Selecting the menu for your reception is an exciting step in your wedding planning process. Choosing a menu that reflects the season and your style will create a memorable event for your guests. To get started, you’ll want to schedule a tasting with your caterer or venue to finalize the menu. Before you get too excited, it’s not like going out to your favorite restaurant for a food sampling extravaganza. This is serious business! So, we rounded up some details you may be wondering about, commonly asked questions and overall what you can expect at your catering tasting appointment.
Why Can’t I Taste Everything on the Menu?
Your goal at the end of your tasting is to have a finalized menu for your wedding reception. To accomplish that, you’ll want to narrow down your options. It’s tempting to want to sample everything the caterer offers. But, this doesn’t make sense for several reasons.
Have you ever been shopping for the right perfume, and sampled so many fragrances that you can’t even remember which ones you liked? The same can easily happen with your menu tasting. Tasting too many items can easily result in “analysis paralysis”: you become so overwhelmed that you’re unable to decide which items you really like. You’ll need to narrow your focus to make a decision.
When you have lunch with friends in a restaurant, it typically takes about an hour. Now imagine the same lunch with a dozen hors d’oeuvres, salads, entrees and desserts! Eating all of these items would take all day… but in addition to enjoying the food, you’ll be evaluating and discussing every item you taste! Midway through your tasting, you wouldn’t be enjoying it anymore. You don’t want to leave your tasting feeling full and overwhelmed.
Often, caterers must place a special order for a tasting, since the ingredients needed won’t be in the bulk quantities they regularly order. If every tasting included every menu item, caterers’ food costs would spike and the higher costs would be reflected in the menu price you pay. Caterers are able to keep your menu costs reasonable by limiting your tasting choices, so you’re ultimately benefitting from a more limited tasting menu.
How Do I Choose Which Items to Taste?
We’ve established that you’ll need to narrow down your options to enjoy a successful menu tasting. How do you do that?
First, chat with your catering manager. He or she likely has a template for a successful tasting. For example, if you plan to serve a seated and served dinner, she may ask you to select six hors d’oeuvres, two salads, and three entrees. For a buffet, you’ll probably select a few options in each category: proteins, starches, and vegetables. Small plate menu tastings typically include several food stations just as they’re described on your proposal. Also ask your catering manager for recommendations of their personal favorites. After all, he or she is the expert!
Knowing how many items you’ll need to select, approach your catering menu the same way you would a restaurant menu. Highlight the items that sound delicious!
Next, choose the right menu options for your season. For a Spring or Summer wedding, focus on light, refreshing options. If your wedding is during the Fall or Winter, feel free to include some heartier, holiday inspired selections.
Also keep your venue and your desired atmosphere in mind. A gourmet barbeque station is perfect for a laid back brewery reception, but would be out of place at a black-tie, ballroom affair.
Why are Tastings Scheduled Only During Weekdays?
It may seem that your catering contact is being difficult when they only offer tasting appointments during the week and during the day, but they’re actually ensuring that you enjoy full attention from the culinary team during your tasting. Most caterers are busiest on evenings and weekends, which means the Chef and the culinary team are focused on servicing their client events and not available to focus on your tasting. If a weekday tasting is impossible for you, an evening time slot may be available, but weekend tastings are extremely rare.
The Bottom Line:
Focus on narrowing your options to choose the best fit, ask for some suggestions from your catering manager, and you’ll enjoy a tasting experience that’s fun and productive!