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Catering Advice

Following is the second in our ask the expert series. Friend of The White Dress by the shore, the amazing talented Linda Sample of A Thyme to Cook answers commonly asked questions and provides her expert advice below.

photo by Adeline & Grace

Asian “Fish and Chips” Black and White Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Lotus Root Chips, Wakami Coleslaw and Hoisin Wasabi Drizzle

Tips for selecting your caterer ~

1. First—the obvious—they should be licensed, with the highest level of liability insurance, have a stable, highly trained staff who are on permanent payroll (and not ‘under the table’), have experience in a variety of venues and scenarios (especially the site being considered), and can provide references.

2. You want someone who is first and foremost PERCEPTIVE—who gets your vision and can translate it into reality- perhaps with a twist. The caterer you select should reflect YOUR PERSONALITY and understand your priorities and not just what they do on a regular basis. You want someone who GETS WHO YOU ARE and carries out those concepts- whether it is incorporating the lace pattern of your wedding gown on to your cake or having the main focus of the wedding be on food with a multi-course meal. You also want a caterer who has a knowledge base of logistics of the wedding site and flow. They should make appropriate suggestions regarding what works and what doesn’t, given the particulars of the venue, guest count, season, etc.

3. You also want someone you can trust and who also values cost-effectiveness. There is so much waste and “fluff’ in the wedding industry and you want someone who will steer you in the right direction along those lines.

Current Trend in Catering~

1. First and foremost—use of seasonal, local, indigenous ingredients with certification of origin.

–Everyone wants local, fresh, foods and they want to know the source. At A Thyme to Cook, we design our menus individually, based on the bounty of our local farms, and revise them constantly—nothing is prepared ahead, pre made or frozen. We always cook on site and our great pastry chef, Bill, bakes all our breads from scratch.

2. A creative twist (but not intimidating) on a familiar comfortable food—-perhaps a rum and coke in ‘gel’ form—the same flavor but totally different presentation.

photo by Adeline & Grace

“Rum & Coke” White Rum Gelee with Coke Granita Accented with Lime Zest

3. Seated meals still seem most popular . A seated meal presented as 1 course on 1 large plate (perhaps a cool rectangle, step plate) is not only cost-effective but expedient in service.

4. Focus on non-alcoholic beverages that are different—everyone has been loving our peach-mango-passion fruit ‘Fizz”—it can also be transformed into a signature alcoholic beverage with the addition of rum or vodka .

5. An element of surprise—whether it is a late- night passed “Liquor Lollipop” ( for which we received an International CATIE Award) or tiny gelato cones, or s’mores—or a surprise hot dog grill at midnight following the most formal of weddings—everyone loves an unexpected twist

Some Creative Ideas~

1. Instead of greeting guests with a refreshing beverage (especially when they may arrive at a ceremony site in the hot sun) —we make all kinds of refreshing Frozen Pops—-rose-scented water ice pops (so romantic and aromatic but subtle) , a cucumber lemon pop—even garden salad pops—cuts down on water bottles ( which are not so green)!!!

photo by Adeline & Grace

Popsicles: Coconut Wasabi, Lime Lavender, Mango Lemon Verbena

2. Flavor combinations of savory with sweet in unexpected ways-—wasabi and dark chocolate, jalapeno and lime sorbet, black pepper and berries, coconut and curry—in hors d’oeuvres, entrees and beverages

3. Interesting natural vessels for foods—wood planks, edible shells, and cones—-having ‘no-waste’ foods that have no sticks or picks.

photo by Adeline & Grace

Citrus Infused Raspberry, Kiwi and Cantaloupe “Pearls” on a Poppy seed Edible Spoon

4. An assortment of wonderful sweets are VERY popular and we like to put new twists on retro desserts——-we butler-pass tiny red velvet whoopie pies, the most adorable crispy peanut butter n jelly cookies, tiny blueberry shortcake shots, tiny snow cones

5. Creative wedding cakes that reflect the couple—maybe a long geometric shape with entwined initials for a couple who are architects, or recreating nautical rope knots as a border—and of course, cupcakes. The concept of the wedding cake is that there is one unit that all can partake in—so we often do gigantic pies, or strawberry shortcakes

Favorite Venues~

-There are so many wonderful and unique venues here in Southern New England– Jonathan Edwards Winery in N Stonington, Harkness Mansion in Waterford, Saltwater Farm in Stonington, Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Branford House in Groton, Mystic Art Center, Elihu Island in Stonington, the gorgeous Stone Acres in Stonington, Ct River Museum in Essex, Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, The Webb Barn in Wethersfield, Tyrone Farm in Pomfret—each has its’ own distinct beauty and personality!

xoxo, TWD