Today’s bridal couples want a little bit—or little bite—of just about everything. Caterers are responding to the rise in “à la carte”-style requests in creative ways, with service and presentation playing major roles.
A Bloody Mary station from Windows Catering.
“As caterers, we welcome creating a menu that showcases the clients’ backgrounds, heritage, ethnicities, traditions and foods from hometowns,” says Brianna Alcorn, marketing director of Windows Catering, based in Alexandria, Va. “It’s their day—the food should be representative of the couple.”
“Fusion cuisines are still trending, with Latin American and Asian flavors being a popular combination,” Alcorn says. A recent wedding for a Malaysian couple combined Asian and Spanish influences, with dishes such as citrus ceviche in mini cones, potato-apple pancakes with Manchego cheese, and deep-fried pork Malaysian egg rolls rounding out the menu.
Indeed, combining two, three, even four different ethnic cuisines is not unheard of today, especially when the menu reflects not only the bride and groom’s respective backgrounds but their food preferences as well. The key to making it work is to create unity among the dishes.
“We address the bridal couple’s history through different courses, bound by a unifying thread,” says Kristy Cook, CMP, senior catering consultant with Atlanta-based Affairs to Remember.
As an example, Cook recalls a bride from Georgia and a groom from New Orleans who both loved Italian food. The solution: A Tuscan-themed cocktail hour with prosecco and tray-passed Italian-inspired hors d’oeuvre, followed by dinner with three decidedly Southern food stations—Creole salmon with crawfish succotash, jambalaya, and fried okra and pea salad at one; macaroni and cheese with assorted toppings at another; and peach-braised brisket, fried green tomatoes, and a sugared pecan apple salad at the third.
“The number of clients who ask for foods to be custom-crafted has increased exponentially,” adds Affairs to Remember general manager Patrick Cuccaro. “And we embrace that—we’re caterers after all! Nowadays, it’s common for us to execute two separate tastings—the first featuring our different regional styles and menu designs, and the second to zero in on their specific palates.”
SPECIAL REQUESTS? NO PROBLEM! The rise in dietary concerns and trends (gluten-free, dairy-free, raw, paleo, vegan) has contributed to more mixed—and fewer fixed—menus.
“This has been a concern in the San Francisco Bay area for years, so we can easily accommodate most of these special requests,” says Leanne Pomellitto, president of San Francisco-based caterer Savory & Sweet. “The difference is that five years ago, the bride and groom would make all the guests eat their way. Now they are more sensitive to the fact that not all people like those foods and they should offer a wide variety of menu items to satisfy more people.”
On the flip side, there are still those couples who, for better or for worse, impose their specialized menus on their guests. However, this need not be as limiting as it sounds, according to Alcorn. “We had a bride and groom who were vegetarian and wanted their guests to experience an all-vegetarian menu, so we put one together and it was a huge hit with everyone,” she says.
Among the crowd-pleasing dishes: Artichoke fritters with shallot aioli, phyllo-wrapped garlic and gorgonzola mashed potato “cigars,” and sweet basil and fontina beignets. “There are ways to eat vegetarian with a lot of variety,” Alcorn adds.
SWITCHING UP THE SERVICE Combining service styles is another way caterers are responding to the “à la carte” trend prevalent among today’s bridal couples.
“Over the summer months, we saw a lot of weddings that had a heavy emphasis on a variety of foods served in many different fashions,” Alcorn says. As example, an afternoon tented wedding combined a “made-to-order” Bloody Mary bar, tray-passed hors d’oeuvre, and several specialty stations, including an oyster bar, a carving station, a macaroni and cheese station, a mini-salad station with salads served in Mason jars, and a dessert buffet, as well as after-party “take away” snacks for the ride home.
GOING HEAVY ON THE APPS By definition, appetizers allow for the most variety, and are increasingly becoming the food focal point of many wedding menus.
“We are being asked for more and more cocktail-style weddings,” says chef de cuisine Joanne Purnell of Los Angeles-based Good Gracious! Events, where comfortable lounge furniture, tall and low tables, and heavy apps—tray-passed and at stations—set the tone. “Guests tend to feel more comfortable with this setting, as opposed to a room full of rounds where they need to be told where to sit,” she says.
In addition to small plates and appetizers, Purnell creates bar snacks, such as drunken heirloom tomatoes dipped in spices and root vegetable chips dusted with flavored salts to go with the ubiquitous specialty drinks, micro brews, and wines, particularly roses and sparkling varieties, so oft seen at today’s receptions.
CUTTING THE CAKE At Good Gracious, the traditional wedding cake is playing a lesser role, with the focus instead on extravagant dessert buffets featuring “anything salted,” Purnell says. “We do a rich chocolate pot du crème layered with chocolate ganache and sprinkled with Monterey salt. Our chocolate truffle trees and fruit soup shooters are big hits at weddings as well.”
A FESTIVE EVENING IN JUNE MENU
AFFAIRS TO REMEMBER
Texas Toast Cheesesteak Bite with Bell Pepper Chutney
Battered Fried South Carolina Quail Lollipop with Parmesan Garlic Sauce
Squash and Cream Phyllo Tart with Broccoli and Red Pepper Salsa
Sesame Seared Tuna Skewer with House-Pickled Beet Scallion and Sweet Chili Soy Sauce
Shrimp and Pineapple Brochette with House-made Bacon Jam
Butterbean Hummus with Fried Spinach on a Wonton Triangle
Braised Oxtail and Carrot Puree over a Creamy Grit Cake
Ketchup Battered Lobster Fritter with Jalapeno Tartar Sauce
Smoked Salmon Chips with Creole Mayonnaise
Skewered Lobster over Spicy Corn Chowder
Passed in a Retro Burger Boat
Peachtree Beef Sliderwith House-made Pimiento Cheese and Peach-infused Ketchup Served on a Brioche Slider Bun Topped With Pickled Okra Alongside Kettle Chips
Passed in a Small Square Bowl:
Bourbon- and Peach-glazed SalmonTopped With Minted Peach Compote With Gardener’s Succotash
Build Your Own Tater Tot Station
Tater Tots Served With House-made Beef Chili, Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream, Diced Tomatoes, Sliced Scallions and Ketchup
Veggies, Salsas and Spreads Station
Summer Vegetables: Grilled Corn, Eggplant, Mushrooms, Peppers and Potatoes with Smokehouse Crushed Almonds
Artichoke-Caper Cheddar Crab Dip with Crackers and Pita Chips
Avocado Cilantro Spread offered with Tortilla Chips
Feta Spread Blended with Fresh Mint, Pepperoncini and Red Pepper Flakes with Garlic and Herb Bread
Tuscan White Bean Salsa with Red Onion, Sweet Peppers, Fennel, Parsley, Olive Oil, White Balsamic Vinegar
FOOD FOR LOVE MENU
GOOD GRACIOUS! EVENTS
Tray-Passed Hors D’oeuvre
Caesar Salad In A Crisp Parmesan Cone
Spinach Chicken Fortune Cookie With Ginger-Sriracha-Hoisin Sauce
Fig, Goat Cheese and Proscuitto Crostini
Love Station One
Demitasse of Lightly Smoked Tomato Soup with Cheddar Baguette
Demitasse of Lobster Bisque with Crab and White Cheddar Panini
Chicken Bourguignon: Pinot Noir and Veal Stock Braised Chicken with Pancetta and a Mélange of Mushroom, Red Pearl Onion and Tomatoes topped with Crispy Leeks served with Basmati Jasmine Rice
Winter Greens: Chopped Asparagus, Snow Peas, Tiny Green Beans and Red Pearl Onions in a Shaved Brussels Sprouts Nest
Love Station Two
Grilled Minted Rack of Lamb with Mustard Crumb and Light Rosemary Sauce served with Golden Cauliflower and Garlic Mash
Grilled Root Vegetable Cobb Salad with Cotija Cheese and Honey Sesame Worcestershire Dressing
House-made Vegetable Chips: Taro with Smoky Coriander, Lotus Root with Ginger Garlic, Potato Rosemary and Plantain Spring Onion
Duck Two Ways: Wonton Rolled Confit of Duck, Aged Gouda, Caramelized Onion with Rhubarb Marmalade; a Confit of Cherry Duck served atop Kumquat Essence Crepe filled with Peppery Ricotta crowned with Caramelized Carrot
Pumpkin Tempura with Curry Salt
Miso Peppercorn Braised Beef Short Rib Tempura with Sweet Chili Sauce
Deconstructed “Sushi” Salad: Center Cut Ahi Tuna Tumbled with Ginger-Chili Soy served on a bed of Rice with Wasabi Nori, Picked Ginger and Spicy Micro Herb Salad
Roving Salad Cart
Lemon Drop Pomegranate Martini Salad of Mixed Greens and Arugula, Pine Nuts and Hearts of Palm, Feta and Pomegranate Jewels with Zesty Limoncello Herb Dressing
After-Party Tray-Passed Snacks
Grilled Beef and Turkey Sliders with Sweet Potato and Crispy Fries and Onion Rings
Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Petite Waffles with Maple Bacon Crumbs
Duo of Malted Milkshake Shots with Silver Dollar Chocolate Chunk Cookie and Petite Berry Pie
VEGETARIAN VARIETY MENU
Tray Passed Hors D’oeuvre
Parmesan-dusted Artichoke Fritters with Shallot Aioli
Garlic and Gorgonzola Mashed Potato Cigars wrapped in Crispy Phyllo Pastry with Chive Creme Fraiche
Florida Palm Dates with Cabrales Cheese, Almonds and Thyme with an Apricot-Balsamic Glaze
Chevre Tartlets with Provencal Peppers
Sweet Basil and Fontina Beignet with Sun-Dried Tomato Dipping Sauce
Squash and Apple Bisque Served In Demitasse Cups with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Arugula Salad with Sliced Anjou Pears with Derbyshire Stilton and Spiced Georgia Pecans, Dressed with Warm, Balsamic Vinaigrette served with a Cornbread Madeleine
Fresh Asparagus Risotto with Fresh White and Green Asparagus and Portobello Mushroom Ribbons, Zucchini Ribbons and Shaved Carrots with a Dusting of Shaved Parmesan Cheese and Parsley
White Chocolate Raspberry Wedding Cake with Fresh Raspberries and White Chocolate Buttercream