Food Forward

Salt Lake and Park City catering pros reinvent classic favorites for remarkable reception menus

0113-food-forwardThe morning after your wedding, when cousins, college roommates, childhood besties, and your parents’ business partners first wake up, they’re going to rub their partied-out eyes, flop over, and settle back into another blissful thirty minutes of sleep with any number of ultra-charming, perfectly executed celebration elements on their minds. Some folks will think fondly of the lush floral arrangements, others will recall the lively dance floor. And if you like the idea of your food-blogging coworker and your globetrotting Uncle Ed rousing briefly to alight on something like, “Holy cow, the food last night was off the chain,” keep reading.

We went to our favorite chefs and catering managers and convinced them to dig deep into their recipe, menu, and inspiration files to tell us about—and in some cases invent—dishes that riff on traditional favorites but satisfy in a much more exciting, nuanced, game-changing manner. Welcome to the future of reception menus. Dig in.


Opening Acts

Sliders Culinary Crafts’ newest take on the All American appetizer? Mini duck burgers with shiitake mushroom ketchup and Chinese-style mustard. At Main Event Catering, mini banh mi sandwiches steal the spotlight from burgers and buns.

Crab Cakes For an exotic bite, The Blended Table Catering & Events infuses crab cakes with Indian flavors: garam masala, ginger, and fresh mango chutney. Cuisine Unlimited’s salmon cakes—paired with a homemade mayo, mustard, and ginger dipping sauce—are a tasty alternative.

Crudités Picks and skewers are cool and easy ways to serve crudités. Cuisine Unlimited threads marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, arugula, and Italian salami onto knotted picks for an antipasti torte, while Culinary Crafts skewers Parmesan marshmallows with roasted tomatoes and basil chiffonade for a nouveau salad.

Crostini Cuisine Unlimited replaces dull crackers and rolls with won ton cups and edible spoons made from flattened, baked bread. To satisfy gluten-free requests, The Blended Table serves risotto cakes, and Culinary Crafts offers house-made kettle chips, crispy vegetable chips, and mini garbanzo cakes.

Mini Meals Guests will gobble up St. Regis Deer Valley’s mini chicken and lobster pot pies, Culinary Crafts’ mini meatloaf, and Cuisine Unlimited’s meatball cupcakes “iced” with mashed potatoes or herbed cauliflower.




Mix It Up Local chefs and caterers are turning over new leaves: The Blended Table’s Colour Maisch adds spicy rocket arugula to classic mixed greens; Main Event Catering’s Andy Slikker pairs peppery mizuna with bold dressings and rich main dishes; Cuisine Unlimited’s Maxine Turner favors mache (also known as lamb’s lettuce) for its hearty, dark leaves and mildly sweet taste. Fresh local fruits, herbs, and edible flowers add color to salads and offer new flavor combinations—one of our current favorites combines juicy Green River watermelon with snap peas, feta, and mint.

Best Dressed Good Day Catering’s made-from-scratch cucumber dill dressing (a creamy alternative to ranch) and raspberry and honey balsamic vinaigrettes—made with fresh Utah berries and Slide Ridge honey—are best-sellers. At the St. Regis Deer Valley, flavored oils like chive, basil, and orange gastrique are used to decorate plates and complement salads. Turner suggests Park City’s Mountain Town Olive Oil Co. as a resource for fine oils and balsamic vinegars from across the globe.

Great Grains Turner looks to her Greek heritage for lettuce-free salad inspiration, such as her twist on traditional horatiki: chunks of tomato, cucumber, and onion, mixed with quinoa and jalapeño, and drizzled with olive oil. Maisch loves quinoa and couscous for their beauty, flavor, and texture, while Culinary Crafts’ Mary Crafts likes black rice (often called forbidden rice) and Slikker is big on bulgar.


0113-star-soupsSOUPER STARS

Sharp Shooters Crafts says basic soups like butternut squash or tomato basil just don’t cut it anymore. She suggests gingered curry with red lentils and garlic or sweet pea with torched cream. Instead of using shot glasses, try serving soups in demitasse cups like The Blended Table does, or mini pilsner glasses like they do at Cuisine Unlimited.

Warm Up “Winter weddings require many soup options,” says Amanda Lindquist, banquet chef at the St. Regis Deer Valley. Guests love the upscale resort’s down-home turkey chili, served in individual cast iron crock pots. For something a little fancier, she suggests silky lobster bisque with seasonal truffle-roasted trumpet mushrooms served tableside.

Cool Down A favorite for warm-weather fêtes, gazpacho gets an upgrade with the following ingredients: The Blended Table tosses in roasted jalapeño; Main Event adds avocado and grilled shrimp; Culinary Crafts swaps traditional red tomatoes for yellow varieties; and Cuisine Unlimited blends in fresh Utah peaches or watermelon and basil, served in edible cucumber cups.

Bread Winners Local loaves from Crumb Brothers Artisan Breads, Stone Ground Bakery, Volker’s Bakery, and Vosen’s Bread Paradise are doughy, dunkable counterparts.


0113-side-kicksSIDE KICKS

Well Starched “Side dishes are like the perfect accessory to an outfit,” says Maisch. “They enhance the main dish.” Her favorite starchy sides include succotash, creamy polenta, and The Blended Table’s potato Dauphinoise, similar to the Beehive State’s beloved funeral potatoes, made with spuds or assorted root vegetables, butter, cream, and cheese. Our neighbors to the north may be famous for their taters, but as Turner says, “Utah is very much meat and potatoes turf.” Mashed potato bars are always crowd-pleasers, but she suggests mashed sweet potatoes, horseradish-tinged baked parsnips, or smoked mozzarella and chive croquettes as alternatives. Rice goes from ordinary to exotic with fresh herbs and spices, such as The Main Event’s Italian (garlic, Parmesan, basil) and Indian (turmeric, mango, cilantro) varieties. St. Regis Deer Valley’s mac and cheese tasting bar (traditional, truffle, blue cheese with pancetta) and gourmet grits station (roasted corn, pork belly, shrimp) are comfort-food favorites.

In Good Taste Healthier options (goodbye, butter and cream) and starch alternatives (hello, double vegetables) are common requests. Maisch says pickled veggies—beets, asparagus, dilly beans—are popular. And roasted, grilled, or lightly smoked produce always adds color and flavor to a plate. After all, as Lindquist puts it, you want your guests to leave your event “astounded and satisfied, not stuffed and uncomfortable.”


0113-meat-and-potatosHAPPY MEALS

Go Wild “In Utah we have such an abundance of wildlife, we try to stress the importance of using seasonal and sustainable meats,” says Lindquist. She suggests venison instead of beef filets or Utah steelhead trout instead of salmon. Bison, according to Crafts, is relatively affordable and often served as a main course. She says less expensive cuts of meat such as short ribs, hanger steak, flank steak, and brisket are increasingly popular with the current economy: “They take longer to prepare, but they are always more flavorful than their more expensive counterparts.” Maisch recommends game meat like buffalo and elk (find local elk at Ashton Farms Custom Meats in Fillmore), but cautions these lean meats should not be overcooked—try elk Carpaccio with a fresh Utah cherry sauce. In place of chicken, she says you can’t go wrong with game hens roasted in their own juices. And don’t overlook the other white meat: Good Day Catering’s Amanda Mellor encourages couples to consider stuffed pork chops or a pork roulade.

Veg Out Impress veggie- and meat-lovers alike with The Blended Table’s wild mushroom ragout with risotto cakes (also vegan and gluten-free), Culinary Crafts’ macadamia-crusted eggplant with coconut curry sauce on brown rice, or Good Day Catering’s cornbread and vegetable stuffed acorn squash.