Wedding Food Doesn't Have To Suck!

May 17, 2012 3:01 pm

How to avoid, and survive, bad food on the big day

Buffet
Photo: sgrace
That buffet food may start out hot, but it won't stay that way.
 

Wedding food. Just writing that makes me shiver. Take your pick of chicken, beef or fish — but know that they're all going to taste like regret. That's because the plate is always the same at just about every wedding around the world. You get an overcooked/undercooked protein paired with some form of potatoes and a predictably colorful display of factory-farmed vegetables. No matter what, I'm looking for a hot dog as soon as the wedding is over. I fully understand that food isn't really the focus of the evening, but why hasn't anyone figured out how to make a decent meal for the most important day of a couple's life?

I went to a wedding last weekend (Congratulations, Kate and Dicky!) and it was wonderful. The bride was beautiful, the room was tasteful, and the overall vibe was spot-on. The only snag was the food. It's not that it was bad. It wasn't. The problem was that the ceiling for wedding food is pretty low as it is, so you end up being pleasantly surprised when the food is at all edible.

My filet was actually perfectly cooked, but my date found her halibut seriously lacking. She wasn't the only one. What bugs me the most is that I know the occasion cost a tremendous amount of money and I wish the food lived up to the price.

Of course, it's unfair to expect that wedding food – or any catering job – live up to the standards of a normal restaurant. I get that. It's equally unfair, though, to expect people to accept substandard food just because it's a special occasion. At my friend's wedding, I really regretted not going with the vegetarian risotto option. Risotto is something you can make in massive quantities and still retain some semblance of quality. Halibut is not. That's the dilemma with wedding food. The kitchen is cooking for a ton of people that all need to be served at once. Individual plating is bound to suffer. Buffet is always an option, but there's just something about a buffet that doesn't feel very classy. So what's a couple to do when they want to invite 150 of their closet friends out to a ballroom for dinner? I have a few ideas.

Go cold. How about some cold sesame noodles or some sort of sushi? Even if the sushi is grocery store grade, it's still a step up from that limp chicken breast that ended up getting served cold anyway. If you start cold, you don't have to worry about the food sitting for an extra ten minutes while grandpa extols the crowd with his drunken ramblings toast.

Staggered eating times. This one is fairly radical, and may very well be impossible. I don't know. I'm not a wedding planner, but I've been to some. Here's how it works: on your place card, it says something like “8:15.” That means that your table is scheduled to eat at 8:15. Novel, right? Instead of trying to pump out 150 plates all at once, maybe the kitchen gets to work with thirty at a time in ten minute intervals. Dinner's still done within an hour, but this way the kitchen gets a little time to breathe and, more importantly, a chance to focus on putting out good, hot food.

Stations, in lieu of a buffet. This is my favorite option. Buffets may be a little gauche if you're plunking down your cash for the Grand Ballroom at the Four Seasons, but what if there were made-to-order cooking stations? Taco bars! Prime rib! Omelets for all! Okay, scratch the last one. Nothing says fresh more than somebody cooking right in front of you, so perhaps the bridal party will excuse the buffet-insinuations and happily partake in the shrimp scampi station. I know I would.

OK, so planning a wedding is impossible. No matter what, something will fall through the cracks or leave the groom in tears or end up sending Uncle Scott to the emergency room. The food should be the last of your worries – although it shouldn't be an afterthought. When the time comes for me to finally get married, I know exactly what I'll be serving for dinner: wedding cake. It's a foolproof plan. Everyone loves wedding cake, right?


Read the previous installment of Heart Attack on Food Republic.

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