How to Plan a Menu That Works for All Food Issues
These days you’d be hard-pressed to find a bride and groom whose friends and family don’t include at least a handful of folks who are, say, gluten or lactose intolerant, vegetarian or vegan, or adhering to a strict protein or low-fat diet. Here, the experts weigh in on ways to cater to these – or any – food concerns.
Planning Makes Perfect
First off, it isn’t necessary that you offer a single meal that works for everyone from start to finish. Just be sure to inform your catering company well ahead of time, so that they can create a menu with pleasing options for people with dietary restrictions, says Kaspar Donier, the owner and chef for Seattle-based Kaspar’s Special Events & Catering. If you’ve opted for stations or heavy appetizers, the numerous choices will make it easy to meet many preferences. But if you provide the number of alternative eaters and where they will be sitting, caterers can also create special dishes for plated dinners, family-style and buffets that won’t require those guests to simply subsist on sides.
Have a crew with a variety of restrictions? John Lawrence, director of catering and co-owner of Northborough, Massachusetts-based Pepper’s Fine Catering, suggests coming up with a dish that’s just as dramatic and enticing as the main entrée, but that can meet multiple needs. For example, Pepper’s quinoa & vegetable-stuffed zucchini baton served on a tomato lentil ragout is nut-free and should work for most people who are gluten intolerant. Half the batons can have local chèvre (goat cheese) in the stuffing, which is fine for vegetarians and most people who are lactose intolerant, while, for vegans, the other half is cheese-free.
Make Over the Main Event
It’s your wedding, so if it’s you and/or your spouse-to-be who has the food issue, don’t be afraid to make a menu that more fully speaks to your tastes. Vegan? Donier likes shiitake mushroom chips with black bean hummus, quinoa cakes with mushroom tempura and tomato saffron sauce, tofu Thai vegetable curry with brown rice, and mango rice-flour tempura with passion fruit coulis. Gluten-free? Donier recommends incorporating corn or brown rice pasta, or protein-rich quinoa. Of course, another easy option for gluten-free folks is meat. Lawrence suggests coffee-crusted turkey tenderloin (brined overnight in apple cider with star anise) and served with an apple, Cognac and maple sugar reduction, butternut squash risotto and seasonal vegetables. “This dish has gone over very well at weddings, and not because it’s specifically gluten-free,” Lawrence says. “It’s simply delicious.”
Let Them Eat Cake
Although it seems counter-intuitive to have cake without dairy or wheat, today’s bakers are becoming more and more proficient at creating mouth-watering treats that are vegan or gluten-free.
“Our most popular vegan cake has been our double-chocolate with various fillings (typically fresh fruit or fruit puree) that change with the season,” Lawrence says. Other delectable vegan variations include vanilla bean, carrot and lemon blueberry.
For the gluten-free sweet tooths, Donier likes flourless chocolate cake, sorbets with seasonal fruit, or panna cotta.
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