Cheese cubes are out! Stylish hors d’oeuvres are in.
by HCTG Senior Writer Jolene Rae Harrington
The Wedding Day focus is usually on creating a romantic ceremony and a grand reception. But what about the humble cocktail hour, that somewhat amorphous mingle-and-munch time between “I Do” and “Dinner is Served”? Gone are the days when a hostess could throw together a few trays of cheddar cubes, crackers and melon slices to tide guests over until the chicken-du-jour was served. Today’s bride puts a great deal more consideration into what she presents to her guests, and the Bay Area bride is among the most discerning. “Our Northern California clientele is well-traveled and well-educated, which translates to a more refined palate,” observes Stephen Dennison of Dan McCall & Associates Catering. “They expect original, authentic cuisine of the highest quality.” The Bay Area’s top caterers agree that the best way to rejuvenate the cocktail hour and give it some character is to serve appetizers with pizzazz—delectable treats that make their own statement yet still tie in to the theme, style and mood of the rest of your event.
For Dennison, that special je ne sais quoi begins with the flavors of each hors d’oeuvre. Like notes in a symphony, they should harmonize yet be distinctive. He reminds us that when you pop an appetizer in your mouth, “the flavors should be bright—from the sparkle of ginger to the zing of a coarse ground French Grey Salt as it explodes in your mouth.” So what sort of concoctions have our esteemed Iron Chefs dreamed up to produce this desired result?
Our survey says that Fusion Cuisine is still going strong. As more and more couples tie a multi-ethnic knot, they want their food to reflect the cultural diversity of their respective families. In Northern California, Pan-Asian elements are bringing a novel distinction to traditional favorites. Laurence Whiting of Global Gourmet Catering presents their new Gingered Crab Rissole as a prime example: “It’s a twist on the conventional crab cake; we’ve crusted it in black and white sesame seeds, then topped it with wasabi cream.” Crab takes another Fusion bow in Melons Catering’s Crab Cones, a blend of delicate Maine blue served inside a crispy won ton or nori wrapper. MeMe Pederson of Taste Catering finds guests appreciate the lightness of Asian Fusion fare. As an alternative to “bread-with-everything,” Taste offers a savory Thai rock shrimp salad cradled in lettuce cups. These days, almost every Bay Area caterer has an ahi dish on their menu, and Global Gourmet serves it island-style on a stalk of edible sugar cane. Dan McCall plays with contrasts in Warm Ahi Popsicle, where the fish is pan-seared and accompanied by pickled ginger and a sweet yakiniku sauce.