Love is many a splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love. Well, love and a fabulous caterer wouldn’t hurt. As you move from the exciting thrill of betrothal into the harsh light of actual wedding planning, we’re here to talk you through the really important stuff. First comes love (write your vows from the heart), then comes venue– next comes the caterer with the gluten-free, vegan friendly, farm-to-table menu. The day is yours to celebrate who you are as a couple. Let’s take it outside, shout your love to the world, and feast with friends and family.
First, if I may share two cautionary tales. It was a stunning event, beautiful venue and a moment of celebration, but I sat staring into a plate of soggy, out-of-season asparagus covered in Pace Picante sauce beside a hockey puck masquerading as a chicken breast. On my own wedding day, we’d decided to do the catering ourselves and were left without enough food. My brother-in-law Paul would forever refer to that event as the Great Famine. These people shelled out for the extra Crate & Barrel gift wrapped shipping. Let’s send them home with full bellies and sun-kissed cheeks.
Pull out the highlighter, spreadsheets and grab your sweetie. We have some helpful tips and tricks to finding the right venue, caterer and unconventional dessert for your day.
Choosing the right caterer:
For those who don’t have a favorite chef on speed dial, it’s an important and difficult journey through menus, budgets, and uncertainty. To help make your decision easier, we sat down with the incomparable Molly Hermann, better known to the foodie community as Tastebud Tart.
She, along with business partner Tracy Morgan, operate Kitchen in the Market, the shared commercial kitchen space home to food trucks, bakeries, catering companies and more. They also host a number of fun cooking classes inside their Midtown Global Market space.
Hermann grew up on a farm in Florida (get her talking about her love of Southern food and that accent resurfaces.) She took that understanding and passion for farm to table food to school, where she studied Nutrition. Her catering style focuses on fresh, organic, healthy food with extensive knowledge of great vegetarian, vegan and gluten free eating. (Although the girl can get down with some charcuterie.)
Because of her holistic understanding of food and entertaining, we thought she would be perfect to help us face the daunting task of choosing a caterer.
How would you describe your food?
Fresh, comfort food with a twist with some southern roots.
How did you get into catering?
I went to school and studied Nutrition. Then I became a personal chef and I started getting requests to do catering.
What is the first step couples should consider when selecting a caterer?
They should consider their style and their guest’s dietary concerns and if they have any allergies. That’s the first step to finding the right caterer.
It can be over-whelming. Where should the search begin?
Well, may I suggest Lavender Magazine? A good old fashioned Google Search does wonders. Word of mouth is how most people find out about caterers.
What is the biggest misconception about selecting a wedding caterer?
Budget is the biggest misconception. People want what they want for a Costco budget. Or they think all they can afford is Costco food. A misconception is that you can’t afford a caterer. There are ways for the right caterer to make it work whatever your budget. It just depends on what you want to do.
Catering doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be very simple. Caterers can do a portion of the event – like if you want to do a pot luck.
What are some good questions to ask a potential caterer?
Where do they get their ingredients from? What are their strengths?
Don’t be afraid to ask about price. Oftentimes there is a difference in price between buffet vs. family-style vs. plated dinner.
Ask if there are any other costs. Is there a chef fee or a travel fee? Ask about how they handle gratuity. Some caterers will add a straight 20% gratuity charge to their invoice. (I don’t.) Everyone handles their pricing differently.
Also, not every venue will allow for an outside caterer. Some have specific agreements with certain caterers or make you use their service. You want to make sure that you can get who you want. Or you might need special licensing.
Consider how big your event is. Some caters can’t do huge, depending on what part of the season it might be.
Do a lot of caterers also offer cakes?
Most caterers do dessert, but it’s normal to have a separate cake vendor.
If you were to get re-married today, what would you do differently?
There’d be booze. We had no booze.
What kind of food did you serve?
Southern cornbread, lots of fresh vegetables and vegetarian options. I would not change my cake. We had a Hummingbird cake.
What is that?
It’s a carrot cake with pineapple and coconut with cream cheese frosting.
What advice do you have for couples planning to hold their event outside?
Always have a Plan B.
Finding a Venue:
There are only so many of those precious summer nights. Why not celebrate your love in the elements? Most area parks are available for rental and there are a few venues that have outdoor space, but require a contact with caterers who may not be up to your refined standards. There is one place that has it all: stunning vistas and the food comes from the same award-winning kitchen as their fine dining menu.
Solera has been a long-time destination for dinners in downtown Minneapolis. Above the restaurant is also a collection of event spaces and an entire rooftop, available for your special day.
The first convenience they afford your guests is the valet parking available, making the streets and hectic parking garages easier for your friends and family to navigate. Guests are directed into the event entrance and whisked upstairs to the event space.
There is an outdoor terrace; perfect for a cocktail reception with room for about 65 people. Meanwhile, the rooftop is full of beautiful views and can hold 150 people, seated. At a pig roast I had the pleasure of attending last summer, guests were able to grab heaping plates of food and lounge in a large, comfortable space, that wasn’t overly casual. It was relaxed, but elegant, and a perfect, summer evening. Watching the sun dip down on the downtown horizon was a perfect denouement to a dazzling event.
Solera is also nimble enough to handle much larger events. If you’d like to have the ceremony outside, the reception can take place in one of their other rooms in the downstairs. They can accommodate up to 1,000 people at an event. Inside is all you’ll ever need for a hopping reception, choice of linens, stage, portable bars and bartenders, a dance floor and audio-visual equipment for those presentations of your adorable baby pictures. They can even help you book blocks of rooms at nearby hotels for your guests to stay.
The food available at Solera comes from the kitchen of Jorge Guzman. His take on Spanish food is a mix of traditional dishes with his own twists. Even better, is his commitment to local farmers. Whenever possible he uses sustainably raised ingredients. It’s delicious cuisine that comes grown with conscience –again, whenever possible; the exquisite Iberico ham can only come from Spain.
Best of all, Solera, the chef and the staff have been vocal proponents of legalizing marriage equality. Not only are many employees members of the GLBT community, they seek out business partners who are allies to the community.
Creative Thoughts on Cake:
A Cupcake Social: A hot summer wedding calls for a haute take on tradition. Few culinary trends have caught, flared up, and taken root quite as quickly as the mobile food vendors. In the warmer months downtown Minneapolis’ Marquette Avenue is lined with possibilities. There are big trucks, little carts, round trucks and even peddled carts. These small businesses are as varied as the folks who operate them.
Why not take the traditional multi-tiered cake business and turn it on its ear? Perfect for an unconventional couple who know how to have fun, there are dessert trucks available to cater your event.
A Cupcake Social rolled into town selling the one dessert that people claimed to be sick of. Hint? They aren’t. These little sweets are heavenly. The flavors are unique and wonderfully balanced. The danger of any cake or sweet is a sugary heavy hand. These treats are sweet enough to top a meal, but not so sweet that you can’t pop half a dozen down your gullet.
Owners Jess and Suzette have experience working closely with couples to create a cupcake perfectly suited to the couple. Two recent grooms worked with them to create “The Dude,” a Big Lebowski-inspired cupcake flavored like a White Russian. They can handle any event, small or big – they’ve done over 1,000 cupcakes for past events. Now, this is a wedding invite they’ll be clamoring to receive.
A Cupcake Social, acupcakesocial.com
Cravin Pie: Or, if you’re just so over cake, check out these new under-the-radar tasty treats. Cravin’ Pie is still new on the scene, but worth seeking out. They will soon be in high demand Their Mexican Chocolate pie won 1st place at the inaugural Twin Cities Pie Experiment. They went on to compete in the Food Experiment National Championship where they took home third place.
The little hand pies are immediately crave-able. The shatter-crisp crust is packed with just-sweet-enough fillings. They’re easy to eat and add an extra-festive feel.
Pie packs are typically available in the 100 – 300 range, but they can do up to 500 pies with enough notice.
Cravin’ Pie, cravinpie.com
No matter how you choose to celebrate your love approach it like cooking – with reckless abandon. No matter where or how you feed your guests, know that this is the first breaking of bread with your village to celebrate a beautiful life together. But take it from me: remember to feed them well, or you’ll never hear the end of it. Cheers!