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Mary

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Spring is here and I’ve already started with the Easter decorations. I love that Easter is the beginning of spring when the trees start filling up with leaves and buds, and the flowers start blooming. The scent of spring is mesmerizing. No more snow and no more gloom, at least in California. Growing up Easter meant Sunday dinners with Easter Baskets filled with candy, lots of candy. Later in life I started adding in my own traditions like beautiful table scapes and decorations all throughout the house.

Whether you stick to pastel colors when decorating or if you get a little more in to the theme with eggs and bunnies, that is up to you. I prefer to do a little bit of both. I would say my Easter decorations style is whimsical and elegant. 

Here are some of my tips for Easter decorations: 

Favorite Florals:

Tulips are one of my favorite Spring flowers. I remember when I went to Amsterdam and went to visit the Tulip fields. I was so taken aback by all the different colors of Tulips. Did you know they even have black Tulips? Lilacs are beautiful flowers for Easter as well. I place them all around the house. If I set a dinner table outside I like to put 3 arrangements of Tulips down the center of the table. You can also do a myriad of bud vases. Keep it simple but elegant. 

Photo Courtesy of Claus Dalby

Dust Off The Decorations:

While you are doing some spring cleaning, why not dig out the good tableware as well. I like to use my own china that I’ve collected for decades. For spring I like to use my collection of beautifully colored of depression glassware. Always pastel for Easter decorations. I have a collection of cake pedestals that I use for cakes, desserts, and even just to make the table a little more interesting with varying heights for decorations. 

Photo Courtesy of FarmHousePeachCo
Photo Courtesy of Along Came Mary Events

Candy for Everyone:

Like everyone else in America I love Easter baskets and have since I was a child. Usually my baskets were, and still are, filled with chocolate bunnies and candies like Jelly Beans, or dark and milk chocolate eggs wrapped in colorful foil. I also include scotch mellow eggs and little toy treats for the kids. Everyone likes Easter baskets, so for my adult family the same holds true with lots of candy and little treats. My nieces especially love beautiful pastel colored nail polish in their baskets.

I think the biggest treat of the day for kids especially is an Easter egg hunt. Classic colorful plastic eggs filled with treats the kids scream with joy to find as many as possible.

What is your favorite Easter treat?

Happy Easter to all!

-Mary

DON’T GIVE UP

When you think of St. Patrick’s Day you probably think of green beer, shamrocks and leprechauns. For me it was much more traditional and less gimmicky. The usual St. Patrick’s Day recipes like corned beef and Irish Soda bread. In New York St. Patrick’s Day was a huge holiday, not so much in LA. The Irish were as passionate about their traditions as the Italians. You don’t get that sense in LA.

St. Patrick’s Day Memories

My sister is 18 years older than me and she married an Irish man. So while I am 100% Italian, I grew up surrounded by the most wonderful Italian and and Irish family.

As a special treat, there were a few times when we piled into the car and made the trek early in the morning from Long Island to Manhattan to watch the parade on Fifth avenue. That was so fun. What a sight to see.

Sometimes we would start the day with a real Irish breakfast. That meant bacon, sausages, eggs and soda bread. The meats coming from my daddy’s butcher shop. For an Italian girl my sister made the best Irish Soda bread and it was my favorite dish she made on St. Patrick’s day. I’d fill up on the Irish soda bread, lathering it with lots of Irish butter.

The one constant on St. Patrick’s Day at my home with my sister, brother-in-law, and their 3 kids was corned beef, boiled potatoes, and cabbage for dinner. I wasn’t a big fan, but being the great cook that my amazing sister was, I made the best of it. 
 
Even though it’s lent, the rules would be a little relaxed for the day and there would be a few glasses of Irish Whiskey and Guinness shared. 

Cooking Up New Memories with St. Patrick’s Day Recipes

Some of my sister’s traditions I’ve kept, and a little baileys might end up in my coffee, on St. Patrick’s Day. This year, I recommend skipping the green food and trying a few new St. Patrick’s Day recipes at home with your family.

Here are some I’ll be making with my granddaughter Clover:

1. How We Live’s Corned Beef, Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots:

You can’t go wrong with a classic.

2. Kara Lydon’s Irish Soda Bread:

While I don’t love that she uses half the butter with Greek yogurt (the butter is the best part), it is probably for the best. 

3. Bringing It Home’s French Onion Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils & Creamy Cauliflower Potato Mash:

Both the Irish and the British claim to have invented Shepherd’s pie. I like to think the more traditionally Irish meal is lamb-made Shepherd’s pie, and the British version is beef-made cottage pie.. 

-Mary

DON’T GIVE UP

International Women’s Day is Monday, and with it being Women’s History Month as well, it felt like a great time to talk about some of the influential women in history that I’d like to celebrate.

When thinking of influential women of course immediately I think of honoring our first female VP of our great country, Kamala Harris. Eleanor Roosevelt was another great woman in history, who was so much more than just the wife of the president. She was a magnificent influencer. RGB, god rest her soul, is another great one and changed the course of history for the best on so many different levels in the US Supreme Court. She will be missed always. 

As much as my mind goes to politics, this blog is about me and my journey, and what would that journey be without food. So this Women’s History Month I want want to honor the strong women in food who have inspired my life. 

1. Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart was very inspirational and influential in my life at the beginning of my catering business. She actually started her business the same year I started mine. The thing about Martha was that her husband was a publisher, so when she was publishing her first book she had a leg up. From magazines to homeware she has done it all and has really paved the way for a lot of women in this industry. She is a survivor and has really shown women, especially in food, how to reinvent themselves through the ages.

2. Julia Child

You can’t mention women in food without mentioning Julia Child. Julia is an institution in herself. She was one of the first chef’s to have a cooking show on tv and she made cooking fun and fearless. She made a profound effect on how America eats, cooks, and drinks. Growing up in an Italian household I loved watching her cook french food, which seemed so foreign to me. Her over use of butter though, that I could get behind. 

3. Donna Hay

Donna Hay made food that I read about food that I wanted to eat. I remember her articles in Marie Claire and I subscribed to her magazine the year it came out. I looked at her magazines all the time for ideas and inspiration, and I still do. She was at the forefront of food styling and making food look as good as it tasted. I’ve gotten so many ideas from her magazines over the years and I still look back at old copies when I’m feeling stuck. 

Who are some women you admire and are celebrating this month?

-Mary

DON’T GIVE UP

photo courtesy of Along Came Mary

When I was a little girl Mama said that just because my birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day, didn’t mean we couldn’t celebrate both holidays with lots of love. She would celebrate Valentine’s Day and my birthday as two separate holidays back to back. 

The Palm

Years later when I moved to Los Angeles on my actual birthday, February 15th, we celebrate by going to dinner at The Palm in Los Angeles at the West Hollywood location. Now we go to the location in Downtown LA. I loved the West Hollywood location before they moved to Beverly Hills. We frequented both these venues so much that my picture was put on both the West Hollywood and Downtown LA walls. I was very good friends with Gigi the maitre d’ and would never have to wait on any day for my special table by the window. I knew all the waiters at the Palm and went every Sunday for years with my family. We loved being there. It felt like home. It was the kind of restaurant where you always saw people you knew. I miss the West Hollywood location very much and I miss Gigi too. He was amazing. Gigi passed away a few years ago. He was loved by all.

A Memorable Birthday

Every year at the Palm on my birthday we order Lobster and Porter House Steak. Last year my niece Janine had a surprise birthday party for me. She turned her dining room into a replica of the Palm. We fit 25 people into her dining room. I walked into the room and it was so realistic. From the table cloths, to the chairs, to everything. All the photos on the walls were photos of the family. It was amazing. She even hired a chef to cook an authentic Palm Lobster and Porterhouse Steak dinner.
 
It was an unforgettable dinner for a monumental birthday. 

This Year, A Different Birthday Celebration

I’ll be celebrating differently this year. Maybe take out from The Palm, but nothing will compare to last years celebration.

-Mary

DON’T GIVE UP

photo courtesy of Along Came Mary

Having my own catering and events company for decades upon decades we always created our own desserts. I never had to rely on local bakeries. My darling Eddie, our pastry chef, made the most amazing cakes, tartes, miniatures, cookies, pies, our most famous dessert chocolate brownie pudding ten different ways. I could go on and on. His baking was off the charts. It is amazing what our Eddie could do. If you don’t have a pastry chef on speed dial, Los Angeles has some great local options for treats for yourself or that special someone. 
 
With Valentine’s Day this weekend, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite local bakeries so you can grab some Valentine’s Day desserts to make sure you have a sweet February 14th.
 
My favorites bakeries for Valentine’s Day desserts are: 

1. Sweet Lady Jane

Sweet Lady Jane is known for their magnificent wedding cakes, but they do it all. I especially love their delicious Triple Berry Cake. I’ve served it at many occasions and I think it makes a great Valentine’s Day dessert as well.

Photo Courtesy of Along Came Mary

2. Susie Cakes

Susie Cakes has a wonderful assortment of cakes and cupcakes. Some people think cupcakes are on the way out. That is not true. Cupcakes are still high on my list and are always a go to for so many different celebrations. One of my personal favorite cupcakes from Susie Cakes is the Flourless Chocolate Cupcake. For their cakes I really like the Old Fashion 6 Layer Chocolate Cake. It is one of the more decadent of their cakes, which I love love. Let’s not forget the Vanilla Celebration Cake too. I love a reason to celebrate anything!

3. Sprinkles

Sprinkles is the quintessential cupcake shop. Some of my favorite cupcakes are the Red Velvet and the Black and White. They also now make a pupcake. I know Brad Pitt can’t wait to try it. He is our pit bull named Brad Pitt.

4. Eagle Rock Bakery

Who says Valentine’s Day desserts can only be chocolates? Why not try a different assortment of treats? Being a NY Italian girl I couldn’t wait to find a great Italian bakery and I found one in Eagle Rock. Eagle Rock Bakery makes some of my favorite Italian cookies, and my all time favorite dessert, cannoli’s. They have all the basic Italian pastries and cookies that I love! They don’t have a website, because they are old school Italian. You’ll just have to stop by and try them.

-Mary

DON’T GIVE UP

photo courtesy of Zagat

We have a new president and for the first time in a longtime there is hope, but as hopeful as I am, we are still in a pandemic. As we enter Black History Month it weighs heavy on my heart that much of our Black community continues to face injustice and hardships in this country. We have to make moves that push us forward toward positive change and support one another during these unprecedented times. 
 
When I was a flight attendant I frequently flew to number of the Southern cities. It was during those stops and layovers that I fell in love with the “Soul food of the South.” Some of my favorites were Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Shrimp and Grits, Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey, and Mac and Cheese. Can’t forget the best homemade Biscuits with lots of honey butter!
 
I am the proud owner and founder of ALONG CAME MARY Events, which has been operating for some 40+ years. As a caterer myself, I want to support Black-owned restaurants (especially this month) to make sure they stay in LA for generations to follow.
 
My top three favorite Black-owned restaurants are: 

1. Post & Beam

Post & Beam will be 10-years old this year. The restaurant is located in the back of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw plaza. They have great Southern food, and pre pandemic there was always great music too. The restaurant focuses on “California comfort food.” It was featured by Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold on his 101 list. While Restaurateur Brad Johnson and chef-consultant Govind Armstrong have both left, the restaurant has stayed in local hands with the chef, now owner, John Cleveland taking over.

My first visit to Post & Beam was 2 years ago when lots of family stopped in for dinner before going to the Queen concert at the Forum. Boy were we in for a surpise! I haven’t had Buttermilk Fried Chicken that good since my visits to the South. My other favorite dishes were the Angus Beef Short Ribs, Shrimp ‘n’ Grits, and sIow-cooked Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey. I’m so excited to stop back in to Post & Beam now that outdoor dining is back in LA. 

Photo Courtesy of Yelp
Photo Courtesy of Yelp

2. Simply Wholesome Restaurant & Store

Taken by @gr8mnd_ Slauson

Simply Wholesome has been open on Slauson since the early 1980s and continues to offer a safe and welcoming space for the community. The owner originally opened Simply Wholesome, because he was tired of having to leave his neighborhood for a nourishing meal. The low-profile counter service restaurant offers healthy options with a Caribbean spin and caters to both omnivores and vegans. The food and service is great! It is just a perk that they are Black-owned as well. I recommend trying their Jamaican patties. Make sure to ask for extra spicy Vegan dipping sauce.

Photo Courtesy of Yelp

3. Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles

Photo Courtesy of Yelp

Founded by Herb Hudson, a Harlem native, the Hollywood, California-based soul food restaurant chain has been around since 1975. Hudson’s friends in Motown and TV helped spread the word and now people don’t even question the strange combination anymore. Roscoe’s is THE Los Angeles institution. I know I’m supposed to be eating better after all the See’s chocolates and cakes over Christmas, but I can’t say no to Chicken and Waffles. Plus Obama visited the one in Mid-City and he was one of my favorite presidents. He is the first to have his own dish on the menu, the “Obama Special” (3 wings with waffle, potato salad or french fries). 

Let me know some of your favorite Black-owned restaurants and chefs that I should add to my list this month.

Make sure you order directly from these restaurants or wherever you are ordering from this month and always. Try not to order on third party apps like Postmates or Doordash. They take such high percentages from the restaurants. Now that outdoor dining is available, that is also a great option too. If you eat out make sure to follow the rules. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay 6 feet away. Stay safe!

-Mary

DON’T GIVE UP

photo courtesy of ALONG CAME MARY EVENTS

One of the greatest gifts of running a company was that I was able to mentor so many people and to collaborate with thousands of clients and vendors to make each and every event spectacular. For years and years people have asked me for business tips. All I have ever done is to help people and give business tips based on my own life experience of what I have accomplished over the years. With the new year starting it felt like a good time to share with you my top 5 tips for a successful business. 

1. Celebrate

It was no coincidence that I started a wonderfully successful catering and special event production company.

Celebrating was instilled in me at a very young age and was key for me throughout my entire life. Gather your family together; celebrate the holidays, birthdays, Valentine’s day, whatever. Celebrating brings joy to your life. I like to be with people. I like to gather people. It brings me great happiness and I’ve been able to create a successful business and a living from doing so.

2. Think Outside The Box

In starting a new business you have to first have a vision and a dream about what the expectations of that vision will be. Have fun being creative. Don’t limit yourself.

3. Giving Up Is Not An Option

Always know that giving up is not an option. Don’t ever loose site of your dreams and don’t let your comfort zone hold you back. Be productive every day and keep negative people out of your life.  

4. Don’t Start In Debt

Whether you begin small or large, never start your business in debt. Of course you have to come up with the preliminary funds for a business license and hiring people like a lawyer, and a bookkeeper, and any other necessary staff to create a team.

In all of the years I’ve owned Along Came Mary my mantra was to never go into debt. I only bought and hired what I could afford with the money that I had made. I never took out a loan, but that’s not to say that a loan wouldn’t be useful (especially in this time when interest rates are low) and to help give you a jump start. Always keep in mind to budget everything along the way. That is the importance of having good collaborator’s and a good bookkeeper at your disposal.  Always keep an eye on your profit and loss and make changes along the way to not only accommodate your goals, but to keep within a reasonable budget.

5. Give It Time

You may not be successful overnight. Building a business takes some time. Don’t be discouraged. Just keep going, learning, and continue putting all the pieces together. Your business will benefit with this time spent and lessons learned along the way.

My Final Two Cents

Strong leadership, 100 percent commitment, and always remain focused. Be the master of your own success and success will follow.

-Mary

DON’T GIVE UP

photo courtesy of Along Came Mary

Living in Hollywood for over 45 years the entire award season is a time of wonder and glamour. I’m a movie buff. I love the movies. I always have. The thing that turned my business around was when 5 years after I had opened ALONG CAME MARY I was hired  to do the first off site premier in history behind the Mann’s Chinese Theater under an enormous constructed tented pavilion for the premiere of Popeye in 1980. 
 
The Paramount executives were changing the course of premiere history.  Off- site premieres along with red carpets in front of the theater and the media buzz that reached television, newspapers and magazines was so impactful in promoting their movies. This was the beginning. ALONG CAME MARY, the chosen caterer, along with the Disney design team, set the standard for movie premieres for decades to follow. 
 
There are so many award season memories from over the years. To think about the upcoming award shows and know we won’t get to have memories and moments like this is terribly upsetting. These are nights and milestones that need to be celebrated! Everything this year will be much more scaled back and a large portion is going to be done virtually.
 
We’ll make the most of what we’ve got and you can bet we’ll still be celebrating. But it is nice to reminisce about happier times, bigger events, and think about how things will be again.
 
One night I remember so vividly is the Titanic Oscar party that ALONG CAME MARY catered and produced in 1998. When we were hired we had no idea that the movie was going to win an extraordinary amount of awards that night, including best picture, but from the buzz about the film we knew it was going to be a big night.
 
The movie was so spectacular and the acting was superb. It is and was one of those movies you don’t easily forget. It had a young Leo, James Cameron directing, and the stunning Kate. I remember hearing about the Titanic as a kid. It is a story that has stayed with us for centuries. It was a huge movie and the party needed to be memorable as well.
 
Paramount hired us to throw a party that would start before the Oscars ceremony. 400 people would be invited to view the movie and after the Oscars the actors, execs, producers, creatives and other members from the film who were at the Oscars would join on site for the after party.
 
There weren’t a lot of open venues that night that could hold a party that large, a lot of places were booked out, so we rented a parking lot on Canon in Beverly Hills. We set up a tent and it was so beautifully decorated. It was gorgeous. We hung huge period chandeliers throughout and swagged gorgeous fabric. We had flowers, so many flowers. There were orchids, roses, hydrangeas and calla lily’s all beautifully composed.

Lighting is so important when designing the interior of a tent or any venue. In this case it set a beautifully romantic mood.

We had a “big” band that played great music. It made the evening that much more celebratory. The food was thematic. We had caviar on blinis, a huge seafood display, oysters and smoked salmon. There were carving stations throughout the tent and the most beautiful delicious desserts. We created champagne towers and bars serving everything from Bourbon on the rocks to martinis, and so much more.

When they won best picture it became THE after party that everyone wanted to go to. Our guest list went out the window and we had more people coming than we ever could have expected. We had over 400 people in the tent and easily another 1,000 who joined for the after party portion. It was the party of the evening, if not the decade.
 
What a night.  Looking forward to when catering and event production is back and we can celebrate again.
 
-Mary

photo courtesy of @Magnolia_House1

Lot’s of people make New Year’s resolutions. 

I really don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, I just continue to do my life. In 2021, that translates into working hard, being creative, looking forward to when catering and event production is back, starting the third draft of my first book and everything crazy that entails, and keeping on top of my social media. The most important thing for me however, is spending as much time as possible with family, my partner Kimmy, and my close friends during Covid.  

Giving Back

It is important for me to continue giving back to my community, especially in these times when so many people are in need of love, kindness, food to eat, and financial support. I support many non profits in LA and I feel that it is my moral responsiblilty to continue this commitment. I will stay committed to my Democratic party and support Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and President Biden’s agenda for his 4 year term in office. 

Keeping Healthy

Keeping healthy, eating healthy with of course some treats in between, and doing as much as I can to keep my body strong.

I will continue to keep celebrating. Even with COVID I will continue to celebrate safely with small gatherings, amazing food, and a drink or two along the way. I will spend precious time with my 4 year old granddaughter Clover, and teach her things that only a grandmother can teach. 

I’m pouring myself a Christmas Raspberry Vodka Martini, light on the vodka, and toasting you all to a blessed and happy 2021. Recipe below so you can toast with me as well.

-Mary

Christmas Raspberry Vodka Martini 
(Recipe Courtesy of @Magnolia_House1)

Put raspberries and a sprig of rosemary in the cocktail shaker, give it a good bashing.

1 shot of vanilla vodka
2 shots cranberry juice
Half a lemon juiced 
2 tablespoons simple syrup
Loads of ice and give it a good shake

Strain and serve
Add rosemary and raspberries to garnish

photo courtesy of Along Came Mary

When I think of Christmas I can’t help but think of the menu Mama and my older sister Chickie created through the years. 
 
Christmas Eve was all about the Feast of the Seven fishes. After Mama passed my sister carried on the tradition, but with less fish. My favorite was always spaghetti and fresh clam sauce topped with fresh reggiano parmesan and a basket filled with crusty Italian bread.
 
Christmas Day started with a homemade antipasto. It is pretty much the Italian version of charcuterie, but includes so much more than just cheese and meats, like roasted peppers, and anchovies.
 
Turkey with all the trimmings was a given on Christmas Day, but the one dish that was truly loved by all was Mama’s lasagna. She made it with homemade tomato sauce that filled the house with the most delicious scent. Mama added layers of noodles between a mix of ricotta, mozzarella, and reggiano parmesan cheese. In between those layers were small meatballs that were made from scratch from a mix of ground pork, veal, and beef that my daddy would bring home from his butcher shop. I can still taste it. 

Through the years I have tried to duplicate Mama’s lasagna. As hard as I have tried I have never been able to get it quite get it right, but none the less it is delicious and loved by all. 

For dessert Mama would make traditional pies like pumpkin or apple, but we also always had Italian pastries that daddy would pick up at the local Italian bakery. We had all the basic Italian pastries and cookies, and always my favorite, Cannolis. 
 
Let me know some of your favorite food memories in the comments.
 
Wishing you a happy and festive holiday season,
Mary