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A Moveable Feast

Cuisine on Wheels is more than just grab and go.

by Jennie K. Brown

Wayward eyes look elsewhere if you long for the days of mobile food “roach coaches” – unsanitary trucks serving unhealthy, greasy and fried foods. Today’s modern food trucks boast healthy appetizers, decadent entrees and even fine wines — and one local woman has brought this new trend to the Hagerstown area. Offering gourmet, restaurant-quality meals using sustainable and organic ingredients with the perfect wine-pairings, Liz Hopkinson, chef and proprietor of Your Next Occasion Catering, has put her own modern and trendy spin on these roadside fixtures.

After a life-reorganizing visit to California in 2010, Liz felt inspired by her experiences with west coast, farm-to-table dining and decided to bring the “food truck craze” with her back east. “I loved the whole concept of a mobile wine and cheese case and wanted to bring the natural aspect of the vineyard back here,” she says. Three years later, her “rolling vineyard” was on the move. But it didn’t happen overnight.

After months of developing her vision for the food truck, Liz came up with her business plan in March of 2012. It was then that the building of the truck began. “It took a year to build it,” she says. Because there are now specific guidelines released by the FDA in regards to mobile food establishments, Liz had to have her mobile business Health Department certified. It also took some time to build the truck’s kitchen, the hub of her business, which is vital to the preparation of her scrumptious cuisine. “It’s a full commercial-grade kitchen,” she adds.

Once the truck was completed in April of 2013, Liz began serving almost immediately. “We started doing lunches for Hub City Labels,” she says. Liz wanted to give employees more of a dining option. From there she moved on to larger venues and events, traveling to festivals in Loudoun and Montgomery Counties.

Initially, Liz honed her skills as the owner od Palate Pleasers Catering. She spent additional time refining her tastes and techniques at The Perfect Pairing Culinary & Wine Sommelier School in California, where she studied under a robust menu of culinary experts and sommeliers — including Master Sommeliers David Glance and Catherine “The Grape Goddess” Fallis. She took that extensive wine and culinary experience and created Your Next Occasion Catering.

And you definitely can’t miss her coming down the road. Adorning her truck is 19 feet of rolling grapevines with vibrant blues, greens and purples. “It gives the illusion of being in a vineyard,” says Liz. And that’s exactly what she’s going for. “I want to bring that west coast wine country ambiance to a festival or a wedding,” she says. Even more unique than the beautiful backdrop is the wine barrel that’s painted on the truck. It is actually an optical illusion with a three-dimensional tap that’s connected to a beverage dispenser inside the truck. With this, guests can pour their own wine, beer or tea into a glass.

Aside from the truck itself, the Napa-style food and wine displays set up on burlap cloths and authentic oak barrels, help a person feel as if they’re enjoying a private wining and dining experience in a rustic vineyard.

Although Liz’s truck seems geared toward wine and cheese, she offers a variety of other services. In fact, Your Next Occasion is a full-service catering company. “We can cater private parties or larger festivals,” she says. Your Next Occasion can fulfill all unique catering needs — providing elegant china, fine silver, pristine linens and even bar service. In addition, she offers a variety of menus and uses her extensive knowledge of international cuisine to adapt to specific cuisine requests — from seafood fests with selections such as Citrus Cured Salmon and Dilled Shrimp Salad to private wine-themed cocktail parties, she caters to it all. “If we do a reggae fest, we offer a Jerk Chicken and Dirty Rice,” she says. At The Plains in Virginia event, a Merlot Grass Fed and Hormone-free Beef Burger and red potato salad with fresh dill aioli was served. “We are trying to offer a healthier gourmet choice,” she says. Her extensive wine expertise allows her to offer the perfect wine-food pairings as well to ensure an ultimate dining experience.

At private events, weddings, birthday celebrations, rehearsal dinners and the like, Liz offers a package with cheese, charcuterie and a selection of passed hors d’oeuvres. But what makes her operation stand out from other catering services is the fact that Your Next Occasion provides “a complete party in a 20-foot space.”

Although Liz’s food truck business has done well this past year, she is still moving full speed ahead and is excited to continue sharing personalized dining experiences. “The ultimate goal is to do weddings and larger events,” Liz says. Her first wedding was a farm-to-fork wedding in Front Royal, Va. and she would love to cater more.

Liz’s hope is that people now give a second thought to food trucks. “They aren’t what they used to be,” she says.

Whether you’re planning a lavish wedding, charity gala or elegant private party, Liz’s mobile restaurant promises the perfect celebration you will savor long after the final toast!

Your Next Occasion Catering