Chic Feasts

Three great chefs dream up stylish (and tasty!) wedding menus

It used to be that a bride called a caterer, went to a tasting, and then turned her attention to (supposedly) more important matters. But no more! As we've all become more food conscious—with heightened awareness of taste sensations from around the globe—the planning of the perfect reception menu has risen on the bridal to-do list. Often, both bride and groom care passionately about what is served. But there are so many considerations: Do you want a long cocktail hour, with guests free to mill about nibbling and chatting? Or the structure and elegance of a more formal sit-down dinner? Perhaps you'd like the conviviality of a casual outdoor grilling party. We turned to three renowned chefs and asked each of them to give us advice and concoct their dream wedding menu. Bon appétit!

An Outdoor Reception

Bobby Flay, chef at Mesa Grill and Bolo in New York and host of the Food Network's Boy Meets Grill, envisions a relaxed menu that he calls "surf and turf with a twist." The menu includes steak and lobster, two very traditional wedding dishes, done differently. "I think that for a warm-weather wedding, it's great to add a fun note. By using the grill, you're making the reception casual and turning it into a grill party. When you use higher-end ingredients, you lend an element of elegance."

Flay starts the festivities off with grilled steak quesadillas with blue cheese and watercress. "I'd use a New York strip steak for the quesadillas," he says. "They're particularly good on the grill." Flay goes on to a main course of cedar-planked lobster tails, served with a relish of Native American-influenced fresh corn and smoked chiles.

As accompaniments, he recommends two favorites: zucchini and corn. "You don't want to weigh people down at a wedding," he says, "so skip a potato or a rice dish with this menu." The zucchini is grilled, then slathered with a romesco sauce, a Spanish paste of roasted peppers, roasted chiles, toasted almonds, olive oil, fresh parsley, and garlic. Flay does traditional corn on the cob one better by serving it with garlic butter and queso fresco, a mild white cheese from Latin America that can be found in many markets here. "We take the silks out of the corn and remove some of the husk," he explains. "Leave one layer of husk, and dip the corn in water to prevent burning. The outside grills while the interior steams and roasts."

For the crowning touch, have pitchers of mojitos ready at the bar, with plenty of fresh mint and crushed ice. Ask the bartenders to garnish each with a piece of grilled pineapple.

A Cocktail Reception

Nowadays many brides are choosing to make the cocktail hour the entire wedding reception. It's a wonderful option for those who want their guests to have the flexibility of moving around and starting new conversations with ease. It's also good if you love eating in small bites, a style that's becoming more and more popular.

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