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Check out these 10 elegant and eclectic dining trends from local caterers around Delaware and Pennsylvania.
The traditional seated dinner presents advantages. It lowers the degrees of separation between kitchen and table, and also emits a sophisticated air. Feel free to buck the norm. Consider the couple who gave guests the choice of fried chicken, beef or fish, says Meghan Gardner of Greater Good Events, a social enterprise for Children’s Beach House.
Those who’ve downsized due to COVID-19 can spend more on the reception. “If you’re going from 200 people to 50—that becomes a super special party,” says catering whiz Kathy McDonald. She represents Taco Reho, Fork & Flask Catering and Big Chill Beach Club, all part of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware–based La Vida Hospitality. George McLoughlin, owner of Tasty Table Catering in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, has seen more interest in lobster, filet mignon and other upscale fare.
Buffets are still popular, but given safety protocols, most servers keep control of the serving utensils. “You need a lot of servers to keep the line moving,” McLoughlin warns. Gardner’s team passes plates down the line; guests do not touch them until the end.
Today’s couples are “foodie-oriented,” McLoughlin points out. “We have a lot of nice restaurants in this area, and the palates are educated.” McDonald agrees. People want the “wow factor,” she says.
Consider a ramen bar with all the accoutrements. Pork belly hors d’oeuvres and pastrami-spiced short rib are hits at Terrain, which has locations in Glen Mills and Devon, Pennsylvania, and a catering division. “I always tell our couples to serve something at their wedding that would be hard to replicate at home,” says Brianna Alcorn, director of events. You don’t need to sacrifice style for safety. Greater Good Events has tucked individual antipasto into bamboo cones.
Given the pandemic, backyard weddings are becoming a bigger thing. Think barbecues, cookouts, pig roasts and, at the beach, clambakes. At a rehearsal dinner at Fort Miles, Greater Good Events prepared a bowl for each guest with clambake ingredients. The menu should complement the location to create an experience, Alcorn says. That’s not hard at Terrain, where garden weddings are a natural. Passed hors d’oeuvres have included steamed broccoli with jalapeño aioli, a sprinkle of wasabi furikake (a condiment) and Japanese rice cracker, which makes it look like a tiny tree covered in snow.
A special cocktail is a fun way to greet your guests—something that speaks to the couple’s style, and has a title to match. To avoid overwhelming the bar, McDonald recommends making water and wine available.
Boards, Bars and Stations
Doughnut boards, pretzel boards—McLoughlin has seen them all. Couples also want unique “bars” featuring poke bowls, sundaes, bananas Foster and other items that let guests mix and match toppings. While salmon- and beef-carving stations still rule, fire it up a notch. For example, Tasty Table has offered sushi-rolling stations. Melissa Ferraro, owner of Sonora Restaurant & Bar in Newark, has created stations with regional cuisine (mini cheesesteaks, crab cakes, mushrooms) and Brazilian steakhouse items. Terrain offers a station for raclette, a Swiss melting cheese that sits over a warmer. The station includes sourdough toast, fruit preserves, prosciutto and other accompaniments. “I consider this a home run for events looking for an elevated action station or a late-night snack,” Alcorn says.
For Your Vegetarian Guests
Forget primavera. McDonald suggests a “cool” Asian slaw with plantains and spicy tofu.
Truck It In
Like stations, food trucks are colorful. Plus, each guest receives the food directly from the server—a bonus for couples concerned with elevating safety during the pandemic.
Offer guests one last bite before they depart. At the Delaware beaches, guests board the Jolley Trolley with a piece of Grotto Pizza or a mini crab cake. Chick-fil-A has delivered sandwiches to Gardner’s events.
No matter your menu or your reception style, book ahead. Labor shortages and food costs have reduced the number of catering events a company can handle. In 2021 and 2022, the early bride gets the date.