Guests often show up starving to an event, after saving their appetites all day in leu of the special night. Besides location, the food and drink for the bash will probably consume the biggest portion of the budget, and you want it to be special, right? Some venues insist you work with their catering staff, and to ensure service will go smoothly, elect to shorten their menu options, leaving just the traditional main courses and appetizer options that are easy to execute.
Ahem the oh-so-prevalent salmon and rice dinner option we see at so many events. The seasoned wedding guest may attend six to seven weddings in a year and have just about had their fill of shrimp cocktail and mini quiches. You can still make sure you cater to all tastes and diet restrictions of every guest, without serving up the “been there – ate that” dishes. The food should embody just as much as your personality and personal taste as the color scheme and decorations, so make it fun and creative, and remember to stick to what you like, too. Here are ten foods to keep off your event menu.
1. Baked Potato/Mashed Potato Bars
Even serving them in a martini glass can’t cover up the fact that the potato bar idea has been done one too many times. If you’re not a big fan of the spud in general, take the concept of serving a food two ways and make the focus one of your favorites. If you love southern cooking, take a classic staple from that culture, like grits, and serve two kinds with various toppings. Is Mexican cuisine a shared love for you and your significant other? Have a taco bar, with soft and hard shells, chicken, fish, and beef, with several fix-ins so guests have options. Or a nacho bar with various salsas. Plus, it’s fun for guests to taste-test each other’s creations, debating who made the best version. Proteins can be prepared two different ways that play off the flavor profiles of each other, and the more variation the better!
Whoever thought it was a good idea to have tipsy guests waltzing around with diced tomatoes leaving conga line crumb trails was very wrong. The dish is messy and requires a lot of napkins to be thrown around. Serve chilled tomato gazpacho or hot soup, pairing it with a crispy crouton for a take on the classic Italian dish. Or if you want a crostini style app, bake pita bread and serve with pesto or tomato spreads.
3. Carving station
Slowly but surely, a snake coil forms around the perimeter for the carving station. The wait alone can kill the vibe of an event and most of the time, it’s not even worth it. Bottom line, there is no way to quickly carve meat to order without losing a finger, so try a protein that can be served family style or doesn’t require so much work.
4. Shrimp Cocktail
Whether you pile them pyramid high or form a fountain with them, shrimp cocktail tastes just the same. It’s a classic dish, but down-right boring and overused at events. If you love seafood, have a seafood bar almost like a grilled vegetable antipasti setup with a few types of seafood grilled and lightly seasoned like scallops, mussels, and…fine…shrimp. Again, guests can pick and choose without having weird breath from tartar sauce while mingling.
5. Cupcakes and Chocolate fountains
Wedding cake should be the sole tradition that remains untouched. Cupcakes are cute when they are set up nicely, but are rarely a surprise at events anymore. It is pretty much a guarantee you will see a pile of them stacked somewhere when desserts start being plated. Chocolate fountains force your guests to stand in the dreaded line while splashing mediocre quality chocolate on themselves. Have tiny squares of different cake flavors like red velvet and dark angel food cake or serve a few kinds of cake pops guests can pop in their mouths as they wait to be served the wedding cake. You can also serve scoops of ice-cream in dishes to compliment the cake. Have a toppings bar if guests want to make little sundaes.
If you know your event is going to run late, serve guests a variation of breakfast like mini pancakes or bacon egg and cheeses to avoid off hangovers instead of the burger and fries almost staple of the farewell foods at events these days. Sliders are handy and compact for on the go eating but essentially any fried food can do the job of warding off a headache from late night boozing. A fry bar with cool sauces can do the trick just as well.
7. Surf and Turf
The quality can sometimes suffer when trying to marry these two dishes on to one plate for large crowds. Instead, give each protein a chance to shine by itself. Always serve a meat and fish option but just cut the portions to remain on budget. This dish was once perceived as a symbol of wealth, but now is outdated and tacky. Go for higher quality meat and a seafood other than lobster that pairs nicely together, like scallops or a white fish. Serve at the same time, perhaps using the same or similar flavor profile type sauce so the dishes are still connected and the guests still get the ‘surf and turf’ feel.
8. Beef and Steak Tartar
You might be an adventurous eater, but when serving the masses, food that is enjoyed by the majority is the safest bet. You don’t want people pushing food to the side in fear of food poisoning. A large event is not the place for unpasteurized cheese and raw meat or eggs.
9. “Presentation” Foods
It’s all fun and games until a line starts forming, one that’s not for the Macarana, of course. No one likes to wait and although plates that require individual attention seem like a nice way to add a personal touch, during actual execution, it can cause havoc and frustration. Guacamole table side can get messy and cause spillage and allowing guests too much freedom to create will cause backup. Also, take note to avoid anything on fire like Cherries Jubilee. Baked Alaska is just a cha cha slide step away from a bridesmaids dress lighting on fire.
10. Spicy and Exotic Foods
Even if you love, love, love spicy and strange foods, make it a point to not go too outside-the-box. Guests like simple, especially if they don’t know first-hand what kitchen the food is coming out of. Overly spicy and exotic dishes are too much. Have a hot sauce and dip station with spices so guests can add their own flavorings. It allows guests to season as they please, but keep even the most conservative of eaters at ease with minimal spices added to the original dish. If you love Spanish food and insist on having a Spanish flare, limit it to one or two dishes, but in general, keep the menu pretty broad so guests of all calibers can enjoy the tasty food. You don’t want guests downing water after every bite of curry because of your love for fiery foods.
Want creative menu ideas?
Check out Edison Ball Pinterest for food bar ideas you’ve never seen before!