Quality catering is something traditionally saved for special events, but Darien's newest establishment promises to provide prepared fare for people on an evening-by-evening basis.
Amanda Smith Caterers has opened at 1480 Post Road. Owner and food author Amanda Smith hopes her new "En Route" feature, which allows people to place orders during the day for catered dinner dishes that can be picked up in the evening, will have a positive impact on the community.
"The idea for the En Route meals really came from one of my clients," said Smith, who has been catering in the New York City area for years, with a large clientele in Darien. "She said, `I wish I could pick up my dinner at your kitchen every day,' and I said, `Oh, well, why not?'"
Smith is featuring a new menu each week online. Customers can place orders online or phone by 3 p.m. and pick up their food on their way home.
"That menus changes weekly, so every week on Sunday night there's a whole new menu up," Smith said, with reasonably priced dishes ranging for homemade macaroni and cheese and rolled spinach lasagna, to chicken Milanese, lamb meatballs and shrimp scampi.
"I think for Darien it's a very good idea," said Pat Hovey, of New Canaan, who enjoyed a great experience with Smith's catering service. "A lot of people are commuting to the city and it's a good location. It's a very pretty space that she has."
Up until now, Smith has serviced the region using shared kitchen space at various locations. "The word's not out yet," Smith said, but she expects response to be strong as Darienites hear about her new location.
With her official arrival in Darien, Smith introduces the town to literally a world of experience. A native of Mexico City, her travels and life experiences have taken her all over.
"I'm very familiar with foods from all over the world," she said, "and I presume that comes through in the foods that we make."
Smith also has lived for extended periods of time in South Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and specifically in London and Paris, which have played key influences on her culinary background.
"Paris in a Basket" is the book Smith authored about her experiences with the open-air markets in the City of Lights. Meanwhile, her time in London, where picnicking is a favorite pastime, motivated Smith to start a picnic-related business in New York City that was popular for many years.
"Initially, my company was called Good Foods in a Basket," Smith said -- a somewhat ground-breaking venture that allowed people in 2001 to place orders online that they could pick up at the entrance to Central Park when they went to attend a concert.
"That was rather unique at the time," she said, with her company becoming the official picnic makers for the New York Philharmonic by the time she wrapped that up around 2008.
"That's where the catering started," she said, with that end of her business expanding over the decade until it became her central focus.
"I have worked with Amanda to cater a dinner party in my home," said Wendy Hopper, of Darien, who had many good words about both Smith and her food.
"Each course was so perfectly prepared that our guests continuously raved about the meal and asked for preparation tips," she said. "Amanda clearly has a passion for preparing delicious food and takes great pride in her work. She spent the evening sharing cooking tips with our friends." She even involved Hopper's young daughter in helping to serve.
Hopper said Smith's menu was simultaneously classic and innovative -- a probable reflection of her interest in combining flavors and techniques from around the globe.
"She did an engagement party for me last year in New York City and it was wonderful," Hovey said.
"I had her book for a long time," she said. "It's very good and I'm a serious cook. I went to culinary school myself, so I appreciate it."
Sharing how a recent client wanted to combine two different regions in honor of a wedding, Smith said, "I do food from everywhere." She was able to accommodate.
"After so many years, I guess that's what I bring -- the experience and also the knowledge of food."
For information, call 203-202-7669 or visit www.amandasmithcaterers.com.
Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.