As someone who constantly helps brides make choices almost every day I came up with my own system on which and how to choose the best options for your cocktail reception.
Here are a few things that you should consider before you even look at the menu:
Your Ethnicity -Always incorporate your ethnic background food into your choices.
Your Style – If you are a very authentic individual then create a very authentic looking station. For example use the actual Paellera for the Spanish Paella or if you are more of a modern style individual maybe serve it in individual decorative plates. Here is another example; Dolma is one of my traditional foods. Originally the ingredients are fully warped in grape leaves; you grab one and dip it into a sauce. What we did was, we cut the cooked leaves and mixed it into the ingredients (just to make sure guests are getting the same taste) than we put it on a plate that had another leaf sitting at the bottom and added a few drop of the sauce on the top. Same food different presentation!
The Season – Use the season into your wedding… How about Spring Harvest or Summer Soups…
The Location (City, State & Country) – As you know each region has its own special food. For example why not have a station with all the famous cheeses (remember the happy cow commercial, LOL) from California. How about a Lamb Bredie in South Africa and may be a fresh seafood station from Colorado River.
Your Favorite food – Always incorporate your favorite food into your cocktail reception. (Remember it may be your favorite and not others. So adding it to your cocktail reception is such a better idea than into your dinner menu).
Up to date – Now a days with all the different restaurants and food options, people would love to see newer things rather than the same old same old.
For example I believe the days for Carving and Sushi stations are over (at least the way we were presenting them) here is my suggestion, if you have to have a carving station, have it precut into small pieces in a very nice presentation and decorative cutting board and let the guests grab their pieces themselves. (don’t you hate it when there is a hug cutting board and you can see all the lines of years of usage and a hug knife that looks very scary and how about that awful ugly looking warmer).
As for Sushi station, I know a lot of people still love to have it but I am not that crazy about it. Maybe my suggestion would be a few fresh (made just before the reception and not during) trays mixed with a Seafood and Caviar bar.
Another very common station is the Pasta station. Forget about the old fashion way of chef mixing different kinds of pasta and sauces in front of the guests (remember this is cocktail reception and not a buffet brunch). How about a very simple small plate with the sauce at the bottom and a spatula full of pasta on the top or have sauces in different bowls separately and let people choose and mix them.
Asian Stations such as Dim Sum, Noodle, Thai, Peaking Duck, Lo Mein…etc are still very strong and popular. Number one reason is that they are lighter and a bit healthier than all others and as I mentioned earlier they make guests feel good about themselves after all that eating and drinking.
Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, European, Spanish, Italian Tuscan, Potato and American Deli stations. I love the variety and I believe they offer something for everyone.
As for passed Hors D’Oeuvres, One good thing is that any food can be turned into passed hors d’oeuvres. Just make it in smaller pieces, add some color and a nice decoration and you are good to go.
Here are some facts that you should consider when making a decision:
• Guests love passed hors d’oeuvres more than stations
• They love to see more options
• They love to see different presentations
• Smaller the pieces the better
• Easier to eat the better
• Something that does not smell
• Something that goes with what they are drinking
• Something that does not repeat at any of the stations or the dinner table
• Sweet station is for after dinner and not the cocktail reception
• Pick a station that does not smell
• Pick a station that does not require people standing on line for it
• Guest love un attended stations more than attendant stations
• Healthy, Green, Low Cholesterol makes the guests feel good about themselves
• Always have a semi menu sign at each station explaining the ethnicity and back ground including the some popular ways to consume the food.
• If you want it will be a nice touch if you add the original recipe so people can take with them. (I always ask my bride and grooms if they go to an event and see and taste something they like, they should definitly take a picture and if possible get the recipe from the chef).