It seems that as soon as we finish up the rush of our busy holiday season the phone starts ringing with brides, newly engaged over the holidays. We all know what happens next: tasting season. The first few months of our year are devoted to assisting these new brides and grooms with their catering needs; wanting with all our hearts to be given the opportunity to be their partner on their special day and to completely blow them away with our level of food and service. This ultimately gives way to referrals and helps us to form the lasting relationships we want, need, and live for.
How do we do this year after year, couple after couple? Well, that’s actually the easy part. We accomplish this each year by offering new and exciting products. We accomplish it by staying ahead of trends—and creating trends; by spending time with each couple and tailoring all of the event offerings to their palates. Most of all, we do it because we love it. We love more than anything else when the bride calls us after her honeymoon and says, “My dress was perfect, my hair looked incredible, and all I keep hearing about is how amazing the food was. Thank you.” That’s where the love of what we do comes pouring in.
How are we going to keep it fresh this year?
At The Wild Thyme Company in sunny San Diego, we are afforded a very long wedding calendar. Because of this, we’ve been working on 2015 weddings since last October. Some of the highlights from last year and proposals for this year include:
Family-style wedding picnics
Public parks, lakes, and other non-traditional, outdoor settings are perfect for this type of wedding. Picture low tables and gingham, then expand on that and think of all the possibilities with food and beverage. Sure there’s the grill or barbecue approach, but we think more like roasted red pepper and eggplant sandwiches with goat cheese, balsamic onions, and field greens wrapped in kraft paper and tied with twine. Shaved brussels sprout salad with apples and pomegranate. Purple and heirloom carrot and shaved radish salad with goat cheese. These are all fresh, colorful dishes, sure to wow. Simple cheese and honeycomb plates. Small lattice-topped berry pies. Plus, Mason jars for ice water and kumquat lemonade add detail to any table. You can picture it now, right? The feeling is easy to sell to any couple wanting a whimsical outdoor reception.
We’ve seen and experienced a few really amazing restaurants nationally that have taken the dim sum cart idea and ran with it in a new and upscale, yet approachable way and we like it a lot! At TWTC we’ve taken this idea to weddings, presenting it as Asian snack foods with a twist for strolling receptions. The items we use on these menus are also perfect for late night snack or street food stations. Build some carts and move through the guests offering up items such as gua bao buns, hoisin braised pork rib with pickled mustard greens, peanuts, spring onions, and five-spice sticky glaze. Our pan griddled edamame fritters get rim fire sweet chili shrimp and a little hit of buerre blanc. Our take on dandan noodles includes fresh Chinese egg noodles, ground chicken, scallions, peanuts, cool cucumbers, and a savory, fiery sauce. Combine Japanese and Korean foods, like kimchi pancakes with skewers of chicken yakitori for a one-bite flavor explosion. Another fresh option is to create tiny versions of favorites, such as banh “mini” mi with marinated, glazed chicken, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, cilantro, and spicy aioli. Of course, no strolling reception would be complete without a showstopper like uni ciabatta, grilled on one side and brushed with melted garlic sea urchin butter.
You have to wash this all down somehow right? Higher-end cocktail mixology is a very hot topic. This spring and summer we are highlighting our amazing local produce in champagne cocktails, served with fresh fruit purées and beautiful cocktails garnished with egg white froth and English pea tendrils. Bourbon cocktails are being mixed with fresh watermelon purée, melted down watermelon Jolly Ranchers, and a touch of orange to make for a super refreshing summer sipper on hot days.
Use small batch or craft soda bars for DIY ice cream floats. It’s fun to create your own or use combinations like: orange, jasmine, and nutmeg soda with vanilla bean ice cream; ginger, apricot, and allspice soda with lime sorbet; pineapple, coconut and nutmeg with lychee ice cream; or blackberry and pomegranate soda with ginger ice cream.
For an adult version, try using craft or local beer for floats. In San Diego County there are well over 100 craft breweries, and beer-centric menus have become high demand. Our palates countrywide have become far more educated and demanding as to the way food and beer really pair together. Beer floats are a cool way to incorporate those flavors in a non-traditional way. Our top selling, and also our favorite beer for dessert pairings are: Mother Earth Brewing’s Cali’ Creamin’ with house-made vanilla bean ice cream; South Park Brewing’s Oyster Stout with salted caramel ice cream; and Belching Beaver Brewery’s Peanut Butter Stout with crème fraîche gelato.
Lastly, there’s catering for brunch the morning after! At brunch, skip the juice bar and try “body shots” instead. Move over wheatgrass! Serve up miniature liquid “cure-alls” such as shots of ginger, lemon, cayenne, and turmeric for immune boosts. Or try spirulina coconut water to rid the body of toxins. These shots are super colorful, rehydrating, and replenishing.
Ready, set, impress!
Keith Lord is Director of Operatons and Culinary for The Wild Thyme Company, Los Angeles, CA.