Your wedding will (most likely) be the biggest dinner party you will ever plan. The goal is to compile a menu all of your mutual friends and family will love, but with possibly more than 100 people from different cultural backgrounds, that’s a daunting task.
The best thing to do is enlist the expertise of a seasoned caterer. The top picks are sometimes booked up to a year in advance; so as soon as you know your wedding date, do some research, go for a free tasting and book your caterer. It’s also important to remember that your venue may dictate the style of serving or style of food. What’s possible and appropriate on a beach might not be appropriate in a ballroom.
When it comes to the food itself, there may be dishes that you love or that have a personal significance, but it’s smart to have some variety to keep everyone happy. “We recommend a good mix which includes seafood and vegetarian options,” says Emily Radosta of Tomas Bistro. ”We also create gluten-free and dairy-free options so everyone can enjoy the food no matter what their dietary needs are.“
Once you’ve taken all these issues into account, are there any surefire dishes that couples can rely on? Who are the bankable stars of the buffet? We spoke to some of the most experienced caterers in the city and the good news is yes, crowd-pleasers do exist.
Hot Hors d’Oeuvres
“Eyes always dart toward us when we come out with favorites such as fried shrimp and crawfish croquettes served with roasted garlic and balsamic aioli,” says Hayley Mitchell, the director of catering at Michael’s Catering. “Oyster shooters are also fun. Fresh Louisiana oysters are enhanced with a bloody Mary sauce spiked with vodka.” Kristen Casey, the director of sales at Messina’s Catering, agrees that easy-to-eat appetizers always do well. “Our one-bite hors d’oeuvres such as shrimp remoulade shooters, seared ahi tuna atop fried wonton with mango salsa and ‘chisei’ ham biscuit slides never fail to impress,” Casey says.
Melissa Araujo, the executive chef at Saveur Catering says “easy and elegant always wins out” like the company’s “brochettes with oysters and bacon or our ‘Cabildo’ of lump crab, green onion wrapped in an artichoke leaf with lemon and truffle oil.” “Hand crafted cheese and meat boards also wow,” Araujo adds.
It’s also a good idea to stick with New Orleans staples. Radosta of Tomas Bistro says crawfish beignets with ragout sauce always do well, and Salvatore Impastato from Napoleon House says, “You’ll have nothing to worry about if you choose passed, bite-size smoked rib eye, shrimp brochettes, crab cakes with remoulade sauce and mini muffalettas.”
ARTE DE VIE PHOTO
Bruschetta with Roma Tomatoes and Fresh Basil from Tomas Bistro
The Main Performance
For the main entrees, New Orleans wedding guests always love a taste of the city. “They want perennial, local favorites executed really well such as BBQ shrimp with creamy, cheesy grits,” Mitchell says. “People are hungry and that rich, warm comforting food is satisfying.” Radosta agrees: “People love it when we take simple dishes and deconstruct them like our jambalaya cake topped with BBQ Gulf Shrimp.” Impasato loves “fried catfish with pecan sauce, shrimp and tasso pasta, smoked pork loin or Oyster Rockefeller casserole.”
Live action stations are also a crowd-pleaser. “A grits bar with local favorites such as rendered Andouille sausage, BBQ Gulf Shrimp and veal grillades, is guaranteed to go down well,” Casey says.
The Sweet Ending
After every last crumb of the entree is cleaned up, it’s time for dessert – and a wedding cake isn’t your only option. “When it comes to desserts, people are straying away from the traditional groom’s and bridal cakes and moving towards smaller bites,” Mitchell says. Mitchell has found that petite beignets dusted with sugar are very popular, as well as other less traditional desserts like fruit tarts.
And like the other dinner courses, it’s a good idea to choose a dessert with local flavor. “People love very local sweets but with a modern twist such as bread pudding served with apricots, peaches and vanilla ice cream,” Araujo says. “Other trusted treats are pecan pie with bourbon, soufflés and whole wedding cakes made out of beignets.”
Radosta says another good idea is a “white chocolate bread pudding station serving bite sized portions with Maker’s Mark and caramel sauce.”
Remember the other half of the food decision is how you serve it, whether you want your dinner plated or buffet-style. Your choice will impact the ambience of your wedding as well as your budget, so once again, ask your caterer for the perfect match.
Where to Host a Rehearsal Dinner
The rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception may seem like two parties in a row, but they should be distinctively different. In her famous wedding etiquette guide, Emily Post says the pre-wedding feast is for “the two families to relax and enjoy” and is a “joining of the two families.” New Orleans has a lot of spots to choose from for your party, whether your families love seafood, Creole cuisine or everything on the menu.
Multiple locations; deanies.com
Deanie’s Seafood offers Southern hospitality and stacks of some of the most acclaimed seafood in town. The French Quarter location is situated near Bourbon Street, and has two upscale private dining options that open on to a classic French Quarter courtyard. There’s also a Bucktown location if you don’t feel like dealing with French Quarter crowds.
800 Tchoupitoulas St.,
(504) 528-9393, emerilsrestaurants.com/emerils-new-orleans/
Guests will love a taste of culinary history with dinner at Emeril’s. The menu features Emeril Lagasse’s most famous dishes such as BBQ shrimp, Andouille crusted redfish and banana cream pie. You can be served in private dining rooms large and small at Lagasse’s Warehouse District flagship.
209 Bourbon St., (504) 525-2021, galatoires.com
It’s one of the most historic fine dining institutions in the country, so choosing Galatoire’s will ensure your rehearsal dinner instantly becomes a classic. The second and third floors of the Bourbon Street landmark offer a variety of dining options catered by the restaurant’s resident Executive Chef – and recent “Top Chef” contestant – Michael Sichel.
914 N. Peters St., (504) 595-3400, galvezrestaurant.com
With its wrap-around balcony spanning the Mississippi River on one side and the lower French Quarter on the other, the Atrium Dining Room at Galvez Restaurant is considered by some as the most romantic in the city. With its Cathedral ceilings, high vaulted windows, the location is a stunning setting to enjoy the French, Spanish, Creole cuisine and celebrated tapas.
2891 Hwy. 190, Mandeville,
(985) 626-5566, ntinis.com
For rehearsal dinners on the North Shore, the elegant Lagniappe Room at N’tinis is a natural choice. The restaurant has built a strong reputation for tasty steaks, delicious martinis and party fun. You can choose between a seated dinner, buffet or carving stations, or have a menu built around your requests.
519 Fulton St., (504) 593-8118, harrahsneworleans.com
Owned by football legend and New Orleans resident Archie Manning, the super-sized sports bar located on Fulton Street is a way for football fans to incorporate their love of the sport into their wedding. The restaurant’s “Eat, Drink and Cheer” menu is full of Southern and Cajun comfort foods, perfect for your personal pep rally as well as Game Day.
616 St. Peter St., (504) 934-3463, tableaufrenchquarter.com
Dickie Brennan’s newest restaurant, Tableau, offers a new way to celebrate in the heart of the French Quarter. Situated at Jackson Square with beautiful views, there are four different private rooms offering classic French Cajun cuisine.
823 Decatur St., (504) 525-8676, tujaguesrestaurant.com
You can’t get more Creole than Tujague’s. Located in the heart of the French Quarter with balcony access, the restaurant has been hosting rehearsal dinners since 1856. With a recent renovation and addition of a new chef, it is more inviting than ever.