By Melissa Johnson
For a large event that requested unexpected trendy tastes, our chef decided to play on the creative trend of butter boards by creating individual versions. These crossed many of the senses because they were visually appealing and cute, half were savory and the other half were sweet. The little boards were fun to touch and pick up too. But what you heard when you stood by the station was the ‘crunch’ from the house baked crispy crostini slices and then “Oh yum” as the guest experienced the creamy flavor punch, whether sweet or savory.
We always want our food compositions to taste amazing, but we also like to mingle together some flavors guests never saw coming. Our Hot Chicken Donut has that unexpected flavor pop that becomes instantly addictive. Our chef uses fresh glazed yeast donuts from a local bakery and this becomes the ‘bun’ for our sandwich. He double fries some pickled juicy chicken breasts with a spice blend that is just hot enough to awaken your tastebuds. That crunchy, spicy chicken with the soft sweet donut is almost the perfect combination. To finish the taste sensation, chef adds some tangy umami with pickle slices, creating the ultimate taste and texture culinary experience for the tastebuds.
Food and beverages should always be visually appealing, but when you add an action element, the food becomes experiential. Our Pasta Dalla Forma Station is always a crowd pleaser. The chef starts with a fresh wheel of carved-out Parmesan cheese. They flambé the inside of the wheel to melt the cheese, then add the hot pasta and stir it around. This allows the melted cheese to stick onto the pasta. Seeing the large wheel of cheese ignite from the flambe provides guests with a showstopper moment. Add in the smell of the melting cheese and then taste all the comforting goodness and you have a mouthwatering dish guests will talk about and remember. This is great on station style events. Our latest version was a Carbonara style with chicken, alfredo, smoked bacon, asparagus, onions and chili flakes, in addition to all the Parmesan. You can offer gluten-free pasta for an added crowd-pleasing experience.
This fun little sushi bite hits on a lot of our senses. For touch, the mini bamboo chopsticks add a delightful tactile experience. Smiling servers pass the sushi roll pieces on a beautiful colored glass charger that complements the vibrant ingredients. Each sushi piece is placed in the middle of the dainty wooden chop sticks. All the guest does is squeeze and enjoy the various textures that make sushi a standout culinary bite. It is a mess free and playful way to enjoy popular sushi rolls during a cocktail hour or standing reception. For example, we served vegetable sushi with tempura sweet potato, cream cheese and avocado. This bite is so flavorful, appeals to many and is a unique twist on familiar sushi.
Another trending touch is passing foil-wrapped meatball sliders to bring a station to the guests. The warm touch of the foil as the guest unwraps to find the perfectly steamed slider bun with our famous Marcella’s meatball, house marinara and melted cheese. The experience of unwrapping, the hospitality of larger station sized food finding the guests, and the warm insulated slider is irresistible to the touch and taste.
The smells that waft in the air usually lead the guests to find the culinary delights that await. Whether it is the garlic and marinara, or the sweet smell of sugar emitting from the dessert tables. A classic trend that is still requested is the smell of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies served on top of an ice-cold glass of milk with a fun straw poking out. Baking the cookies on site has guests sniffing their way to the station. One modern aromatic station had the chefs making basil granita to serve on top of fresh heirloom tomatoes with balsamic pearls. The fresh smell of the tomatoes with the sweet smell of basil enticed guests quickly over to the station. As long as the event environment is appropriate to incorporate the aromas of the food and beverage, use this as part of the culinary experience.
Melissa Johnson is VP, Cameron, Mitchell Premier Events (CMPE) and Community Relations