Almost every caterer has a signature style, whether it’s urban chic, country casual, wild and crazy, or tried and true. Some specialize in certain types of offerings, such as dumplings or clambakes, while others have exclusive venues.
Fireside Catering in Burlington, however, has something else: They have their own produce farm. Gibbet Hill Farm in Groton grows vegetables, herbs, and fruit for Fireside Catering’s seasonal menus. The catering company is part of the Webber Restaurant Group, which in addition to Gibbet Hill Farm, owns the Groton-based Gibbet Hill Grill, Scarlet Oak Tavern, and an event venue called The Barn. It also owns The Bancroft restaurant in Burlington.
“Our farmer lets us know what’s available two weeks prior and we create from that,” says executive banquet chef of Webber Restaurant Group, Karen Osterberg, who oversees the kitchen at Fireside Catering. “We specialize in weddings and do close to 250 a year,” which, given the farm’s growing cycle, takes place from mid-April through November 1.
“We are very geared toward seasonality, yet try to cater to couples’ particular tastes,” says Osterberg. “While we have some brides who want the basics [like meat and potatoes], we have a good amount of couples that want what’s right off the farm and don’t care what it is.” To wit, Osterberg’s catering menu has a pick-up salad composed of whatever the farmer has picked that morning. For appetizers, side dishes, and accompaniments, Osterberg builds her recipes around her fresh produce, filling in as necessary with other locally sourced veggies, cheeses, seafood, and meats.
“A recent pick-up salad we did,” says Osterberg, “included the farm’s mixed lettuce greens, giant heirloom tomatoes—purple, yellow, green, red—and [Vermont’s] Maple Brook Farm burrata and basil from the farm. A lot of our brides don’t want to go the daring route, since they’re trying to please the 148 other guests. They want fresh, local, and just harvested.”
The kinds of weddings that Fireside Catering handles range from casual clambakes to black-tie feasts. Fireside Catering is the exclusive caterer for Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, The Bradley Estate in Canton, The Estate at Moraine Farm in Beverly, and The Crane Estate in Ipswich.
“The Crane Estate is pretty upscale, and they also do very large numbers,” says Osterberg. “There, we offer lots of raw bars, shellfish, and filet mignon, as opposed to short ribs.” The Estate has two additional venues, however, including The Barn, which is less formal and the more casual Steep Hill Beach, where Osterberg recently catered a wedding for 40.
“The couple wanted a lobster bake, so that’s what we gave them. It was very simple, very easy,” says Osterberg.
As with most caterers, Fireside Catering regularly updates its offerings based on what couples want and what is trending. Currently, Osterberg notes, that pre-ceremony snacks are huge, so last fall she offered mulled cider and cider beignets before the service. In the summer she served homemade lemonade, ice tea, and bags of chips. For cocktail nibbles at the reception, Osterberg recently fulfilled a couple’s request for a popcorn bar featuring shakers filled with various salts, cheeses, and powdered flavorings. Couples continue to request gluten-free foods, vegan options, and shrunk-down favorites, like two-bite tacos or shots of soup. For rustic weddings, even in fancy venues, Osterberg says that many of her couples want family-style dinners to encourage guests to interact with one another as they pass around the platters and bowls.
As for dessert, “Not everyone wants a wedding cake,” says Osterberg. Couples want something different, like displays of small pastries, including doll-size cannoli, multiple flavors of whoopie pies, and gluten-free treats like chocolate-dipped Rice Krispies squares. “We just did a pie station that had four different types of pies, instead of a wedding cake, and the bride and groom cut a pie,” she says.
For another wedding couple, Osterberg offered a junior parfait station composed of mini mason jars holding either carrot cake with caramel sauce and cream cheese frosting or a brownie topped with ganache. Each jar held only three or four bites with a demitasse spoon, yet the glittering display elicited far more oohs and aahs than a wedding cake would have. Then, there’s the rage of late-night snacks to tame the munchies after copious drinking and dancing: baby cheeseburgers; petite packs of truffle fries; and pint-size cheddar biscuits topped with fried chicken and gravy.
“It’s all about feeding people all the time; that is the trend,” Osterberg says, laughing—before the ceremony, at the reception, and a goodie bag to see them home. Food is love, and for most of our wedding couples, says Osterberg, that means food that is seasonal and delicious. And, with Gibbet Hill Farm at her fingertips, that’s exactly what she offers. firesidecatering.com