Food & Drink: Taking Place

Consider how vibe, venue, and menu work together as you plan the perfect reception

How would you feel if guests turned up at your black-tie affair in linen trousers and flip-flops? Or if they wore ball gowns and stilettos to your beach barbecue? It could be awkward, right? Just as certain styles of dress feel out of place in certain settings, cuisine isn’t one-style-fits-all, either. You wouldn’t serve messy comfort food in the refined halls of the Fairmont Olympic, nor would you want to choose complicated, fork-and-knife dishes for a stand-up cocktail mixer.

Whether you set your big day upon an idyllic farm or inside a posh ballroom, your reception menu should mesh with both the style of your event and the atmosphere of your venue. No need to fret about a food faux pas, though. We devised five fabulous reception themes and asked area caterers and venue managers to weigh in on innovative, delicious, and appropriate menus for them.


Urban Cocktail Mixer

Inventive bites, classic cocktails, and city settings serve up the perfect party 

Book The Columbia Tower Club, Sorrento, Four Seasons, and Pan Pacific make impressive metropolitan meeting places; consider Lake Union Café or the Sheraton if budget is a big concern.

Eat and Imbibe Seattle looks pretty sweet from the Columbia Tower Club’s 76th-floor wraparound windows. (And just wait until the remodel is complete.) The captivating views of our diverse and growing cityscape make it ideal for modern canapés and worldly hors d’oeuvres. Don Boshears, the club’s private events director, recommends interactive reception setups where stations of paired small bites and mini cocktails and wine and beer shots allow guests to roam the room and get the most of the view, the variety, and each other. He likes seeing Columbia Tower’s kitchen pair Bloody Marys with crab and artichoke mousse on endive, beef Wellington on rosemary shortbread with regional reds, or sake shots with dim sum bites.

A great trend for urban couples hoping to emphasize mixing and mingling: snack-size portions served in user-friendly cocktail vessels. Think truffled macaroni and cheese or marinated sliced steak atop whipped potatoes in short-stem martini glasses.



Outdoor Brunch

Jazz up the morning with natural light and spiked juice

Book Venues with green space are a natural fit for morning celebrations. Try Willows Lodge, Lairmont Manor, Kelley Farm, or Bella Luna Farms. Or, since you and yours are getting up with the birds, anyway, how about Woodland Park Zoo? Most venues offer discounted rates for off-prime hours; compared to a Saturday-night rate, you could save 25 percent.

Eat Go epicurean with Gourmondo Catering; owner Alissa Leinonen suggests house-made English cheddar biscuits topped with Dungeness crab salad and hollandaise sauce, and thyme-and-gruyère gougères filled with chardonnay-marinated chicken salad. Of course, you could just as sweetly offer the smoked-salmon bagel bar and made-to-order crêpe station recommended by Donna Henline at Act 3 Catering.

Imbibe Krista Simons, owner of the planning, staffing, and general party assistance group Privé Bartending and Events, says couples have been having fun with do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bars. Try jalapeño-infused vodka and fun add-ins like pickled asparagus, bacon salt, fresh horseradish, and shrimp or prawns. Of course, you’ll want guests to savor Seattle’s best artisan coffee, too. Perhaps served over ice, with a splash of hazelnut liqueur?




fresh-local-and-seaonal-favoritesHarvest Season in Wine Country

An abundant family-style feast paired with perfect pinots and other vinos

Book Regional destination events are hot; go for a cozy, close-to-home soirée at Novelty Hill–Januik Winery, DeLille Cellars, Columbia Winery, or JM Cellars, where the wooded backyard is perfect for preparing upscale s’mores. Alternately, Serafina Osteria e Enoteca evokes Italian wine country from its in-city Eastlake perch.

Eat and Imbibe At Novelty Hill–Januik, autumnal events center on regional comfort foods like apple cider–braised short ribs, fig bruschetta, and chorizo crab cakes. Chef Megan Hartz likes spotlighting dishes that incorporate wine as an ingredient; free-range organic chicken with maple Riesling sauce, cabernet-marinated beef tenderloin, and bread salad with syrah-marinated mozzarella. While food stations have been extremely popular and buffet service can often save a little money, multicourse plated dinners with wines paired to each plate make the most of vineyard locations.

Consider serving pear tarts and apple and pumpkin pies for dessert, along with regional cheese plates and sweet wines made with late-harvest grapes.


salmon-and-salad-wedge-at-the-country-clubSociety Party at the Golf Club

An elegant, traditional plated dinner and a full bar

Book There’s an option for every budget: the Golf Club at Newcastle; Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club; Semiahmoo Resort, Golf, and Spa; and the Apple Tree Resort in Yakima offer expansive views and plenty for guests to do.

Eat The formal clubhouse service in Newcastle starts with tea for the bridal party as they’re readying for the big day, and continues with miniature crab cakes, Asian-spiced beef on won tons, and Oregon blue cheese popovers during cocktail hour on the patio. For the ballroom reception, director of catering Erik Franklin steers clients toward plated dinners of English cucumber–bundled field greens, cedar plank–roasted salmon with quinoa pilaf, wilted baby spinach, and buerre blanc sauce. Newcastle’s kitchen bakes salted caramel chocolate ganache cake to serve family-style after the dinner presentation.

Imbibe Big bashes are all about full bars (beer, wine, cocktails, and sparkling wines), and most venues offer multiple variations that start with well liquors and move up to top-shelf.


sushi-and-tempuraIntimate Dinner Party

Treat your inner circle to fine food and togetherness

Book Sushi’s been a popular reception menu focus of late, and it’s certainly a great platform for celebrating local flavor. Like many of Seattle’s best restaurants, Sushi Kappo Tamura and Momiji offer complete or partial restaurant buyouts. You might also consider Café Flora for a cerebral vegetarian celebration, the Heathman Hotel in Kirkland for chef Brian Scheehser’s beloved duck breast and garden-grown accompaniments, or Canlis for the quintessential Seattle culinary experience.

Eat and Imbibe There are things that a kitchen can do for a group of 50 that they just can’t do for a crowd of 250. At Canlis, that can mean using tweezers to place individual calendula petals on foie gras, or rolling delicate herbs and flowers into paper-thin pasta to achieve what managing owner Mark Canlis calls a “printed effect.” But despite the delicious and surprisingly familiar flavors imparted by small-batch, technically precise preparations—he coined the term “comfort geek” for the cuisine type—the real draw is the ability to truly commune with a select group of friends and family. Rhubarb strawberry soup, white truffle risotto, Wagyu steaks, and bottles of Burgundy from the ’80s will be remembered for years to come, sure, but the conversations and exclusive experience