Blending the choice of a buffet with the elegance of a sit-down dinner, food and beverage stations have come to the rescue of weddings everywhere over the past few years. While the hottest trend in wedding dining offers seemingly endless possibilities — from gourmet s’mores bars to sushi stations — it also begs the question, where does one begin?
To help, New Orleans Bride Magazine takes a look at the most popular and creative options in food and beverage bars and stations in the city today. All are proof that you can keep it elegant while still pleasing everyone … at least for a few hours.
Wine May be Fine, But…
“Liquor is really making a big comeback. It’s surpassing the wine trend,” says Gail Varuso, director of sales for Ralph Brennan Catering and Events. Varuso notes that the Moscow Mule is currently among the most requested options at her cocktail bars.
Brent Bogan, wedding sales manager at The Chicory, says he created a bourbon tasting bar for a recent wedding.
“We offered 10 different types of bourbon and served it over this really cool ice formed in a perfect circle, like a golf ball,” he says, noting that specialty cocktails remain big at The Chicory. “We do a lot of apple martinis and Pimms cups, but generally our French 75 is the most popular choice.”
Dovetailing perfectly with the rise of the specialty cocktail is the rise of the juice bar.
“I’m seeing juice bars being combined with cocktail stations a lot within the last year,” says Hayley Mitchell, director of catering for Michael’s Catering. “We’re juicing tomatoes for Bloody Marys, for example, and making our own fresh sweet and sour mix.”
As the evening wears on, coffee bars — which have gained popularity in the past few years — can switch to cordial stations, providing after dinner drinks to guests. “Usually we begin offering the coffee with Kahlua, Baileys or Drambuie,” Mitchell says.
Bogan adds that café au lait is slowly becoming more popular. “We’re offering it as either a late-night pass or as a station,” he says.
Comfort Food Goes Cuisine
“People want to see their favorite foods at a wedding, even though the bride and groom may be too busy to even get a bite, as we well know,” says Ralph Brennan Catering’s Varuso.
Professional wedding planner Kelly Sherlock says that along with the ubiquitous mac and cheese bars, she’s doing a fair amount of grits bars — serving the Southern staple along with offerings found in traditional baked potato bars, such as cheese and bacon bits, or even barbecued shrimp.
Bogan says The Chicory has taken its cue from the recent food truck craze and began offering more unique station options.
“We started doing a Korean taco station about a year ago,” he says. “We’re doing firecracker shrimp and Korean beef with kimchi and people are really going crazy over it.”
The Chicory has also found success in what they call their “Stadium Package,” which they began offering in February.
“It’s the kind of food you’d see at a ball game,” Bogan says. “We’re doing crawfish nachos and corndogs and those giant pretzels with a dipping station. Grooms love it.”
Bogan says dessert-wise, ice cream stations are still big, as is a bananas foster station. “Those have been huge for us,” he says. “A lot of people are doing them now instead of the groom’s cake. It’s a real production when the chef comes out and fires it up.”
Add a Sweet and Savory French Flair
For those looking to add some extra personality to their special day while keeping the fun, relaxed feel of traditional street food, there’s a new player in town — The Crepe Cart.
Last August, Tracy Kish and Samantha Saliter, both veteran creators of the French version of a pancake, struck out on their own to create a method of serving their treats with a bit more joie de vivre.
“The cart was constructed with a nod to the traditional French carts, like you’d see on the streets of Paris,” says Kish. “We had an engineer build it for us and Samantha painted it.”
Kish says the cart’s removable side panels enable it to work with any color scheme.
“We have a blue theme or a pink and white theme, which really offers that Parisian look,” she says. “But we can also custom paint the cart by request.”
From The Crepe Cart, Kish and Saliter offer both savory and sweet options. Most popular are their Caprese crepes — made with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella — along with strawberries or bananas and Nutella, and of course the Crepe Suzette. “The options are really unlimited though,” says Kish, “since each crepe is made to order.”
While perfectly suited to an outdoor or courtyard affair, The Crepe Cart is made to break down to fit any space that offers at least a four-foot wide door.
Want to see The Crepe Cart at work? Kish and Saliter sling their sweet and savory treats in The French Market every day of the week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.