by Chef Ira at

Traditional Holiday Dinners at

Here are our sample holiday dinner menus at


Classic Holiday Dinner

  • Roast Turkey with Gravy and Homemade Cranberry sauce
  • Orange Maple Glazed Spiral Cut Ham
  • Roasted Vegetable Moussaka or Lasagna (for the vegetarians)
  • Cranberry Turkey Stuffing
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Vegetable Medley (carrots, onions, peas, mushrooms in a light vegetarian sauce)
  • Caesar Salad
  • Traditional Greek salad
  • Fresh Assortment of dinner rolls & butter
  • Assorted French Pastries
  • Coffee & Tea Service


Our Classic Turkey Dinner

  • Roast Turkey with Gravy and Homemade Cranberry sauce
  • Roasted Vegetable Moussaka or Lasagna (for the vegetarians)
  • Cranberry Turkey Stuffing
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Vegetable Medley (carrots, onions, peas, mushrooms in a light vegetarian sauce)
  • Caesar Salad
  • Traditional Greek salad
  • Fresh Assortment of dinner rolls & butter


The Holiday Feast Menu

  • West Coast Salmon Platter: Wild Smoked Salmon,  Maple Candied Salmon,  Indian Candied Salmon, and Chilled Poached Salmon Medallions garnished with Caper berries, Onions and Cream Cheese, bagel thins, dark rye squares
  • Mediterranean Platter: Roasted Eggplant wrapped spicy provolone cheese & sundried tomatoes, Marinated Roasted Mushrooms, Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers, Dolmades, Sun Dried Spicy Black Olive
  • Imported and Domestic Cheese Board: Variety of four local & imported Cheeses, served with an Assortment of Crackers and Grapes
  • Roast Turkey: with Gravy and Homemade Cranberry sauce
  • Orange Maple Glazed Spiral Cut Ham
  • Roasted Vegetable Moussaka or Lasagna (for the vegetarians)
  • Cranberry Turkey Stuffing
  • Garlic Mashed Potato
  • Vegetables Medley (peas, carrots and zucchini)
  • Beans Almandine
  • Caesar Salad
  • Spring Green salad with ranch style dressing
  • Cranberry Baklava: drizzled with dark chocolate
  • Assorted French Pastries
  • Coffee & Tea Service


Recipe for Lamb Popsicles Style

Lamb Popsicles Glazed with a Cranberry Cabernet Sauce


I remember my first encounter with Lamb Popsicles at my sister's very posh wedding in LA back in 1987. I remember how this particular appetizer had stood out from all the others particularly because of the taste of medium rare lamb and the light sweet red wine glaze incorporated by the highly rated caterer who was rumoured to have catered the 1984 Academy Awards. I never found out if the rumour was true from my sister but the lamb popsicles were sure an award winner in my books.


The Lamb Popsicle is surprisingly easy to make but is also somewhat expensive so it is not a appetizer I would recommend for large parties or if you are on a tight budget. French cut Rack of Lamb (you get 8 popsicles per rack) averages between $20-$40 per pound and each rack averages between 1 - 1.5 lbs after being trimmed. If requesting the rack from your local butcher you need to specifically ask for the rack to be trimmed and "Frenched" which is the process of removing the cap (excess fat ) and removing the thin amount of meat from the first 2-3 inches from the rib bones.


The Rack of lamb should be brushed on both sides with mustard (I use a 50:50 mixture of Dijon and regular mustard) seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and fresh rosemary. Wrap the exposed bone in tin foil to prevent the bone from burning or browning while roasting. The rack of lamb can be roasted ahead of time in a preheated oven at 450F for 15-20 minutes. The lamb should be medium-rare since it will be cooked in the cranberry red wine sauce for a few minutes later.


Cranberry Cabernet Reduction

  • 1 bottle of inexpensive Cab Sauv or Zin
  • 2 Tbsp of Honey Mustard
  • 1/4 Cup Cranberry Sauce (homemade or from a can...cranberry jelly gives a smother glaze if that is preferred)
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar


You can also make the sauce well in advance of using it and store it in a container in the fridge. Its best to use a large diameter frying pan or sauce pan to reduce the wine quickly. Pour 3/4 of the bottle into the pan on high and boil until it is reduced to approximately half the volume. Mix in the mustard and cranberry sauce until it is fully combined with the wine and continue to boil the mixture for 5-10 minutes until it starts to thicken. Add in the rest of the wine and brown sugar and continue to boil the mixture until it thickens to the consistency of a light syrup. You may need add in a bit more brown sugar to sweeten to the desired taste depending on the wine used.


The trick to this appetizer is that it has to be made just minutes before serving. Unfortunately it cools pretty fast and is not as desirable cold as it is served hot. Remove the rack of lamb from the fridge and cut the rack into individual lamb chops by cutting between the bone, In a frying pan use about a half of the mixture on high a bring the mixture back to a boil before adjusting the heat to low. add the chops in to the pan with each chop having enough space to lay perfectly on its side. Swish the chops around in the mixture for 2 minutes before flipping the chops over and doing the same thing again for 2 more minutes. The chops should be fully coated on both sides with the rich Cabernet glaze. If needed add more of the prepared glaze to the pan to ensure the chops are fully coated.


Plate the Lamb Popsicles on a white or glass platter and serve immediately.



Chef Ira at



A Busy Host's Best Friend - The Ultimate Caesar Salad

The Ultimate Recipe for Caesar Salad

Contrary to popular beliefs I inherited my gift for hosting and cooking from my Dad. In fact my father was the first Rotenberg patriarch to cross the maternal Russian/Polish dominated space (in at least 7 generations I researched) in the kitchen but I should say for parties only. This is relevant because the Caesar Salad was the most common menu item in his somewhat limited repertoire of things to serve to his guests. His recipe followed the classic Italian preparation which included a raw egg, olive oil, pressed garlic cloves (lots!), lemon juice, grated Parmesan cheese and anchovies.


I was never to fond of his dressing as it was salty from the anchovy, somewhat slimy from the weakly whisked egg and dominated by the taste of garlic from what I know now was too many cloves. The importance of this all was that I was motivated to create my own recipe since I liked the fundamentals of the salad so when I started cooking at thirteen this was one of my first innovations.


The first round of innovation was to omit the anchovy and use a blender to try and get rid of the somewhat slimy texture from the egg whites. Too my surprise the result of beating oil and egg was a thicker and creamier texture similar to the process of creating mayonnaise. I now use a hand blending wand in a mixing cup to achieve the desired viscosity; not too thick but not too thin either and you can use the Parmesan cheese to control the target viscosity a little bit at a time if unsure.


The second round of innovation was to mix egg, vegetable oil rather than olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove (note singular) first and then gradually add in the Parmesan cheese rather than everything together. I still found the taste a little too sharp from the lemon juice so my third round of innovation was to replace the lemon juice with white wine vinegar and to add in a pinch of brown sugar to soften the sharpness. Coincidentally I was adding sugar to most of my recipes at the time as I found it worked well for recipes for things like spaghetti sauce.


So that is how I ended up with the ultimate Caesar Salad recipes. Over the last 35 years I have tried probably every variation and I still come back to my old recipe that emerged somewhere around 1976. I think the Caesar Salad is a host's best friend because it is so easy, quick to prepare and better yet cheap, specially while the cost of fresh and organic vegetables are escalating. Its also my favourite salad to eat when I just want a light lunch and it can be made into a quick meal my adding in some grilled prawns or chicken or salmon or even BBQ Smoked Beef Brisket (more about brisket in a later blog).


So more to the basics of the actual recipe. The salad consists of Romaine Lettuce, Croutons, Salad Dressing and Parmesan Cheese. One large full head of Romaine lettuce will serve up to 6 people as a side salad or 4 people as a main salad. This is an important ratio when trying to calculate how many heads of Romaine are required. Romaine Lettuce Hearts, bought in a bag of 3-6 heads, is different because the heart is about 50% of the original stock. In both cases cut the first 2 inches off to get rid of the top leafy part (bitter and wilts easy) and split the head down the length of the lettuce and then cut horizontally across the half of lettuce 1-1.5 inches in thickness at a time. The chopped lettuce can be stored in a bowl or bag until it is required.


The Caesar Dressing requires the following ingredients (serves up to 8 people):

  1. 1 Egg - refrigerated so its cold when mixed
  2. 1 Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
  3. 3 tbsp of white wine vinegar
  4. 1 finely chopped clove of garlic
  5. 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  6. 2 dashes Tabasco sauce
  7. 1 pinch (1 tsp) of brown sugar
  8. 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese


Note: The dressing should be prepared at least 1 hour before being ready to be mixed in with the salad. Beat all the ingredients together, with the exception of Parmesan cheese, in a narrow measuring cup in a pulse like mode to allow the oil to mix with the air until the mixtures thickens. Then add the Parmesan cheese and beat again for a few seconds to mix the cheese into the dressing. Do not mix the dressing into the salad until 10 minutes before being served so the salad doesn't become wilted and lifeless.


Just before serving first mix the chopped salad with 1/3 cup of croutons and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Mix in 2/3 of the prepared dressing for the equivalent of two large heads of romaine lettuce and make sure the lettuce and croutons or coated by gently tossing the salad. If required add in more dressing and mix again. Top with a few more croutons and about 2 tablespoons of fresh flaked Parmesan cheese.



Chef Ira @


Where Are the Best Places in the Greater Vancouver Area to Host a Wedding Reception

Minnekhada Lodge in Port Coquitlam

Where to have your wedding reception and or ceremony is one of the toughest choices and challenges for the Bride and Groom. There are literally hundreds of choices in the Greater Vancouver Area so what are the important factors to consider?


Here is my take, in no particular order or priority,  on important factors for venue selection (Here is a list of Wedding Venues that allow independent caterers on my website)


  1. Accessibility - the venue should be easily accessible by car, close to where the majority of guests are living. Long commutes force people to leave receptions earlier. The venue should also be close to friends or relatives coming from out of town and a short ride by taxi since not everyone rents cars anymore.
  2. Adjacent Location to Parks, Mountains, Water, Gardens, Vineyards - If you are planning the ceremony and receptions to be at the same location then where the venue is in proximity to other things can be important. The UBC Rowing Club for instance is a nice venue but it is even a nicer choice because it is centrally situated in Stanley Park. Having a beautiful location is not onlu
  3. Budget - The wedding venue should be no more than 20% of your overall budget. Choosing an expensive venue and not having a budget for a good caterer is a common mistake as more people remember bad food over a beautiful venue and location.
  4. Venue Capacity - select a venue that has a greater capacity than the planned number of guests by at least 15% so that you are not crowding your guests into the venue's floor plan.
  5. Reception Style (Buffet, Formal Plated, Cocktail) - Some venues are better suited for certain reception styles than others for a variety of reasons including floor plan, kitchen size, guest capacity. All venues have a greater guest capacity for cocktail style weddings (fewer tables occupy space) than sit down weddings. Usually Hotels, Banquet Halls and some Golf Courses can accommodate formal sit down dinners. So it is important to really decide on the style of wedding reception you would like and find a venue that will support it rather than trying to force fit a venue into supporting a style of reception it was not designed to support.
  6. Venue Facilities (multiple rooms, kitchen, gardens, tables, chairs, dishes, linens) - Venue facilities are really important. I know I am partial top certain venues because they have great kitchens (large, spacious, convection ovens, walk-in cooler) and a venues lack of a kitchen doesn't limit the venue but it may limit the menu or result in additional costs to bring in a mobile kitchen (usually $300-$500) so that can be a significant factor. If you are planning on having loud music, a venue with multiple rooms with seating is recommended so people can escape the loud music should they want to. Some venues have tables and chairs, some don't. You have to factor in $30-$50 per 8 person table if you will need to rent tables and chairs. Having a decent outdoor area (patio, gardens) in the summer is really important when the weather gets hot. Make sure yoiur guests will be able to wander throughout the space at their leisure to escape the heat or loud music.
  7. Venue Flexibility (setup, tear down) - Some venues are more flexible than others in when you get to occupy the venue, when you have to be out by, when do the party rentals have to be removed as well as penalties if certain conditions are not met. Ideally its best to get occupation of the venue the day/night before the event and party rentals to be removed the morning/day after the reception to minimize your costs and give you the most flexibility in friends and family helping you with decorations, guest table setup, etc. Essentially the more flexibility you have the more options you will have in minimizing your costs be it delivery, setup, tear down or pickup. For instance rental companies charge a premium ($200+) for same night pickup of party rentals.
  8. Catering Choices - Many private venues supply only their own catering so picking the venue becomes just as much about the ambiance as it is about the food. In almost all cases the combined cost of the venue and catering is more expensive than if you were to find a venue that allowed you to choose your caterer. It makes sense as there is no competition so you are forced into there menu selections at their stated prices. The biggest advantage of the venues that don't allow catering options is that they usually have the kitchen and staff to serve formal sit down dinners which most independent caterers cannot offer.
  9. Ambiance that Reflects Your Personalities - Where you hold your wedding ceremony and wedding reception should reflect who you are. There is little point in trying to create a fancy and glamorous wedding ambiance if that doesn't reflect the type of people you are. It is far better to take a venue and decorate it with personal touches that your guests can connect with than to create a false or pretentious atmosphere as your guests will not be able to create the connection and feel your celebration.
  10. Lastly, Cost! - For most couples planning a wedding the cost of the wedding and keeping it to a set budget is the most important planning criteria. The venue costs are all over the map in the GVA with municipal venues being the cheapest and the most popular venues being the most expensive. In general, the farther away the venue is from the center of Vancouver, the cheaper it becomes.


Some of my favourite wedding venues are as follows:

  • Vancouver Art Gallery (even though there is no kitchen!)
  • Centennial Lodge in Queens Park
  • Aberthau Heritage Mansion in Vancouver's West Side
  • Heritage Hall in Vancouver
  • Minnekhada Lodge - Port Coquitlam
  • Nikkei Museum in Burnaby
  • Scottish Cultural Centre - Vancouver (its all about the great kitchen)

Welcome to Our Blog

Creating Delicious Party Menus at

Hosting perfect parties is difficult for everyone, even the most experienced of us who service the party and wedding reception industry. The objective of this blog is to post helpful tips, recipes, ideas and menus for people that are planning parties. From invitations to decorations, music and of course FOOD!


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