Under the direction of culinary superstar team Joachim and Christine Splichal, Patina Catering provides a rustic 7½-foot pine table complete with linen and unique serving pieces. “Joachim goes to France and Italy usually at least once a year,” notes Stephanie Edens, Patina's director of catering and special events. “He visits major gift shows and flea markets and finds very distinctive pieces not like the items readily available for purchase or rental here.”
From the lengthy Provençal Table menu, clients pick and choose a variety of dishes. Recipes include Mediterranean vegetables with aioli; fried zucchini flowers stuffed with fresh mozzarella and topped with tomato sauce; roasted red and yellow peppers with whole roasted garlic; and creamy polenta with tomatoes and truffle oil served in a hollowed-out wheel of Parmesan cheese.
Entrees include a seafood salad (steamed clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp) with fennel, lemon and five different olives (lucques, niçoise, cerignola, picholine and kalamata); a tian of layered eggplant, green and yellow summer squash, and Roma tomatoes on a bed of sauteed onions and roasted garlic; poached farm eggs served on baby leeks with frisée and duck prosciutto; dorade with citrus and mint sauce served on a cedar plank; and leg of lamb with miniature fingerling potatoes on roasted herbs. Distinctive accents include a colorful variety of flavored butters — basil, black olive and red pepper — to accompany bowls of meaty olives and loaves of olive fougasse, a regional flatbread.
Desserts include Saint Tropez Torte (a light brioche dough filled with orange cream and covered with a crumb topping); apricot pie with almond cream; roasted peaches with lemon and basil; lemon pie with lemon confit and fresh berries; and blette, a subtly sweet Swiss chard pie with pine nuts.
The impetus behind the Provençal Table was to create a complete package of menu and complementary presentation, Edens notes. The setup is ideal for outdoor events because it is “very simple and understated,” she adds. “Outdoors, the simpler, the better. You don't need heavy sauces or multiple ingredients.”
Since most of the dishes are served at room temperature, the menu is appealing on warm days. “The items are also just a little bit different, in that they are more French Provençal than typical California.” The Provençal Table has been served to groups of up to 225, “but it could be enhanced or broken out into various stations for even larger groups,” Edens notes.
Besides great food, the critical ingredient for outdoor dining during daytime hours is shade, Edens maintains. “It's essential to the comfort of the guests and the quality of the food.” At night, it's “lots of candles,” she says. “Nothing sets the mood better.”
Dining amid nature does have its drawbacks. Most annoying are “Bees and other flying insects — always the biggest challenge at any outdoor event,” Edens says. Tucking fabric softener sheets under table linens helps keep bugs at bay, she notes, as does distracting the pests by placing open cans of cat food around the party perimeter. “You just have to be careful where you place the cans — the guests who see them might not understand their value.”
Patina Catering, 323/960-1762