8 Steps to The Perfect Surprise Party

By: Desi Dimitrova



Do you remember that time when your friends put together a surprise party for you, and you had no idea that they were planning anything? Wasn’t that amazing? Do you want to return the favor?

Throwing surprise parties, for whatever reason, makes you feel pretty darn awesome. For one thing, you feel good because you’ve made someone else feel special. You also show how much you care, even if it doesn’t come off perfectly because people will appreciate the time and energy you’ve put into it. It’s a win-win!

So, are you ready to throw the surprise party of the century? Here are 8 easy steps that will help you on your way to glory!

Step 1: Set the Date

This is probably one of the most important things to consider: when is your friend available? When are the guests available? Because if it’s just you and your friend at that party, it won’t be as spectacular, right? So, think of everyone before you make any commitments. You can call up some of the people to see if they’re free on a specific date that you think might work.

PRO Tip: Make a common chat with all the people you want to invite and send them a Doodle. Give them a deadline and when it’s up, simply pick the date that most people have chosen and let everyone know. 

After you’ve set the date, call up your friend and make sure that you “book” him/her for that particular evening.

Step 2: Find Someone to Help You

Who will help you with logistics? Organizing a massive party is not an easy task. Which is why you’ll need a partner in crime.

Ask one or more of your friends to be co-hosts of the evening. Make sure that at least one of you has a car. There will be a lot of materials, decorations, food and drinks to carry around, so it’s best to be prepared.

Step 3: Find a Venue

Where will the party be at? Make sure you pick a convenient location. If you’re throwing a surprise party for your roommate, maybe your place is not the best for the occasion. You won’t be able to decorate in advance and there’s a chance your friend might pick up on what’s going on, if he/she sees party decoration, lying around.

So, ask some of your friends, if they can host the party. That way you’ll be able to store all of the decorations safely, and you’ll be able to put them up beforehand, so you don’t do everything at the last moment.

PRO Tip: If your budget allows it, hire an external venue. You can decorate ahead of time, and your friend will never suspect a thing! 

Step 4: Pick A Theme

Of course, that’s optional. But it’s always a good idea to have a theme. Even if it’s just related to specific colors. For example, you can pick out your friend’s favorite hues and ask all the guests to be dressed accordingly. The decoration can match as well.

If you’re having a hard time thinking of themes — there are thousands of ideas on the internet. You just need to do a little research and match what you find with what your friend likes. It can be something as simple as a Pajama Party or a little more complicated, like a Murder Mystery Party (if your friend likes mysteries, he/she will love such a theme!).

Step 5: Create a Guest List

Ah, yes! The guests! They’re a very crucial part of the party. Discuss potential guest lists with your core team of friends. Make sure that you invite people who are indeed pleasant to your friend, because you don’t want any awkward moments throughout the night, right?

So, write down a list, invite them individually, and ask them to come at least 30 min prior to the set hour when the party should begin. They can help out with last minute preparations, and even if someone is late, they won’t come after you and your friend.

Step 6: Decorations

Now that you have the core team, the venue, the theme of the party and the guests, you need to physically buy the decorations.

Think of the theme and make a list of all the pieces you’ll need in order create a memorable atmosphere. Ask your friends for advice and find some inspiration online. Then go out to a big store and buy everything that’s on your list. Try not to go off it too much, in order to stick to your budget.

Step 7: Food & Drinks

What are your friends and guests going to eat and drink?

The best thing you can do is to make a list of everything you think people would enjoy to eat and drink. You can also ask around for people’s preferences. It’s always a good idea to have a vegan option. Don’t forget that you’ll need plates and glasses for everyone.

PRO Tip: Hire a caterer. Even if the party is just for 20-30 people, they offer various services and you might find just what you’re looking for. In some cases, it would even cost you less money than to buy and prepare all of the food yourself!

Step 8: The Cherry on Top

No party (much like a dessert) is complete without the cherry on top. Without that special oomph! If it’s a birthday party, that can be the presents. If it’s a party for another occasion, there can be a special performance or an artist who would make the night unforgettable. You can indeed hire professionals for a reasonable price who will take care of the entertainment for you.

If you need more help, Events Paparazzi put together a complete guide for party planning including themes and timelines for preparation! With all of these resources, you can't go wrong. 

So, there you have it! Those were the 8 steps to the perfect surprise! Let’s get started and remember…mum’s the word!

Unique Dining
Honoring a Loved One: How to Organize a Funeral Reception

Honor your departed loved one with an elegant funeral reception

By: Jessi Minneci


Unfortunately, there comes a time in each of our lives where some of the people we treasure most – older relatives and friends – pass on. And while this time is rightfully filled with grief, reflection, and sorrow, we must also find time to honor and celebrate our departed individual.

Following a funeral, it is customary (but not required) to hold a funeral reception or memorial service. This gathering offers friends and family the opportunity to meet in a setting less formal than a church, cemetery, or other religious establishment to support each other, share stories and memories of the departed, and continue to celebrate the life of someone they cared dearly for.

Post-service gatherings provide a more casual atmosphere for people to connect. By pre-planning the funeral reception, you can ensure those who come out to celebrate your departed have a pleasant experience.

It is OK to ask for help

If you are up to planning the funeral reception on your own, then go for it! But remember, this isn’t an event you’re required to tackle alone.

Keep the purpose of the reception in mind and take your own needs into consideration. Consider what the person whose life you are celebrating would have wanted. Oftentimes, the planning may be met as a welcoming distraction during an otherwise somber time. But if it starts to become too much, slow down and come up with another solution – enlist the support of family members and friends. Feel free to delegate tasks, such as booking the venue and sending out invitations/notifications.

Pick a date and get the word out

Funeral receptions are often held at a local banquet hall, the home of a friend or relative, or another meaningful spot – such as a favorite park. When thinking about the venue, consider the amount of work that will need to be put into each place (hosting at home requires a bit more planning versus holding the reception at a banquet hall), and take into account what you are willing to do – both physically and emotionally. Also consider the amount of people that may opt to attend. Oftentimes, it becomes much easier to plan something outside of a friend or relatives home, but the final decision is up to you.

Once you have set a date for the funeral and following reception, begin informing family members, friends, and cohorts of the plans. You may also wish to notify local newspapers and any online memorial websites where your loved one is being honored. Through all that is going on, try to give as much notice as you can for out-of-town folks so they can make travel arrangements.

Consider religion, when applicable

Even if you are personally not religious, you may choose to follow the religious or cultural traditions of the person who has passed on. If so, be aware that some religions have special foods that are eaten or prohibited after a funeral:

  • Mormons traditionally eat potato casserole at a funeral reception 
  • People of Jewish faith traditionally eat eggs and abstain from alcohol

Furthermore, many religions have specific mourning periods that begin immediately after the funeral, which you may want your family to observe. Consider these and how they may impact the funeral reception.

Decide on a menu

Since the reception often follows the funeral services, it is customary to provide food and drinks – as most guests will have worked up an appetite by this time. Don’t feel pressured to serve a full course meal, but remember, food often goes hand-in-hand with reminiscing and celebration.

To keep the environment as comfortable as possible, you may want consider serving a buffet style meal. That way, guests can take as they please while conversating with friends and family members. This will also allow for visitors to come and go as they please without the pressure of leaving in the middle of or arriving late to a sit down dinner.

To honor your passed on loved one, you may want to include their favorite dish. For example, you could serve their favorite type of sandwich or their favorite beer. If you have a preference for what should be served at the reception, let your caterer know in advance so that they can make arrangements.

Remember, too, that if you decide to host the reception at either your or another friend or family member’s home, it does not mean that you have to prepare a home-cooked meal for everyone in attendance. Home catering is 100 percent an option, and many catering services will even provide all of the dishware, utensils, paper products necessary – and wait staff services, too!

Personalize the event

Adding personal touches to the reception will help keep your loved one top of mind. You may want to create a photo wall or memory table adorned with pictures and keepsakes. If the deceased was a collector, displaying some special items from his or her personal collection is also another good option. Some other ideas include:

  • Creating/playing a playlist of songs significant to your loved one
  • Arranging a group activity such as a candle lighting or vigil
  • Offering an open microphone so that guests can share a memory
  • Creating a tribute video to display during the reception
  • Providing a keepsake for visitors to take with them (a prayer card, for example)

Above all, do not forget that this is a time for grief, reflection, sorrow, reminiscing, and a whirlwind of other emotions as they relate to the passing of a love one. When it comes to the planning of the reception, remember to have patience with yourself and others. If planning becomes something that deems too stressful, take a break or ask another family member to handle it.

There is no wrong or right way to plan a funeral reception as long as you make a commitment to keeping the deceased loved one in mind throughout the process. Along the way, these are simply tips to ensure a smoother process as far as the planning goes. 

Unique Dining
Debunking the Mystery: What Your Party’s Dress Code Really Means

So that you don’t head out the door and into the party looking like a goofball

By: Jessi Minneci


Parties: we all love attending them, planning them, and even hosting them. But if you’re like us, whether you’re the party host or attendee, you’re often scratching your head over one particular question: what does the dress code mean?!

Black tie… black tie optional (what the heck?!?!)… semi-formal… business casual… smart casual… our heads are spinning just thinking about a few of the options!! And sadly, no matter how many functions we attend, we still can’t wrap our heads around what “dressy casual” is. (By the way, whoever coined dressy casual should be fired – those are two TOTALLY opposing terms.)

Picking the right outfit when it comes to attending a party should be fun, not stressful! And because it’s already hard enough to shop for the perfect ensemble when you do understand the dress code, we decided to lend you a hand by laying out some of the most common dress codes:

Dress code: Casual

We’ll start off by going easy on you. Casual, which may also be labeled as ‘informal,’ essentially means that almost anything goes (jeans, a blouse, sundress, boat shoes, etc.). Notice, though, that we accentuated almost. That means that, even if it’s a backyard barbeque at your cousin Steve’s pad, no one necessarily wants to see you show up in nothing but your speedo. At least wear a cover up, man. There are some things that should be left to the imagination – or, at the very least until you’re actually going into the pool.

Dress code: Business casual

Most corporate buildings, office parties, and other corporate functions have a dress code that calls for business casual. However, this is very oxymoronic in the sense that it mixes the terms business and causal, AND it’s confusing in the sense that the actual attire can vary from event to event and industry to industry.

Generally, though, for women this means pants and a blazer, a pencil skirt and fun blouse, or a sundress. Guys can wear slacks or chinos and a collared shirt. When it comes to business casual, skip the jeans and sneakers… the code may say casual, but it’s more formal than that.

Dress code: Smart casual

This is the little devil that may also be called “dressy casual.” The general consensus is that you should aim for dressed-up versions of casual looks. For women, that might mean a peasant skirt or blazer and skinny jeans. For men, a nice pair of trousers—or very nice jeans—with a polo or button-up shirt. For women, the same thing, but a nice knee-length skirt is acceptable as well.

We suggest leaving the flip flops, sneakers, old jeans, and basketball shorts/daisy dukes home for this coded event.

Dress code: Business formal

Heading out to a business luncheon or some other corporate affair? You may notice that the invitation reads ‘business formal.’ To play things on the safe side, this dress code means a suit and tie for the guys and a tailored dress or a pantsuit for women.

What’s the major different between business casual and business formal? When it comes to the latter, the idea is to wear something business appropriate that also feels more dressed-up.

Dress code: Festive

OK, you can now let out a sigh of relief. This dress code is exactly what it sounds like, and is especially popular around the holidays or some other theme-worthy function. Don’t break out the Santa hat or ugly sweater just yet, though. Unless specific dress code directions are given (i.e. ugly sweater party), opt for cocktail-style attire with a fun twist—such as a sequin dress, satin top, or printed tie.

Dress code: Cocktail

Since we mentioned cocktail attire above, let’s dive right into it. Cocktail attire means you should be well dressed (no shorts, sandals, or t-shirts), but there is usually some wiggle room for personality.

Regardless, both men and women should aim for dressy pieces and darker colors. Men should wear suits (with or without a tie), dress pants with dress shirts, or even a nice pair of jeans with a sport coat or jacket.

For women, this is the perfect opportunity to pull out that LBD (little black dress) or any other short dresses that are party-ready.

Dress code: Semi-formal

This one’s a bit tricky, because it’s actually less formal than “black tie optional,” but more formal than anything previously mentioned.

When it comes down to it, men should at least wear a darker colored business suit and tie. Women can go with a cocktail dress or a pant suit. No matter the gender, dress shoes are expected.

Basically, the main difference between “black tie optional” and “semi-formal” dress code is that this one isn’t sorta-kinda asking you to wear a tuxedo or evening gown. (We agree. We’d get lost if it weren’t for this guide, too.)

Dress code: Black tie optional

We’re just going to cut to the chase here:

  • Men: option of tuxedo or a dark suit and a tie
  • Women: wear anything from a long, formal gown to a cocktail number

Think of it like this: You aren’t necessarily expected to look as if you’re en route the Grammys, but you want to show up looking like you are ready to attend J-Lo’s Grammy after party…

Dress code: Black tie

This time, you are going to the Grammys. And men, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that your options are cut and clear with this dress code – wear a tux.

A black tie dress code is a little more complicated for women, who can technically wear anything from a long dress to dressy separates to a formal cocktail dress. The best way to figure out what to wear is to dress according to what you expect the host to wear.

Dress code: White tie

We’ll admit, this dress code even intimidates us a bit! I mean, did you even remember that there’s a dress code above black tie (because, OK, it almost slipped our minds…)?!?!

White tie is more or less the platinum of dress codes. As it goes, men should wear a white bow tie, black coat with tails, and a white pique vest over a formal shirt.

Women should wear long, formal evening gowns, and gloves when enjoying cocktails and dancing (then removed during dinner). If you get an invitation that says “white tie attire only,” prepare to break out your most dapper of numbers.

Because it is already challenging to pick out the perfect (and appropriate) ensemble for a party, function, or formal gathering, we hope this guide takes some of the pressure off of you. When in doubt, reach out to the organizer of the event, or discreetly contact the venue for guidance, if you have the means to do so. Remember, a party calls for celebration – not anxiety over the right pair of shoes.

Unique Dining
An Epic List of Team Building Activities for the Workplace

Bring employees together with these ideas and activities (that they won’t roll their eyes at)

By: Jessi Minneci


Take a look around your office at 2 p.m. Do you see anyone dozing off behind the confines of their cubicle? Are co-workers conversating with each other, or do most people appear to be in some technology-driven trance? When you start noticing a few (or more) employees dragging their feet in the hallway, it may be a good time to start considering spicing up the place a bit.

Breaks from rigorous work are necessary. Trust us, a little distraction here and there from the daily grind can actually lead to more success, not less! It’s time to start planning a teambuilding activity.

Team bonding, whether inside or outside of the office walls, provides a meaningful way to foster relationships with your team members, reduce employee stress, and give your team the chance to get to let their guards down just enough.

So, you’re all for planning some team bonding for your staff, right? But are you stuck on where and how to take the team bonding to the next step? Try starting with one of these ideas – each is bound to get everyone in good spirits… whether they’re clocking out or just coming in for the day:

Give them something sweet

Do your employees seem to STARE at the clock, just waiting for 5 p.m. to roll around? Ditch the mid-afternoon lag by breaking up the day with a dessert social! After all, nothing says ‘I appreciate you’ to your employees quite like a sweet treat.

After lunch, set up an ice cream bar in the break room – equipped with all of the toppings imaginable: whipped cream, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, candy, etc. Calling everyone away from their desks with a small gesture of appreciation (and free dessert!) goes a long way. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale and a little less melty (things could get sticky where keyboards are involved) than ice cream, consider catering something like our sweet and fruit dessert table.

Miniature cheese cakes… fresh fruit… lemon bars… brownies… éclairs… strawberry and chocolate mousse... are you day dreaming of desserts yet!?!? When it comes to bringing your employees together, a little sugar and a lot of happiness will ensure that no one leaves the office with a frown that day.

Bring in a workshop

This teambuilding option is versatile in several different ways – workshop administrators can be brought into your office so that employees don’t have to leave the premises to get together, and the workshop type itself can be either educational, professional, or, simply, fun! When planning a teambuilding workshop, consider some of these ideas:

  • Professional workshops: offer an educational experience either at your office or an off-site workshop or conference. The activity doesn’t necessarily have to be SPECIFICALLY related to your employees' jobs, though it totally can be! That or it could be broader… like a wellbeing (meditation, yoga), personal organization or leadership skills workshop. Each is equally beneficial for your team – plus, meditation / yoga workshop day can also double as dress-down day!
  • Informal workshops: They may be informal, but that doesn’t mean they’re anything less than an awesome experience! Something like comedy presentations or improv sessions are fun, interactive experiences that'll have your employees in good spirits while simultaneously them useful communication and soft skills, like focus and trust.

Get out of a trap with your team

Looking to take a team field trip? These days, escape rooms are all the rage, and for good reason! Here’s how it works: basically, your group will be ‘locked’ in a room for a certain amount of time. During that time, your employees and you will search for hidden objects, solve puzzles, and figure out clues… with the ultimate goal of setting yourselves free from the escape room.

But it’s not all fun and games – to be completed successfully, escape rooms require leadership skills, teamwork, logic, and patience. They’re perfect for teambuilding in an office that could benefit from some added employee-to-employee trust and confidence.

Spice up a meeting with lunch

What’s one way to bring everyone together? FOOD. It’s no coincidence that we started off the list with an ice cream social – we’re circling back around now to your more savory options, simply because food is the ultimate bonding companion.

Bring your board meeting to the next level by providing lunch for the whole team. Keep things clean and provide an additional, afternoon energy supply by stocking up the meeting room with boxed lunches for your employees. You may even opt to swap out the usual slide show for something with a little more pizzazz.

Do you have time to play a teambuilding game? Whether you’re interested in extraterrestrial conspiracies, NASCAR, or your porcelain doll collection, there are things each person might want to share with their co-workers that they otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to.

Set aside a regularly-scheduled afternoon meeting for lunch and a round of “show and tell” and give some of your team members the opportunity to bring something in and/or present on a topic. Keep everyone engaged by requesting that team members to be present, and have a question and answer session afterwards. It may sound a bit silly at first, but you’d be surprised what you may learn about your employees. On the other hand, everyone appreciates a chance to be in the spotlight, even if just for a round of “show and tell.”

Scavenger hunts (inside the office and around the business park complex)… group volunteering… after-work bowling tournament… holiday parties/gift swaps… when it comes to team success, there’s nothing more beneficial than taking a break from the day-to-day work schedule for some team bonding and fun.

And although you may not have the time to host one of these events every week, try to make it a priority to schedule at least one team building activity each quarter. After all, statistics show that companies with engaged employees earn up to 2.5 times more income than competitors.

Likewise, employees with a high engagement level are 87 percent less likely to leave a company than those with low engagement. So get to that teambuilding, and reap the benefits of happy employees and an even happier workplace!

Unique Dining
How to Prepare For a CEO’s Memorable Trip to Your Office

By: Jessi Minneci


Tidy up the office – you’ve got company coming! And whether the CEO is visiting from out of state, the higher-ups from another region are dropping in, or an exclusive guest wants to observe the office, there’s no denying that we all tend to get overwhelmed when we know we want to impress a visitor.

When the big wigs come to visit our office branch, we want them to be more or less blown out of the water – with our appearance, with our employees, and with our work ethic. From the second they step in the door, we want them to feel the company culture – the positive "vibe" that hopefully defines our work and team. But how do we create all of this good mojo? Well, a little preparation is involved, sure, but nothing is unattainable.

Follow these simple steps, and you’ll have impressed the higher ups so much so that they’ll probably be asking if they can make their stay more permanent.

Prepare beforehand

Regardless of the situation at hand, we want to make sure that our visitors’ stay is as comfortable as possible. Outside of the office, ensure that your visitor’ travel arrangements are taken care of. Nearby, reliable hotel? Offer to book them a room. Send a car to the airport to pick them up. Better yet, if you can afford getting away for a bit, pick them up personally. You can also knock their socks off by going the extra mile and creating a list of cool spots they may want to check out while they’re in town – restaurants, theaters, local landmarks – things like that. Even if their trip is short, you’ll want to offer them some fillers for free time; don’t leave them relying only on Yelp.

Get everyone in the know

Before the higher ups arrive, distribute a memo to the entire staff explaining their background and any important or relevant facts: names, their positions, their home branch location, etc. Brief your employees on the reason for the visit to the best of your ability and encourage employees to greet and interact with visitors when the time is appropriate.

Because everyone will be in the loop, you can also work together as a team to make sure the office is in tip-top shape. Is the Xerox pile, well, piling up? Do employees tend to leave their snacks and wrappers astray at their desks? These habits may be fine on any other given day, but when there are visitors present, you’ll want to work as a team to do some tidying up. Organized work spaces give off a great first impression of organized employees.

Doll up the workspace

Take tidying up to the next level by adoring the office with things that radiate your company culture. For example, does your office have a lobby or area with a television? Loop a slideshow containing pictures of employees, birthday/promotion/life event/company milestone congratulations, or videos of recent company events. Decorate blank walls with images and objects that are along the same lines – frame a company t-shirt, flag, or banner; pin up images from company events; or highlight notes and mementoes that highlight company success.

Ask the right questions

When you and your team interact with the higher ups, first put emphasis on developing genuine rapport. Once the ice is broken, you’ll want to ask more pressing questions – ones that exemplify your knowledge of the company, its pain points, and its growth potential.

Do your research. Being able to provide your own insights to the questions you’re posing will show your business-centric knowledge. Bonus: this may also give you and your employees an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of how their success came to be. Some ideas:

  • Do you think we could increase revenue by doing [X]?
  • I see [COMPANY] is paving the way for [X AREA OF BUSINESS]. Do you feel that’s a big competitive threat?
  • What does success look like for you… in a single day and/or over time?
  • What questions do we need to be asking that we’re not already?
  • What does [X DECISION] mean for our future? Is this a long-term, strategic decision for us?

Tantalize their taste buds

After traveling, you can rest assured knowing your visitors will be hungry. Don’t assume they’ve eaten. And don’t send them to the nearest McDonald’s, either. Make sure there is food readily available, whether you confine that to a meeting room with just you and the higher ups or decide to hold a company luncheon in which everyone’s involved.

Our suggestion? Opt for appetizers! No matter the time of day, appetizers are always a good bet, as they are small and manageable, less messy than full-plated meals, and they offer tons of opportunity, no matter what someone’s dietary restrictions and desires are. Unique Dining Catering offers a myriad of hors dourves, including:

  • A splendid array of artisanal cheeses and crackers
  • Dainty deviled eggs whipped up using the perfect recipe
  • Fresh shrimp cocktail and sauce
  • A delectable assortment of mini quiches
  • Finger lickin’ chicken drummies with dipping sauce
  • Mouth-watering baked ham, bacon, and cheese cups

Need we go on? With so many options, appetizer offerings will knock the socks off of your visitors and leave them full… but daydreaming for more! Plus, if there are leftovers, we’re sure your employees won’t mind taking some bite-sized babies to go.

The suggestions above highlight only some of our appetizer offerings. Browse our entire hors dourves menu here, and create the perfect mix of dishes to present the higher ups with.

Give them a gift

No one likes to go home empty-handed. To cap off a successful visit, send your guests off with something that is memorable to your branch, such as company clothing, logo-printed water bottles or stationary, or a homemade travel kit for their return trip home.

Follow the visit up with personalized cards thanking each of them for their time, knowledge, and willingness to visit. Send them snail mail! A thank you email is nice, but nothing shows personal gratitude like a good ole’ hand-written sentiment.

You’ve got this! By the time the big wigs get through with you, they’ll be so impressed that they just might ask you to apply for their position!

Unique Dining
Learn the Lingo: A Guide to Kitchen Jargon from A-Z

All the terms you need to know for working back & front of house so you don’t get 86’d.

By: Jessi Minneci


Have you ever walked into a busy restaurant on a Saturday night, only to get seated next to the open kitchen (A.K.A. one of the most entertaining seats in the house!)? All night, you were probably tantalized with delicious, fresh smells wafting over the border wall and into your vicinity. Yum!

Keep thinking back to that experience. Being so close to the kitchen, did you notice anything else in particular? Something you may not have picked up on was all of the conversation going on between the back-of-the-house team. And that’s probably because it sounded like a bunch of gibberish to you.

“By 9, we were slammed and had already 86’d halibut and monkfish. I was running the pass when this huge push was happening, and we were doing the skirt steak a la minute, you know?”

If you’re scratching your head at that sentence, you’ve probably never worked in a kitchen before. Like all industries, the kitchen has developed its own jargon—one that is at once clever, efficient, and sometimes a little crude. We’re breaking down all of the kitchen slang A-Z so that you’ll be talking like a true sous chef in no time.

12-top: Depending on the number of guests that can fit at a table, that determines what type of ‘top’ the table is. If four people can sit at the table, the table is a four-top. If 12 people can sit at the table, it’s a 12-top. And so on…

3 out: Plating and preparation time is crucial when it comes to the successful flow of a kitchen, especially on busy days. Three out refers to the amount of time before a dish will be ready to be plated. If the chef yells “3 out on the duck,” that means the duck will be ready for plating in three minutes. “5 out on the shepherd’s pie” means that that dish will be ready to go in five minutes.

86’d: When the kitchen runs out of a dish, it’s “86’d” from the menu. Certain dishes can also be 86’d if the chef is unhappy with the preparation and temporarily wants it off the menu.

A la carte: A phrase meaning ‘according to the menu’… it refers to a selection of differently priced dishes that are prepared when ordered from the menu.

A la minute: Despite what you might think – and we apologize in advance if this breaks your spirit – but not all restaurant dishes are made to order. This is a good thing, though, because to prep everything as an order comes in would be next to impossible.

There are items on the menu, though, that are created ‘a la minute’ (‘in the minute’ in French) that are made then and there. Instead of making a huge vat of soup for the night, a soup made ‘a la minute’ means that each serving is prepared to order.

Amuse-bouche: Bite-sized hors d’oeuvres. We like this one because its translation is literally ‘mouth amuser!’

Apéritif: A before dinner, alcoholic beverage used to stimulate appetite.

Bev nap: The little, square napkin that a beverage rests on.

BOH: Back Of House, the kitchen… any area where you don’t deal with customers, basically. It also refers to the group of people who work there.

Camp kitchen: Believe it or not, not all venues come equipped with a complete kitchen. Sometimes, the caterer needs to bring their own equipment in order to get everything prepared, cooked, and served to standard. This can also be referred to as ‘field kitchen.’

Combi: A fancy oven with convection and steam features – all the bells and whistles.

Comp: To give something away free. “We were slow on table eight… comp the whole table coffee and dessert!”     

Digestif: An after dinner, alcoholic beverage enjoyed as an aid to digestion.

En croute: A food that is wrapped and baked in a pastry

Family meal: Staff meal, usually served family-style, that all staff eat together before a shift to discuss the night ahead

F&B: Short for food and beverage.

Front of House: The front of the restaurant; dining are.

Getting a push: Work on the line usually comes in waves: peak times, closing time, late night, etc. When the restaurant is getting busier, the kitchen is “getting a push.”

Low-boy: An under-the-counter refrigerator.

Mise: French for ‘everything in place.’ You better hope that everything is mise en place throughout the night.

Ops meeting: A gathering held by the caterers before your event. This marks the time when the client(s) and caterer go over everything that will happen during an event. 

The pass: When dishes are ready to be served, they are transferred to the pass, where the wait staff will pick them up and bring them to the table.

Robot Coupe: This device it like a food processor… but the motor is a heck of a lot stronger.

Salamander: A term for the broiler. (No, not a lizard!)

Short: To be missing an item to complete the meal, e.g., “The steak is short the demi glaze”

Shuck: What one does to an oyster.

Sommelier: A trained professional of wine and food pairing.

SOS: Sauce on the side.

Waxing the table: To give a table of customers the VIP treatment.

Working: While the food is actively being cooked, it is ‘working.’

When you find yourself in a kitchen setting – whether it be sitting near an open kitchen, taking a stab at working in the restaurant business, or attending a party with an active catering staff – the food-specific vernacular could come off as quite intimidating.

However, once you master the terms on this list, you’ll be ready to handle the F&B in the front of the housewhile your team’s feeling the push; all without getting 86’d on your first day!

Bon appetit!

Unique Dining
Everyone’s Favorite Part of a Business Meeting

By: Desi Dimitrova


Do you remember when you were little and you never understood why dessert came at the end of the meal, when all you wanted to do was eat it first? Do you still feel like that as an adult? Once you grow up, you have the option to eat whatever you like, whenever you like. So sometimes dessert does come before anything else.

But what about at work? Do you munch on some delicious treats throughout the day? And how about after a tedious meeting?

Studies have shown that snacking in the office increases the bonds and improves relationships between co-workers. It also decreases stress because you’re able to share your burden with colleagues. Which is why it comes as no surprise that when a less-than-exciting meeting is a foot, managers like to head to the local bakery and buy delicious pastries for everyone!

Have you ever wondered what kinds of desserts and snacks best fit in a meeting environment? Here’s a list of the most mouth-watering treats that will brighten up even the gloomiest meeting or, sometimes, day!


Don’t you just love the frosting on top? That’s the best part of any cupcake! Not to mention that it gives it its signature taste. Whether it’s Luscious Vanilla, Dark Chocolate or Red Velvet — they’re irresistible. In addition to that, you can have the cupcakes custom-made with the company logo or a special message. And they have an actual superpower. Cupcakes can brighten up anyone’s day! Yes, that meeting just got better!


They are the cupcakes’ best friends. Not all cookies are made equal though, so be careful with your choice. It’s best to opt for freshly baked goodness.

Chocolate Truffles on A Stick

Old but gold! Truffles are elegant and classy. They were made for people who like tradition and see nothing wrong with sticking to what works. If the rest of your team is slightly more adventurous, you can put the truffles on a stick, bring out a couple of bowls of melted chocolate and let people experience Heaven in the office. It’s a snack that everyone will talk about for the rests of the week!

Baked Doughnuts

Who doesn’t like doughnuts? They’re fluffy and delicious. But they can be a very heavy food, and especially for people who are health-conscious, doughnuts are a nightmare. So, is there a better option on the market? Why yes, there is! Baked doughnuts! They’ve become the hit of season, creating their own following. And with good reason — you get the same delicious taste but with less grease! Now that’s the kind of math everyone loves!

Ice Pops

It’s a hot summer day. The AC is working round the clock. And yet, the day calls for an ice treat to lift everyone’s spirits. So why not have some ice pops? They can even be made out of ice cream and cut into small squares, so that people can easily take a piece. Hurry up before they melt!

Ice Cream Sundaes

Speaking of frozen goodies, you can also try yummy ice cream sundaes. They’re a perfect blend of ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Oh, and let’s not forget about the most important ingredient — the cherry on the top! They’re serviced in individual cups, so your teammates and colleagues will be able to enjoy them without causing too much distraction to themselves and others.

Chocolate Mousse

The king among desserts! Add to it some whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, and you have yourself a little piece of Heaven. It’s easy to pass around as it usually comes in small cups. Mousses produce exhilarating excitement because of all the amazing decoration. And people love them because they’re not as heavy as other types of desserts. Not to mention that they’re incredibly tasty. It’s a win-win!

Brownie Delight A’la Mode

Did you know that the pie a’la mode (the early version of the brownie a’la mode) was invented in Minnesota? It all happened at the end of the 19th century, and today this dessert claims the title of one of the most popular treats on the market. And with good reason! The combination of delicious chocolate brownie with cool vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup will melt in your mouth in seconds. Your co-workers won’t be able to resist it!

Apple Pie

What is the 4th July without apple pie? Or any other occasion, for that matter? Pies are such an amazing type of food. There probably isn’t a person alive who doesn’t love them. And you have so many options! Of course, undoubtedly the biggest winner is the apple pie. Complete it with cinnamon ice cream, and everyone will love you. And when you get them for events or just because you feel like it for the office meeting, they usually come in smaller sizes, so that everyone can take one. Delicious!

Carrot Cake

Cakes have the lead when it comes to traditional desserts. They can be chocolate or vanilla, with fruit or nuts, you name it! But have you tried the oh so good carrot cake with pineapple cream cheese frosting? If you have not, brace yourself. Your life is about to be transformed! And if you want to make it easier for your colleagues to enjoy, try cutting it in smaller square pieces, and put those on a skewer of some sort. Or cake pops! You can also directly order the cake in such a form, so you will be able to save yourself some time. And people will adore you!

Cups of Fruit Salad

And last, but most definitely not least, let’s take a look at the healthiest dessert out there — the fruit salad. This is a very refreshing treat and it’s good for all seasons. Add in a scoop of ice cream to make it even more delicious in those hot summer months. Or how about a bit of honey? Amazing! You can order cups of fruit salads that your colleagues will be able to enjoy as the meeting goes on. And they’ll be refreshed and have more energy!

So, which dessert do you like most in your office? Is there something you’re dying to try out? Ask us! We’ll make it for you. 

Unique Dining
Stop Being a Cookie Cutter: Take Your Cookie Decorating Skills up a Notch

These tips will have you piping and decorating like the pros

By: Jessi Minneci


When it comes to decorating Instagram-worthy cookies, there’s a lot of pressure to pipe the icing and scatter the sugar flecks just right. Cookies usually taste amazing no matter what, there’s no denying that; but there comes a time in every baker's life when the vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles are no longer enough.

If you're serious about decorating cookies with a w-o-w factor, whether it be for the holiday season, your baking business, a wedding party, or to enjoy on your couch with a cup of tea, it's time to upgrade your techniques and tools.

Decorating cookies always seems like a good idea… but your finished product almost never ends up looking like the whimsically-decorated example image that goes along with the recipe found online. To avoid frosting fails and fondant fumbles, follow these expert tips on creating cookies that are both stylish and tasty.

It starts with the cookie

You cannot build a beautifully-decorated product without a beautiful base. In this instance, we’ll focus on a truly blank canvas – the sugar cookie. Make the dough ahead of time, roll it out (it’s way easier to roll out at room temp than when it’s cold), and allow it to chill before being cut out into shapes. Chilling the dough will help it better maintain its shape throughout that baking process instead of it becoming a puffy mess in the oven. In fact, we even suggest throwing your cookie sheets in the freezer for 15 minutes before cooking to really avoid that ballooning.

Speaking of ballooning, you’ll also want to pay attention to how you handle your butter. Over-creaming your butter can aerate the dough, thus causing the rise… and then collapse… of your cookies in the oven. Work the butter just enough that it homogenizes with the rest of the ingredients, but don’t over-cream.  

When it comes to cutting the cookies, we suggest avoiding shapes with too many protrusions – like complex stars. Longer or thinner bits of dough will break off easier and may also cook quicker and can become overly browned before the rest of the cookie is done.

Pro-tip: Want to bring your sugar cookies to the next level? Kick the flavor up a notch by adding a pinch of lemon or orange zest to the dough recipe. The zing of citrus-y freshness will elevate the flavor of your sweet treat just enough.

Keep cooling

You let your cookies cool down before baking them; now it’s time to let them cool again after removing them from the oven.

There’s nothing worse than piping icing onto the surface of your fresh cookie and watching it melt off of the sides, or sprinkling colorful sugar glitter on top of your treat just to watch all of the color run.

Patience is key here. And although we don’t always want to wait around for a finished product, allowing your cookies adequate time to cool before decorating is key to piping a masterpiece.

Choose the right icing for the job

There are two main types of icing when it comes to cookie decoration – hardening and non-hardening. Which you choose is up to personal preference, however, non-hardening is ideal for cookies that 1). Do not need to be transported, and 2). Do not need to be stacked.

Embrace royal icing           

Royal icing is what gives bakery-made cookies their professional sheen. It is a hardening icing made from confectioners’ sugar, water, egg white, and flavorings (the egg white is what allows it to dry hard). You can also make it with meringue powder, which consists of dry powdered egg white and stabilizers.

A quick recipe:

  • 3 ounces pasteurized egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar

Combine egg whites and vanilla in a mixer and beat until frothy. Add confectioners' sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes.

Royal icing comes in different consistencies, depending on how you make it. For a stiff product, mix icing on medium-low speed to keep out too much air. The icing will turn out thick and dense rather than very fluffy. For a medium consistency, add a few drops of water at a time to stiff icing. Don’t add too much – it won’t take a lot. Medium consistency icing is thin enough to flow smoothly out of a small tip, but is not so thin that it spreads and loses the shape of what you’re piping. Smooth consistency does what it should: creates a smooth layer of icing on a cookie. Achieve it by adding a couple of tablespoons of water at a time to stiff icing. To test the consistency, take a spoonful of icing and drop it back into the bowl. It should take between 14-16 seconds for the icing to smooth itself out.

Get into your decorating space

Decorating cookies directly on a baking sheet or table, especially when you are working from your home’s kitchen, will make an absolute mess. No one wants globs of icing all over the place or stray sprinkles showing up days after you baked! To avoid the mess, place your cookies on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. This will help catch any runaway sprinkles and icing drips.

Improvise your kitchen tools

  • Piping bag: Don’t have any pastry piping bags on hand? No problem. Instead of smearing your icing on the cookie in a messy blob, fill a small Ziploc bag with icing. Snip the tiniest piece of the bottom corner of the bag off, and voila, you now have a makeshift piping bag
  • Toothpicks: These little guys can be used to create designs in the icing once you lather up your cookies
  • Tweezers: Fingers are too big and clumsy for placing sprinkles in a precise pattern. Use tweezers for better control and greater precision

Be clean and decorate quickly

Pipe the border of the cookie first with a stiffer icing, then fill in the center with smooth icing. You can use a piping bag, an offset spatula, or a paring knife to frost the center without sticking your fingers or anything else unnecessary in the cookie.

If coloring your icing, we suggest opting for gel food coloring over liquid, as even a few drops of liquid can thin an icing past its ideal consistency. Gel colors allow you to use less product, and won’t change the consistency of your icing.

Add the toppings and sprinkles while the icing is still wet and tacky — within two minutes of frosting. Though the surface of the icing will feel dry after about 10 minutes, let the cookies fully harden for a few hours (…if you can resist digging in right away.)

Remember, not every cookie is going to come out ‘perfect’ – even the pros run into a few glitches here and there. Take deep breaths; try not to stress and trust the process! To troubleshoot a few problems:

  • Runny icing: Add extra powdered sugar to your icing to thicken it up
  • Sticky decorating fingers: As you decorate, you’re bound to get some sticky icing on your hands. While licking the sweet stuff off is yummy, it’s not the best method in terms of keeping everything clean. Constantly wash and dry your hands with warm water to avoid unneeded mess
  • When you have to transport: Opt to bake rounder, less complex shapes when you must transport in order to avoid as much cookie-brakeage-in-transit as possible

In no time, you’ll be piping and prepping cookies like a pro – for the holidays, bake sales, and beyond!

Unique Dining
6 Stellar Tips for Boosting Company Morale

Notice slouching shoulders in the office? Boost company morale, efficiency, and productivity with these tips.

By: Jessi Minneci


Finding truly engaged employees is quite rare, unfortunately. In fact, according to Gallup’s latest report on employee engagement at the workplace, only 32.9 percent of employees agree to being engaged at work on a weekly basis. What’s more is that Gallup reported that percentage dropping more than five percent from the last time they checked the state of employees around the nation. We seem to be slipping… and fast…

Do you notice your employees’ shoulders drooping at work? Does everyone seem to shuffle through their daily motions without much enthusiasm? Your employees may need a confidence boost. After all, low morale leads to poor cooperation, decreased overall productivity (AKA engagement) and an increased turnover. Out of the loop employees spirals into an out of the loop business – and we don’t want that happening in your company!

Let’s convert those shoulder-slouchers in your office to engaged employees! After all, productive and engaged employees are the most effective strategy for increasing performance, optimism, and sustainable long-term growth. Consider adapting some of these tactics in your office:

Remember, work is more than just a job

The idea above is not only for you, but something that you’ll want to keep top of mind with your employees on a regular basis. Everyone wants to feel that his or her work has a higher purpose. Sometimes, though, that purpose gets lost in the day-to-day grind.

Remember to talk about the purpose of what your team does: the ‘why’ behind the work. Perhaps you’ll want to discuss daily goals in a morning meeting, or circulate a company email highlighting one employee or one team of employees per email, and a little bit about what they do and how they contribute to the company’s overarching goal.

Everyone likes to feel important. Remind your employees why they are.

Remember to celebrate accomplishments

This one’s easy! The most effective way to boost morale and to keep everyone engaged in what they are doing is to recognize when they do it, and do it well. It will make them feel appreciated and encourage them to continue increasing their productivity.

Reward your employees for a job well done. Do this more than once a quarter. In fact, do this on a rolling basis; whenever someone does something that is reward-worthy. Here are a few incentives you may want to consider implementing:

  • Swap out bagged lunches and soggy take out for a corporate luncheon: Tell your employees to leave their PB&Js home tomorrow; it’s time for a luncheon! Instead of allowing your employees only a working lunch at their desk, designate an hour or two out of the busy work day to bond over a catered lunch. Order cold cuts, salads, and the works for your employees. Instead of discussing an upcoming business meeting, engage in conversation surrounding what your employees’ plans are for the upcoming weekend.
  • Similarly, hold a ‘lazy Monday’ in the office! Roll slowly into the workweek with a catered breakfast opportunity for your employees on a Monday morning. Chat over pastries and bagels, and boost your employees’ spike of natural energy with a selection of fresh fruits. Trust us, after a good breakfast, everyone will be working way harder than if they just had that to-go cup of Joe.
  • Hold a monthly award ceremony: Much like granting superlatives, publicly recognize your employees for reaching different milestones, goals, or overcoming other challenges. Award a trophy to an employee or two who really got through the month with flying colors. Then pass that trophy on to another stellar employee the next month!
  • Hire a massage therapist, meditation or yoga instructor to come in and award employees who sit in front of the computer all day. Nothing says thank you like throwing your employees a (relaxing, soothing, and healing) bone.

Have a daily huddle

Much like reporting on how each employee is contributing to the company as mentioned above, incorporating a daily huddle into your team’s strategy is conducive to keeping everyone on the same page in terms of goals and hurdles.

Hold daily mini-meetings where each person briefly shares:

  • What they are working on for the day
  • Where they are struggling / can benefit from some assistance
  • What they are personally going to do to make things better

Hold these huddles in the morning, before everyone hops on to their computer for the day. It will allow everyone to get things off their chest, state their goals out loud, got everyone on the same page, and keep each other accountable.

Mix up the norm

NO ONE likes doing the same things over… and over… and over again. Departing from the same old routine of meetings, phone conferences, and spreadsheets can go a long way toward building morale. Some examples:

  • Divide the company up into subdivisions, groups, etc. and create closer-knit ‘families’ depending on the area of the company your employees work in. These families can hold weekly meetings and strategy-building discussions to delegate tasks and better conquer projects together
  • Once each quarter, get your team out of the office for a bonding activity like volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, golfing, catering a summer work picnic for your employees and their families, or taking a trip to the zoo.
    • Bonus idea: If you’re feeling bold and daring, have the office painted with bright colors while everyone is out for the day. Your employees will return to a fresh, new space… and most likely a clearer mind!

Give each other feedback

No one likes to feel alone or clueless when it comes to their work. In this sense, performance reviews are essential –let employees know where they are excelling, and what areas they need to work on.

This is a team effort. After reviewing your employees, ask what you could do to help them succeed. Reaching out to them for your own feedback not only gives you clear, immediate ways to help your employees improve, but also encourages an open dialogue between the two of you.

Lend a hand

When those employees give you feedback, take it to heart; don’t let it fall on deaf ears after the performance review is over. Where you can, take problems off the hands of your employees and on yourself.

Take on the problem yourself—for your team—and morale will go up.

Boosting your employees’ morale, productivity, and efficiency is not an impossible task. In fact, it is quite easy if you are willing to loosen up a bit and make a few changes regarding the way things are handled, recognized, and celebrated throughout the office. 

Be sure your teams’ shoulders are slouching no more by incorporating some of these efficiency-raising and morale-boosting tips!

Unique Dining
Better Tomorrow: How to Store Leftovers the Right Way

By: Jessi Minneci


One of the best parts about a party is all of the amazing food! We love feeding our guests, entertaining, and making sure that everyone leaves satisfied and happy. You may know from hosting yourself, there is often some grub left out on the buffet once everyone has gone home! These leftover tips we are about to share can also be used daily after family dinner, etc. 

The downside of leftovers? Potentially, stored food can lead to decay, mold, strange odors, and other foodborne illnesses. But this doesn’t have to be that case. Some foods need to be kept in the refrigerator to slow down germ growth and keep food fresh for longer; others are better off being stored in the freezer. It’s all about knowing how to properly store leftovers so that you can enjoy them without worry. Follow these tips to prolong the freshness of your party’s remnants that were previously cooked.

Be a safe cook

Let’s backtrack from the party idea and first talk about leftovers in general. If you are cooking a big meal at home, the first step to ensuring delicious leftovers is cooking the food safely. Sounds like a given, right? Yes – but we’re still here to make sure you’re a pro! Be sure the elements of your meal are cooked to a safe temperature (we recommend using a food thermometer) and refrigerate the leftovers in a timely manner. Want to know the two main causes of foodborne illness?

  1. Not cooking food to a safe temperature
  2. Leaving food out at an unsafe temperature

If you’re cooking a meal with red meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal steaks, chops, and roasts), you’ll want the meat to reach a minimum internal temperature of 145° F. For both safety and quality, allow the red meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. When it comes to ground meats (beef, pork, lamb, and veal), you’ll want the meat to reach a minimum internal temperature of 160°. For chicken, turkey, and other poultry – 165° F.

Bacteria growth thrives between the 40-140° F. After food is cooked, hot food must be kept hot (above 140°) to prevent that growth. Once you’re ready to store it, you’ll want to cool it below 40° F as quickly as possible so that, again, bacteria are not in that ‘thriving’ zone. To do this, divide large amounts of food into shallow containers and refrigerate. For example, divide a big pot of soup into pint-sized containers as opposed to sticking a huge pot in the fridge.

Throw away all perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours – they are no longer good.

Now, let’s break down the specific needs for different types of foods. Here’s how to handle leftovers from your party, picnic, family dinner, and so on…

Meats, fish, and poultry

First store leftover meats/fish/poultry uncovered in the refrigerator to rapidly cool the item. Once cool, convert the meat to a shallow and sealable container.

As a general rule of thumb, raw ground meats, all poultry, seafood, and variety meats can be stored safely in the refrigerator for one to two days. Raw roasts, steaks, and chops should be safe for three to five days. Cooked meat, poultry, and seafood – three to four days.

Pro tip: if you opt to freeze your leftover meat, we recommend doing so in sauce, such as a pasta sauce or soup. This enables the meat to keep its moisture and taste better once defrosted. Defrost frozen leftovers in the refrigerator, under cold water or in a microwave oven. Refrigerator thawing takes the longest but the leftovers stay safe the entire time. After thawing, the food should be used within three to four days or can be refrozen.

Soups, sauces, and other liquids

Sauces, gravy, and soups should be portioned out and stored in air-tight containers or heavy-duty Ziploc bags. Spread the liquid out as much as possible to speed up the cooling process of hot items.  A sauce will last safely between three and four days in the refrigerator. In the freezer, a soup/sauce/gravy will maintain best quality between four and six months, however, items kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.


Cooked pasta will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to five days, and lasts for eight months in a freezer. Drizzle just a bit of olive oil onto the pasta before storing in an airtight container to keep it from drying out.

After defrosting frozen pasta, re-boil in water to heat it right through.


As we’ve mentioned with other food items, the key to vegetables is to divide and conquer. Cool the veggies before sealing and storing them in the refrigerator. Once stored, veggies will maintain optimal freshness for two days.

Bread, rolls, and buns

There are few things quite as beautiful as the basket of fresh rolls at the end of a buffet table at a catered party… YUM! But when it comes to storing leftover bread products, the refrigerator isn’t too effective.

Sure, bread will stay fresh in a sealed bag for a few days, but if you have a surplus of leftover rolls, the freezer will be your best friend.  Place bread in a sealable freezer and it will remain edible for several months.


Someone might opt to wrap leftover blocks of cheese, from a cheese plate, perhaps, in plastic wrap. This is actually a no-no as the plastic will cling to the fats and oils of the cheese and affect its taste. The best way to store leftover cheese is to grate it and place it in a freezer bag – this will keep it fresh for an extra two to three months.

Enjoying your meal later on

We mentioned before that your leftovers can be defrosted one of several ways. However, you can even reheat frozen leftovers without thawing, either in a saucepan, microwave, or the oven. Reheating of course will take longer than if the food is thawed first, but it is safe to do when time is short.

Remember to reheat leftovers to a piping hot temp (at least 165°F) and to bring sauces, soups and gravies to a boil. Always cover leftovers while reheating to retain moisture and ensure the food heats all the way through.

Safe food is great food – bon appétit!

Unique Dining