There are many things that make your hometown unique, from the local music scene to the historic sites around town. However, there’s one thing that really captures the essence of a city: the cuisine. Nothing exudes regional flavor more than a menu that is crafted with local ingredients and served to meet the area standards.
While event hosts are often within a 45 to 55-mile radius, oftentimes the guests are coming from across the country—or even around the world. Regardless, regional menus allow the caterer to showcase the area’s freshest seasonal ingredients and emphasize specialty dishes for guests that aren’t familiar with the local culture.
Generally, we encourage clients to select caterers that specialize in the style of menu they prefer. For example, if they are interested in the on-trend farm to table menu, they will want to book a caterer that is familiar with the concept. In order to determine if a client is the right fit for your style of catering, it’s important to get to know them better. Ask what their favorite foods are and discuss how you would put a creative spin on their menu. Once you get a feel for what they like and dislike, you can begin to form a menu that speaks to who the guests are, as well as showcase the caterer’s regional specialty.
Lately, we’ve noticed our clients steering away from the traditional formal event entrees. Instead, they are taking the opportunity to offer dishes that guests may not experience on a daily basis, like Muscovy duck breast with black truffle bread pudding as opposed to chicken and vegetables. In fact, we tell our guests that this is one of the times that they can essentially walk into a restaurant and order anything you want off the menu.
Offering an entrée such as herb-roasted strip loin will address a client’s wish for a delicious regionally sourced meat but also satisfy those guests who may be less adventurous eaters. Photo Emily and Steven Photography
While this is a popular trend to keep in mind when creating a regional menu, chances are that you will still run across clients and guests that are not quite as adventurous. In this case, consider offering a ‘safe’ option in addition to the main entrée or, instead, ask them to step outside of their comfort zone for the passed hors d’oeuvres. That way, you can keep some creative integrity while still ensuring that all are happy with their meals.
Oysters as a passed appetizer are still very popular, but can be sexed up with interesting garnishes and mignonettes. Photo Jasmine Lee Photography
Now, don’t forget that no menu is complete without beverages that complement the meal’s flavors. As a vineyard, we develop our menus to be wine-friendly and we also offer food and wine pairing menus. However, keep in mind that your food pairings don’t have to stop with wine. Embrace your local breweries and distilleries to customize creative pairing menus that will satisfy all palates.
When it comes down to it, there’s nothing better than going local. In addition to bringing in the flavors and culture of the region, working with local partners on food and beverage pairings will also create a strong partnership that can play out in future events as well.
Heather Jones is the Catering Sales Director for Wente Vineyards, a family-owned property that is home to a winery and vineyards, a golf course, restaurant, and a handful of unique facilities for hosting weddings and special events.