Wedding Food Takes Center Stage

By: Jonathan Milder

The arrival of warm weather and long days are sure signs that the wedding season is upon us. As the season shifts into high gear, we thought we'd check in on what's hot and happening food-wise in the world of weddings. A whole lot, it turns out. Be assured the old rubber-chicken buffet clichés no longer apply. All the excitement of the contemporary food scene — street foods, far-flung flavors, techno-wizardry, updated retro classics, etc. — is coming to the party. There's a lot less "continental" stuffiness and, ironically, far more sophistication and worldliness. A new adventurousness and license to have fun is unmistakably in evidence, allowing couples more room to personalize and invent. Wedding food is no longer something to endure; increasingly it is becoming another part of the evening's entertainment.

Here's a sampling of top trends we found:
1) Cooking Live

The bride and groom may be the star of the show, but chefs are muscling their way on stage and no one seems to be complaining. Buffet service and plated dinners are, in trend-speak if not in actuality, “out.” “In” are “chef carts” and “performance stations,” service setups where chefs cook and carve, assemble and plate right before the diner’s eyes.

According to Meryl Snow, co-founder of the trendsetting Philadelphia caterer Feastivities, “People want to see their food prepared. They want to know the ingredients are fresh. They like the sights, the sounds, the smells." No doubt. Particularly if what they’re seeing/hearing/smelling is one of Feastivities’ fancied up s’mores, dipped in meringue and torched to order tableside!

2) Food Trucks

The national food truck craze first parked itself at weddings last year and it shows no signs of giving up its spot. For many couples, trucks are a cheaper alternative to a catered sit-down meal, especially at outdoor venues. More often, though, trucks are being hired to serve up the “late-night snacks” that event planners say have been an increasingly popular feature of weddings in recent years.

Alison Awerbuch, chef & partner at Manhattan's Abigail Kirsch Catering Relationships, points out that the influence of food trucks is one driver (pardon the irresistible pun) behind the popularity of the above-mentioned mobile cart service. At Abigail Kirsch, Alison is incorporating the truck trend by creating uniquely designed "Roving Savory & Sips Carts" intended to capture some of that special frisson of curbside dining, indoors.

3) Miniatures

Yeah, cupcakes are cute. But mini lobster BLTs are cute and clever and less likely to wind up on your tux. And mini cakes ( mini wedding cakes) are just plain hot, the current rising stars of the wedding dessert firmament.

The appeal of miniatures is undeniable and weddings will be awash in artfully presented, cleverly conceived one-bite tastes this year. Think mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup shooters or dessert tables adorned with bite-sized tarts and mini pies.

4) On a Stick

If small things are cute, stuff on a stick is fun — and super popular. It's nice that it's also practical (utensil-free portability) and lends itself to decorative displays. Cake pops are still going strong (and getting increasingly sophisticated — check out Feastivities' ricotta cheesecake lollipops), and gourmet ice pops often with a kick, are hot stuff.

5) “Caviar” and Other Molecular Magic

Nitrous oxide, calcium chloride, sodium alginate: hot, hot, hot. Really. For wow effect, more and more wedding caterers are turning to techniques from the world of modernist cuisine, also known as molecular gastronomy. Spherification, the practice of shaping flavorful liquids into perfect spheres, bearing the uncanny look and pop-in-the-mouth texture of caviar — think cilantro caviar or pesto pearls — will be a favorite bit of culinary sleight of hand at weddings this spring.

6) The Return to Big

While cupcakes and dessert bars remain popular, most of the experts we consulted agreed that grand-finale wedding cakes, in all their monumental, ornate, architecturally ambitious glory, are back big-time. The Sweet Genius himself, Food Network's own master of cake design, Ron Ben-Israel, sees couples "getting comfortable again in impressing their guests with taller wedding cakes." According to Ron, this "return to big is being accompanied by a new playfulness on the flavor front." Anyone for candy bar-inspired cake fillings?

Photo Credits:
First photo: Abigail Kirsch Catering/ Andre Maier Photography
Second photo: Feastivities Events
Third photo: Abigail Kirsch Catering/ Andre Maier Photography
Fourth photo: Rob Ben-Israel Cakes
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