Valley Bounty: Blue Door Gatherings
For local catering company Blue Door Gatherings, the pandemic created a momentary identity crisis. What’s a company designed to gather people around gourmet food to do when that joyous pastime, enshrined in their name, is exactly what we need to avoid?
Happily, chef and owner Laura Bowman is re-imagining world-class dining at a safe distance, preserving the joy of a professionally cooked meal and bringing it easily and safely straight to customers.
Laura founded Blue Door Gatherings in 2018, drawing from her culinary training in California, New York and France to bring something special to the Valley: a small-scale catering service offering seasonal, restaurant-quality menus for events and intimate gatherings.
For her, quality starts with local and thoughtfully sourced ingredients.
“When I’m working on a menu, the first thing I do is see what farms have available,” she says. Laura preserves produce herself during summer abundance — “thinking ahead to February when you want a piece of summer with your dinner” — but she notes the increasing availability of local produce in the winter.
“It’s changed a lot in the three years since I started,” she says. “The variety has increased, from root veggies to hardy greens you can get year-round from local farms.”
Among the many reasons for using local ingredients, Laura has a big-picture perspective: “I think the only way to keep sustaining our community agriculture is by using it.”
Blue Door Gatherings began by catering weddings, conferences and other large events. They also created more intimate gatherings for clients at their own homes, and later at Blue Door Gatherings’ kitchen and event space in the Wauregan building in Holyoke, a beautiful old mill building on the canal in the city’s Arts & Industry Zone.
Supper Clubs were regular events there, where patrons shared family-style dinners with friends and perfect strangers.
“The magic of Supper Club was connecting people that didn’t know each other before walking in. People could bring their own wine and beer and share it, pass food around the table, and spark conversation,” Laura recalls. “That was something very special we had last year.”
Now things are different.
“I’ve shifted my business by about 100%,” Laura says matter-of-factly. “All I was doing before was catering events and gatherings, which I can’t support right now. We’ve struggled to not inadvertently support any gatherings, and that’s been a challenge. I had to re-imagine a business model that would work not only for a couple of months, but maybe the next two years.”
If anything, it’s now easier to enjoy Laura’s work as the Blue Door team cooks behind the scenes for ‘Coco To Go,’ takeout from Coco and The Cellar Bar in Easthampton, and Tula, a new plant-based meal order company.
For Coco To Go, Blue Door produces an evolving list of takeout dishes and prepared meals for an enterprise based on safety, consistency and ease. That’s what she and the proprietors of Coco and the Cellar Bar, Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor, aim to provide with set schedules, an easy ordering platform, and a mix of comfort food and new flavors.
Tula is another collaboration by Laura and Unmi. They create and pre-assemble plant-based meals and snacks you can order online. “Everything is vegan, gluten-free and low in sugar and salt,” Laura shares. “Our goal is to help people make more plant-based choices.”
Their signature product is the Reset Box, a day’s worth of meals, snacks, teas and tonics that taste great and help you feel your best. Orders are available for pickup in Holyoke or Easthampton each Wednesday, or for delivery within about 30 miles of Holyoke.
Holidays and special meals go hand in hand, and Blue Door Gatherings and Coco To Go has that covered: Their menu last week featured challah and matzo ball soup. Next week focuses on Christmas comforts including decadent cream cheese-frosted cinnamon buns — perfect for warming up on Christmas morning — and fresh gingerbread cake that’s “not so sweet, so you can eat it for breakfast and not feel bad,” Laura promises.
They’ll also offer fun pre-batched cocktails.
“We’ll have an old-school eggnog, along with some cordials and punches,” Laura says. And let’s not forget their crowd-favorite cookie boxes. As Laura proclaims, “This is the year for comfort food. We’ve sold more quarter-pound chocolate chips cookies than I’ll ever see again in my life.”
The Valley’s takeout restaurants would love to bring you a spark of holiday cheer. Take them up on it.
Jacob Nelson is Communications Coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To find local food and support local businesses this holiday season, visit CISA’s searchable online guide at buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally/.