From the Farm to the Table

Duo Events catering company chef-owners Ashley Transki and Brian Congdon have been cooking together since 2000, when they met at Sage & Onion restaurant.

“From the first day we clicked, had a similar outlook on food, and our personalities meshed well,” says Ashley, whose company has been in full operation for one year.

“Both of us believe in a full, fresh, local approach. We’re trying as best we can to utilize the bounty that is in Santa Barbara,” he says. “Brian came from California, but I grew up on the East Coast, and this is Never Never Land for me as far as produce goes. We work with the farmers markets and the farmers as best we can, keeping our menus as fresh as possible.”

For Ashley and Brian, fresh means seasonal. “Right now we’re in the prime of spring, so artichokes and baby artichokes are gorgeous,” says Ashley, with baby carrots, English shelling peas “that are like candy,” strawberries, fun lettuces and fresh herbs topping this week’s list.

“The local ridgeback shrimp have been incredible,” he goes on. “We’ve also been picking up some wonderful fetas [cheese] the last couple of weeks. A new goat’s milk line has shown up at the [Santa Barbara] Farmers Market. They also have goat’s milk whey that makes a great ricotta…served over toast with greens is delicious. We’re also starting to utilize protein from the market – now you can get fresh chicken and all the pork and beef products. I feel like we’re getting to the point where we can be one hundred percent local with everything we serve.”

Ashley and Brian say dinner parties have been regaining popularity. They’re doing two a month and “increasing exponentially,” says Ashley.

“What I’ve been seeing is that more people are realizing it is much easier and intimate than going out to dinner with friends, and price-wise, it’s not all that different to hosting friends at a restaurant. This is taking off,” he explains. “People used to think catering was for large parties, but that really isn’t the case.”

From a thematic standpoint, Ashley says most of the private dinners they are catering showcase a few wines and seasonal produce at the peak of ripeness. He likens it to “the tradition of a supper club,” and lately more clients are saying, “let’s celebrate spring or kick off the summer.”

The duo says they have a select group of clients that give them full artistic culinary license, trusting them to have fun with the menu and don’t even need to see it beforehand.

Reading from a menu based from his morning trip to the Santa Barbara Farmers Market, items include: A frisée salad with Happy Canyon lardons (bacon bits), poached egg, with a bacon tarragon vinaigrette; Rosemary habanero lemon-rubbed Happy Canyon flat-iron steak with braised fennel and sweet pea purée; and a simple strawberry tart with kefir lime-infused crème patissiere.

“Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley pounded the way for everyone over the past thirty years,” says Ashley. “Eat what’s in your backyard was the push. Food tastes better when you know who grew it, when it’s grown where it’s supposed to grow, and eaten in the season it should.”

For more information on Duo Events call 805-957-1670 or visit www.duoevents.com.