Monday, April 14, 2014

Hors d’oeuvres and Weddings, it’s what’s for dinner.

It is no surprise that today’s recently engaged couples are sophisticated individuals who expect their wedding not only to be memorable, but one that will reflect their personality and incorporate their individual tastes. At one time, wedding receptions were limited to the imagination of the couple and what others were doing around them. With the help of the internet, planning a wedding today offers limitless possibilities and has caused a virtual explosion of activity in the wedding industry. Today one can visit thousands of websites to access information, ideas and photos that will help define their wedding day. With this freedom, ideas began to take shape that would encourage wedding professionals to customize experiences for their clients.

One of the ways couples have altered their reception to make it unique is by dramatically changing the dining experience. Over the last decade, it is more and more common to see receptions move away from the traditional plated dinner, and offer instead a complete dining experience consisting entirely of extravagant food displays, action stations, and combinations of both passed and buffet style hors d’oeuvres. It is not unusual to see a Chef on the floor of a reception, making a show of their talents at food preparation, entertaining the guests. Guests, in turn, can sample dozens of foods instead of dining on larger portions of a few items. Hors d’oeuvres have taken on a whole new life of their own.

Serving hors d’oeuvres is also a way to bring out the individual tastes of the couples and their families in ways one never imagined before. When it once would have been unheard of to serve an old comfort food such as tomato soup and grilled cheese at a formal reception, now we can create a little 4 oz. mug of soup and a triangle of grilled cheese perched on top calling it a Tomato Soup Shooter. When passed throughout the guests at a fall or winter gathering, they delight that such a simple food is being served and greatly enjoy the memories it evokes. But at the same time it feels fun and sophisticated. One of the challenges any caterer has is to discover what is meaningful to their clients and create foods that represent their lifestyle and who they are today.

Hors d’oeuvre dining brings about a whole new experience for the guest as well, moving away from sitting in the same place most of the evening to an open floor plan which allows guests to move about and mingle, possibly changing where they’re sitting several times throughout the evening. It actually encourages interaction and conversation. This type of dining is more than a dining experience, making it fun to leisurely approach multiple food stations and delight in both seeing and sampling the different foods offered at each particular display.

There are many popular displays that have been created; for instance, cold stations which may offer a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, olives, cheeses, sushi, shrimp and crab claws - the possibilities are endless. Small plates are used so guests feel free to approach the stations more than once if they’d like, and are comfortable eating either seated or standing. Whole displays created with tiny, individual servings are popular. Raw vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks, take on a whole new meaning when served in a small votive cup with a garden ranch dip, or sampling a tiny martini glass filled with fresh fruit with a honey essence or a festival salad using a tiny fork. How about a large clear display of sushi with live goldfish swimming inside to delight the senses? Or even an assortment of sweets that are impossible to resist, such as mini desserts or a candy station.

Action stations are now commonly used, such as a Pasta Bar, Carving Station, or an interactive Small Plate Station, in which complete meals are served on a small plate. You could offer four different meals on a little 4 x 4” plate instead of one large meal. These can be tiny portions of anything from Roasted Duck with Minnesota Wild Rice and Green Beans to Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Corn. You may even enjoy a Sautéed Sea Scallop on a bed of Asparagus Risotto.

Be sure to include some butler passed items just for fun. How about an Asian Chicken Meatball covered with Pop Rocks? They always make people laugh at the unexpected sensation. A Potato Crusted Sunfish Slider with a Lemon Aioli is so tasty and seems to be loved by all who are native to this area. Mini Chicago Hot Dogs - at a wedding reception?! Why not?!

As our dining experiences continue to become more sophisticated and lean toward the unexpected, there is no limit as to what you’ll see out there tomorrow. Not only for wedding receptions but for any party, choose hors d’’s what’s for dinner.

Christine Schiltz
Owner/Catering Director
Lake Elmo Inn Event Center