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With the continual climb of the foodie culture and our collective passion for posting plated images on social media, couples now more than ever are motivated to deliver a memorable reception menu — especially in New Orleans. When it comes to the new and the now trends for 2019, we’ve pulled back the tablecloth to uncover a few of the most impressive ways to wow your guests.
As opposed to the old school chicken or fish mentality, couples are now providing smaller tastes with more options. “Seated dinners have increased in popularity in recent years, and the trend is toward multiple small courses to provide a well rounded dining experience,” said Tony Abadie, the General Manager for QED Hospitality at the Pontchartrain Hotel. “The five-to six-course tasting menus or family style options are becoming more and more requested. We often recommend serving courses like the appetizers and desserts family style as it allows everyone to try a bit of everything, and adds to the feeling of coming together as a family that weddings are all about.”
A CULINARY COLOR STORY
As Julia Roberts told us in Steel Magnolias with her signature colors of “blush and bashful,”creating a color story for your wedding is always something to bear in mind. Brides are now taking it a step further and carrying that story past the flowers and decor and into the food and drinks. “We’re communicating so much more visually on social media and are inspired by the overall design and presentation of items,” said Sarah Hall, President of Joel Catering. “There’s a lot more experimentation happening. Color stories are starting to form in all the details, including food. We’re seeing squid ink for dark pasta and active charcoal for cocktails. It’s all about cohesive colors that look really cool and interesting and also create a mood.”
INTERACTIVE CHEF STATIONS
Particularly in New Orleans with our exciting culinary culture, action stations for food are as popular as ever. “People are interested in the experience and in something that is really Instagrammable,” said Katie Morris, owner of of Black Pearl Catering. “Watching a chef assemble everything in front of them becomes a showcase for guests.”
Walker Geoffray, owner and executive chef of Black Pearl Catering, suggests extending the idea of interactive stations to branch out from fan favorites like oyster shucking and Bananas Foster to include appetizer preparation.“Appetizers are more intricate and the guests don’t get to see that because all the work is typically done behind the scenes,” said Geoffray.
“Everything is very detail oriented when prepping the appetizers so it’s really fun for the guests to see everything happening in an orchestrated way.”
UNFOLD YOUR COUPLE STORY THROUGH THE FOOD
Crafting an event as an expression of who you are as a couple can add a lovely layer of interest to your reception. As part of the planning process, Geoffray encourages couples to give a backstory of their courtship to help create a wedding theme. “A reception is a total representation of the couple, and we like to get an idea of who the bride and groom are by where they’ve been and what they share in common. Then we reflect that in the menu,” said Geoffray. “Maybe there’s some place that they’ve traveled that was special to them and we can represent that or recreate it in the food and presentation.”
Morris believes that customizing the elements works as an opportunity to celebrate a couple’s interests, as well as engage the wedding party. “We did a wedding for a big Jazz Fest-loving couple,” recalls Morris. “For a late night snack we served Crawfish Monica and crawfish bread as a nod to their love of the Fest. It was so authentically New Orleans and sparked great conversation and surprise for all the guests.”
ATTENTION TO INGREDIENT SOURCING
With a call to fresh and local ingredients in daily food choices, many couples are incorporating that desire into their reception fare. “A lot of people seek us out specifically because they are interested in farm to table and care about where their food is coming from,” said Mandi Bordelon, Coquette’s Special Events Director. “It’s about a concern and interest in the quality of ingredients and wanting family and friends to gather around and share that experience.” In addition to ingredient origins, Bordelon also notes a trend towards lighter fare and more vegetable-forward menu focuses, pointing out concepts like action stations dedicated entirely to veggies skewers with cajun dipping sauces and vegetarian gumbo as ideas. “New Orleans is such a wedding destination city, and we love introducing people to our food. This way they get to taste our flavors but in a specialized way.”
LATE NIGHT FARE
In New Orleans we are always up for another round to keep the party going, so the trend towards the addition of a late-in-the-evening round of treats is a huge draw for partygoers. “We are seeing more couples host longer receptions, with an average of four hours – this is before the after-party kicks off!” says Meagan Cook, Director of Catering & Conference Services at the Windsor Court Hotel. “When your band is still going strong and everyone has had a lovely time, it is really a nice touch to round out the experience with a few late-night favorites.” Noting concepts like gourmet mac-n-cheese bites, bite-sized beignets and s’mores, she also suggests a creative interactive dessert station for the end of the night. “For our out-of-town couples, New Orleans classics, such as a Bananas Foster station, remain a fun choice. Gelato stations are popular, and we like to offer them with a selection of housemade gelatos and sorbets — with traditional and boozy topping options, of course.”