Occasions President Jeremy Bronson joined a delegation of 150 Denver community leaders visiting Copenhagen, Denmark, this week on the UrbanEx program of the Downtown Denver Partnership. He shares learnings from the local food scene and the culture of sustainable living. 

 

A poorly kept secret: I absolutely love Denmark. Studies show Danes are the happiest people in the world, and that’s easy to understand. Denmark has plentiful natural resources that support a healthy economy, a rich cultural history and arts community, and a universal commitment to protecting the environment. 

 

And the food! Since multiyear Best Restaurant in the World, Noma opened in 2003, the culinary scene in Copenhagen has exploded. In the last ten years, large indoor and outdoor food halls have flourished, offering authentic cuisines from traditional Danish to Filipino street food to ocean fresh sushi. Fine dining can be found throughout the city, with a decidedly casual vibe and a penchant for tasting menus and organic wines.

 

In Denmark, it’s all about local. Menus all over are constructed with the same handful of market fresh ingredients. The week of our visit, the items being harvested and served in virtually every restaurant were white and green asparagus, young spring peas, baby new potatoes, rhubarb, unripe mini peaches, baby shrimp, and a variety of lettuces and herbs. Strawberries were just arriving at street markets and hadn’t made their way onto menus yet, but most likely would by the next week.

 

In a country just a sixth the size of Colorado that is committed to eating locally, everyone knows exactly what’s in season and loves to discuss creative preparations of available produce. Ever had a dessert truffle made from potato skins and potato starch? Try one at Amass, one of Copenhagen’s hottest restaurants. Or complement your green vegetable with gently pickled white asparagus discs, like they do at Palægade.

 

Another part of the rich Danish culinary tradition is the preservation of seafood: by pickling, marinating and canning it away for the offseason. In addition to classics like herring (served all-you-can-eat in a dozen different preparations at Nyhavns Færgekro in the picturesque Nyhavn neighborhood), we had tins of marinated sardines, baby squid and chopped octopus. Eaten with a little Danish rye bread, called rugbrød, these specialties are simply to die for. You can find them at Restaurant Gorilla, one of an impressive collection of food-forward restaurants in the buildings that previously housed the city’s meat packing industry.

 

Speaking of bread, the most traditional Danish food is smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich literally translated to “schmear on bread.” Whether it’s shrimp salad and hard boiled eggs, freshly cured gravlax with dill fronds or shaved beef and asparagus, the popular Danish smørrebrød lunch can be found everywhere.

 

The conversion of this once-industrial city to modern, livable community is something to behold. Bikes outnumber people, and the city is being reengineered to minimize car travel. New apartment buildings filled with young professionals and families line the coveted canals near downtown. Transit includes a metro system, buses and even a harbor taxi that traverses the waterways around town.

 

Looking for a taste of Scandinavia on your next event? Try Occasions’ house cured gravlax or our lingonberry and brie kiss.

 

Planning your locavore menus for this growing season? Find out which Colorado produce is harvested here.

Did you know that potatoes and apples are the top items produced by Colorado farmers?




Our fourth annual Sip & Savor planner luncheon showcased what we do best – stunning events with killer food. Occasions’ Marketing Manager and Senior Event Designer, Nate and Holly, had a great time designing this year’s look, along with a fresh spring-inspired menu from Executive Chef Chris and his team. This year’s luncheon was held at Hearth House – a brand-new venue in Monument.

Hearth House features magnolia-style fixtures, a large double-sided fireplace and custom furniture, built specifically to match the venue aesthetic. We incorporated the venue’s farm tables, rolling barrel tables and multi-tier shelving units into our food displays and seating floor plan.

Signature cocktails and two new Occasions food stations welcomed planners as they mingled. The Occasions bison tomahawk station offered live carving action of a logo-branded tomahawk steak, topping our signature avocado toast for a dreamy first bite. Rainbow crudités perched in creative hummus varieties in bamboo cones made a stunning display clipped to chains for easy grab and go.

Executive Chef Chris welcomed guests to a seated lunch featuring a wild mushroom cappelletti in a spring asparagus sauce, followed by a crispy Colorado striped bass entrée. After lunch, the large barn doors opened to reveal our brand new affogato dessert action station, with butterscotch bourbon ice cream drenched with local nitro coldbrew and presented on a custom ice sculpture. We’re thrilled to be able to offer these new menu items as we enter another event-packed wedding season.

Thank you to our vendor partners for making this event the success it was!

Stationery | Nate Couture

Event Design | Holly Page, Nate Couture at Occasions

Food | Chris Meier and his team at Occasions

Photography | Erin Cady at Sarah Roshan Wedding Photographers

Venue | Hearth House

Rentals | Colorado Party Rentals

Floral | Privé Event Design

Coffee | Coda Coffee Company

Ice Sculpture | Colorado Ice Works




Earth Day is a great opportunity to highlight the work Occasions does all year long to protect our environment. We are proud to be a pioneering #CertifiablyGreenDenver business, having worked diligently with our partners at Certifiably Green Denver and Alpine Waste Management to evolve our business model to continually reduce our carbon footprint. We also involve our staff and community partners in the charge to make the Earth a better place.

Occasions is in the top 10% of “green” Denver businesses as far as diverting waste from the landfill. In 2018, we conserved 2,914 gallons of oil, saved 95,161 gallons of water, and saved 65,002 lbs. of carbon GHG emissions from entering our atmosphere (See full report here). Also, based on our Green building initiatives have saved 25-30% kw of electricity and 5-10% of water consumption.

Some of the other projects we have completed are:

  1. Replaced our entire lighting infrastructure with LED fixtures
  2. Installed low-flow faucets and other water conservation equipment
  3. Implemented complete waste stream sorting at events, in our kitchens, and in the office
  4. Added new policies to reduce waste generation, such as a request-only straw policy, with compostable straws
  5. Engaged employees and community partners through staff training and empowerment

Perhaps the greatest measure of our impact is the influence we’ve had on our team:

“Occasions not only takes steps to help our environment, they also take the time to educate their employees. They have made a huge impact on how I handle my ‘waste’ at home.” — Chef Deana

“Our environmental awareness and dedication to the highest standards from all employees creates an environment of conscientiousness among the employees that carries far beyond the work we do on the clock.” — Captain Tim

Our sustainability initiatives embrace Occasions’ core values of LOVE-TRUST-PARTNERSHIP, whether it is through our team volunteer activities and board memberships, or our frequent field trips to study sustainability in action and truly understand how what we do affects the environment around us. Do you have a great idea for a new sustainability initiative for us? We welcome your ideas. Until then, know that we’re continuing to work to save our planet, one compostable straw at a time!




Today is Earth Day. And on Earth Day we take time to reflect on our green efforts both personally and as a business, while trying to evaluate ways we can improve for the year ahead. So we naturally felt a bit inspired to share with you some of our big sustainability accomplishments this past year…

After a yearlong process, this past winter we were so happy to finally be given our certification by the City of Denver as a Certifiably Green Business. Although we’ve prided ourselves on being an environmentally-conscious company since 1970 – composting at events, partnering with We Don’t Waste, providing recyclable and compostable tableware options for our clients, etc. – we were so thrilled to take our business to the next level and make it official.

This certification process was lead by Occasions C.O.O Kevin Birka, who slowly but surely was able to check off many very specific requirements from the City of Denver, including: switching our standard office paper to paper made from recycled goods, installing new, low-flow toilets and faucets, installing LED lights throughout the entire building, and training our staff and team on public transportation and carpooling options to easily get to both events and the Occasions headquarters. Although at times the process seemed tedious, Kevin states, “it is simply a continuation of our already-established, ongoing culture of low-impact, eco-friendly practices… we are lucky that the City of Denver has goals that align with ours and are able to provide further education to organizations like ours.”

Kevin admits we probably could not have done all the checklist requirements within a year, without the help of team members Ari Barger and Cassy Cadwallader, though. Cassy Cadwallader, for example, joined our team as event staff in April 2017 and has quickly moved her way up to now being one of our most-requested event captains. As a current student studying Geography and Sustainability at Metropolitan State University, Cassy has a passion for reducing global food scarcity and increasing sustainability efforts, “all my international travels throughout school have made me realize food scarcity and sustainability issues. I quickly decided I wanted to learn how food moves throughout the world, and how to be more efficient with it, so that lead me to pursue my current degree. I wanted to focus on what I’m passionate about.”

 

Now in her junior year at MSU, Cassy has partnered with Occasions not only as an event staff, but also as an intern. For the past four months, she has helped us source more environmentally-friendly resources and trained and educated staff on waste management options on-site at events (what goes in the compost bins, what goes in the recycle bins, and what is left for the trash bins, etc.). She says her background and future career goals have landed her a home at Occasions,  “I’ve worked in restaurants my whole life and this is the only company that’s had this mentality. This mentality of caring about the environment and having consciousness around consumption.”

And with those words our hearts are beyond full. We truly know our company would be nothing without team members like these ones, and we are so happy that their hard work can be seen.

Last month, for example, proved to be one of our most green, with 90.4% of all of our waste being diverted from the landfills, to recycled materials and compo (see attached report).

Stay tuned to see how we can beat these records in the next months and beyond. Excited for the even greener future ahead.




Planning a wedding and not sure how to go about catering?

Check out some words of advice from our team of event designers, originally published in Gold Calendar!

What advice would you give to a couple who is trying to create a unique, one-of-a-kind wedding menu?

If a caterer does not ask you and your partner what your favorite restaurants are, your favorite style of food, or what you’d like to serve at your wedding, then you should move on. Selecting a wedding menu is all about being creative and showing your personal style through the cuisine. The right caterer will get to know you, ask questions, and work alongside you to create a customized, cohesive approach to your food and service.

Our favorite reviews are when clients tell us we gave them exactly what they asked for, yet we still exceeded their expectations. That makes it all worth it for us. 

How do you customize your dishes to create unique menus for each couple?

We listen. It really is as simple as that, but our couples tell us over and over again that other caterers did not listen to their wants and needs. Our goal is always to make our couples’ wedding menu truly reflect their unique vision and taste – so we start by asking if they have favorite dishes or restaurants, we suggest menu selections, and then we work directly with the clients to customize from there. 

Do you just plan the menu with your clients?

Absolutely not. We want the entire wedding to be a great experience for our couples and their guests, through and through. We always love to give recommendations on entertainment, lighting, linens, florals, and are always involved with making floor plans, ordering rentals, coordinating with planners, etc..

Do you have a favorite dish that you recommend most to couples? 

Our team and clients rave about our local selections, all inspired by the natural cuisine of the Rocky Mountain region. Some examples are our Palisade Peach Gazpacho, Smoked Trout Rangoon, and our Signature Rub Sirloin Carvery.

If we had to choose one, though, we’d probably say the Signature Rub Sirloin Carvery. This makes for a great chef-tended station at weddings, and is always a crowd-pleaser!

What sets Occasions Catering apart from other catering companies in Denver?

We are the longest-serving catering company in Denver, having been around since 1970, and know that a huge reason for our success is our commitment to the community and our ability to develop close relationships with our clients. We sit on boards and committees, actively volunteer, and regularly make in-kind contributions that reduce the cost of the events we cater for our nonprofit partners. Our owner, Jeremy Bronson, also serves as president of the board of We Don’t Waste – a local, innovative provider of food for the hungry. These involvements have subsequently lead to great partnerships and growth for us, as well as our network of nonprofits in Denver.

Occasions also has a long history and expertise in kosher catering and we are one of the only companies in the area that owns kosher cooking equipment and china service. We’ve maintained longstanding relationships with local kosher kitchens throughout the past 47 years. 

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