From the sparkling sea to the desert to the rich farmland overflowing with seasonal fruits and vegetables, California is a dreamland of culinary inspiration. And now more than ever, couples are looking to impress their guests with cutting-edge cuisine. Three catering giants and one dessert guru embraced the state's finest ingredients and crafted delicious menus for the the most important meals of the wedding weekend: the rehearsal dinner, cocktail hour, reception dinner and dessert.
Rehearsal Dinner: Desert Oasis by Colette’s Catering and Events
“The rehearsal dinner is a wonderful opportunity to showcase personalized details about the couple,” says executive chef Colleen Zielinski of Colette’s Catering and Events, a full-service company with more than 25 years of handcrafted, locally sourced catering experience under its apron. “Setting the tone with a fun, delicious menu that reflects what the couple enjoys eating together can really ‘wow’ the rehearsal-dinner guests and give them something special to remember.” Known for its unique twists on classic dishes, Colette’s starts with the couple’s vision and then customizes an innovative menu based on seasonal ingredients with unique flavor combinations.
For this occasion, Zielinski reinvented the succulent wedding trend by putting it on the menu. “Cactus is a local, edible vegetable and is quite delicious,” notes the chef. The team incorporated cactus plants throughout the dishes, focusing on vibrant colors and bright flavors. The design reflected the sunny mood of the food through the use of a dreamy diluted teal color with splashes of magenta, Luxe Linen’s retro-styled linen and a collection of potted desert plants arranged by Simi Valley’s Unique Floral Designs.
Cactus Station: Shrimp and watermelon with cactus, feta and mint; hamachi crudo with prickly pear, grapefruit, jalapeño, radish, pepitas and Maldon sea salt with mezcal lime vinaigrette; citrus arugula salad with prickly pear vinaigrette; Cactus and carnitas with pickled onion, queso fresco and micro cilantro
Dinner Entrée: Black cod with grilled cactus, roasted tomatoes, polenta and cilantro vinaigrette; Sliced Beef, Cactus and Corn Relish, Cojita, Pickled Onion and Micro Cilantro
Cocktail: Prickly pear margarita with prickly pear purée, citrus, agave, Tajín seasoning and chile pepper
Cocktail Hour: Land and Sea by Chef Neal Fraser, Redbird/Vibiana
Chef Neal Fraser, who, together with his wife and business partner, Amy Knoll Fraser, owns Los Angeles’ Redbird and Vibiana, has expanded their realm to include off-site catering. After taking over the Vibiana property in 2012, the team took a break from off-site catering to renovate and transform the downtown venue. Now, the Frasers are ready to delight the palates of any gathering, no matter the size, from a beachfront home to a vineyard. Specializing in custom-created menus, Chef Fraser consults with clients to best discern their palate, their likes and dislikes, and cultural culinary preferences as well as the vision for the wedding. Embracing the flavors of the land and sea, Fraser applied his trademark global approach to these dishes, pairing rich bites of protein with bright, global flavors. He brought a fresh take to the hors d’oeuvres by designing his and hers signature amuse-bouche. “Rack of lamb is the perfect protein for an hors d’oeuvre. Grilled and served on the bone, the lamb has a built-in handle and is always a crowd pleaser,” says the chef. “Albacore is the most loved fish in this form: small in size, making it easy to consume with a cocktail in one hand and fantastic flavor from the searing and green romesco.”
Amuse-bouche: New Zealand rack of lamb with chermoula, albacore tuna with green romesco
Trio of land and sea tapas: Hiramasa with coconut vinaigrette, cucumber, finger lime, Fresno chiles and crispy shallots. Land: pork belly with forbidden black rice and fig mostarda. Land and sea: Beef tartare with caviar ranch on a potato churro
Cocktails: Green with Envy, Purple Rose of Cairo
Reception Dinner: Fall at the Farmers' Market
In the spring of 2017, Antonia Lofaso, a Top Chef alum and owner of Venice’s Scopa Italian Roots and Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City, added catering services to her ever-growing culinary empire. The company’s goal is to curate an experience, says Lofaso. “We want you to tell us about your favorite food memory, ‘What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten?’ and figure out a menu and a style of service that best accompanies your vision.”
The Los Angeles–based Lofaso embraced fall and the farmers’ market as inspiration for this mouthwatering, family-style feast, because, as she states, a wedding is the perfect platform for implementing this type of food service. The key to elevating the family-style meal is not just on the menu, but also the plating. “The wedding should be a presentation of the food that the couple connects with, not an afterthought,” says Lofaso, who also stresses that the season should play a role when planning a menu. “If you’re getting married in November, your wedding should look like you went to the farmers’ market in November.” Lofaso’s delicious meal includes hearty, comfort-style food with high-end plating and execution: endive and delicata squash on a marble platter, roasted lamb resting on a wooden carving board and braised pork shank on a galvanized tin tray. “I want people to think outside of the box and understand that anything can be done for a wedding,” says Lofaso. “It’s about making things delicious and playing to the season.”
Family-style service: braised pork shank with crispy potatoes and golden raisin gremolata, roasted rack of lamb and roasted market carrots; creste rigate pasta with chanterelles; Delicata squash salad, endive, dill and Gorgonzola
Dessert: Pavlova with berries, cream and meringue
Dessert Table: Sweet Treats by Cookie Good
Many couples are moving away from serving traditional wedding cake at their reception in favor of fun and unique dessert spreads. “The key to a great and innovative dessert station is for the couple to love what they are serving and for the guests to be delighted by what they see,” says wedding planner Ronca. “The key to the latter is serving something unexpected and displaying said dessert in a new and different way.”
Enter Santa Monica’s Cookie Good. Owner Ross Cantor, a former television and screen writer, found that his happiest place was in the kitchen baking cookies, experimenting and nurturing different ingredients to create everything from the standard chocolate chip, sugar and oatmeal raisin to wild flavors such as pancake and bacon, chocolate glazed doughnut and even a Cheetos cookie.
And nothing says decadent like a cookie sandwich filled with edible cookie dough. This elegant display adds a playful ending to the reception meal with the option of building your own or noshing on the prepared cookie dough sandwiches. “A funny (and totally unintentional) thing happens with our cookies: Because there are so many fun flavors, people tend to break off pieces and share them,” notes Cantor. “We’ve seen whole tables at weddings passing cookie bites from person to person, talking about which ones they like the best...finally breaking the ice over cookies.”
Scoops of sprinkle cookie dough
Assorted cookie sandwiches stuffed with edible cookie dough
Red velvet, churro and glazed doughnut cookies
Churro and red velvet cookie corn