy
After you’ve decided which vendors catch your eye, the best way to see if this is someone you’d really like to work with is to strike up a conversation. Bring a list of questions, but don’t be pushed into making an on-the-spot decision. Most vendors will be happy to set up an appointment at a later date to discuss details in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Bring business cards or labels with your contact information, wedding date, phone number and email address to leave behind. Many vendors offer draws for prizes. You may be the lucky one!
Don’t miss the fashion show
Everyone loves the glamour and excitement of a fashion show, and they are a big part of most bridal events. Check the times to make sure you get a front row seat!
Bring a tote bag
Most vendors have brochures or other information to take home with you. Some even offer swag! Come prepared – your arms will thank you.
Bring a friend
Bridal shows are supposed to be fun, so make it a social event and bring a friend, your mom, or even your fiancée. Give yourself plenty of time to visit each vendor, enjoy the free samples, have some refreshments, and socialize. And don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes!
If you’re planning a wedding in southwestern Ontario, come and meet our Wedding Coordinator and her team at the London Fall Bridal Show (London Convention Centre, September 17 & 18) or the London Bridal Expo (Western Fairgrounds, September 24 & 25).
Our Charcuterie Boards feature delicacies like thinly sliced prosciutto, Bresaola, Capicola, Gorgonzola cheese, mixed grilled Caponata, glazed balsamic Cipollini onions, pickled vegetables, heirloom tomatoes and Kalamata olives, served with artisan mustard and grain harvest bread.
Our Chef Davies explains that the word charcuterie comes from the French terms ‘chair’ (flesh) and ‘cuit’ (cooked). It refers to the art of making preserved, cured, and smoked meats, as well as sausages, terrines, and pâtés – usually from pork – and is one of the classical cooking techniques used to preserve food before the era of refrigeration.
Today, this culinary specialty is enjoying a resurgence as people rediscover traditional methods and local foods.
But you don’t need to have access to a gourmet deli to enjoy your own Charcuterie Board at home. Just follow these simple tips:
Start with a beautiful board
An eye-pleasing presentation will give your spread some extra appeal, so start with a wooden board or formal serving platter, a selection of mini serving bowls or dishes, cheese & pate knifes, and mini forks.
Include a variety of tastes and textures
When it comes to assembling your Charcuterie Board, anything goes!
Most boards include a selection of cured meats like salami, prosciutto, chorizo and sausage. Add some creamy pâtés or a terrine and a selection of your favourite cheeses. This is a great opportunity to try something local!
Pickled vegetables are a wonderful complement to meat and cheese. Go beyond olives and gherkins and try some marinated artichoke hearts, pickled green beans or cocktail onions!
Add something sweet
Yes, you’ll want some mustard on your board, but apricot jam, fig jam or even honey offer a sweet surprise.
You’ll also want to include some fresh and dried fruit and nuts!
Go for gourmet bread & crackers
You can’t go wrong with a fresh, sliced baguette. But this is a great opportunity to try some of the delicious artisan crackers and flat breads available at most grocery stores. Don’t forget to include some gluten-free rice crackers!
Gather your friends…and enjoy alongside your favourite wine, beer or cocktails….
What is your favourite way to entertain in the summer?
If you think people don’t care about your table manners, think again. Whether you’re dining with a potential employer, your boss, or colleagues, dining etiquette counts. How you conduct yourself before, during, and after a meal can reveal a lot about your professionalism and character.
When it comes to business dining, there can be a lot to remember. Which glass is yours? What should you drink? Who picks up the tab?
It can get complicated, especially if you travel to countries with unfamiliar customs. But if you follow these ten basic business etiquette tips you’ll be well on your way to making the right impression at your next business dinner.
Do your homework
Before you arrive, do some homework. Who will be joining you? What business are they in, and what is the company culture?
Then look up the venue. Is it a fine dining restaurant, or a casual pub?
A little bit of background research can go a long way in helping you feel confident, and in making sure you are dressed appropriately for the occasion. When in doubt, it is always better to be overdressed than too casual.
Arrive on time
By on time, we mean try to be a few minutes early. If your host has not yet arrived, wait in the lobby. If you will be paying the bill, this is a great time to let the wait staff know and to give them your credit card.
Greet everyone with a handshake and a smile, and introduce yourself to anyone you don’t already know. Repeating someone’s name in conversation will help you remember it!
Keep the table clear
Do not place your handbag, briefcase, sunglasses or phone on the table. Bags can be placed under your chair, or between your back and the back of your chair. Coats should be hung on a coat hook, or over your chair back. Don’t forget to turn off your cell phone!
Napkin in your lap / Solids to your left / Liquids to your right
Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you are seated.
Then, familiarize yourself with the place setting. If it’s more complicated than the basic fork, knife and spoon remember – the general rule is that utensils are placed in the order of their use. So start on the outside and work your way in.
Your bread is to the left, while your water, wine and coffee cups are on your right.
When in doubt, watch your host!
Drink with discretion
In general, it’s best not to drink alcohol at a business meal. Club soda with lemon is always a good option.
If you do decide to drink, moderation is key. Limit yourself to a glass of wine or one beer, and pace yourself.
Be ready to order
The host usually orders first, and it’s a good idea to follow their lead. Don’t choose the most expensive item on the menu. And don’t ask your server to explain the menu or make substitutions – unless you have a food allergy. You don’t want to come across as difficult or indecisive.
Stay away from trouble
Try to avoid foods that can be messy or difficult to eat. These include finger foods, spaghetti, tacos or hamburgers, dishes with a lot of sauce, or lobster.
Don’t just dig in
Wait for everyone at the table to get their meal before you start eating. Then, take small bites, and don’t talk with your mouth full. Cut your salad into small pieces if needed, break bread / rolls and butter each piece individually, and try to finish at the same time as the rest of your party.
To pay, or not to pay
Usually, the host pays. And while it is always polite to offer to pick up the check, don’t argue or offer to pay the tip.
Thank your host
Don’t forget to thank your host at the end of the meal. You may also want to thank them again later, with an email or handwritten note.
Share your business dining etiquette tips in our comments!
Summer wedding season is almost here, which means many Brides are busy putting the final touches on their upcoming outdoor ceremony.
While blue skies and Mother Nature provide a magical backdrop for any wedding, we asked our Wedding Coordinator, Erin Lister, for some professional advice on how to ensure the day goes smoothly for you and your guests:
Let guests know they’ll be outside
Friends and family will appreciate being able to plan for the occasion with appropriate clothing, sunscreen, hats, and even insect repellent.
The great outdoors doesn’t always have the best acoustics. Rent audio equipment to ensure that your vows will be heard. Don’t forget to ask if your site has access to power!
Banish the bugs
Did you know that some flowers actually attract insects? Your florist should know which blooms won’t be a fragrant invitation for every bug in the area.
Consider an aisle runner
If you want to keep your dress absolutely pristine, consider using an aisle runner.
Know the area
Is there an airport nearby? Or a busy soccer field? You don’t want your ceremony disturbed by surprise interruptions, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Keep them cool
It’s especially important to be on time for an outdoor ceremony, as nobody likes to be kept waiting in the hot summer sun.If your celebration is mid-summer, supply water, fans, and / or sun umbrellas. Get creative and use your fan as a program!
Keep your cool
Summer weddings call for summer wedding gowns. Think light and airy! Your Bridesmaids will also appreciate dresses that are wind and weather appropriate.
Remember that stiletto heels can sink into the grass. And waterproof make-up should be a must.
Have a Plan B
Mother Nature won’t always cooperate with your outdoor wedding dreams. Have a Plan B in place in case of bad weather, and decide in advance who will make the final decision about moving your ceremony indoors. Then relax, and enjoy your day regardless!
Do you have any tips for an outdoor wedding?
With maple syrup season in full swing, we’ve asked Elm Hurst Inn & Spa’s Chef Michael Davies to share his delicious recipe for Cajun Salmon & Sweet Potato ‘Flap Jacks’ – featuring the world-famous Jakemans Maple Syrup.
Their farm is just down the road from the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa, and open all year!
Cajun Salmon & Sweet Potato “Flap Jacks”
With Jakemans Maple syrup, Lime, Bourbon butter
4 5oz salmon fillet, skin removed
4 tbsp Cajun spice
2 oz Chilled unsalted butter, cubed
4 tbsp Jakemans maple syrup
1 Juice of lime
1oz Makers Mark bourbon
1 tbsp Chopped cilantro
Sweet Potato “Flap Jacks”:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp Cinnamon sugar
2 tsp Baking powder
1/2tsp Baking soda
1 cup mashed sweet potato
1 ¼ cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground mace
To Prepare Flap Jacks:
In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients. Make a well, crack egg in centre. Mix well, add buttermilk and sweet potato. Mix batter, (add more buttermilk if too thick). Proceed to cook pancakes on griddle as you would regular pancakes.
To Prepare Salmon:
Sprinkle salmon with Cajun spice on both sides. In cast iron pan, heat a little olive oil and butter until butter turns brown, add salmon to pan and brown on both sides. Remove from pan and finish in 350 degree oven until just cooked. (Should be plump to the touch).
Prepare pancakes at the same time on a griddle while salmon is cooking. Or, pre-make your pancakes and warm them up in the oven.
To Prepare the Sauce:
In the same pan as the salmon, add butter, melt until brown, add Jakemans maple syrup, lime juice, flambé with Makers Mark bourbon, and add chopped cilantro.
Place one pancake in the centre of a plate, set salmon skin-side down on top, and arrange some of your favourite seasonal vegetables on top, finish with the sauce. Enjoy!
How do you like to use Maple Syrup in the kitchen?