From cotton-candy mojitos at 5 to gourmet grilled cheese sammies at midnight, caterers tell us what's on the menu for each course of the wedding reception.
THE COCKTAIL HOUR
Adding a decidedly DIY touch to the cocktail hour, infusion bars, which allow guests to customize their libations, are a big trend among the wedding crowd, according to Morgan Bedore, vice president of sales and creative development of Stephen Starr Events, Philadelphia and New York. “They allow people to tailor their beverage to their taste, and encourage connection and conversation,” she says. The company's signature bar features teas, herb-infused simple syrups, house-made Italian sodas in apothecary-style jars, and recipe cards. “Guests are encouraged to try existing recipes or come up with their own flavor combinations,” she adds.
When is comes to wine, wine-tasting receptions — complete with custom wine labels and corks — go hand in hand with the rustic elegance theme popular among today's brides. And they work especially well when the wedding is held at a vineyard: “The cocktail hour unfolds in the wine cellar, and guests are invited to a private wine-tasting,” says Cheryl Fish, vice president of design services at Someone's in the Kitchen in Tarzana, Calif.
On the food end, playful, portable savory mini cupcakes and lollipops are bit like having dessert first. “Bite-size treats like these are easy for guests to enjoy and walk around with during the cocktail hour,” says Brianna Alcorn, marketing director at Windows Catering Co. of Alexandria, Va. Three favorites: Lobster and manchego cheese cupcakes with chive creme fraiche icing; smoked salmon, zucchini and American sturgeon caviar cupcakes with mascarpone icing; and “Norwegian lollipops” — pinwheels of smoked salmon and roasted nori seaweed served with chive and dill creme fraiche.
THE MAIN COURSE
For spring and summer weddings, soup's on — on ice, that is. “Chilled soup stations — with large-footed silver compotes filled with seasonal chilled soups and accompanied by assorted toppings on a silver stand — are ideal for both savory soups as a first course or fruit soups for dessert,” Bedore says. Favorites include white gazpacho with green garlic, green grapes and toasted almonds; classic tomato gazpacho with grilled shrimp and cilantro oil; and yellow grape tomato gazpacho with micro basil and charred eggplant. “The possibilities are endless,” she adds.
The cross-cultural cooking trend shows no sign of slowing down. “Fusion cuisine is still trending, with Latin American and Asian flavors our most popular combination,” Alcorn says. She singles out Asian, Latin, Korean and Portuguese dishes as hits with clients, adding that paella is an oft-requested Latin dish.
Dim sum — and win some — is clearly the case at Someone's in the Kitchen. “Our dim sum cart is a huge hit,” Fish says. “Guests enjoy selecting their favorite dim sum — such as pork bao, shrimp shu mai, cellophane rolls and pot stickers — steamed fresh, right from the cart.”
The common ingredient in all these preparations — small plates. “Many couples want to make their reception more fun, so they prefer to have stations offering small plates with different food options versus a formal seated dinner,” says Susan Lacz, head of Bethesda, Md.-based Ridgewells. Southern-style comfort foods and Asian dishes, including sushi, are popular stations, she says.
AND FOR DESSERT …
Stephen Starr Events' oh-so-clever “cake in a cup” takes the cake for creativity. “It has replaced the cupcake as the trendy way to serve wedding cake,” Bedore says. Individual cakes are baked in mismatched vintage teacups or uniform mugs in colors that complement the wedding's overall theme. “Having individual cakes also allows for flavor variation,” Bedore says. “It's a cool effect that's just recently becoming chic.”
Dessert stations featuring one-bites, assorted finger sweets, themed candies and cake pops are sure bets, according to Amanda Weidel, event production coordinator at Neuman's Catering, New York. “We see more of this presentation than a table with one big cake on it,” she says. “One-bite desserts allow guests to try a variety of flavors without getting too full and to grab a quick bite in between dancing and mingling.”
Let them eat cake — or pie, for that matter. “We've had brides opt for a beautiful fruit tart in place of their wedding cake, while guests were served miniature versions,” Alcorn says. “Ice cream pops are another big trend — especially for summer.” Salted caramel, raspberry chocolate chile, coconut mango, espresso bean, praline brittle, orange pistachio and Swiss vanilla almond are among the favored flavors.
THE AFTER PARTY
The go-to late night snack trend for 2012 — the grilled cheese sandwich. “But not your old favorite,” Alcorn stresses. Meat and cheese combos such as such as slow-cooked short ribs with fontina cheese, duck confit with Brie, and Maine lobster with Gruyere offer an upscale alternative to the traditional American on white.
Someone's in the Kitchen downsizes two classic combos for midnight snacking — mini-grilled cheese sandwiches paired with tomato bisque shooters, and shoestring fries washed down with mini-milkshakes. French toast cubes served with Nutella hazelnut spread offer a sweet segue into the wee hours.
Since the bride and groom rarely get a chance to eat a full meal, Neuman's sends the newlyweds off with a custom-made couple's basket at the end of the night. “It is filled with all the goodies they may have missed throughout the evening,” Weidel says.
SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCHEN
STEPHEN STARR EVENTS
WINDOWS CATERING CO.