Food stations at weddings aren’t new—but theatrical presentation, dozens of toppings and guest-friendly chefs are.
Ethnic Wedding Reception Food
Incorporating ethnic fare into your reception menu is a great way to give a nod to your own heritage, welcome faraway guests, remember special travels and add sophistication and intrigue to your wedding. But sometimes figuring out your menu can result in a tussle between comfort food that pleases the masses and exotic flavors that entice the adventurous palate. A compromise between food fantasies and safe choices is absolutely possible, and the following caterers know the balancing act well.
- Winzer Stube - Hudson
When chef Marie Schmidt was a girl in Germany, her mother made soup with freshly picked mushrooms and her grandmother celebrated the arrival of white asparagus in May by pairing it with baked salmon topped with a Riesling dill sauce. Now the Old World recipes are Schmidt’s to share, and they’ve popped up in wedding meals at the German-American Institute in St. Paul, Minn. It’s the same at her Winzer Stube restaurant, just across the St. Croix River in downtown Hudson, where couples can throw groom’s dinners and small receptions.
“I’ve done a mixture of German-American meals, sit-down or buffet, in addition to Norwegian or French cuisine,” Schmidt says. Among the entrée favorites: pork tenderloin with red and green pepper strips, topped with Black Forest ham and onion strips in a light cream sauce.
- The American Club - Kohler
“A lot of people don’t want their wedding to be the same old thing,” notes banquet chef Daniel Dries of the American Club. He cites braised Moroccan chicken tagine accented with cinnamon, saffron and dried apricots as an example of one couple’s creative meal choice. “The bride thought that it might be too complex for her ‘meat and potato’ family,” Dries says. “But she tried it at her wedding tasting and enjoyed it so much” that she added it to her buffet.
Testing ethnic recipes beforehand is important because the chef needs to make sure a dish meets the couple’s expectations, Dries explains. It’s not simply a matter of following a family recipe—you need to know the technique and flavor profiles of a dish; things like how spices are used, or whether they’re toasted. “The little nuances,” as Dries describes it, can be vital.
- Bartolotta Catering - Milwaukee
Italian and French food are among the specialties at the five Bartolotta restaurants, but their culinary expertise doesn’t end there. “Around the world” receptions sometimes involve food stations that represent several countries, says Maria Bartolotta. Picture a sushi, potsticker and Asian noodle bar, which can be big on sauce, topping and spice variety. Then move to a mixture of Spanish paella Catalana with chorizo, seafood and manchego cheese with quince paste and raisin ficelle.
Also available are pierogi and kielbasa under the Polish flag, roast pork tenderloin with braised red cabbage for German heritage, and wild mushroom risotto in a carved wheel of Parmesan as the choice for Italian fare.
- Monona Catering - Madison
According to Laurie Wirkus of Monona Catering, about half of her Indian clients choose vegetarian meals as a religious decision, but menus are easily customized to address individual preferences.
A buffet of Indian food might include lamb-filled samosas and a bhaja vegetable mix as hors d’oeuvres, then malai kofta (spiced vegetable balls), paneer (cubed cheese in sauce), korma (veggies in a yogurt-thickened sauce), makkhani murgh (deboned/roasted chicken in a tomato-cream sauce), raita (a cucumber-yogurt salad) and tandoori bread.
“We’ll invite a relative to cook with the chef, then bring in the family for a meal,” Wirkus says, adding that Indian food is a good match for a buffet. “The longer it sits, the better it tastes—kind of like a soup or stew,” she explains. “It is a wonderful, forgiving cuisine.”
Monona Catering, which operates from Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, also stretches in other directions, including kashering (cleansing) the kitchen to prepare bona fide kosher meals.