FEASTS FROM THE EAST Be it the Middle East or the Far East, flavors from this part of the globe are trending on tables and trays.
“Middle Eastern food, particularly Persian cuisine, is a big trend in restaurants,” says Saffold Smith, catering consultant at Atlanta-based Affairs to Remember. “Our executive chef, Ahmad Nourzad, creates both authentic Middle Eastern and fusion appetizers and hors d’oeuvre for our clients.” Among the standouts are za’atar grilled shrimp brochettes with minted yogurt; lamb pepperoni and balsamic-marinated mozzarella skewers with basil; and falafel fritters with radish raita and micro greens served in a ceramic spoon. Additionally, the caterer’s “Marrakech Market Munchies” station offers saffron-infused Israeli couscous with fresh peas topped with a choice of harissa and brown sugar-braised beef with West African spices or a medley of curried vegetables.
Doug Finney, district manager of Centerplate at the Pasadena Convention Center--a high-end, boutique convention center in Pasadena, Calif.--attributes the desire for exotic, often Asian-inspired fare both to the area’s diverse, multicultural community and to southern California’s easy access to fresh seafood. “The latest appetizer craze is our mini Korean bibimbap bowls and the build-your-own poke bar, which features fresh yellowfin tuna, salmon and crab salad along with various toppings, such as seaweed salad, fresh corn, scallions, chopped peanuts and avocado.”
At Atlanta-based Bold American Events, spicy Vietnamese soy paper spring rolls with a “shot” of soy sauce, Buffalo chicken sushi, and cheeseburger egg rolls give a playful nod to Asian fusion. “Our clients want simple hors d’oeuvre with a unique twist; recognizable, but different,” says corporate sales manager Kim Pollard.
PACKED WITH ACTION Interactive food presentation is nothing new; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an event that doesn’t feature some form of action station, whether it’s as simple as a Spanish jamón carving station or as elaborate as Japanese “ishi-yaki,” which uses scorching hot lava stones to sear proteins, most commonly seafood. “It’s always fun to step away from the butane burners and griddles,” Smith says, “and discover new ways of cooking on-site that are entertaining and provide a unique guest experience.”
On a somewhat simpler note, Affairs to Remember has recently introduced its short rib and polenta tasting board action station, at which an attendant pours polenta onto a 4-foot bamboo board, then tops it with braised short ribs and a choice of cheese. Each guest is served a portion directly from the board.
Anthonie Lardiere, catering sales director for Centerplate at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, serves up Midwestern barbecue pork belly with creamed husk corn, and rib eye medallions with truffled mushroom potatoes and a chive demi-glace to his lineup of meat-based action stations.
FUSS-FREE FAVORITES Some of the most beloved, tried-and-true appetizers are often the least expensive—a boon to both caterers and clients. “People still enjoy traditional canapés, such as deviled eggs reinvented, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and beef carpaccio,” says Colin Burslem, executive chef at the Fairmont Vancouver [British Columbia] Airport. “The classics, such as chips and dips, are making a big comeback ...
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