Maple Mania

3 C’s Catering Produces Maple For Breakfast Buffet

3 C’s Catering produces maple syrup used in cooking and baking for the business, as well as at their breakfast buffet served at The Falcon’s Nest on Sunday mornings throughout March. The children help their parents in big and small ways depending on their capability. The Cross Family, standing from left to right, are Karen, Robert, Hannah and Matthew Gullotti. Seated is Lydia and Alexis. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

Recently, I was pleased to witness how 3 C’s Catering has grown in services and outreach since my first visit on June 20, 1998, when it was a fledgling startup. My quest was to talk about maple syrup and I wasn’t disappointed.

“My family has been making maple syrup, starting on a wood stove outside, since 1982,” said Robert Cross, owner of 3 C’s Catering and The Falcon’s Nest. “We don’t have a large operation. We usually make around 30 gallons. The first couple of runs of the season are much sweeter. We only tap 45 taps, mostly from neighbors (trees) on the road. Because we tap roadside trees, we’ve found the sugar content is higher than from trees in the woods. We typically use 35-45 gallons of sap per gallon of syrup. Woods trees usually take around 50-60 gallons of sap for a gallon of syrup.

“My father, the late Bob Cross, bought (tapping) supplies from relatives who wanted to downsize, because he thought I needed something to do this time of year,” he said with a grin.

The family moved the boiling operation inside. The two older children help tap and gather the sap. The maple production operation is small, but large enough to supply the family with the amount needed to use for the breakfast buffet they put on at the Falcon’s Nest location from late February throughout March. They also use the sweet liquid in the business’ baking and cooking and for their personal use, with a small amount left over to sell.

This is the fifth year the breakfast buffet has been offered. It consists of pancakes, French toast made with homemade cinnamon bread, bacon and sausage. Home fries, scrambled eggs, sausage gravy and biscuits complete the meal with juice, coffee and milk to drink.

This photo of Robert Cross and his mother when they appeared in this column on June 20, 1998, was taken by the late Jack Berger. Cross started 3 C’s Catering with his parent’s, the late Bob and Donna Cross, as a new college graduate. P-J file photo

The business owner knew he wanted to cook for a living by the time he had turned 10 years old, because he “liked to eat” and because he spent a lot of time with his mother in the kitchen.

“I could either go to the barn, which I hated, or help in the house. Over 22 years we have been in the right place at the right time,” Cross said, counting his blessings concerning his livelihood.

In 1996, when Cross was in his last semester of college, he spotted an ad that had been placed by a local caterer wishing to sell his equipment. Cross’ parents sold their cows in April, Robert graduated in May, the equipment purchase was finalized in June and after spending months converting his parents’ barn to a sparkling clean facility, Crosses Classic Catering was opened in December.

The Falcon’s Nest was purchased and renovated into a banquet facility with seating for 200, in 2003. Over the years he has had friends and family alert him to catering opportunities as they arose, with one leading to being concessionaires at Jamestown Jammers’ games at Russell Diethrick Park from 2004-15. When another family member read about New York state acquiring Midway Park, the food service business had the opportunity to serve as concessionaires from 2005-08. More recently, a food truck utilized for private events, festivals, fairs and outdoor parties, has been added. Food is prepared in the kitchen before taking it to the community, allowing a larger food truck menu.

Everything is made from scratch. A three and one-half acre garden supplies the business with fresh produce during the harvest season and frozen produce for much of the rest of the year.

This beautiful lifelike edible rose was made from gum paste. It is one of many flowers Karen Cross makes when decorating wedding cakes.

“We have expanded our wholesale baking to include several restaurants. We do all of the baking for La Familia Restaurant on the Chautauqua Institution grounds and we’ll be starting this summer for Chautauqua Golf Club.

“We can customize anything to order,” said Cross’s wife, Karen, who decorates the majority of the wedding cakes, especially the gum paste and sugar work. Her husband does some of the buttercream work.

“We’ve got a wedding on the books for two years from now and we can do something on short notice,” she added. “Very rarely do we have to turn anything away on short notice.”

The catering and delivery services reach out as far as Fredonia, Westfield, Sherman and Clymer and to Gowanda, Olean and south of Warren, Pennsylvania. They have done work in Springville, as well. Fifteen to 17 people are employed in the busy season and four in the off-season. Most employees are part-time weekend, evening and event employees.

“I really can’t say enough about my staff,” Cross said. “Some have been with me 13, 14 and 15 years. Even my newer staff have been with me two or three years. I’m very happy.”

The couple have four children, who all attend school in the Falconer School District.

“Everybody helps on some level,” said Karen while looking at their children.

“I work in the garden, help with chicken barbecues and I do a lot of parties,” says 16-year-old Matthew Gullotti, a sophomore with a new learner’s permit.

Thirteen year-old Hannah Cross is an eighth-grader who helps with washing dishes, baking and cake decorating. Both parents admit they have let her decorate cakes since she was 6 years old. Her most recent creation was a cake donated to the 4-H Green Tie Affair, a pie and cake auction. She has expressed her desire to take over the family business one day. Alexis Cross, a nine year-old third-grader, helps with dishes and pulling weeds in the garden. Her 6-year-old sister, Lydia, is in kindergarten. She helps put away dishes, likes to pick berries and likes to accompany the delivery boy.

The Kennedy native bowls on a doubles league in Frewsburg and plays volleyball. He often takes work with him when he attends his children’s sporting events in his spare time.

“In the early spring I’ll be cutting potatoes to plant, shelling peas in the summer and I’ll snip beans in late summer into early fall.

“He’s not good at being idle,” says his wife. “It’s something he can do while enjoying the game. At Hannah’s All-Star game, five or six people joined in to help shell peas.”

The caterer offers several recipes, each using maple syrup, including his mother, the late Donna Cross’s recipe for Maple Cream.

“She always said the first run syrup was the best. Everybody loves this on toast. If you cook it too long, you get maple candy,” Cross said.

The Maple Barbeque Sauce was developed by 3 C’s Catering.

“It is a very popular barbecue sauce. We use it for our pulled pork, meatballs and it goes on the “Homewrecker” served from the food truck,” he said.

The Homewrecker is a sandwich which consists of a foot-long Sahlen’s hot dog, topped with 3 C’s smoked pulled pork, homemade coleslaw and Maple Barbeque Sauce served in a homemade bun.

Cross came up with the Nutty French Toast recipe when he needed something to serve at Falconer Rotary breakfasts. He has included a Maple Bacon Cupcake recipe, since bacon has become a popular ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes.

The Falcon’s Nest is located at 2001 E. Main St., Falconer, New York. The breakfast buffet is served Sundays from 8:30-11 a.m. throughout March. The cost is $11 for adults, $6 for children 3-10 and children 2 and under are free. 3 C’s Catering can be reached by calling 267-4403.

MOM’S MAPLE SYRUP

(Makes 3 Half Pints Of Cream)

1 Quart of early run syrup

Butter upper edge of pan to keep from boiling over. Pour syrup into pan. Place over high flame & insert candy thermometer. Once boiling, lower heat till it reaches 232 degrees and watch closely. Do NOT touch until it reaches 232 degrees. Then remove from heat and place in pan of cold water and ice until it reaches room temp or 85- 90 degrees. DO NOT STIR. Once at room temperature, beat with a mixer until it lightens and thickens like a runny frosting glaze. Pour into jars and finish cooling in the refrigerator.

MAPLE BACON CUPCAKES

2 1/2 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp soda

1/4 c butter

1/2 c light brown sugar

1/4 c sour cream

3 large eggs

1 c maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 c buttermilk

2/3 c bacon crumbles (Plus a little extra for decoration)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder and soda. Set aside. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, sugar and sour cream until fluffy. Beat in eggs, syrup and vanilla. Add dry ingredients by thirds, alternating with buttermilk. Fold in bacon. Fill muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool completely before icing with Maple Frosting.

Maple Frosting:

2 lbs powdered sugar

2 T maple syrup

1 c Butter

Extra reserved bacon crumbles

Whip ingredients together. Frost Maple Bacon cupcakes. Sprinkle extra bacon overtop for decoration.

MAPLE WALNUT MUFFINS

2 1/2 c flour

3/4 c sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp soda

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 carton plain yogurt

1/3 c maple syrup

2 T vegetable oil

1/4 c walnuts, finely chopped

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and soda in a bowl and set aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients in another larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients stirring until just moistened. Divide evenly into 14 to 18 well-greased muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with more chopped walnuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until done.

NUTTY FRENCH TOAST

12 Slices French bread (1 inch thick)

8 eggs

2 c milk

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 c butter, room temperature

2/3 c packed brown sugar

3 T maple syrup

1 c walnuts, chopped (optional)

Place bread in a greased baking dish. In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over bread and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, use mixer to cream butter, brown sugar and syrup until smooth. Spread over bread. Sprinkle with nuts, if desired and bake uncovered for 1 hour at 350 degrees or until golden brown.

MAPLE BARBECUE SAUCE

4 c ketchup

1/2 c brown sugar

2 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp pepper

2 T vinegar

2 T maple syrup

1/4 c water

Wisk all ingredients together. Bring it to a boil. Serve.

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