Next to the ceremony and the dress, food might be the most important aspect of any wedding because it’s one of the few things people remember long after the celebration.
The memories start with the cocktail hour, which sets the stage for your reception. “It’s an introduction as to what’s going to be happening throughout the evening,” says Alison Awerbuch, partner and executive chef at New York catering firm Abigail Kirsch.
Chef Alexa Lemley of Lemleys Catering in Columbus, Ind., recommends serving a mix of vegetarian and meat options because “balance is good,” says Lemley. She also advises including a gluten-free option to cover your bases with today’s ever-evolving dietary concerns.
Awerbuch notes it’s easy for brides and grooms to gravitate toward food they love, but they should remember that guests have different dietary needs and preferences, particularly there’s a wide age range of guests that have different palates.
Selecting great hors d’oeuvres means having some variety. “When you look at it, you should know what you’re eating,” says Awerbuch. “It’s not an unidentifiable brown pouch.”
Keeping them small and bite-sized ensures that guests can have a variety of options, but they won’t fill up before the main event. They’re also not awkward to eat, says Awerbuch.
Lemley and Awerbuch both offer options that invoke bursts of flavor in every bite. Some of Lemley’s one-bite favorites include:
• A papadu pepper stuffed with Indiana goat cheese, topped with fresh herbs
• Parmigiano-Reggiano injected with truffled honey and topped with pink peppercorns
• A half-date stuffed with foie gras and truffle mousse, topped with chopped roasted hazelnuts
• French toast brioche tubes topped with candied bacon
• Herbed stuffed tomatoes
• Deviled quail eggs
“Soup shots are always fun,” adds Lemley.
If you go with something like a soup shot, keep in mind that your guests also will be balancing a drink. Awerbuch recommends having just one soup shot, appetizer in a tasting spoon or an hors d’oeuvre that leaves a bone or shrimp tail. “It’s awkward when you’re done eating it,” she says.
Some of Awerbuch’s tried and true hors d’oeuvres include:
• A four-cheese mac and cheese cupcake topped with smoked tomato chutney
• Tomato hand pie, an open tart filled with a slow-roasted tomato mixed with shallots, cheese, arugula and balsamic vinegar
• Smoked salmon pancake with edamame
• Portobello mushroom “steak fries” made by coating mushroom strips with a parmesan-and-panko mixture, quickly pan searing them and serving with a balsamic roasted garlic dip
One other surprisingly popular item at Awerbuch’s events is franks in some sort of blanket. “The most sophisticated client in the most sophisticated audience still loves them,” says Awerbuch.
Awerbuch notes there are unique ways to prepare the dish. Her firm plays on the trend of handcrafted, artisanal foods and buys local hot dogs made in Brooklyn, makes the pastry and offers them with different sauces served in mason jars with the name of the sauce written on the lid. Awerbuch says the reaction is, “This is what I love, but wow, the presentation is different too.”