THE GIRL NEXT DOOR In the Southern U.S., comfort food means two things: fried chicken, and biscuits with gravy. Not surprisingly, these traditional dishes score big with Southern brides; indeed, the Biscuit Bar, replete with fried chicken, country ham, milk gravy, homemade preserves and hand-whipped peach butter, is a consistent top seller among bridal clients of Norcross, Ga.-based A Divine Event [see photo above by Jennifer Poland/A Divine Event]. To make this basic menu work, executive chef de cuisine Sandra Moyer says, “Keep it simple, and stick to what people know and love—just make it restaurant-quality.”
Another classic dish brides can’t seem get enough of from A Divine Event: braised beef short ribs, which Moyer makes gluten-free by braising them in vegetable stock and thickening the sauce with roasted vegetables rather than flour.
Fellow Southerner Doug Kieley, executive chef of Atlanta-based Proof of the Pudding, finds that guests—Southern or otherwise—tend to want an authentic Southern experience when at a Southern wedding.
“We cater to various cultures from around the world, and our go to menu items—fried mac and cheese balls, Loganville [Ga.] Gouda shrimp and grits, Coca-Cola braised beef short ribs, whiskey-poached lobster BLT bites, and fried chicken lollipops—are always a hit at receptions because they offer guests an authentic Southern experience,” he says. Every so often though, he’ll throw in a modern curve ball, as with his Chinese five-spice fried chicken.
Wolfgang Puck: 'Elevate' the Familiar
In Los Angeles, and if you’re Wolfgang Puck, classic cuisine is defined by a trio of top-selling, tried and true dishes: salmon en croute with caviar beurre blanc sauce, his world-famous wood-fired pizzas, and his signature ahi tuna cones. “Bridal clients love to offer familiar comfort foods, and Wolfgang knows how to elevate these beloved, classic dishes,” says Barbara Brass, vice president of sales for Wolfgang Puck Catering. [Photo above: From Wolfgang Puck, caramelized parsnip agnolotti with celery root and horseradish; photo by Carin Krasner Photography.]
Dishes Ready for a Comeback
“Our wedding reception menus are filled with ‘comeback’ dishes,” adds Alison Awerbuch, chef and partner of Tarryton, N.Y.-based Abigail Kirsch Catering. "We love giving retro dishes a contemporary twist either in terms of ingredients or presentation, and we find that these dishes are the most well-liked and talked about.” A recent retro wedding menu included gastro shrimp cocktail with green tomato cocktail sauce, chicken and herb waffles with sriracha maple slaw, Buffalo deviled eggs with Maytag blue cheese, micro celery and barbecue crumbs, Wellington-style beef with wild mushroom pastry and red wine béarnaise, and a carrot pineapple upside-down cake with cream cheese Chantilly, carrot caramel sauce, coconut brittle and candied crispy carrots. Crisps-in-a-jar a la mode—spiced apple, black currant, and pear-cranberry with assorted sorbets and ice creams—remain favorite desserts [in photo; photo by Andre Maier Photography].
Cross-cultural unions, couples who travel--whatever the reason, global-inspired, multi-ethnic menus are big with bridal couples seeking a more diverse menu reflective of their tastes and/or culture. “The trend is about bringing families together with foods that bring comfort and that are a mixture of both the bride and groom’s cultures, such as Southern-Asian, African-Indian, North-South, French-Southern,” Moyer says.
At Proof of the Pudding, brides desiring dining diversity may opt for the caterer’s Global Inspirations plates, where chef Kieley combines small portions of four ethnic cuisines on one plate, such as Asian sea bass wrapped in cabbage with soy cream broth, French beef Bourguignon, duck with saffron rice and Latin spices, and, of course, Southern-fried chicken with squash casserole.
Go with the Greens
Arguably, nowhere is the farm-to-table movement more prevalent than in California. So it comes as no surprise that the majority of Wolfgang Puck’s menus, wedding or otherwise, feature a heavy fresh-from-the farm influence.
“We are receiving many requests from brides for farm-to-table menus; they want everything hyper-local—from the vendors to surrounding farms,” says Brass, who makes it a point to list the point of origin on menu items when applicable. Some of Puck’s newest additions to his farm-to-table repertoire include Cuyuma Orchards apple salad with China Ranch dates, watercress, Underwood Farms golden beets and pomegranate seeds; hand-formed Bellwether Farms ricotta mascarpone agnolotti with black winter truffles; wild-caught salmon with caramelized Babe Farms cauliflower, toasted almonds, sautéed Kenter Farms Spinach and saffron-infused wine sauce; and roasted Weiser Farms root vegetable pot pie with wild rice, grilled Triple Crown mushrooms, and thyme-black pepper puff pastry.
At Legendary Events in Atlanta, executive chef Liz Cipro has been incorporating “greens, greens and more greens”--specifically chard, collards, mustard and kale--into many menu items, from handmade ravioli to risottos, in response to her brides’ desire for healthier fare. Her quinoa-kale salad, which combines roasted sweet potatoes, blueberries and edamame, is a hearty, meat-free, fresh vegetable-heavy option. “Vegetables are no longer side items, but stars of the plate,” adds director of design Sophia Lin Kanno, citing the caterer’s oft-requested tempura-fried green bean cones as example. [Above, mini burgers from Legendary Events; photo by Reichman Photography.]
For brides who know their way around the chopping block, so to speak, the more exotic the ingredient and presentation--the better. However, cutting edge will quickly lose its edge if it doesn’t taste good.
Read this article and many other exciting stores in the Spring issue of Special Events. Not a subscriber? We can fix that--just click here.
|Suggested Categories||More from Special Events|