Catering and Cakes
Call him Jimmy or Jim E, just call him. That’s the sentiments of Jim Eckardt who claims to be the “longest running caterer in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area.” His experience with food has lasted almost three decades, and his business Jim E’s Catering and Event Co. has catered many a fine wedding.
Why hire a caterer rather than do it yourself was a question posed to him. “Weddings are stressful enough,” says Eckardt, “without adding to it by doing your own food.”
A phone call to him starts the process. He knows the questions to ask: do you want dinner or hors d’oeures; is it a causal or elegant affair; where will the reception be held, and so on. If all you’re looking for are deli trays, he says quite honestly you can go to your local market and get good ones inexpensively (more about that later). A very nice buffet, however, is his trademark specialty.
Another step is to meet at the site of the reception to do a walk-about and start painting a picture of the how’s and where’s of the food presentation, such as how many lines to have going at the buffet. Eckardt has done so many weddings at Miner’s Foundry in Nevada City that he truly knows what works and doesn’t. Also at Empire Mine, where he says a grilled menu, say of marinated tri-tip, works very well.
Ah, yes, the menu. While almost anything is possible, Eckardt says it’s usually chicken, beef, or salmon. A normal starting price is about $30 to $35 per person, he says, and for that you get not only food that delights the palette, but a feast for the eye as well. “Presentation,” says Eckardt, “is what we’re known for.” Draped fabric, garlands, and plants–even ice sculptures or a champagne fountain with orchids floating in it”make everything look even better. Some fun themes he’s done are Cuban and Hawaiian.
Jim E’s can also help with flowers, photography, and general decoration. For the food scene, though, Eckardt says, “I like to have the complete package, including rentals, and staffing. That way I have control, and things don’t fall through the cracks.”
The cake, however, is a definite referral, as Eckardt no longer makes them. One of his horror stories involved a cake he made years ago with butter cream icing that started a slow, inexorable meltdown in 110 degree temperatures. That was enough for him. Nowadays he suggests Valentine’s or the Cake Artist. In fact, it’s the latter we interviewed for “The Cake” part of this article.
Donna Imsand is an enthusiastic and creative cake maker who brings her talents as a degreed artist to the interview with the prospective bride. “I sketch the cake as she talks,” says Imsand. What takes shape could be a cake that includes elements of the bride’s dress or perhaps a Victorian house, even a flying magic carpet”as far as the imagination can go.
While she’d love to see the reactions her cakes elicit from the guests, Imsand says it is fairly unusual for her to be invited to a wedding she bakes for; it’s a huge compliment when she is. The upside to not being there is she’s spared the “agony” of watching her works of art cut and eaten. The cake she got most attached to was the one that made the bride actually cry, saying “This is exactly what I had envisioned.”
While Imsand has been called the “Martha Stewart” of cakes, she’s quick to point out that she’s flexible and affordable. For instance, her advice is to get a smaller more elaborate central wedding cake (for about $2.75 a slice), then order a sheet cake on the side (for $1.00 a slice). Her 12-9-6 inch tiered cake is the most popular size, and it feeds 100. A champagne cake with raspberry mousse or a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and ganache from Belgian are the most popular ingredients with roses and orchids being the most popular decorative flowers.
Boy, does Imsand have cake stories! Not wedding related but demonstrating the level of her art, is the one about the Spider Man birthday cake for the assistant to the comic character’s developer, Stan Lee. The assistant saved the “head” and took it lovingly to his boss’s Hollywood home where the 84-year-old gentleman ate it with pleasure. Locally, Imsand has replicated the old white fire house in Nevada City and made cake shoes for Sole Mates, a shoe store in Grass Valley. She even traded a spectacular cake for a spectacular visit to the off-limits Sky Walker Ranch of George Lucas fame in Marin County.
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