Savor the day

Savor the day

A look at what’s hot in
wedding fare

Story by Meghan Cornelison

What’s a wedding without the party? And what’s a party without the food? The opportunity to share food and drink at the reception is a major component of your guests’ experience – one of the main things that will leave them saying “that was a great wedding.” It’s also a great way to express your personal style into your special day.

While some of your food decisions will be dictated by things like your budget or the time and location of your reception, you still have an array of choices for flavors, ingredients and presentation. Plan a menu that’s sure to please your hungry guests and provide the backbone for a great party by arming yourself with an understanding of the options and popular trends in wedding fare.From food trucks to seafood, Alaskan chefs, caterers and banquet managers share their thoughts on what’s hot for wedding food.

Food for foodies

While your basic meat and potatoes might have constituted gourmet fare at one time, these days, people look for fresh ingredients, a diversity of flavors and unique presentations. “People in general are a lot more food savvy with the Internet and (food television shows),” says Bobbi England, co-owner of Kenai Catering. So fresh, high-quality ingredients and colorful, eye-catching presentations are in demand. Wedding guests also appreciate the quality of foods prepared on the spot, such as cedar-plank salmon hot off the grill, says Chef Wes Masters, owner of Masters Catering in Anchorage.

England says many of the couples she works with really want to accommodate their guests’ diverse dietary needs or preferences, so buffets remain a popular serving style. “Buffets are definitely the trend we are seeing, mainly because it provides a much wider selection for the guest,” says England. “With the gluten free and dietary restrictions faced by so many people, buffets have the ability to accommodate a much wider range of people.”

And… action!

One of the best ways to ensure you have something for everyone at your party is to let your guests in on the food-prep action. “The trends are leaning towards live action,” says England. Live action stations such as pasta or fajita bars (where individuals select their ingredients and their food is prepared on the spot) are a hot item, as are carving stations with whole turkeys or prime ribs, explains England.

For another fun, action-oriented option, some couples bring a set of wheels to their reception and dish up the fare from a food truck. Food truck caterers usually prepare foods on-site, often to order, according to Cathy Robinson of Wheel Good Food in Anchorage. Guests can experience the smells and sounds of the cooking, plus the trucks themselves make for a fun conversation piece. Robinson says her food truck could be a good option for a rehearsal dinner or possibly a small, casual reception.

Let them mingle

If wedding food presentations are leaning toward action, it’s no surprise couples want their guests to feel free to interact with one another. “Buffets and stations work well because (couples) want people to mingle and get up and move around, not feel like they have to sit in one place all night,” says Jennifer McCombs, sales manager at Alyeska Resort who handles most of their weddings. Station-based serving styles facilitate mingling because guests can visit one station, such as a stuffed mushroom bar on one side of the room and then work their way to another station for something else. However, McCombs explains station-based menus are a bit more limited in the number of people they can accommodate, depending on the size of the room. You want your guests up and mingling, but not bumping into each other trying to get from one station to the next.

The before- and after-meal offerings also make for great mingling munchies, says McCombs. “A cocktail hour with butler-passed hor d’oeuvres is popular, and lends a sense of elegance.” For the active, late-night party crowds, McCombs says many couples like to offer a late snack, such as chips and dip served toward the end of the evening. Interestingly though, McCombs, Masters and England agree that the appetizers-as-a-meal menus are not as popular lately, thanks in large part to the economy. “You get more value from a full-meal buffet,” says Masters.

When in Rome (or Alaska)…

As far as popular ingredients, it’s all about Alaska. “Being in Alaska, most couples have guests arriving from the Lower 48, so of course they would like some type of salmon or seafood,” says England. From salmon to halibut to Kachemak Bay oysters, caterers are usually happy to find unique ways to showcase Alaskan foods. “One of (Alyeska’s) menus has an iced seafood station with shrimp, king crab and oysters,” says McCombs. England recalled a story of a wedding where the couple chose cupcakes rather than a cake for dessert, so Kenai Catering created a tiered wedding “cake” out of salmon mousse, which made for great photos and memories. When possible, Alaskan produce, berries or other products also make great additions to the menu. “We have even used birch syrup from Talkeetna for pork tenderloin,” says Masters.

Along with the Alaska theme, many couples also look to personalize their reception fare by incorporating traditional family or cultural foods. From Greek to Chinese to Danish, “I have had people request elements from their culture,” says McCombs. Some couples even bring specific family recipes to their caterers, which England says is a great way to make the menu more unique and personal.

Whatever menu you choose, keep in mind that your wedding fare serves more than your hungry guests: It also serves to support the overall style you want for your day. Whether that style calls for a simple buffet or a formal, sit-down dinner, “It’s your day, and in the end if you are happy with it, that is all that counts,” says England.