Food & Drink: Match Game
When it comes to perfectly paired regional specialties, Seattle’s food and drink pros pour it on
As a couple of stellar stand-alones who are even better together, the two of you already know the secret to great pairings: harmony, balance, and terrific taste. Grand unions are key in love—and at wedding receptions. Shaved asparagus salad and Gewurztraminer. Burger sliders with bottled Rainier. Bacon-wrapped anything and Maker’s Mark! Whether you’re throwing the ultimate barbecue-and-beer barn bash, hosting a five-course plated dinner with a vertical tasting from a top Eastern Washington winery, or curating a family-style get-together with tray-passed cocktail shooters, you—and your food and beverage team—will make the day by matching the season’s freshest ingredients with local libations and smart presentation methods.
To inspire the big day’s epicurean bill of fare, we consulted with caterers and wedding professionals throughout the Seattle area for tips on presenting, pairing, and enjoying brews, booze, grapes, juice, coffee, and tea. Here’s hoping you two (and your food and drink menu) will always be happy together.
SHAKE IT UP To maximize the presence of craft cocktails for the big event, Lisbet Mielke, owner of Ravishing Radish Catering and its sister restaurant, Ravish, suggests their muddling station setup. Guests toss ingredients like basil, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and lemongrass-infused simple syrup into cocktail shakers before bartenders add the final splash of liquor. Picture Aunt Betty sipping her own custom creation made with Sound Spirits Ebb & Flow vodka or Woodinville Whiskey Co’s rye alongside fresh grub like grilled lemon-herb chicken skewers and miso-citrus prawns. Mielke’s clients also like having the team drop shakers of pre-made signature drinks tableside; Garden Gimlets featuring Pacific Distillery’s Voyager gin and fresh lime juice with equally crisp salad greens start the party off right. Likewise City Catering’s kegged and bottled libations: guests enjoy classic Moscow mules made from Batch 206 vodka and Seattle-made Rachel’s Ginger Beer in easy grab-and-go style. See also: pitchers of premade mojitos with chorizo tamales or spicy rémoulade-topped salmon cakes, and prestirred martinis with crudité.
MODERN CLASSICS Although ready-to-serve cocktails are trending, an affinity for time-tested mixology persists, says Sheena Kalso, founder of the Invisible Hostess. “The trend is for a rustic spin on vintage nostalgic drinks,” she says. Mad Men–era beverages—and cocktails in general—work especially well for appetizer and desserts courses; think tray-passed cherry-almond dark chocolates from Theo with Oola Waitsburg bourbon manhattans, garnished with a Yakima cherry to pull out the sweetness of the bourbon and fruit.
Ready-made drinks from cocktail kegs aren’t just novel party tricks, they cut down on service lines which can make receptions feel like amateur night at the local pub.
IN THE MIX When it comes to beer and wine, you’ll probably want to offer some of each. Your guests are a varied bunch with diverse tastes; give them equal access and a cool new experience with pairing stations for both options. This on-trend dining concept allows guests to wander throughout the party space, picking up a harmonious bite and sip while mingling and talking—all of which keeps the energy of the reception high, says Amaryah Curnutt, one of Lisa Dupar Catering’s event planners. The Redmond-based team loves Seven Hills Oregon pinot gris as a complement to Oregon baby-shrimp rice-paper fresh rolls and Deschutes Mirror Pond pale ale with truffled mac-’n’-cheese poppers.
MODERN CLASSICS The best of both worlds? It’s possible. Talk to your caterer about courses that take turns with grapes and grains. Marie Louderback, director of sales at Kaspars Special Events and Catering, says she recommends guests try a hard cider like Snow Drift Orchard Select with a green salad tossed in a tangy apple cider vinaigrette, followed by a microbrew like Pike Brewing’s specialty Bride Ale matched with individual cones of fish and chips, with a finish of Kiona Vineyards late harvest sauvignon blanc dessert wine keeping stride with fluffy lemon cake.
NEAR AND FAR If you’re planning on a menu of ethnic specialties to show off the coming together of your two backgrounds, don’t rule out regional wine. After all, Washington bottles complete the picture. On the Italian side, wine manager and sommelier Salomon Novarro of Serafina Osteria e Enoteca recommends the company’s signature veal meatballs and penne rigate with Proleteriat Wine Co’s Super Tuscan blend from Walla Walla, conveniently poured from the spout of a keg. The Northwest’s diverse wine and beer offerings cover a world of flavors and moods, from Vietnamese and Croatian to food truck pizza and fine prime rib. Work with your caterer to find one that’s right for your global celebration.
Pair sparkling wines from Eastern Washington with your appetizers and desserts to save money and impress travelers with our rich and varied local juice.
FAUX REAL “There are so many cool ways to emulate cocktails and make nonalcoholic drinks vibrant,” says Ryan Slimak, the bar manager at Lisa Dupar Catering, nodding to Seattle’s Dry Soda, Scrappy’s Bitters, and his own kitchen’s house-made, locally sourced infusions. Witness the Alo Exposé, a compilation of honey, aloe vera juice, lemon, lavender simple syrup, and Dry Soda, paired with a honey-cumin glazed duck breast entrée course to spike a zero-proof buzz.
DON’T FAKE IT Kari Brunson, co-owner of Capitol Hill’s JuiceBox, likes to pair fresh-pressed juice with inventive courses. “With juice, you can take whatever is being served and try to manipulate those flavors into a drink,” Brunson says. She matches kale-–strawberry–—key lime juice with cracked-black-pepper ahi tuna and grapefruit crudo for a bright, citrus-based combo.
THE OTHER BREWS Tea for two—or two hundred? Think about matching an iced floral tea blend like Bainbridge Island’s Sakuma Bros.’ sun-dried loose-leaf white with a summer melon salad, or a chilled spiced chai blend from Pike Place Market’s Market Spice with tandoori chicken. And in what part of the world is coffee more appropriate at a party? Macky McNish of South Seattle’s Middle Fork Roasters says they’re getting many requests for their beans from on-site mobile barista units, and there’s a buzz for their private nuptial roasts for gifts. (Tagline: “Your marriage is only as strong as your coffee.”) Picture them toasting you with a Guatemalan espresso shot and a flourless dark chocolate torte, or a cup of savory Sumatra roast with piquant goat cheese and fruit.
BOTTOM LINES What’s all this perfectly matched eating and drinking going to cost you? In general terms, a full-service bar means dropping about $13–15 a head, while just wine and beer should cost around $10 per person. And while Wine World & Spirits founder and sommelier David LeClaire says true Champagne can start at $25 a bottle, sparkling wines like Prosecco and Cava go for $10 or $12. Caterers and venues that include bar costs in their total bill might also cover rentals and staff along with the beverages themselves, but you shouldn’t expect to get a bargain on the convenience of their one-stop services. On the other hand, a do-it-yourself bar saves on the bartending bill, but at what potential cost? (Hint: your guests’ good time.) Staffing companies like the Invisible Hostess and Privé Events allow you to provide your own alcohol to save on markup costs; their professional, experienced, and insured servers do the rest.
SPECIAL DELIVERY A big wine list doesn’t necessarily require big money, says Jenn Wenman, associate director of catering at Woodinville’s Willows Lodge. She’s not necessarily advocating inexpensive wines, but rather, smaller amounts of the best served within the oh-how-special framework of a tasting menu. “It’s a great concept because you can do so much with smaller pours,” explains Wenman. Eschewing the standard six-ounce glass, tasting menus give guests four or five three-ounce portions, which can be tasted with a variety of food options. Sample this: pan-seared halibut and a summer quinoa salad with a mini-glass of Swiftwater No. 9 Columbia Valley chardonnay followed by a seared duck breast and a duck confit ravioli course with Boedecker Willamette Valley pinot noir. And how’s this for a bottom line: going the route of kegged or bottled cocktails can cut your bartender labor bill in half, says Katy Carroll, bar manager at City Catering Company.