The Perfect Palate
Stay on top of wedding food and beverage trends with these tips from local experts
Food and beverage presentation is key for a truly statement-making wedding. Of course, everything should be delicious, but, as more couples aim to create experiences for their guests, how that food is served is also gaining importance. Michelle Norwood, founder of Michelle Norwood Weddings, has planned nearly 100 weddings since starting her company in 2015. She says to remember that people eat with their eyes first, so it’s important to have fun and be creative in your options.
“Chefs are becoming more creative with the foods served, and the styling of passed apps and stations,” she says. “Couples are now looking for late-night snacks (such as tacos, mini sliders and fries), as well as raw seafood stations and dessert stations (think milkshakes, cotton-candy drinks, alcoholic sno-balls and beignet bars with dipping sauces). Signature cocktails are all the rage, and also the way they are served.” We spoke with several local caterers who weigh in on some of these trends, and who add a few of their own, so you can plan a delicious wedding of your dreams.
Black Pearl Catering Co.
Co-owners Walker Geoffray and Katie Morris started Black Pearl Catering Co. almost three years ago also to provide personalized catered food services. “We often create menus for destination clients as well as local couples who are looking for a cross between local New Orleans flavors and culturally diverse concepts or techniques that are more palatable to a diverse or adventurous consumer,” says Walker, who also serves as the company’s executive chef.
Some of the most popular dishes from Black Pearl include fried shrimp Po’Baos (a cross between a classic New Orleans dressed po-boy presented on a house-made bao), tallow candles (an edible candle, fully lit on display, seasoned with garlic and herbs) and fried green tomato banh mis (a combo Vietnamese banh mi and classic New Orleans fried green tomatoes).
One of the newest players in the field, Catering d’Orleans, started this year as a way to provide personalized service and custom menu design. “Our standout items are true Southern favorites of chicken and andouille gumbo and crawfish étouffée, both of which have won awards for ‘Best of’ in New Orleans,” says Andrew Engolio, owner and executive chef.
He has found that local ingredients and Gulf-to-table fare are now taking center stage. Echoing what Norwood says, a chilled and grilled station with raw oysters shucked onsite, as well as chargrilled oysters, and sweet and savory beignet bars, are now en vogue.
Little Bushel Catering Co.
Another caterer that is pretty new to the scene is Little Bushel Catering Co. The company started in October and has already catered a bevy of local weddings. “Most of the destination couples are coming from the coasts — California, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania and D.C.,” says Reese Collins, owner and founder. “The food scenes there are wildly different than ours, and I wanted to bring those flavors into the fold, while still staying true to what New Orleans does best.”
Her approach, and that of Chef Louis Parsons, is to have fun with food while keeping things simple. Collins also loves the idea of grazing tables, and she hopes the trend continues to evolve. “I spent almost a decade as a cheesemonger in the Philadelphia area, and I love that people are giving such thoughtful dedication to showcasing these extravagant spreads,” she says. “We’ve [also] come up with a solid collection of good, delicious, more boutique wines. It’s an easy way to show your guests that you’re thinking of all aspects of their enjoyment.”
Pigéon Catering & Events
A mainstay on the New Orleans catering scene is Pigéon Catering & Events, a company that started as a deli in the 1990s and has since catered nearly 300 weddings. According to Leah Berhanu, director of sales and marketing, the company first aims to understand the couple, where they are from and why they chose New Orleans for their wedding. “This says a lot about the style of the wedding and helps us create a fusion that their guests can enjoy, no matter where they are from,” she says.
While Pigéon Catering & Events doesn’t necessarily follow trends, the company will change up the style of service for a particular dish. Staple items include boudin-stuffed pork and Bananas Foster. She also agrees that late-night snacks are a great way to surprise your guests. “At the end of the night, the party is always continuing on somewhere else, so a little to-go snack — like a muffuletta or a slice of cake — is always appreciated,” she says.