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Marcus Samuelsson, whose improvisations on Scandinavian cuisine at New York's Aquavit made his reputation, has recently opened a new restaurant, Ringo, with a distinct Asian flair. "These days guests have already been to tons of receptions," he says, "so of course you want to make your menu exciting. And while you want to consider your guests' likes and dislikes, there's no reason you can't also be a little adventurous. Have some bites, some soups, some skewers, so people can pick and choose—something for everyone."
Samuelsson's array of hors d'oeuvres starts with a seared foie gras "sushi," which immediately signals a very special occasion. A zing of refreshment is provided by a lovely watermelon-and-watercress salad. Another invigorating note comes from a chilled tomato soup with a pungent citrus accent. And if you're wondering about the logistics of serving soup to a standing-room-only crowd, rest easy: The chef recommends serving the soup in a shot glass, with a little straw!
Samuelsson's international palate is evident in his creation of lobster rolls with pickled Asian pears. The pears serve as the rolls' outer casing. He then zips back to the West with figs wrapped in wafer-thin slices of Serrano ham, served with a little dollop of mascarpone, the soft, rich Italian cheese.
As your guests are mingling and grazing, serve them an aquapolitan, which is Samuelsson's creative variation on the cosmopolitan, replacing the standard vodka with aquavit, the clear spirit from his Scandinavian homeland.
The Formal Reception
For many couples, nothing will suffice but the most formal, seated dinner party of their lives. And Charlie Palmer—whose restaurants span the country from New York to Las Vegas—has the menu to fit this bill.
You want a menu that has panache and that will work, says Palmer, and this means you'll need to do some hard thinking ahead of time. "In a sit-down wedding dinner with a number of courses, the first course should be cold. The timing of a wedding is never accurate, so you don't want to have to worry about whether or not the first course will be overcooked."
Palmer (whose latest book is The Art of Aureole) suggests starting off with a sumptuous array of passed hors d'oeuvres that range from a minimalist smoked salmon and American caviar panini to a more complex fennel-crusted tuna with tapenade and marinated white anchovies. Once the guests are seated, serve a simple—and, yes, cold—tuna tartare with chili-spiced ponzu (a flavorful Asian sauce). Next is a velvety potato-leek soup, elevated by the addition of lobster croutons.
When it comes to the entrée, Palmer has several thoughts. His first suggestion is roasted lamb with a bric, a very thin pastry encasing both lamb and julienned vegetables. The lamb shoulder is braised slowly and becomes very savory. "A nice, green side dish—quickly sautéed haricots verts or baby bok choy," says Palmer. His other ideas include prosciutto-wrapped pork loin with summer truffle (which, he explains, is not as pungent as other truffles) and, perhaps most daring of all, venison with a chestnut brioche charlotte.