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Event Menus: Theme and Variations

Event Menus: Theme and Variations

Sometimes you need a blood-red cocktail to go with your Halloween vampire bash. Other times, there's not a theme in sight — but the menu can still add signature style. Here, three caterers show us the spectrum: from conceptual menus for low-key environments to themed dishes that are a dead-on decor match.


So what's the difference between a themed menu and a conceptual menu? “Preparing themed foods is more a journey through culinary traditions, while preparing conceptual foods is more an exploration of the imagination of the chef,” says Gavin Fine, owner of Bistro Catering in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

An overt themed menu seemed most appropriate for a February Mardi Gras masquerade-theme gala at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts, for which Bistro cooked up Cajun specialties. And Fine notes he can't wait to do a whiskey-and-barbecue party for the upcoming launch of the new Wyoming Whiskey whiskey brand.


Two-thousand five hundred busy executives can work up major appetites when making decisions about all-important advertising dollars. At the annual “upfronts,” television networks introduce the season's TV lineup to potential advertisers, and creating a convivial and delicious atmosphere always helps business. For its May event at the Wollman Rink in New York's Central Park, Fox tapped New York-based Relish Caterers to create a series of nine conceptual stations to appeal to a mixed demographic of men and women aged 21 to 81.

In addition, the event was all “green” — from food to decor with recycling and composting to boot — resulting in a carbon footprint of zero, notes Relish president Claudine Revere. Relish cut waste by using traditional china, but the team still had fun with alternative service items. Sliders came in paper boats and doughnuts in mini paper bags, both made of recycled material. Fresh-baked cookies perched on recycled plastic plates, and some dishes were served in the same containers they were baked in to cut waste, Revere says.


Client requests for conceptual stations are on the rise, according to Robert Muehlich, director of food and beverage at the Setai hotel in Miami. But that's not to say stations can't have themes too.

Last summer, the Setai held a party in its penthouse for a de-signer of luxury watches. The hotel converted the penthouse courtyard to an Asian street market with stations serving dim sum and Peking duck hanging from a steel bar. The Setai team got creative with presentation, using artist palettes as serving trays with edible cones filled with tomato sorbet. Another clever touch included converting the client's watch boxes into serving vessels.


Bistro Catering's menu added some “ooh la la” to a Mardi Gras fais do-do.

Corn Cakes with Barbecue Crawfish

Tasso-wrapped Shrimp

Louisiana-style Crab Cakes with Shrimp Bisque poured tableside

Boneless Short Ribs with New Orleans Gravy, Cheese Grits and Sauteed Greens

Cherries Jubilee with Vanilla Ice Cream

Assorted Petits Fours and Truffles


The Setai used everything from wooden plates with handles to dim sum carts to serve this Asian street-market menu.

Chive Dumplings

Crispy Fried Crab Dumplings

Tartare of Tuna on Won Ton Triangles with Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette

Grilled Singaporean Lamb Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce

Vanilla, Pistachio and Raspberry Macaroon


Besides appealing to a broad range of tastes, Relish Catering made sure no knives were necessary. Here's a taste of what some stations served.

Gourmet Sliders and Fries

Sliders: Turkey Boursin, Beef and Cheese, or Vegetarian

Rosemary Parmesan Fries and Sweet Potato Fries

Healthy and Delicious

Watercress, Ruby Red Grapefruit and Fennel Salad

Shredded Jicama and Snow Pea Salad with Mandarin Segments

Grilled Corn, Cherry Tomato, Cucumber and Mint Salad

Made-to-order Mini Doughnuts

Peanut Butter Glazed with Strawberry Jelly, Chocolate with Chocolate Icing, Vanilla Bean Glazed, Toasted Almond or Plain


Bistro Catering
A Division of Fine Dining Restaurant Group

Relish Caterers

The Setai

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