The Fashion Plate

A Stylish Presentation

Story by Tracy Ann Guida  ❧  Photography by Patrick Foley

Food, like fashion, is art. It can transport you to another place and each dish can be accessorized to be both flavorful and fashionable.

I had the pleasure of attending VERTICAL Tampa Bay’s “So Not Sari” fashion presentation on 2.11.11. I was mesmerized by the alluring fashion and the vibrant energy that surrounded me. That night I left Tampa Bay and took a culinary trip to India and beyond, courtesy of Puff ‘n Stuff Catering.

In my seven years in Tampa, I have never experienced such artistic and culinary bliss. Dazzling, colorful and exquisite, the menu was just as enticing as the fashion. The flavors were intoxicating and from the first bite of baby artichoke hearts topped with goat cheese, olive tapenade, and sun-dried tomatoes, I knew this was going to be an evening to remember. I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Warren Dietel, owner of Puff ‘n Stuff Catering, and I asked him about the importance of food presentation.

“Presentation is romance; it’s drawing your guest in with beautiful food, arousing aromas and a visually stimulating experience. Whether a presentation is grandiose with elaborate details or simple, elegant and clean, it’s an art form. It’s about knowing your guests and what will delight, entice and entertain them,” says Warren. I was certainly drawn in by the exquisite food that evening.

When asked where his inspiration is drawn from, Warren says, “Inspiration can be found everywhere! Personally, I’m inspired by architecture and the way the many elements, finishes and details are combined to tell a visual story. I also love landscape design for its use of patterns, textures and colors to create a pleasing vista. Our team continuously explores trends from successful hotels and restaurants to gain inspiration and develop creative methods of incorporating them into our menus. We also have great relationships with other leaders in the catering industry, and we frequently share new and clever ideas, concepts and best practices with each other.”

As I walked from the patio to the inside lounge, I was warmly greeted by lovely girls wearing saris. The room was filled with beautiful people dressed in romantic attire and I was overcome by the feeling of love. While I sipped pink Champagne, I was presented with a decorative tray of Portobello 

Sliders. Served on a mini Ciabatta roll, the rich flavor of the Portobello was balanced with the mild flavor of the olive and sundried tomato tapenade. The provolone’s mildly piquant flavor added zest to the slider.

While mingling with the fabulous crowd, I continued to be charmed by one innovative dish after another. Artichoke Pakoras (pakora means “fried snack”) were served with an eggplant chili coconut sauce. I loved the contrast of the dark orange sauce presented inside the fresh, pearly, white coconut.

As the fashion show began, I was captivated by the stunning ensembles, and one gorgeous violet dress in particular. Shortly after, I was offered Okinawan Purple Potatoes filled with figs and cashews. Vibrant, exotic and full of flavor, they mirrored the dress I was admiring.

Another favorite that evening was the Grilled Apricots with Bittersweet Chocolate and Almonds. The apricots had a sweet, yet tart flavor and the combination of the bittersweet chocolate and almonds was divine. One sweet, tender bite and I felt like I was whisked away to a Mediterranean Island. They were a nice contrast to the Indian inspired vegetarian options I had been enjoying.

My favorite dish was the “Italian Roasted Potato Torta” with caramelized onions, fresh basil and roasted tomatoes. Topped with Grana Padana and fresh mozzarella, it was rich with flavor and style.

The exotic menu paired well with the exotic fashion and showcased some of the most beautiful delicacies I have ever tasted. When asked how he went about designing the menu for the evening, Catering Executive Chef Paul Lorrain said “Our primary muse for designing the ‘So Not Sari’ menu was the beautiful sari fabric with its vivid, evocative colors. We wanted to showcase and complement the sari color palette by incorporating flowers and brightly colored sauces into the vegetarian and Indian-inspired cuisine.”

As the night drew to a close, guests were presented with a special gift. Dessert was served on the rooftop overlooking downtown St. Petersburg. “Balloon au Chocolat” was more than a dessert—it was a delectable piece of art. A decadent chocolate layered cake dressed in sweet chocolate ganache, adorned with fruit accouterments and encased in a white chocolate balloon. I was already captivated by this epicurean delight before the server began pouring hot bitter orange and rosewater syrup over the chocolate balloon. The white chocolate gently melted and dulcified the chocolate cake within. The intoxicating flavors made me feel like I was in a state of nirvana, much like when I read VERTICAL.

Puff ‘n Stuff Catering

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