Chattanooga Food: Why We Love Food Works

 

Dave and I don’t get out to eat very often. When we do, it’s generally a pretty short list of places we love and are willing to go back to. We’ll try any new place once or twice, seeing as we need to be able to recommend a great place to guests and ensure they have the best gastronomic delights in town while here.

Food Works is one of the places we do recommend to folks — and they cater, and cater VERY well, so we absolutely love it when they are catering at an event at our barn. We decided to have a short chat with Troy and his catering director, Amy, and get the inside scoop on what to consider while planning to have your event catered.


So, we know FoodWorks opened back in 2006. Given the rate of restaurant turnover in Chattanooga, your continued popularity is a statement in itself. What is it that makes you special?
Amy: This April will be my 6th year at Food Works. The majority of staff has worked there for many years. We are a little family. Most of us have watched each other get married, have children, graduate college or mourn the loss of a loved one. I think our guests can feel that sense of family & unity when they dine with us and they feel at home. You can see that Troy has poured his heart & soul into the food & he is proud of the product he is serving and that drives all of our employees to strive to do their best. Our team is why Food Works is special & why we have been a staple in the Chattanooga community for 12 years. Not to mention our food is delicious, we have a great location on the north shore and the building is super cool.
What drew you to food, and ultimately, the restaurant business?
Troy: My first memories of cooking are with my grandmother at their home in Charleston, South Carolina. There is no place I would rather be than on their property surrounded by a banana tree, 2 pecan trees, a pear and fig tree. They had the most incredible garden. My Grandfather was an avid gardener, fisherman, hunter & outdoors man so we grew up eating all the produce my grandfather grew or game he required. My Grandmother has the best friend chicken I’ve ever eaten to this day. I remember being in the kitchen with her helping crack pecans, baking pecan pie and making apple butter. I knew at the age of 12 I wanted to cook & pursue culinary school. I’ve had a variety of jobs from being a chef at fine dining, causal restaurants, 500 person caterings, etc… The restaurant industry suits me. I’m not a person that can sit at a desk 9-5 every day and I like that every day is different. I need to be up, moving and talking to people.

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Have you always offered catering, or did it grow out of a need/ develop in a particular way?
Troy: We did not always offer catering. We saw an opportunity in the market and we decided we had the space in the facility to accommodate production. Having that space and staff already in place allows Food Works to offer competitive catering pricing while still providing a high quality product.
Do you have specific, planned menus for weddings, or can couples select favorite things from your menu?
Amy: We recently streamlined our catering menus to package systems to make it easier for the couple to navigate. We have multiple packages for people with a modest budget to couples who have a larger food budget. Couples can view our new menus on our catering website.
We are currently in the process of developing a brunch, southern comfort and Italian menus. All of our menu packages can be customized & tailored to fit the couple’s desires. If a couple has a favorite menu item or a family recipe we would be happy to work with them. Our chef’s abilities are not limited to only the food items on these menus. We also offered plated meal service if a couple is wanting more formal dining.

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A formal wedding catered by Food Works here last Fall. Photo by Alexis Dimmer

What is one area where it might be safe to cut costs? Conversely, what is one area where a bride and groom should not cut costs around food?
Amy: In my experience the decision of china vs. disposables can weigh heavily on a couple. At the end of the day renting china is usually double or triple the cost of disposables. There are beautiful disposables available on the market that look & feel just like china. In my experience most couples cut food or service costs first. Guests remember food not china. If you are going to cut costs switch to disposables. I would strongly suggest to couples to never try to save money by reducing service staff members for your event. Service is extremely important to me. My goal is to have short bar lines, a full buffet and clean, bused tables at all times. If you have a limited budget you should allocate the budget to food not china.
What is something you wish couples would do more of for weddings?
Troy: I would like to see the men take a more active role in the decision making process when creating the menu. Also I wish couples would allocate more of the budget toward food v.s non-essential items like a cigar rolling booth or fireworks. People make the food budget secondary. We want everyone leaving a reception to have had a positive experience and limiting the food budget can drastically affect that.
Amy: I would like to see couples take a more realistic approach when they are planning their upcoming nuptials. Instead of cutting food and service costs, consider downsizing the guest list. Limiting the guest list can allow for more diverse food choices.
If a couple is unsure of what they should choose for their wedding menu, what are some consistent crowd-pleasers that you would recommend?
Amy: Our signature dishes are shrimp n’ grits, BBQ, crab cakes, chicken picatta and salmon.
Do you offer tastings/samplings of menu items? If so, is there a cost?
Amy: We do offer tastings. The price for a tasting is dependent on the menu items you would like to taste. If you decide to choose Food Works as your caterer the cost of the tasting will be deducted from your final invoice. We do also offer a 10% discount off the food & beverage total if you book both your rehearsal dinner & reception with us. We can host your rehearsal dinner at our restaurant or cater at an outside venue. You can find additional information regarding our room rental policy on our website.
What is the best way to reach you?
Amy Autuori
Phone: 423.752.8129
Email: catering@foodworksrestaurant.com http://www.foodworkscateringchattanooga.com/#!/splash-page

Oakleaf Cottage Wedding Featured in Junebug Weddings!

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We have to tell you about an amazing couple — more than once we have gushed at how incredible it was that they had hiked to the bottom of Cloudland Canyon State Park for those waterfall photos … without breaking a sweat, messing up makeup, or even slightly staining that beautiful dress. They came out looking as fresh and amazing as when they left!

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But what we haven’t said much of is this — when Rachel and Josh first came to see our barn, it looked like this:

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No concrete. No walls. No deck. There may not have even been rocks in the section of driveway out to the barn, meaning they had to walk through some mud.

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They didn’t blink. They trusted us. We never once received a panic message or call.

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Their day was beautiful — the stage of Fall where all the golds are out, and the deep russets and tangerine-like hues are still holding back, letting the filtered sunlight fall golden. They and their family and friends spent the day before and the day of setting up everything they had brought with them. It looked like magic.

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Head over to Junebug Weddings to see more!

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Photography: Amber Phinisee Photography, videography by her husband, Tyler  Dress: Daughters of Simone via The Sentimentalist  Florals: Luella Floral  Furniture: Heirlooms Vintage Rentals

Styled Shoot with our New Farm Tables!

We are soooo excited to say this: we built farm tables for our barn!

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And even more exciting, they are stepping out in style thanks to a photoshoot pulled together by Molly of Molly Nicole Details, flowers by Christy of MayFlowers, and photographed by adventure and elopement photographer Alyssa Smithley.

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Molly brought in chairs from Luma Designs to complement the aged gray tones of our tables, and created the beautiful setting. We adore her — she has such an eye for pulling together the unusual — we are in love with the copper flatware!

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Word among the Chattanooga wedding vendors has it that Christy is one of the BEST florists around — we have a wedding or two coming up with her, and we couldn’t be more excited. Aren’t these florals stunning?

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Want to see more? And maybe more images around our Cottage? Alyssa wrote up a blog post about the shoot and included gobs more beautiful photos than what you see here (this is a teaser, straight up).

Getting married? Contact us about our wedding packages! We are perfect for elopement and destination weddings, our Cottage sleeps 9 guests in style, we include shuttle service to and from our parking area (so our 28 forested acres feel like an exclusive park!), are on hand throughout your planning process and with you the day of — and now we have… TABLES!

More good things coming!

Cris & Dave

A Pear Cocktail for Spring

I think it may be just us, but maybe not. Sometime in late summer, you get your hands on a lot of pears from say, your Aunt Shirley’s farm up in Illinois, and you decide to can them all up in a light syrup, dreaming of them in cobblers and dribbled over pancakes all winter.

Only now it’s Spring. And you still have a number of jars of canned pears in your cabinet. Not enough cobblers and pancakes were consumed over the winter months.

Now, I won’t lie. Dave and I love making cocktails. In fact, we will be enjoying one tonight. A few months ago (because that is how fast we move around here) I thought maybe we should share some of the cocktail recipes we come up with.

There are LOTS of pear cocktails for Fall. But not for folks like us with a few canned pears in the spring. If you don’t have pears you canned yourself, don’t worry. You can use store pears too.

We played with this a few ways, but we decided this was our favorite:

Spring Pear Cocktail Recipe

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Prepare Pear Simple Syrup: for a pint jar of pears in light syrup, I first pureed the contents of the jar and poured the puree into a saucepot. I added 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to the pot, heated it to just boiling while stirring, then pulled it off the heat to cool.

In a shaker, first add 1 teaspoon honey with 1.5 oz of vodka and 1 oz pear simple syrup, to taste. Stir until honey is well mixed.

Fill the shaker half with ice and shake.

Pour into glass, and add 1.5 oz champagne or sparkling wine and 1/2 tsp. lemon

May the warm days of Spring be soon upon you — and may you now, if you have *just a few* canned pears left, have a new way to enjoy them.

Cheers!

Cris & Dave

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Why You Need a Day of Wedding Coordinator

Back in January, Dave and I had an idea that it would be nice to do more of an “introduction” to the vendors on our preferred vendor list so our engaged couples could get a better sense of who these folks are and why they are on our list.

For this initial Wedding Blog post, we’re talking to Jessica, of Jessica Ann Wedding Co.   Jessica is a Day of Wedding Coordinator (DOC) who moved to the Chattanooga area in 2015 and bravely but excitedly stepped out into this new world that is the South.


You started offering DOC services in California, where you used to live. Can you tell us what drew you into the wedding industry?

Let me just first say that you and Dave have done an absolutely beautiful job of transforming this little piece of earth into a place that feels like a kaleidoscope of magic and etherealness.

My husband and I had a four-month engagement and there was nothing I didn’t have planned out to a tee! Then I realized someone had to take my hard work and incredibly detailed timeline and make it happen. I sure couldn’t do it and neither did I want to! And I definitely didn’t want anyone involved in or at our wedding to take on the tedious job. Hiring a DOC was one of the BEST decision I made for our day. I worried about nothing and my day ran beautifully. Ever since then, I’ve found myself drawn into the wedding industry, specifically the role of a DOC. I first hand know how vitally important they are and I love the process.

What exactly does a DOC do?

I guess the real question is, what don’t they do? Haha. The interesting thing is, DOC are not just day of, we are a month-long BFF to our brides!  We coordinate the logistics of your wedding day to make sure that everything that you have spent months planning runs exactly how you envisioned. From the arrival times of the florist, limo pick up and drop offs to packing all your gifts and goodies at the end of the night, the day-of coordinator will have it all taken care of.

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Is a DOC generally for smaller weddings, or are they even more needed for big weddings and working side-by-side with an Event Planner?

A DOC is for any size wedding. I’ve worked weddings with a total of 45 people including the bridal party! The amount of people isn’t really what determines the necessity of a DOC or not, it’s how you want to remember your wedding! The value of having one is invaluable.

Some venues have an “event planner” whose role is to ensure the logistics of items the venue provides are in place. For instance, tables, chairs, benches, and other specialty items they may offer. They don’t necessarily run your day, they run the venue leaving the importance of a DOC even greater!

Being a small venue, we’ve had a lot of potential brides wanting to appoint a friend or relative to be in charge of coordinating details during the day. While I can see this may make sense for a really small wedding of 30 people, at what point do you think a DOC is needed?

I think that’s a really great question! While it seems like a great idea, the fact is that your friend or family member wants to enjoy the wedding just like everyone else. The reality on any wedding day, without a leader, someone who knows the ins-and-outs of your day, has the increased potential to be chaotic and stressful. A DOC has worked with you and beside you and your vendors and knows all the details of your day. They are with you from morning until vendor departure and you don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re enjoying themselves because their job is to ensure you, your family, and guests are!

What is something that relates to your role as a DOC that you wish brides knew?

Details and time. I am very, very detailed. My timeline begins when your feet hit the ground come wedding morning until they’re tucked into your getaway for send off. Nothing is left unknown or untimed. I’m involved with not just you but your vendors. Everyone is on the same page, with the same info, and the same timeline.

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What is a misconception you find brides often have on their wedding day?

A major misconception that happens more often then not is brides and bridal party thinking the photographer is the coordinator. I’ve seen it before as a guest at weddings and it can lead to confusion, frustration, and delays. Be warned, they aren’t and it’s best to have that knowledge before going into your day.

What’s your favorite thing about being a DOC?

My favorite thing about being a DOC is seeing the bride first thing on her wedding day. No dress, no makeup, usually in comfy’s and she’s beyond giddy her big day has finally arrived! She’s not stressed about anything because she knows I’m there. So I’m giddy right along with her, I end up jumping up and down.

What was the most innovative thing you saw at a wedding that really impressed you?

One of the sweetest things I thought to be unique and special was a couple who did a ‘warming of the rings.’ Basically, the couple had their guests pass their wedding bands around during the ceremony asking them to silently give a special blessing or wish for their marriage. It was quite a special moment!

I also had a Jewish/Christian wedding that very much impressed me. Not only were the Jewish wedding traditions very involved and interactive, but the details implemented around them were really beautiful. I’m also proud to say I’ve learned the correct names and pronunciations of four major Jewish wedding traditions!

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you?

I have several ways in which you can reach me!

By email: jessicaann.weddingco@gmail.com

Phone 707.849.4654

Instagram: @jessicaann.weddingco

Facebook: Jessica Ann Day of Wedding Coordinator

You can also check out my website at www.jessicaannwedding.com to see my list of services, weddings I’ve done, and more about who I am!

Our next wedding post will be about our favorite caterers: Foodworks! Photo credit for the above images goes to Austin & Rose Photography

 

 

Shinrin-Yoku – Learning to Take in the Forest

I hadn’t heard of Shinrin-yoku until last winter, when I came across an article explaining the restorative, calming, benefits of the practice. There are full studies on the effects of forest bathing being held in Japan, noting reduced blood pressure, improved mood, increased energy levels, improved sleep, an increased ability to focus and even accelerated recovery from surgery or illness.

Having purchased this property while working in a fairly stressful job, I can attest to how just taking ten minutes to breathe outdoors here, staring up at the tree canopy or sitting on the ground did far more to calm my racing mind than a glass of wine.

The concept of Shinrin Yoku is simple: visit a natural area and walk in a relaxed manner. I would argue, one does not even need to walk — simply choose a spot, and sit still. Oh, and leave your electronic leash (cell phone) in the car.

The science behind it is fascinating, for example, many trees give off organic compounds that support our “natural killer” cells that are part of our immune system’s way of fighting cancer.

Over the last few months, Dave and I have done more digging into elements of the practice of Shinrin-yoku. We have found it’s best if you can take in nature through all five senses, and we have noted that many of us busy Americans need to be coached in what “walking slowly” is. No fitbit. No hiking. No goal except to simply relax.

To that end, Dave and I have decided to host a Shinrin-yoku workshop here at Oakleaf on Oct 22nd. We will practice breathing, take a guided, slow walk through the forest, enjoy site-made tea and refreshments and learn how to fully engage with the beauty of the wild — and meet some like-minded folks interested in the benefits of the forest.

We decided on a Sunday, so you can start your week off right.

It’s better than a hike, I promise. Get tickets here.

Cris (and Dave)

 

 

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Summer’s Last Hurrah Dinner

Confession time: I, Cris, am a tableware hoarder.

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I’ve wanted an excuse to create an “ocean” themed table for ages, ever since I first found this vase some years ago. As time went on, I found more pieces that related to it — flower holders, salt and pepper shakers…

And then it just happens that my family has three birthdays in September. And that one of those persons is usually not in town.

And it also just so happens that Mom and Dad come back from the Bahamas with yummy things like lobster and crab that Dad found while snorkeling. And suddenly a table concept was born. With only a day left before the last day of summer, it was to be Summer’s Last Hurrah — a nod to all the fun and joys of summer, with a menu to match.

Bonus: I had to play with dye to make the linens I needed for an “ocean” theme. Gosh, how terrible.

Friends, I give you Summer’s Last Hurrah.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos of the meal itself. We had crab, rockfish, lobster, roasted vegetables, the best rice pilaf ever…. and then for dessert we had Key Lime pie, blueberry cheesecake and a strawberry cake. It was fabulous.

I was also terrible about taking photos of the crowd — but it’s family and sometimes that feels awkward, no? We had a great time. And, I can say the front porch can easily dine 16.

I had so much fun making the linens I’m not at all opposed to making some for anyone who wants some. I’m still working out specific color abilities with dye, but I’d do my best to get colors you like 😉

Setting tables is a serious passion of mine — I’m so grateful to have Oakleaf, with all its various places to set up to my heart’s content virtually anything I can dream up, and so many family and friends who put up with my madness.

Happy first day of Fall!

Cris.

 

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