Food & Drink: By Special Order
Five rich and varied reception menus for your party’s particular eaters | Photographs by Olivia Brent
It’s hard to remember a time when sharing a meal was a simple thing. When everyone ate the same dishes, and enjoyed the same ingredients. When the only one on any kind of restriction was the teenager who missed her curfew. These days it’s common to hear folks cite a wheat allergy when turning down freshly baked croissants, or skip the hummus dip because they’re doing the paleo thing. But how do allergies, special diets, and specific food philosophies translate to your wedding-day celebration? Whether the picky eaters are you and your mate or everyone in your mom’s sister’s extended family, Seattle caterers are quite used to navigating special needs—and many even find it a fun challenge for their culinary chops. Allow us to introduce you to five menus and 14 kitchen teams whose kid-friendly, foodie-centric, and meat-, dairy-, and grain-free tips prove that it’s possible to accommodate everyone without sacrificing anything.
The more information that emerges about gluten, the more people seem to avoid it. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave favorite tastes off your wedding menu. FareStart’s chicken meatballs are made with thigh meat, herbs, and spices—no flour is necessary to bind the rich, dark meat. And hearty grains like quinoa are naturally gluten free. It’s about emphasizing the world of flavor outside forbidden grains so that, as these chefs say, “every guest, even those with gluten restrictions, feels welcome at the table and leaves feeling satisfied.” The five-course menu presented here ought to meet the goal.
Lemongrass chicken meatballs
with spicy peanut sauce
Tomato basil soup
with herbed coulis
Pan-seared quinoa cake
with butternut squash and roasted cauliflower purées,
grilled asparagus, and pea vines
with olive-tomato tapenade
served over roasted vegetables and edamame,
finished with fresh citrus vinaigrette
Homemade sorbet trio
including ginger-pear, chocolate, and fresh raspberry
Food for Thought
• Andrea Ramos Moore, owner of the mobile cart I Love My GFF, says fresh, high-quality ingredients always sing. She uses organic sprouted quinoa and inventive, bright ingredients like pumpkin seeds, cilantro, and lime for her wheat-free, nut-based sauces.
• At Nuflours, a gluten-free pâtisserie and sandwich shop, bakers Phebe Rossi and Amanda Bedell use sorghum, potato, and tapioca flours to balance the crusts and batters for their tartlets, pies, and cookies. The results are so good you might want to show off a little with a whole spread of sweets. And be sure to consider the most on-trend component of modern weddings: cheese. A hunk of brie goes great with peaches baked in an alternative crust.
Ravishing Radish chef-owner Lisbet Mielke has been cooking up meals for events and celebrations for 20 years and says that up until a few years ago restrictions were rare. Now they occur at every event she caterers. Mielke says that when there are just a few individuals with dietary concerns, it’s easy to accommodate those with a separate menu. Her crew’s Mediterranean-influenced menu would conclude with dairy-free pear-lemon sorbet and hazelnut cookies.
with grilled seasonal vegetables, French Basque olives,
cipollini onions, marinated artichokes, Greek dolmas,
peppadews, and rosemary croccantini
heirloom tomato, English cucumber, and bell pepper
Full Circle Farm seasonal greens
grilled local stone fruit, spicy walnuts,
and preserved lemon vinaigrette,
served with Macrina breads and basil-infused olive oil
Seared sweet potato polenta triangles
with chickpeas, lacinato kale,caramelized onions,
and roasted red pepper coulis
Food For Thought
• According to Sutra Vegetarian Cuisine chef-owner Colin Patterson, “The key to the culinary vegan magic is the balance of sweet, sour, and salt. And giving people food with textures.” He makes nut cheeses as a rich, fatty component, and smokes ingredients such as mushrooms for an extra layer of flavor.
• The caterers and chefs at Plum, the vegan kitchen on Capitol Hill, are well-known for their tempeh, which is used as a protein substitute. Their secrets: chipotle-peach marinade and a coriander rub.
• Gretchen Benson, catering manger for Alexa’s Café and Catering, says that often dishes like their signature stuffed mushrooms, typically prepared with blue cheese and sausage, can be made vegan—in this case, with hearty no-dairy risotto.
A diet that allows duck fat and pork lard? Rich oils, anything foraged, naturally raised meats, and a full range of vegetables yield a decadent pantry. Even with dairy, grains, sugars, and legumes on the no-go list, catering chef and restaurateur Lisa Dupar of Dupar and Company says that “the paleo diet actually allows for one of the easiest and most flexible menus.” For dessert, her menu puts coconut honey cake in the sweet spot.
Red beetroot tartar
on a golden beet chip
Shaved vegetable salad
with Napa cabbage, carrot, daikon, jicama,
cucumber, and mizuna with sesame seed drizzle
Wild spot prawns
poached in cultured butter
with tomato-galangal chutney,
cauliflower purée, and pea leaves
Chicken-fried Snake River
Wagyu NY strip loin
with coconut and almond crust,
creamed basil, and spiced steak sauce
Food for Thought
• Outside the Box is a Renton-based mobile food truck serving only paleolithic foods—pork carnitas, for example, with lettuce wraps instead of tortillas. Co-owner Marizel Yuen replaces rice with finely chopped cauliflower and uses almond meal or coconut flour when baking breadlike goods.
• Shana Hicks, the event coordinator for City Catering, sees a win-win with trending paelo-themed reception menus and the pork craze. Beautifully presented cured meats are a great go-to.
While the “foodie” designation isn’t about ingredients that are medically or ethically off-limits, those who identify as such can be just as particular. They eat experimentally, seasonally, and as fresh as possible. When appealing to that community, Jessica Gillis of Ciao Thyme catering of Bellingham says she uses opulent meats like lamb, rabbit, and duck. For this autumnal meal, nuanced elements like rose geranium, lovage, cardamom, and fennel pollen conspire with a just-picked harvest from Cloud Mountain Farm in the verdant Skagit Valley.
Roasted squash soup
with curry crème fraîche garnished
with crisp quinoa and cucumber relish
with aronia berry vinaigrette, Asian pears,
wild huckleberries, hazelnuts, and local cheese
Grilled pear lasagna
with yellow pepper confit, chanterelles,
freshly made ricotta, and besciamella
Rabbit two ways
brined sous-vide loin and seared vinegar
braised leg served over wild rice with
roasted vegetables and light cream sauce
Caramelized-apple bread pudding
with apple-brandy caramel and spiced whipped cream
Food For Thought
David Meckstroth, co-owner of Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering, says that while his kitchen can pass a tray of foie gras amuse-bouche with the best of them, a recent food-blogger client blew guests’ minds with a menu of hot dogs from different US cities. Kids would love such a thing, too, and if you included a veggie dog, a gluten-free-bun option, and an additive- and filler-free all-beef version on a stick, you might just be able to please our full range of diets!
Speaking on behalf of Herban Feast Catering, public relations rep Jennifer Ritchie says that when lots of kiddos are in the mix, the kitchen likes to “select dishes that can be layered; chefs use simple flavors to start, and add complexity for more adventurous eaters.” Sauces and add-ins are served tableside, in a family-style manner—perfect for an all-ages crew. For the Latin-angled feast presented here, there are simple, mild options for the less experienced eaters, and some heat and intensity for the more, well, seasoned guests.
Chilled melon gazpacho
with crispy prosciutto and basil add-your-own garnish
Chips with guacamole
and a trio of salsas
Grilled petite hanger steak
with Herban chimichurri, bacon, poblano, and yucca hash
simply grilled chicken for kids,
duo of paprika shrimp and smoked chicken mole
Food For Thought
• Skillet Street Food is known for hearty diner fare, like home-style meatloaf and fried chicken. General manager Katie Benjamin says they like to offer kiddie versions of adult favorites: “We do mini sliders and fries, our special mac and cheese, or yummy chicken fingers—and their own crudités.”
• Jenny Harding of New Chapter Weddings knows one way to keep the youngsters content at the big event. “A separate kids’ buffet at a lower table height gives them the grown-up experience of going through their own line.” She also suggests doling out pre-ceremony goodies while the big kids enjoy cocktails.