As a food writer and editor, I am a bit of a food snob. So when my husband and I got married, I had one food-related request: no pigs in a blanket.
My mother had other ideas. “Your father’s not coming if there are no pigs in a blanket,” she told me firmly.
We served pigs in a blanket.
In rebuffing my wish for a wiener-free wedding, my mother taught me a valuable lesson: It may be your day, dear bride, but you still need to consider the desires of your guests—especially when it comes to the food you serve.
In your everyday life, you may be a raging gourmand who laps up delicacies such as sweetbreads and veal cheeks. Perhaps you’re a raw-foodist, refusing to eat anything that’s been heated past 116 degrees Fahrenheit. Or maybe you adhere to a strict macrobiotic diet of brown rice and legumes. No matter. Your wedding is neither the time nor the place to impose your dietary dramas on your loved ones.
“When you’re feeding a large crowd, it has to appeal to everybody,” declares local caterer Liza Kilgariff, owner of The Golden Gourmet catering company.
The best way to do that? Serve accessible foods like chicken, beef and—yes—even pigs in a blanket. Wedding planner Laurie Schmalzel calls it catering to the “most common denominator.” You simply can’t go wrong with such traditional fare, she says, because most people like it.
But traditional doesn’t have to mean boring. there are ways to jazz up wedding staples such as chicken and beef so they’re special enough for your special day.
Go For The Good China
Start with presentation. Boring chicken becomes elegant when it’s served by a white-gloved waiter on a fabulous plate with a beautiful garnish. “exceptional service and presentation can make something mundane seem interesting,” says Schmalzel.
One local couple went that route, serving barbecued brisket on nice china at their upscale Lake tahoe wedding. the food was a big hit with the guests, says texas West Bar-B-Que owner Dino Vergolini. Who, after all, doesn’t love barbecue? the guests no doubt got a little thrill from eating such unexpectedly downhome fare at a swanky wedding.
Whimsical presentation also can elevate pedestrian fare. kilgariff likes to serve asian chicken salad in little Chinese takeout containers with chopsticks. Or she’ll offer up individual servings of mashed potatoes in martini glasses, allowing guests to add their own toppings (cheese, sour cream, roasted garlic, bacon . . .). Caterers have lots of such tricks up their sleeve to make ordinary foods seem extraordinary.
Another way to make traditional foods seem less, well, traditional while still appealing to the masses? Caterers suggest tweaking the classics.
Michael Keolanui, a chef and co-owner of Griselda’s Catering, can give roasted beef tenderloin any number of different fl avors, depending on the couple’s tastes and preferences: american, French, asian fusion, you name it. the same thing goes for chicken. in fact, Griselda’s menu includes at least seven variations on poultry: piccata, marsala, cordon bleu, Gorgonzola cream, Chardonnay, sundried
tomato pesto, even fried. “there’s something for everyone,” keolanui says.
Interesting sauces and enticing sides will bump up the excitement quotient of the most quotidian main courses. Like emeril, kick your salad up a notch with the addition of dried cranberries and candied walnuts. Instead of plain mashed potatoes, serve spuds flavored with garlic or Gorgonzola.
Or have what Kilgariff calls a “mix-andmatch” menu. Instead of a formal sit-down dinner, opt for stations, which will allow you to offer traditional items such as grilled meats, pastas and salads with a variety of sauces for your guests to choose from.
Tell a Story
Schmalzel counsels bridal couples to use a printed menu card to let their guests in on the reasoning behind their food choices. Don’t just serve roast chicken; inform your guests that it was the first dish you ever cooked for your groom, or that it’s your favorite meal as a couple. “Tell a little story,” she says. “Instead of saying, ‘Chicken. How boring,’ the guests will say, ‘Grant and Deb’s favorite food. How sweet!’”
And if you must serve something like pigs in a blanket because it’s a family favorite, have a sense of humor about it. Schmalzel suggests printing up a little card that reads, “My father wouldn’t come unless I served these” and placing it on the hors d’oeuvre tray. Or serve the traditional pastry-wrapped wieners sideby-side with an upscale variation—say, foie gras in phyllo—with cards that read
“Dad’s Version” and “Bride’s Version.” Whatever you do, says Schmalzel, don’t be embarrassed. “Make it funny or interesting and your guests will love it,” she says.
Whether you’re having an open bar or just serving beer and wine, consider offering your guests a signature cocktail.
What’s a signature cocktail? It’s a mixed drink, often customized to your event, that adds to the festive atmosphere.
A specialty cocktail will kick-start your reception, signaling to your guests that you know how to throw a rockin’ party.
So how do you go about creating a signature cocktail for your wedding?
One way is to use your wedding colors as inspiration. If your color’s pink, consider a pomegranate martini. If it’s yellow, think lemon drop.
Another way: Start with your favorite alcohol. Love tequila? Then serve margaritas.
Or pick a cocktail that expresses your personality. If your guy’s the suave, 007 type, opt for martinis (shaken or stirred). If you’re a “Sex and the City” fan, offer cosmos or appletinis.
Whatever drink you choose, customize it to make it distinctly yours.
Finally, put your signature on the cocktail by naming it after yourselves or something that’s important to you: the site of your first date, perhaps, or your pet Labradoodle. Schmalzel recommends printing up a bar menu, so your guests know what they’re drinking.
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