Culinary Calendar

By: Bob Brichmann

Some people say San Diego does not have seasons. That’s somewhat true, at least not like back East. However, when it comes to food and catering, San Diego definitely dials in on seasonality when it comes to special events and weddings.

There are so many different styles of weddings staged in San Diego: traditional sit-down dinners, beach themed luaus, backyard BBQs, no expense spared – four or five course glitzy meals, heavy hors d’oeurves and/or stations, and even old-fashioned family potlucks.
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“I find myself often steering people in the right direction. I like to see them take advantage of produce and fruits and such that are readily available because they are in season. They are lower in price for us, so it’s lower in price for them,” explains Chef Chris Karetas from Carriage Trade Catering. One of the key things you as a bride and groom or parent planning a wedding can do is surround yourself with an experienced and knowledgeable chef or caterer. They’ll help you make cost effective decisions with your menu choices.

People today are much more aware of the environment and are more concerned with items that require being shipped or trucked in resulting in more fuels being burned. Many seek local produce and locally grown menu items.

“I think many people rely on their caterer to help them choose. We have restaurants and caterers constantly quizzing us on locally and regionally grown produce that is more cost effective during certain seasons. The caterers are much more aware these days,” shares Kelly Orange, Community Affairs person for Specialty Produce.
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We often revert to how we were raised when it comes to choosing food with regard to certain times of the year. We want our parents and family to be comfortable with the menu items. Brides and grooms have to think about pleasing their guests, too. Fall and winter welcome warmer, heavier soups and meat dishes. Spring and summer are more salads and lighter dishes like fish and chicken. Many people think San Diego and they think seafood.

“April 1st through the end of September is definitely considered a lighter food season. There are more garden and beach-like weddings. They are fresh and colorful. We see more vegetable dishes and pasta stations without meat,” states Tracy Zemke, owner of Personal Touch Dining Catering. Keep in mind you’re planning a wedding six, nine, twelve months out when you are assembling your team of vendors. Consult carefully with your catering people or chef to plan for the season of your event. Chefs and sales teams brainstorm ahead of time for your benefit.

For a summer wedding, Culinary Concepts might break out some bright colored displays. They offer a very cool looking wheatgrass display in a flat with skewers of various ‘food pops.’ Flavors vary from chicken, shrimp, Brie and prosciutto wrapped figs.

“We love offering an overnight prepared infused water. It’s so refreshing. We also have a cucumber water, a strawberry basil water and a ginger lemonade,” offers Laura Seery, Sales and Marketing Coordinator for Culinary Concepts.

Seery sees heavier meals scheduled for fall and winter events. These tend to be more meat and potato choices like stews, chili’s, brazed short ribs and root vegetables and starches.

This recipe from Marc Vogel of San Diego Authentic Flavors Custom Catering sounds delicious:
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Coq Au Vin-Recipe

Boneless Chicken Breast in a rich Burgundy Wine reduction with Pearl Onions, Carrots and Herbs – over Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding, a savory Bread and Wild Mushroom Pudding with Shallots, Tarragon and Garlic.
The bread pudding is cut into a triangle and the coq au vin is rich sauce with chicken breast in small cubes poured over the pudding.
“I’m seeing more poultry overall, but this recipe above is my seasonal favorite classic done as a mini-meal,” says Vogel. Another way to save a bit on your menu is to cut back a bit on the cuts of meats. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re compromising on quality for the sake of taste. Consider some creative preparation of short ribs or flat iron steak.

“I’m more about explaining to the bride and groom about proteins and pairings. We use lighter sauces for summer dishes. Summer calls for more sweet corn, watercress, roasted beets and cucumber salads,” adds Chef Karetas.

Seasonality also comes into play with regard to décor. Your caterer wants to tie in to your event theme. This may call for some collaboration with the florist or coordinator. Fall may call for orange, brown and red colors. Gourds and pumpkins might fit. Brides have a vision, but need guidance.

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