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At Your Service

Local wedding caterers share crave-worthy menus and helpful tips for three popular dinner styles.

1) FAMILY-STYLE FESTIVITIES

A warm and convivial way to go, family-style meals are made up of big communal platters, plates, and bowls of different items, presented to each table by servers and then passed around by guests. Diners can decide what and how much they want, while the process of sharing is conducive to friendly hellos. Because it isn’t necessary to produce scores of identical plates simultaneously, you can often have a larger variety of dishes, says Catherine Buford, managing partner of ChefStable Catering. “It also allows the food to take center stage and be celebrated,” she adds.

So consider this the ideal service if your guest list is a bunch of farmers market and “Best Restaurant” aficionados. ChefStable customizes all of their menus according to your tastes—the theme for ours is “Elegant Abundance.” We love the bowls of almond flatbread and pickled veggies set out before dinner to quell hunger and spark conversation.

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Clockwise from top right:

Side
Seared cabbage with brown butter, grated horseradish, vegetable consommé, and trout roe. It’s a (mostly) veggie side with a light, savory crunch.

Main Dish
Cornbread-stuffed quail, mirepoix, and maple black pepper glaze. Today’s guests love an unexpected entrée.

Dessert
Rhubarb and crème fraîche flan with pickled rhubarb and tarragon black pepper syrup. Serve this herbaceous grand finale at the same time as the cake, or skip the tiers and pair with platters of salted caramel cookies and brownie bites.

Main Dish
Poached Oregon tuna with olivade, lemon jam, and salt & vinegar sunchoke chips. If medium-rare fish won’t be appealing to your crowd, pick a type that can be cooked through.

Side
Fiddlehead fern and asparagus with shaved lardo and pickled watermelon radish. Intensely seasonal dishes like this spring salad give your festivities a distinct sense of time and place.

The Drinks
Serve favorite local beers alongside Burnside Bourbon Old Fashioneds and refreshing tequila and pink grapefruit sippers, and you’re set!


 

2) FORMAL PLATED DINNER

The most elegant of wedding meal styles, a plated dinner includes multiple courses (typically two to five) delivered table by table by a squad of servers. Standard for black-tie receptions, it can add sophistication and structure (everyone is seated and eating at the same time) to any event. “Plated dinners are also a huge opportunity for a ‘reveal,’” says Kurt Beadell, creative director and partner for Vibrant Table Catering & Events. “Each course should have big visual impact when placed before the guest. Beautiful, delicious food helps to set the night’s tone and doubles as a key part of the entertainment.”

When it comes to the menu, Beadell advises picking a single entrée (no tracking guest preferences!), but be sure you consider your audience: “If 75 percent won’t eat lamb, order a great chicken dish.” Below, Beadell and his crew created a five-course meal that would serenade the senses.

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The Setting
Classic Vintage Rentals has a 200-piece collection of these gorgeous, gilded Haviland Limoge plates. Pair with on-trend gold flatware.

Course One
Appetizer trio (clockwise from top left): beet napoleon with chèvre, orange honey, and toasted hazelnuts; shrimp “beggar’s purse”; chicken liver mousse on brioche.

Course Two
Crab bisque with smoked tomatoes, chives, and black pepper crostini. For a memorable presentation, preset soup plates and have waitstaff pour individual bowls tableside.

Course Three
Citrus salad with watermelon radishes, roasted beets, frisée, and pea shoots. It’s a salad that feels simple and fresh but yields a flavor explosion with each bite.

Course Four
Roasted rack of lamb with creamy garlic-and-chèvre polenta and fresh peas. Consider your wedding’s vibe, Beadell says: “You may love tomato soup and grilled cheese, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for a formal event!”

Course Five
Lemon trifle with fresh berries and whipped cream. A delicious, creamy dessert like trifle, mousse, or crème brûlée will complement rather than compete with wedding cake—plus, it’s nice to have a sweet alternative for folks who are just plain cake-averse.

Wine Pairing
No budget to pair a wine with every course? No prob. Simply pick one red and one white. Relatively light and bright, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc go with most foods and make great aperitifs. P.S. Lamb is one of the most wine-friendly meats.


 

3) HEAVY HORS D’OEUVRES & STATIONS

For this fun, party-minded dinner style, waitstaff weave through guests with trays of bite-size delights. The goal is that loved ones mingle, so seating tends to vary, from high-top cocktail tables to low leather couches. To feed more revelers faster, you can also ask for stations with an array of prepared appetizers (often themed), grab-and-go fresh seafood, artisanal cheese, or tasty build-your-own fare (think “top your taco,” crostini, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc.)

“We love all-appetizer meals because of the variety and creativity you get to share with your guests,” says Chloe Fennell, managing partner of Eat Your Heart Out Catering and Culinary Events. “It’s great for crowds because there’s something for everyone.” She recommends picking 8–10 items to ensure that guests go home satisfied. For our spread, she envisioned a pair of lovebirds who want all of their favorite things. Check out the one-hand nibbles pictured below, followed by food-and-drink pairings.

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Clockwise from top:

Glasses
Beet and dill gazpacho shots with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Nests
Phyllo “bird’s nests” with mozzarella pearls, toy box tomatoes, and basil threads.

Skewers
Mini filet mignon wrapped in applewood smoked bacon over fresh greens.

Spoons
Deviled quail eggs on teaspoons atop a watermelon radish chip.

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Clockwise from top left:

Simple Pleasures
There’s no need to make it complicated—streamlined pairings can really make the flavors pop. Here, Fennell tops shots of cinnamon-and-oaky Burnside Bourbon with shards of salty-sweet chocolate-dipped bacon. Below that, tumblers of Maysara Cyrus Pinot Noir are a perfect match for rosemary grilled-lamb lollipops.

Fan Favorites
Who doesn’t love tacos?! Fennell fills them with halibut, cabbage, and cilantro, and serves them alongside petite mojitos spiked with Eastside Distilling Below Deck Silver Rum.

New Classics
The only thing better than Tillamook cheddar cheeseburger sliders (picked with a cornichon) is eating them with an impossibly cute mini mug of Breakside IPA.

Fancy That
Up the luxe factor with elegant nibbles like gougères (a savory French cheese profiterole) with stemless flutes of Argyle sparkling and smoked salmon and caviar parfaits with Clay Pigeon Pinot Gris.

PROP IT UP
Does your day call for metallic pillows, velvet loveseats, chalkboards, crystal chandeliers, floral rugs, and awesome mismatched tableware for 200 guests? Classic Vintage Rentals is your one-stop shop. Don’t let the name fool you—owner Tracy Amos’s collection includes new pieces as well as, yes, a vast array of vintage treasures, and she does custom work. Want a bespoke bar or farm tables? It shall be done. Book early to nab your favorite one-of-a-kind pieces. Amos can deliver them to your doorstep and even do the setup!

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