Churro bite Photo by Albert Law / Pork Belly Studio
From McCalls, a churro bite with Mexican basil-strawberry compote, whipped ricotta, and creme chantilly.

Menus with Marriage in Mind

Top caterers share the best bites at wedding reception menus today-think family recipes, Middle East feasts, and steak, steak, steak.

“Weddings are a mix of cultures and styles, and a great way to customize them and make them unique is to play off of family traditions,” says Anna Williams, partner and catering manager of San Francisco-based McCalls Catering and Events.  “Couples are asking for very specific menu items, and going so far as to provide a grandmother’s recipe for this or a father’s recipe for that.” Specialty drinks and desserts are popular contenders in this realm, she says, adding that many clients go so far as to make their own takeaway treats, such as homemade jams, limoncello, olive oil, and wine.

Customizing passed hors d’oeuvre during the cocktail hour, Williams says, is a delicious and cost-effective way to incorporate family and/or restaurant favorites into the menu. “This is less expensive than having two or three stations, and provides the same amount of variety," she says. "We can get very creative with small bites from each restaurant or culture.” Mini signs on passing platters ensure guests know the inspiration behind each bite.

A recent family favorites-inspired menu included tray-passed goat cheese arancini with Parmesan dipping sauce, blini with caviar and crème fraiche, fried zucchini with jalapeno sauce, a plated salad of roasted tomatoes with burrata, delicate squash and wild mushrooms, table-poured cream of celery bisque, and two entrée selections: braised short ribs with sweet potato mash and heirloom vegetables, and grilled eggplant, zucchini and mozzarella manicotti. Grass-fed lamb pistachio sliders and French fry cones rounded out the late-night menu.

MIDEAST FEAST As far as ethnic cuisine goes, Middle Eastern flavors and fare continue to top wedding menus. “Middle Eastern cuisine reigns supreme,” says Nancy Goodman-Thevoz, president of Arlington, Va.-based Main Event Caterers. “We’re seeing more and more requests for flavors from this region.”

To that end, Main Event kitchen keeps plenty of harissa, turmeric and za’atar in the larder for dishes such as harissa-roasted baby carrots dressed with lemon yogurt sauce; fava-bean falafel with lemon and tahini; Indian-spiced fried chicken sliders with tamarind aioli and pickled red onions; saffron-scented quinoa pilaf with Moroccan-spiced tofu; honey-roasted vegetables with harissa aioli and toasted hazelnuts; and red wine-painted herb-crusted rack of lamb with chopped pistachios.

“Purple food is also trending, so that gives us an opportunity to make beet hummus and purple potato bisque,” Goodman-Thevoz says. A nod to Pantone’s color of the year, Ultra Violet, perhaps?

STEAKHOUSE REDUX White tablecloths, formal wait staff, a prime cut of beef—couples are adding old school charm and glamor to their wedding menus. “We’ve seen a return to formality, with traditional sit-down, multi-course dinners,” says Robin Selden, managing partner and executive chef of Stamford, Conn.-based Marcia Selden Catering and Event Planning. “Couples put a lot of time and attention into their menus, which tend to be very elegant and sophisticated, with clean presentations.”

One menu in particular fills the bill to a T, or should we say, T-bone. “We just cannot get away from the classic Peter Luger Steak House menu,” Selden says. Indeed, one of the caterer’s most popular menus features steakhouse staples--with a twist. “Our latest craze and embellishment is our thick-cut crispy ‘Jenga’-stacked bacon,” Selden says, which accompanies jumbo-thick cut sirloin steaks served with horseradish cream, red wine demi-glace and Peter Luger’s steak sauce, sides of sautéed herbed mushrooms, caramelized onions, sautéed garlic spinach, grilled asparagus with lemon vinaigrette, and sweet potato and truffle mash. Fresh-baked pretzel rolls and Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken, herbed shrimp or char-grilled calamari round out the meal …

See the full story in the Spring issue of Special Events. Not a subscriber? We can fix that; just click here.

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