Standard Buffet–Style Dinner

Menu: The Claremont Resort & Spa

Menu design: Caspari for

1) Including light, relatively healthful options is a must, and this buffet features several salads. Caterers nixed iceberg lettuce, blue cheese, and bacon bits a long time ago to embrace the mixed–greens movement. But the bitter stuff is still controversial: Picky eaters are unlikely to befriend endive, frisée, and radicchio.

2) Caterers agree: Asparagus is, hands down, the most elegant vegetable you can put on a plate.

3) Why does salmon always seem to show up on wedding menus? One of the reasons is that chefs find it easy to prepare (it can be grilled, seared, or poached and marries well with a variety of robust, complex sauces). Salmon is also a very common, all–American fish that people know. Halibut and sole are similarly approachable crowd–pleasers.

4) In addition to being a healthful dessert alternative, fresh fruit is often included for aesthetic reasons: Bright and colorful, fruit just looks pretty.

5) These miniature desserts are designed so that guests can grab several at once. They can be arranged in rows, or more elaborately, on tiered dessert stands. Or place them around the room, perhaps on a mantel or peeking out of the opened drawers of an antique bureau.

TIP: Identify local ingredients on your menu cards, to enhance guests' impressions of the meal. Caterers get their vegetables, meat, and other foods from wholesale suppliers. If the product is grown or raised locally, it's usually also of superior quality, so find out if this is the case. A number of specialty farms and purveyors now ship to discerning chefs nationwide.

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