December 1, 2004
To ease the burden of preparing an impressive holiday feast, from hors d’oeuvres to dessert, many East Valley families turn to professionals for a little help in the kitchen.
"It makes all the difference in the world because you don’t have to go and do the shopping, and you don’t have to ask your guests to bring anything," says Desiree Coats, who has thrown many successful holiday events, from Thanksgiving dinner to a ladies’ tea, with the help of a professional caterer.
The former vice president of Hancock Communities said her busiest time of the year usually fell between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, when family members from across the country reunited in her Phoenix home for the holidays.
"When I would work the kind of hours I would work and have 25 people come over for a sit-down dinner, there was just no way," Coats says. "When people are coming in from out of town, they don’t want to see you stressed."
Many of her guests traveled from Texas and Seattle, so asking them to bring a dish was out of the question. So Coats turned to Santa Barbara Catering Co. in Tempe for good food and a little peace of mind.
Santa Barbara offers everything from fully catered and staffed parties for families or corporations to home delivery of side dishes that complement your turkey or ham. Before she retired and took on the holiday meals herself, Coats would usually opt for the drop-off service, one of the company’s most popular.
"It’s not like serving catered food," says Coats, who sometimes had the chefs prepare dishes in her own bakeware. "It’s like home cooking, and that’s what you want for the holidays."
This season Santa Barbara’s menu is "All the Fixings" — selections include traditional turkey gravy; panglazed baby carrots with ginger and orange; and herb stuffing with roasted apples, dried cranberries and sage.
"We’re not doing the turkey or ham, because we feel like that’s personal," owner Pat Christofolo says.
"A lot of times (clients) don’t have the expertise to do the food and they also don’t have the time," Christofolo says. "We’ll either go out and staff (an event) as little as having one server to help the hostess so she’s not doing dishes all night, or we’ll staff with a chef, servers and a bartender."
Santa Barbara also offers an hors d’oeuvres menu with items a host or hostess can simply put in the oven as guests arrive. These include baked brie en croute, wrapped in puff pastry with a raspberry chutney sauce, and torte rustica, a creamy blend of chevre and cream layered with sun-dried tomato and basil pesto and served with baguette round, gourmet crackers and dried fruit.
"Some of these things, they just add a little something special," Christofolo says.