Special Events
Specialty Orders for Caterers

Specialty Orders for Caterers

Once, there was the event menu and the vegetarian option. Was the option interesting? Usually not. And according to executive chef Michael R. Vlasich, CEC, of the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, it often still isn't. He notes that vegetarians “usually get pasta primavera and are treated as second-rate guests — or a pain in the rear.”

But these days, vegetarian options are the least of caterers' concerns. Pleasing guests who demand highly specific menus often requires research and a huge dose of creativity. Here, caterers tell us about event menus that not only met specific demands but served up plenty of flavor.

GOT MILK? WELL, NO.

For one menu developed by Design Cuisine in Arlington, Va., the bride requested an entirely vegan menu, including the fusilli pasta with asparagus spears served to staff. Vegetables replaced meat, and soy replaced dairy right down to the strawberry mousse tart, which turned out so well, it was “surprising it was vegan,” CEO Kathy Valentine notes.

Not that vegan requests are unusual these days. Valentine says that a recent 300-guest party had 14 requests for vegan meals. Vegetarian meals are even more common — Design just saw 23 out of 86 guests request vegetarian meals. Vegetarian and vegan requests are so prevalent, Design Cuisine is considering making its “vegetarian” option entirely vegan.

HOLD THE ONIONS, THE GARLIC AND THE MEAT

No one said special requests are easy. The head of a private party that frequently dined at restaurant Melisse in Santa Monica, Calif., once requested a no-garlic, no-onion vegetarian menu to please one guest who was a vegetarian and another who couldn't be near garlic and onions. What was co-owner and executive chef Josiah Citron's take on the request? “I don't want more people coming and asking for it,” he notes. “It wasn't easy.” l

VEGAN BY DESIGN

Design Cuisine served this 100 percent vegan menu at a 400-guest wedding reception. Due to the lack of meat, the menu cost $42 a head (food only) rather than Design Cuisine's average of $50-plus.

Passed Hors d'oeuvre

Lacy Zucchini Pancakes

Wild Mushroom “Chopstick” Wonton Cylinders

Black Bean Cakes

Citrus-herb-marinated Seitan, or “Wheat Meat,” Skewers with Chimichurri

Plated First Course

Caramelized Onion Tart

Plated Entree

Pan-seared Polenta Nera, or “Black Polenta,” with Bitter Greens Salad and Spring Vegetable Ragout

Dessert Buffet

Strawberry Soy-milk Mousse Tart

Chocolate Soy-milk Mousse with Cherries

Tropical Fruit Display

MELISSE'S ALLERGY- AND VEGGIE-FRIENDLY MENU

Instead of chives in the dressing and shallots in the stock, Josiah Citrin relied on fennel, turnips, “celery and more celery” to infuse vegetarian fare with optimum flavor.

Truffled Pea Croquette with Brown Butter Pea Froth

Seasonal Vegetable Salad with Roasted Mushroom Emulsion and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Mushroom Olive Oil Broth

Ricotta Gnocchi with Roasted Summer Squash and Zucchini Flower Sauce

Roasted Tofu “Steak” with Tomato Fondue, Green Asparagus and Potato Nage

Chocolate Souffle Glace

RESOURCES

Affairs to Remember Caterers
404/872-7859
www.affairs.com

Bar-B-Que Express Catering
800/750-1770
www.bbqexpress.com

Design Cuisine
703/979-9400
www.designcuisine.com

Different Tastes
617/884-3791
www.differenttastes.com

Indianapolis Marriott Downtown
317/822-3500
marriott.com/indcc

Melisse
310/395-0881
www.melisse.com

'CAUSE THEY'VE GOT SPECIFICITY

Think Meg Ryan was a picky eater in the movie “When Harry Met Sally”? These caterers have faced their own very demanding diners:

For a wedding with a completely “medieval” theme, “The client wanted only a knife — no plates. I asked her if she'd like to purchase the linens that would be ruined, so she gave in and allowed plates and forks.”
Jack Milan, president, Different Tastes, Boston

For a February 2009 Atlanta fundraiser for the Humane Society of the United States, Affairs to Remember will honor 11 canine “heroes.” Both two-legged and four-legged guests will be served vegan menus; humans will get bone-shaped cookies for dessert, but the client decided against having the human guests dine from doggy bowls. The event is “black-tie optional for dogs.”
Patrick Cuccaro, general manager, Affairs to Remember Caterers, Atlanta

“A bride and groom asked us, a barbecue catering company, to do all-vegetarian food at their wedding. We respected their wishes, but the guests were disappointed, knowing that we specialized in barbecue. I saw one guest giving out coupons to Carl's Jr. after dinner was over!”
Heather Johnson, sales representative, Bar-B-Que Express Catering, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

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