The logo for my catering company, Bonnie Fare Catering, which specialized in at-home dinners and cocktail parties in Manhattan and operated from 1986 to ’96, was a place setting with a red-tartan heart in the center of a dinner plate. The tagline read, “Bonnie Fare means good food.” What the logo’s design clearly hoped to convey was that I put my heart into my cooking. Because I did.
“Everything is fresh and homemade,” my advertising copy also read, and this was completely true. I made everything myself – including the little heart-shaped Scottish shortbread cookies that were a nod to my Scots heritage — for the joy of it, because I loved to cook. (Recipe follows.)
I’d changed careers at forty, going from being a well paid writer and editor in the New York corporate world to being a self-employed caterer in the New York food world, because I was hungry for what a new, culinary career had to offer.
As I wrote in my memoir How to Cook a Crocodile, which chronicles my subsequent transition from New York caterer to Peace Corps volunteer in the rainforest of Gabon, I’d started Bonnie Fare Catering in 1986 also because “I wanted to work with my hands in the realm of the tangible and meaningful. I wanted to immerse myself in the colors, flavors, aromas, and textures of the dishes I created.” Plus, I needed to pretend that my clients — and the young people who worked for me — were my family and I was cooking for, and with, them out of love.
And, being a somewhat romantic, single, youngish woman at the time, in a city not known for its soft and tender heart, I confess I went a little overboard with the heart theme, like a devout missionary intent on spreading the gospel of love.
All throughout the year, my handsome, smiling waiters served hors d’oeuvres on heart-shaped copper trays. I made individual coeurs a la crème desserts in traditional heart-shaped molds, swimming in a pool of red raspberry sauce. I baked a fresh batch of my small, heart-shaped, sugarcoated Scottish shortbread cookies to accompany every party’s after-dinner coffee service.
Of course, when Valentine’s Day, which has always been my favorite holiday of the year, rolled around, I’d go all out. I might, for example, make individual raspberry-studded tartlets in heart shapes, or a simpler variation in a round, 9-inch tart shell to be shared with special friends. (These recipes can be found in Sweet Tarts for My Sweethearts, pages 24-26.)
Last year at this time my dear friend and former head waiter/captain of Bonnie Fare Catering, actor-director Michael Marotta, did a YouTube video for his ongoing delightful series, “What Would Michael Do?,” showing his viewers how to bake my shortbread heart cookies. So whatever you do – and wherever you are now – be sure to watch Michael having fun making these nostalgic cookies for the first time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7K0Jf40Jnw .
I would, of course, be remiss if I didn’t mention that Sweet Tarts for My Sweethearts: Stories and Recipes from a Culinary Career (from which parts of this post are excerpted) would make an ideal little Valentine’s gift for the sweethearts in your life who enjoy baking, or reading true stories, or both!
Sweet Tarts is available directly from the publisher, Nighthawk Press, at www.nighthawkpress.com, or from Amazon.com, in both print and Kindle (full color) editions at:
In Taos, NM, it’s available at SOMOS. Or if you, like me, now live in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Sweet Tarts is for sale at the Tesoros gift shop in the Biblioteca on Insurgentes, at the La Conexion office on Aldama, at Casa de la Noche on Organos, or directly from me at: email@example.com.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Now here is my Valentine’s gift for you:
Bonnie Fare Shortbread Hearts
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temp.
½ cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
- Cream the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla together until light and fluffy.
- Sift the flour and cornstarch together.
- Gently combine the two mixtures, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and chill until firm.
- On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to about ¼-inch thick; sprinkle surface with granulated sugar.
- Cut the dough into heart shapes and place hearts on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake in a preheated 325-degree (F.) oven for about 25-30 minutes, until very pale golden.
- Cool cookies on a rack. Store in an airtight container at room temp.
20 thoughts on “A Catering Love Story”
Oh, Bonnie, I LOVE everything about this post! Thanks so much for including my maiden voyage in creating your perfect hearts – I hope it inspires others to give it a try. They truly are the perfect little treat! Love you, dear friend! xoxo
Thank YOU, dear Michael! Yes, I hope everyone watches your WWMD video (and subscribes!) so they’ll want to rush right into their kitchens and bake shortbread hearts. LU2, BB xx
Happy Valentine’s Day all month!
Yes, throughout the month of February (and beyond)! 🙂
I gave your book and a tart pan to our five daughters, and they were delighted! And today daughter Tilda said she is making a tart for her sister’s birthday! Thank you for creating such a valued gift to give!
Oh, Marge dear, you’ve made my day! I’m thrilled to know that your Tilda is using the book and pan today! I hope she takes a photo of her finished product to send to you. Love to you and George, BB xx
So delightful reading your newsletters. Of course I remember Bonnie Fare and this endeavor, which was so full of heart…. I love to cook and continue to take great pleasure in it. This newsletter and recipe, which I saved, almost makes me want to bake…. xxxx
Wonderful to hear from you, dear Jane! Yes, you must bake these shortbread hearts for your Honey for V-day. 🙂
Hope you’re doing well and staying safe and well. Mucho love from MX, BB
Bonnie, Congratulations on the success of your book. Good writing and good recipes…can’t go wrong!
Thank you, Gilda. The same for you for your lovely cookbook!
I love those hearts.
¡Amo esos corazones de Bonnie!
Mil gracias, querida Te! — xoxox
Your tart recipes are amazing and I can’t wait to try your shortbread!
Thank you SO much, Joyce! Good to hear from you. (I know you’ll love the shortbread too.)
I was planning to make a white chocolate raspberry tart for Valentine and your story just reinforced my plan. My recipe is from Fine Cooking Magazine sometime in the later 1990s. It is a bit different in that you cover the bottom of the crust with the raspberries except for a few that you set aside for decorating the top, then pour in the white chocolate. The recipe says to coat heavy leaves like from a lemon or lime tree with white chocolate and when the chocolate is set you separate the real leaves from the chocolate leaves and add them to the top of the tart along with the reserved raspberries in a decorative way. It makes a beautiful presentation of the dessert for Christmas or Valentine.
Sounds interesting, Billie.
This post brought tears to my eyes. I have my Bonnie Fare magnet on the refrigerator behind me as I type, and I still have the tie and cummerbund. I look back on those days as a golden time, as I do on that day we met over a pastry bag at Bloomingdales.
Thank you for being in my life and for all the wonderful writing you have shared with me, both past and to come.
Dearest Paul — Yes it was “a golden time,” wasn’t it. So much fun, despite all the hard work. I’m sure there’s never been anther NYC caterer who had as good a time and such a devoted, capable staff as I did. You were then, and remain, precious to me. — BB xx
And I love you for saying so, Lyn!