By: Johanna Baena: Continental Catering’s Guest Writer
Selecting the perfect menu for your wedding reception can be overwhelming. No doubt about it. You have to think about pleasing the most persnickety of your guests while still introducing the right amount of originality, and of course, there’s always that pesky budget to consider. Well, worry not. With just the right inspiration to get the culinary ball rolling, picking the perfect palate-pleasing menu will be a breeze. Let the latest and greatest catering trends lead the way…
ONE: SWEET MEETS SAVORY
If you only eat dinner just to get to dessert, then I’ve got the greatest trend for you. Oh yes, I am suggesting desserts as starters. Go ahead and pinch yourself because savory éclairs are a reality. There’s no replacing classic vanilla cream-filled pastries but trust me, éclairs are just as delicious with a duck confit and mango gelée…or smoked salmon and dill. Delish! But perhaps you’re more of a pancake person. No problem! Skip the banana pancakes and opt for savory corn and scallion sourdough flapjacks topped with black bean salsa. This sweet and savory trend will be sure to add a bit of sophisticated whimsy that your guests will not soon forget.
TWO: THE SPICE OF LIFE
Bland, tasteless food? No way! That’s so five minutes ago (or maybe more). Spice up your life with exotic spices and salsas because spicy foods are in. But before you go on a Sriracha-spicing spree, let me tell you about the new savory and pungent Korean condiment that is sweeping the nation with a culinary punch to the taste buds. The name? Gochujang. I know, just when you were learning to pronounce sriracha I throw at you another condiment to mispronounce. I promise it’ll be worth learning though. May I suggest a spice/salsa station where your guests can either enjoy the fiery condiments on their own or use them to add a kick to their dinner?
THREE: EAT YOUR VEGGIES
Sure, we’ve heard this a million times: Vegetables are good for you. You can never have too many on your plate. Blah, blah. Not news exactly. But somehow vegetables never manage to appear sexy enough to eat, right? Palatable produce? Not really. Well, that changes now. I’m here to tell you all about how these nutritious vegetable staples can also be delicious. Gone are the days of bland, overcooked broccoli adorning the side of your plate. Vegetables of all colors and sizes have been re-imagined to capture the spotlight, not the edge of your plate. The veggie du jour just happens to be…wait for it, CAULIFLOWER. Shocker, I know; but it’s true. This albino broccoli look-alike has been low on the totem pole of desirability until now. The now-rockstar edible has taken the place of dough in pizza crust and even the place of chicken in its buffalo-roasted form. And if you’re willing to commit to this healthful trend, opt for a Farmer’s Market theme and feature ‘stand’ stations: each with an imaginative take on a different vegetable. Oh, how agrarian of you.
FOUR: STROLLING STATIONS
Stationary food can be so, well, static. No fun. Change it up a bit by having food come to your guests, and not the other way around. No, not a sit-down dinner; strolling station carts that will have your guests oohing and aahhing (when their mouth isn’t full of delicacies, of course). From tacos to tandoori, the sky is the limit on what can be served. Take the hassle out of the dinner procession and allow your guests to continue mingling while meals on wheels make their way to them.
FIVE: SHARING IS CARING
It’s your special day. You want to share it with your loved ones. That’s the point, right? Well, how much more together can it get than sharing a meal? You, your friends and family, a community table, and a bountiful spread of decadent dishes for all to share. What could be better? Sharing really is caring with this family-style format. It’s personal and conversation-provoking. Just steer clear of overly hot dishes that can pose a danger while passed around the table, and opt for dishes that can be easily portion-controlled.
SIX: LOSE THE FORK
The specific trend here is dim sum, a style of Cantonese food prepared as bite-sized or individual portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. From steamed BBQ pork-filled buns to shrimp dumplings, you’ll treat your guests to a delicious culinary journey. However, if you feel that an ethic meal might be too risqué, simply adopt the small plate component of dim sum and customize it to your cuisine of choice. Monstrous portions will be replaced with tapas-sized meals that will allow your guests to be epicurious and have their cake too…literally.
SEVEN: CULTURAL CONCOCTIONS
Destination weddings are becoming increasingly popular, albeit still not realistic to all couples. Perhaps you dream of saying your I do’s at your favorite travel location, but getting your family and friends to attend is unrealistic to say the least. Fret not. You can now bring the destination to your wedding. With specific locations in mind, couples are now injecting some of the local flavors into their wedding menu. Met your hubby-to-be in Philadelphia? Have a soft pretzel and hoagie station. Heading to Ensenada for your honeymoon? Bring your guests along with the south-of-the-border flavors of fish tacos. I could keep going; the options are limitless.
We’re not all the same. Common sense, right? So why must our menus be one-size-fits-all? Doesn’t make sense. This is why more and more couples are embracing the interactivity and customizability of make-your-own stations. Craving ceviche? Easy. Provide your guests with chopped ingredients like mango, cucumber, celery, papaya (whatever your heart desires), and proteins like shrimp, tilapia, and sea urchin; then allow your guests to create their own culinary masterpiece. And for dessert? Make-your-own ice cream sandwiches, of course. Pick a favorite ice cream flavor, sandwich it between two cookies of your choice, and voila. Enough said about this one.
NINE: JUICE IT UP
You must have been living under a rock if you’ve missed the juicing craze that has taken over. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying its existence. But really, (over-juiced fitness nuts aside) it’s not all that bad. Hear me out. No, I’m not suggesting that any juice—no matter how good it may taste—replaces any meals. That’s madness in my book (not to mention the roomful of hungry guests that would create). Allow your guests to play with their food by setting up juicing stations that can be accessed before or after the main meal. Embrace the trend and serve up some nutritious kale-papaya concoctions to offset the cocktails and cake. Who wouldn’t like watching their favorite fruit pureed into a luscious liquid? Just me? Oh, okay.