Food can set a mood. Fried chicken says one thing, caviar, another. But what does a salad with flower petals, a tower of strawberries or a heart-accented ice cream sandwich say? Pure, unabashed romance.
LOVE (AND SALADS) BLOSSOM
If roses capture a girl's heart, then why use them only as decor? Rose petals look just as lovely sprinkled in salads and are quite tasty paired with arugula and goat cheese. Chef/partner Gayle Pirie of San Francisco's Foreign Cinema developed this salad with lovers in mind, she says, and notes the goat cheese is “a tangy counter-point to the mild spice of arugula and nutty, ephemeral rose petals.”
For a sure-fire romantic turn, look to lobster, which Foreign Cinema uses as a base for an Alaskan cod dish served in a lobster-tomato-saffron broth. Pirie calls it a sensual dish, due to “the mouth feel and deep flavors.” And to make the surroundings as romantic as the food, opt for tons of candles, Pirie suggests.
I ♡ FOOD
For an adorable dessert, New York-based Elegant Affairs adorns ice cream sandwiches of almond-raspberry ice cream and fudgy cookies with tiny sugared hearts, then serves them as after-cake sweets at weddings. If you want romance sooner in your meal, Elegant Affairs lines the buffet with colorful little grab-and-go boxes of crudites, including carrots and edamame, garnished with flowers. At the bottom of the box is a roasted shallot and spinach aioli, so “You don't have to worry about double-dipping,” says Elegant Affairs president and CEO Andrea Correale.
Other romantic options? Aphrodisiacs, which Correale insists, “are not just oysters.” She cites almonds, avocados, truffles, honey, pineapple, licorice, ginger and figs as excellent options for an aphrodisiac-themed wedding menu. And for added touches of elegance, place decanters of wine on the table, or have servers offer choices of water table-side instead of setting pre-iced glasses of water.
As for what's up and coming, Correale says to look for salad dressings of vegetable purees to take the place of acidic dressings. And toss out the rolls and butter and serve whole-wheat flatbreads or crostini with spreads and patés, she notes.
MY LOVE IS LIKE A TOWER
Few things say romance like towers of strawberries. Alexandra Payard, founder of Tastings in New York, offers these as well as towers of meringues as dreamy centerpieces. The meringue tower, which serves as decor only, is presented alongside edible vacherin-style meringues filled with different curds, from caramel to lemon.
Yet another way to celebrate a matrimonial pairing is to offer food in pairs, Payard notes. The Tastings team has served tasting plates of bite-size savories for two, a main course duo, as well as two desserts, one representing the bride's taste and the other the groom's. And if you need a little help setting a romantic scene, Payard says, you can always play Cole Porter songs.
ROMANCE ON A BUDGET
A slumping economy doesn't put party hosts in a romantic mood. But bridal couples can still cut corners without sacrificing taste.
Alexandra Payard: Instead of a sit-down dinner, Tastings suggests a cocktail hour with passed food items — starting with savory and then switching to sweet. “It is much less expensive,” she says. “Not as many rental items, and food is less expensive.”
Andrea Correale: “More brides are opting to do afternoon, brunch-y type foods. We won't be seeing many raw bars or seated dinners with a choice of entree.”
Gayle Pirie: “I would say that in this economy, we might see less New York steak or rib-eye steak and [instead] go with well-marbled bavette steak, a delicious, affordable cut that grills beautifully. We like to rub lavender and garlic to form a fragrant crust.”