Philadelphia Catering Company Now Serving Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee

Cafe Excellence: Coffee with a conscience

Cafe Excellence: Coffee with a conscience

A few years back we took a look at our coffee supplier to make sure we were providing our customers with the best value.  What we found was that our coffee roaster, Cafe Excellence, was a great small local roaster providing some of the best coffee around.

– see blog – https://philadelphiacateringblog.com/2012/07/.

This time around being true to our mission on sustainability we decided to take a look to see if there are more sustainable options we can take advantage of with our coffee service.  Cafe Excellence again does not disappoint.  Also being committed to sustainability Cafe Excellence carries a line of coffee with the  Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.

RAC Seal of approval

RAC Seal of approval

According to the Rain Forest Alliance;

Products bearing the seal originate on, or contain ingredients sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms or forests. These farms and forests are managed according to rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods in order to achieve true, long-term sustainability.”

We serve a lot of coffee.  Last year we served 97,454 cups of coffee and 719,368 cups of coffee since 2004.   Our 15 Year PCC veteran employee, Joe Kidd is responsible for brewing most of it and he is very pleased with the new initiative.  So once again a simple day to day business decision can have far reaching effects to help improve lives, our environment, and our planet.

Our 15 year veteran employee, Joe Kidd in action

Our 15 year veteran employee, Joe Kidd in action

 

PCC Owners Alan and Tim celebrating Joe and his 15 excellent years of service

PCC Owners Alan and Tim celebrating Joe and his 15 excellent years of service

Cafe Excellence is planning on expanding their Rain Forest Alliance Certified offerings and you can buy them online – check them out – http://cafeexcellence.com/rainforest-alliance-coffee/

To learn more about the Rainforest Alliance – http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/about

Bravo Cafe Excellence!

Bravo Cafe Excellence!

Some Brotherly Love in Yosemite

Putting Some Yo! in Yosemite

Putting Some Yo! in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park.  An incredible place to visit, an even more incredible place to live.  Surrounded daily by the awesome beauty of Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls and the list goes on.  Cool people, perfect California weather, authentic cheese steaks (cue sound effect of needle dragging across record)….I mean NO cheese steaks.  What is a former Philly girl to do?  About 10 years ago, my sister Cathy moved to Yosemite Valley to continue her teaching profession and discover her love of nature and climbing.  Living in Yosemite has been a rewarding and rich experience, however it comes at cost.  While you are surrounded with magnificence, you are also in a culinary desert.  That’s a slight exaggeration, but finding a real cheese steak in Yosemite Valley is as about as likely as finding a grizzly bear walking down Market Street.

Nothing compares to those delicious, just right chewy-soft rolls.  Urban legend says the secret is the Philly water used in the recipe that makes them impossible to duplicate.

Nothing compares to these delicious, just right, chewy-soft rolls. Urban legend says the secret is the Philly water used in the recipe that makes them impossible to duplicate anywhere else.

Cathy is a cheese steak aficionado.  A veteran of the grill – spending much time making this classic sandwich for hordes of satisfied customers in our Powelton Pizza days.  Last month I received an email from her asking if it is possible to send all the ingredients necessary for her to have a Philly cheese steak party.  Sure …no problem if you don’t mind shipping costs in the hundreds of dollars!!  She sadly declined.  We decided since her birthday was around the corner and she truly was jonesing for this great sandwich,  Philadelphia Catering Company would help her out and ship a Philly cheese steak feast to the land of grizzly bears.

Thanks to overnight shipping and dry ice, the package arrived safely.

Thanks to overnight shipping and dry ice, the package arrived safely.

The package arrived safely (and still frozen) on her birthday.  She gathered a group of her Yosemite friends and got to work making this Philly feast. As I mentioned, Cathy is a cheese steak making veteran, and like riding a bike, a skill you never forget.

Here's the beef!

Here’s the beef!

You can take a girl out of Philly, but you can never take the Philly out of a girl. Amen.

You can take a girl out of Philly, but you can never take the Philly out of a girl. Amen.

The Philly feast was a success.  Cathy’s friends enjoyed authentic Philly cheese steaks out in the wild west of Yosemite.  It was the talk of the valley. Now I’d say for sure that’s bringing some Philly Yo! into Yosemite.

Philly rule: Never discuss the calorie count of a cheese steak, especially before everyone's about to eat.

Philly rule: Never discuss the calorie count of a cheese steak, especially right before everyone’s about to eat.

Some happy campers!

Some happy campers!

Even kitty Dolomite got a sample.

Even kitty Dolomite got a sample

PCC5000- Third Annual Thanksgiving Event for Needy in Philadelphia

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By:  Julia DeCecco

Senior, Wissahickon High School

Coordinator, 2014 PCC5000 Thanksgiving Event

Julia DeCecco and Elena Pons 2014 Event Coordinators

Julia DeCecco and Elena Pons 2014 Event Coordinators

Thanksgiving: A day of warmth, family, laughter, hues of red and orange, family football games, and full bellies. A day that everyone looks forward to; one where everyone can come together and appreciate what it means to be family, friends, and simply to be alive. Tables are crammed with delicious home cooked food and family from all across the country, and happiness bubbles over the sounds of clinking glasses, forks scraping plates and joyous laughter. This is the Thanksgiving many grew up with: one that you may not think twice about.

As a volunteer with the service project PCC5000, I have been shown the true meaning of Thanksgiving and the importance of giving back. PCC 5000, a project started by Philadelphia Catering to provide 5000 meals to Philadelphia’s neediest, has forever impacted how I view this holiday. Being the third annual year of this Thanksgiving event, I continue to be struck by the abundant need in our city, and the real impact that PCC can have on the community. Partnering with Bridging the Gap Ministries, each year the hot meal that is delivered to these guests does so much more than fill their stomachs, but inspires though motivational speeches – feeding both body and spirit. Our team of tireless volunteers came together and donated their time to prepare, deliver, and serve during this busy time of year.  The event was a success as a result of their efforts, and all who participated realized that we have much to be thankful for.

Returning as volunteer each year I am more inspired by the positive influence this event brings to so many people. Thanks to all of the time and effort put into this event, each year it becomes more significant. PCC 5000 is more than just 5000 meals – it’s reaching out to 5000 people in the most important ways possible, and I am very thankful to be a part of it.

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A special Thanks to Dan Pizza of Juxta Prints for donating the T-Shirts for the volunteers of PCC 5000.  Dan and Juxta Prints provide all the staff shirts and jackets for the Philadelphia Catering Company.  They provide the highest quality printing on apparel at great prices.  When we approached Dan ask for a discount he jumped at the chance and did it for free – we can’t thank him enough.  Please visit his website and consider working with the next time you need custom printed apparel.

Dan Pizza 267.455.0076 – http://www.juxtaprints.com

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Throughout the year we get many calls to help with a multitude of worthy causes. While it is not possible to help in all cases, we do our best to contribute when we can.  This year  we partnered and contributed to the following events.  They are all great causes.  Check them out and help out if you can!

Zero Waste Events – Gaining Traction

Compostable waste ready  to be sent to our composting partner, Organic Diversion

Compostable waste ready to be sent to our composting partner, Organic Diversion

The Philadelphia Catering Company has been doing ‘Zero Waste’ events for two years now.  Despite the excellent environmental benefits, it has at times been a hard sell to clients and a steep learning curve for guests at events.  We have experienced incredible successes and complete failures.  Each time we do this type of event we learn something and try to apply it to our future operating procedures.

What we have learned is that the single greatest factor to driving the success of a zero waste event is good, informative signage.  That being said, even with great signs – inexperienced, uninformed, uninterested guests can diminish the diversion rates at your event.  Only time and a commitment to holding more of these events will change people’s thought process and the disposal of their waste.

Our longtime client, The University of Pennsylvania, is jumping in with both feet by encouraging and supporting event planners to hold zero or reduced waste events whenever possible.  It is strongly encouraged now and expected to be University policy in the not so distant future.  To help the event planners see that holding a zero waste event is not as daunting as it may seem, the University held an informational lunch.  A zero waste lunch, of course, with presentations by sustainability experts from Penn’s Green Campus Partnership and an experienced caterer – The Philadelphia Catering Company.

Zero waste informational event at the University of Pennsylvania

Zero waste informational event at the University of Pennsylvania

Zero waste buffet display

Zero waste buffet display

VerTerra dinnerware is not only fully compostable, but attractive and sturdy

Verterra dinnerware is not only fully compostable, but attractive and sturdy

PCC provided a beautiful, tasty lunch as well as zero waste services

PCC provided a beautiful, tasty lunch as well as zero waste services

PCC provided the lunch and zero waste service as well as some insights on how to conduct a successful zero waste event.  Alan DeCecco, President of PCC, explained that one of the most difficult tasks is getting the guests to put their waste in the correct receptacle – reading the signs.  We guaranteed, that despite all the great signs we provided, someone would place their waste in the wrong receptacle today….but this savvy group proved us wrong.  100% of the waste from this lunch was diverted from the landfill.  Not one item was placed in the wrong receptacle.  So we are moving in the right direction.

The key to success - proper receptacles with good signage

The key to success – proper receptacles with good signage

As time goes on, and zero waste events become more the norm, people will get the message.  Guests truly want to be part of an effort towards sustainability.  We just need to keep doing it.  Since the luncheon at Penn, we have provided 3 additional zero waste events and the demand for our compostable dinnerware is at an all-time high.  Among them, an exceptional zero waste BBQ for Penn Engineering on Shoemaker Green – the greenest of Penn venues.

Barbecue on Shoemaker Green - Penn's open green space

Barbecue on Shoemaker Green – Penn’s open green space

A beautiful day to be green

A beautiful day to be green!

An awesome day – great weather, great food and a successful zero waste event – 99.1% diversion from the landfill!  Of course, it wasn’t perfect at first, especially when one of the very first guests tried to cram their plate in the recycling bin.  We responded by having our on-site attendants talk up all the zero waste points of the event – they listened.  As an added service, we tallied the final weights of compostable, recyclable and landfill waste.  111 lbs compostable waste, 6 lbs recycled waste and a mere 1 lb landfill waste.  By next week all the compostable material will be at a professional composting facility – Organic Diversion – working its way back to a local farm.

PCC tries to make guests aware that everything is compostable

PCC tries to make guests aware that everything is compostable

Good signage reminders guests that materials are compostable

Good signage reminder guests that materials are compostable

 

PCC attendant measuring the weights of waste after event

PCC attendant measuring the weights of waste after event

 

Keeping track of our success – logging compostable, recycling, and landfill waste

From Shoemaker Green – to Organic Diversion – to local farm

Mission accomplished! 

If you are interested in getting more information on eco-friendly options PCC can provide: Zero or reduced waste options, samples of compostable dinner ware, please call our office and ask for Kim, our Sustainability Czar – 215.468.0518

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Introducing PCC’s New ECO-FRIENDLY Box

New PCC boxed lunch made from SFI certified source materials

New PCC boxed lunch made from SFI certified source materials

Earlier this year one of our paper suppliers changed ownership resulting in us having to rethink our boxed lunch.  It would have been easy enough to just have another company print the same box the same way, but we decided that it was time for a change.  Since enacting our green initiatives, we have tried to make business decisions with consideration to the environment and community.  How can we help the environment and benefit the local community with our boxed lunch.  The obvious answer is to buy a box made from eco-friendly, compostable material from a local supplier – easy right??  Not so much.  Finding a local manufacturer for paper products for this particular application – let alone eco-friendly, was not an easy search.   We did not know where to begin.   As our search fell to the backburner and our supply of boxes began to dwindle, the phone rang.  It was the Sustainable Business Network calling to help another local business to promote their new eco-friendly take out containers – are you kidding??  We have been a member of the Sustainable Business Network for a couple of years.  While we have little time to use all their services, we find the information they provide to be useful.  We also want to support and be a part of the local network of environmentally conscious businesses (http://www.sbnphiladelphia.org).  SBN introduced us to Chris Pearson of Union Packaging.

Union Packaging in Yeadon

Union Packaging in Yeadon

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Production line at Union Packaging

Union Packaging is great company (check them out – http://unionpkg.com/). They are a certified minority owned business that is located locally in Yeadon.   They employ a diverse workforce of 100 people and are committed to community involvement as well as sustainable business practices.  Chris came by with a large selection of the sustainable packaging and take-out containers his company offers.  Every shape and size imaginable – except the exact size we needed.  ‘No Problem’,   we will custom make it for you.   Now I am really interested.  Chris got back to us with the exact product we wanted, on SFI certified sourced materials.  SFI -Sustainable Forestry Initiative, is the world’s largest single forest certification standard, covering key values such as protection of biodiversity, species at risk and wildlife habitat; sustainable harvest levels; protection of water quality; and prompt regeneration.  Buying SFI certified products is a good idea, see for yourself – http://www.sfiprogram.org/.

PCC Box with SFI certification

PCC Box with SFI certification

Chris put everything together for us just as the last of our supplies ran out.   Best of all he provided competitive pricing making it a win all around.   The lesson here is – so much can be gained by applying green initiatives to even one small business decision.  We have a great new business partner,  Chris Pearson and Union Packaging – and we are helping the environment by providing a product made from SFI certified source materials.

Chris Pearson of Union Packaging

Chris Pearson of Union Packaging

Venice – The Last Stop on a Splendid Culinary Journey

 

 

1913 or 2013?  -  Timeless Venice

1913 or 2013? – Timeless Venice

Our trip is winding down.  We leave Canazei in Trentino with one last taste of that incredible speck for our breakfast.  Up over the mountain pass, down through the Dolomites, the last row of Alps and onto the plains and finally to the city on the sea – Venice.  It is hard not to be in awe by Venice.  Beautiful bridges, colorful architecture influenced by its long history of extensive trade the Byzantines, Muslims, Romans and the rest civilized world.   An ancient city with more history than we could possibly hope to even scratch the surface of in one short day.  So we decide – why stray too far from our mission  – the culinary exploration of Northeastern Italy.  After our bus (boat) ride into the city, we begin to wander aimlessly, taking in the sights and looking for interesting foods and a restaurant where we can have our last dinner.

Venician Canal

Venician Canal

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Wandering in Venice

Enjoying one last Furlan – please excuse the table cloth shirt

Enjoying one last Furlan – please excuse the table cloth shirt

Coming from an incredible sandwich city like Philadelphia, we sometimes take for granted how good we have it.  Travelling across the US and abroad can really make you appreciate the quality of our breads and meats as well as the great variety.  In fact, my brother and I have a running argument of Philly sandwiches vs. Roman – but that is the subject of another blog.  Venice is also a formidable sandwich city.  I was amazed at the variety of selections you could find all over the city.  Wraps – rolls – breads with anything you could think of on them.  Prosciutto & artichokes, cheese & mushrooms, grilled vegetables, grilled breads, flat breads, long rolls, various spreads  – all attractively displayed in a way that made we want to try each of them.  A difficult decision, but I try a prosciutto and artichoke – it is as good as it looks (I am starting to worry about my Philly vs Rome dispute).

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For dinner we want to try a true Venetian style restaurant.  Being right on the Adriatic, Venice has a bountiful selection of seafood on display around the city.  The decision is tough because there are just so many cool looking places.  We wander down alleyways in search of just the right spot.

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We finally find a small restaurant that looked perfect.  It is a small place in a dimly lit alleyway.  It looks like it could have been there for the last 100 years.  The waiter/owner recommended the menu and the wine.  A very good meal.  The squid entrée with squid ink may have possibly been the least appetizing looking dish I have ever ordered – however the taste told another story.

 

Seafood Mix

Seafood Mix

Sardines with Onions

Sardines with Onions

Pasta Americana – kids menu Italiano!!

Pasta  Amatriciana– kids menu Italiano!!

Squid in squid in sauce with polenta – ewwh

Squid with polenta – ewwh

The meal ended with a classic Venetian dessert of profiteroles, which are chocolate covered crème balls.  After dinner we finished off the evening with a last glass of cold glass of Prosecco for the hot night.  And just like that…our impromptu, last minute, unplanned  trip to Italy came to an end.  A great culinary experience.  A great historical exploration of WWI battlefields of my grandfather.  Also the time spent with my son, brother, niece, and nephew has given us a bond we will talk about for a lifetime.  We were able to delve deep into our culinary heritage and bring home a lot of inspiration to try all these dishes again.  The pursuit of this perfecting these dishes may one day be the motivation to bring us back.

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One final thank you to my brother Angelo for the planning and the passion he put into making this trip a memorable experience.

Austria and the Dolomites

The Dolomites

The Dolomites

It is day 6 of our tour of Northeast Italy, which we have now officially dubbed – ‘Never Eat on an Empty Stomach Tour’.  It is time to move on.  Out of Friuli, through Austria and Alto Adige, to Trentino and some hiking in the Dolomites.  Three incredible days in Timau at Albergo Matiz da Otto will be hard to top.  We leave Italy and enter Austria through the Plocken Pass.  We drive through the beautiful Tyrol Valley in Austria hoping to come across a nice bakery for classic Austrian pastries and hopefully a restaurant that serves Wurst for lunch.  As luck would have it, we found neither.  We stop in Sillian on the Eastern edge of the Tyrol Valley for lunch.  The Italian cuisine over the past six days has been great, but I am actually looking forward to some Austrian-German style cuisine for a change of pace.

Austrian Village Tyrol Valley

Austrian Village Tyrol Valley

Potatoes, Speck, herbs & eggs

Potatoes, Speck, herbs & eggs

Schnitzel with fries & cranberry

Schnitzel with fries & cranberry

Hunters Stew

Hunters Stew

The Gasthof Sillianer Wirt does not disappoint.  The dishes are real Austro-German meat & potato comfort food that we enjoy thoroughly.  Schnitzel & fries, spatzle – pork stew(hunters Stew), and potato, ham & egg combo.  A couple of Steiger beers some apple streudel and we officially & joyfully have overdone another meal on this trip.  Our first order of business will be to find a coffee shop.  We will need triple espressos to keep us alert on the mountain roads ahead.  It is an overcast day and the Dolomites are in the clouds as we cross back into Italy in the Alto Adige.  Despite the caffeine jolt, lunch has been lulling me to sleep even with the treacherous roadways.  It is the 4th week of June and it snowed here last night.  A snowball fight on the pass and we are awake again, and maybe even getting hungry as we descend into Canazei.

Snow covered pass in Dolomites

Snow covered pass in Dolomites

 

Canazei

Canazei

Canazei is a picturesque Italian Alpine village in Trentino in the Val Di Fassa.  In the winter it is a ski resort, and summer a base station for hiking Marmolada – the highest mountain in the Dolomites.  Because of the recent snow, our plans are foiled and we will need to come up with a new plan.   In the meantime, we are in Italy and there are many culinary treasures to discover.  We check into Hotel Soreghina, where the owner recognizes my brother and again we are given the VIP treatment.  With the hiking shut down, the hotel is somewhat empty, we have the place to ourselves.  We enjoy a nice dinner – Risotto Primavera.  A couple rounds of various grappas and we are back on track with a new plan for an alternate hiking route just west of Canazei.  I have done many hikes – but the Italians have it right.  First, no slogging up the base hills around the mountain to get to the good parts.  They take a ski lift or cable car up to the scenic trails – then they hike.

Cable car ride to hiking trails

Cable car ride to hiking trails

Incredible views hiking

Incredible views hiking

Next, along the trails they have Refugios.  A Refugio, meaning refuge in English, is an alpine lodge where you can stop and get a meal or a room for the night.  In fact, you can plan your hike to go from Refugio to Refugio for as far as you like.  The best part is the food at the Refugio’s is incredible – unlike the PB&J’s and ham sandwiches I had at the base camp of the Grand Canyon.  The best meal on the entire trip was at Refugio Vajolet  – 2500 meters in altitude.  The supplies and personnel are trucked up death defying roads and sometimes via helicopter.  I peeked into the kitchen and saw 7-8 chefs working around multiple enormous steaming pots, presumably for the polenta.  I ordered the polenta with wild mushrooms and gorgonzola, a very simple meal. The combination of incredibly fresh ingredients, perfect preparation and a Paul Bunyan sized appetite made this the best meal of the trip. The rest of our entourage agreed – their meals were great.  This is the only way to hike.  The best part is calorically, we burned more than we consumed – win win.

Awesome meal at Refugio Vajolet

Awesome meal at Refugio Vajolet

AJ had fresh taglietelle with meat ragout

AJ had fresh taglietelle with meat ragout

Incredible meal at 2500 Meters

Incredible meal at 2500 Meters

Two foods I discovered in Trentino are Speck and Grana Trentino.  Speck is similar to prosciutto – however it is lightly smoked.  It is used in many of the local dishes – with pastas, sauces, sautéed with vegetables.  We mainly ate it with the breakfast served at the hotel, sliced thinly– we couldn’t get enough.  We also stopped at a place where they made Grana Trentino.  Every region of Italy has its own aged cheese they use for grating – mainly Parmesan, Pecorino Romano and Grana.  Grana has been produced for 1000 years and is made from cow’s milk.  Gran Trentino has been granted its own D.O.P. (protected designation of origin).  There is nothing like tasting this cheese where it is produced.  It has a milder taste than parmesan, less sharp & grainy.  I can’t pass it up and I buy a large wedge to bring home.  Val Di Fassa is also known for the honey produced here.

Finding Grana Trentino

Finding Grana Trentino

We have one more night in Canazei, and another nice meal at Hotel Soreghina.  This stop in Val di Fassa has been interesting.  Our culinary exploration was geared more for the foods of our family heritage in Friuli, but the food from Trentino is interesting and worth some more investigation.  Our trip is winding down and we have one last stop before we go – Venice.

Risotto Primavera

Risotto Primavera