In the final part of my series on 2011 trends, I asked Joel Wolke at Occasions Caterers, Steve Dunn at Well Dunn, and Kelsey Hendrickson at Windows Catering to share some of their expertise and insight on the current trends in event catering.
Here are just a few ideas for you to think about as you plan your next event.
Farm to Table: Local and seasonal produce continues to be growing in popularity. Occasions Caterers has developed a series of “100 mile” radius menus which are very popular, particularly with wedding clients looking for a truly local dining experience
A Taste of History: In addition to sourcing locally, Well Dunn has started growing its own produce, some with links to the past. Steve Dunn tells us: “In this area, we can link our culinary tradition to Thomas Jefferson who used Monticello as a testing ground for importing agricultural ideas from Europe and France in particular, as well as inventing agricultural methods and products of his own. One of the tomatoes that he grew, Virginia Sweets, are now part of the tomato repertoire in Well Dunn’s farm plot. The Virginia Sweet is a small orange and red skinned tomato with a sweet deep pink interior. We are using it in our kitchens for everything from Caponata to balsamic scented tomato sauces, which we hope to have on hand through the holidays.”
Around the World: According to Windows Catering, a lot of couples want to incorporate more ethnic foods into their menus, whether it’s in hors d’ouevres, stations or the dessert table. For example, a bride and groom who got engaged on the Great Wall of China decided to have all the hors d’ouevres at their wedding be Chinese inspired.
Having catered this year’s Washington National Opera Ball at the Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China, Occasions Caterers can now offer their customers some of the new items specially created for the event. They have a line of “modern Shanghai” hors d’oeuvres including tea-smoked quail egg with pickled crab, Shanghai-style pork meatballs served from tiny woks, and phyllo “birds nests” filled with Cantonese lobster.
Small Plates: Another trend noticed by caterers is an increase in interest for small plate menus. Well Dunn translates this trend in a number of ways, including offering multiple small selections in a single course. You get to cover a lot more culinary ground by offering a selection of salads or a soup and salad combination in a single course.
A Trio of Petit Salads
Manchego, Grilled Peach and Micro Green Salad
Baby Greens with Figs, Goat Cheese and Toasted Hazelnuts
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with a Chiffonade of Basil and a drizzle of Balsamic Reduction
Outside the Box: According to Windows, their clients have been thinking of new and different ways to approach the food at their venue. A big trend they have noticed has been hiring food trucks for some portion of the evening. Whether it’s a taco truck during cocktails or donuts at the end of the night. They have also enjoyed working with clients on unique wedding reception ideas. For example, they recently worked on an extremely creative wedding where the bride wanted her reception to be a picnic style lunch. Guests could seat themselves at various picnic baskets and serve themselves from a wheelbarrow filled with champagne and wine. An adorable touch was that each blanket had it’s own basket filled with baguettes, artisan water and gourmet spreads.
Similarly, Occasions has noted a continued interest in going “outside” of the mainstream and providing artisan foods, i.e. things which are made by hand in small batches or using antique methods. Recent examples include an explosion of charcuterie specialists, European style unpasteurized cheeses, small batch beer and wine, and chocolates made with single-source cocoa.
Always In Style: I asked each caterer their opinion on some ideas that will always be in style. Unanimously, they all said that delicious, well-prepared food served by exceptional staff will always be in style.
In addition to the above ideas, here are a few additional trends Occasions Caterers started to see this year that may become even more popular in the coming year.
- Molecular gastronomy
- Pies – from an all-pie dessert buffet to mini whoopie pies
- Salty-sweet desserts (e.g. salted caramel, popcorn, and bacon dust)
- Scandinavian cuisine
- Pickled foods (house-made chutneys, ketchups, pickles)
A huge thank you to Joel, Kelsey and Steve for their fabulous insight and expertise!