“Don’t ever let clients say that their wedding reception is not about food,” says Joann Roth-Oseary, president of Reseda, Calif.-based Someone’s in the Kitchen. “Guests remember ‘openers and closers,’ so if we have some budgetary constraints, we go for fabulous hors d’oeuvre and super desserts.”
To that end, Roth-Oseary cites made-to-order sushi stations along with roving dim sum carts as essential Asian-inspired cocktail fare. “There's something incredibly fun and interactive about this point-and-eat form of dining,” adds vice president Cheryl Fish. Rustic charcuterie tables with an abundance of imported cured meats (Rosette de Lyon, bresaola, finocchio salami, prosciutto di Parma), imported and domestic gourmet cheeses, terrines and pâtés, and assorted accompaniments (tapenade, fig spread, olives, honey and Marcona almonds) are other classics.
LONGER COCKTAIL HOUR Pauline Parry, owner/president of Los Angeles-based Good Gracious Events, attributes a longer cocktail hour to the bridal couple’s desire for memorable, high-end appetizers. Parry favors tray-passed treats such as bacon jam grilled scallops, mini duck confit Caesar salad cones, and petite Pinot Noir-braised short rib popovers. Action stations are still a smash, such as bruschetta bars accompanied by hand-carved saddle of serrano ham, and build-your-own taco bars offering carne asada, carnitas and local fish served with pico de gallo, crushed black beans and guacamole.
The DIY approach to appetizers is a key component to the wedding menus at Kansas City-based Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions, where fresh seafood reigns—in the form of a create-your-own ceviche bar featuring bay scallops, Gulf shrimp and halibut pickled with squeezes of fresh citrus. Guests select from an assortment of mix-ins, including mango and papaya chunks, orange sections, avocado, cilantro, grilled corn, tomato, jalapeno, and green onions. Servers toss guests' selections on chilled salt blocks and serve them in frosted martini glasses with crisp corn tortilla straws and house-made taro chips as garnish.
Another option—a staff-attended ice caviar bar—showcases red, black and golden caviar and its various accoutrements (blinis, toast points, chopped egg, red onion, capers and sour cream) with three different vodkas and three sparkling wines.
PULL HERE On the warmer side of the table, Lane’s creative twist on a pulled pork action station features either a Southwestern or Korean-style whole slow-roasted pork butt from which guests can peel off the pork themselves. They then either stuff the pork into mini taco shells with a selection of salsas, or layer onto traditional Korean pancakes with bok choy kimchee and radish sprouts.
And the cocktail hour wouldn’t be complete without a bit of bubbly. Washington-based Occasions Caterers' signature “Bubble Bar” features sparkling wines with a variety of add-ins and garnishes—fresh berries, herb sprigs, house-made syrups, flavored sugar cubes, candied ginger and citrus ribbons. “Even budget bubbly can be elevated to elegant,” says creative director Amy Lewerenz.
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