By Amanda Koehn
As self-identification as a “foodie” – someone who has an intense interest in food and diverse types of it – grows more popular, it’s natural more couples seek wedding food that’s not just tasteful and classy, but interesting and memorable.
Fortunately, Northeast Ohio has a variety of spots where catering options allow customization and staff is intrigued by making something new menu-wise.
Whether you want to incorporate a family or cultural dish, have dietary needs to be met or are thinking of a nostalgic dish that speaks to you as a couple, local caterers say they want to help create something special.
InterContinental ready for what’s next
One may have a wedding spot in mind as a result of attending other well-executed weddings there, but it’s a safe bet when it comes to their own wedding planning, they will want it to be vastly different than the rest. The crew at InterContinental Cleveland says they anticipate such diversity in each wedding’s look and feel, knowing from the outset the food will be customized to suit the couple.
“I think so many people are becoming foodies these days, and so (they) really want to have an opportunity with the food to kind of highlight different things or have more options, more variety and more show than just simply a sit-down dinner,” says Craig Campbell, area director of sales and marketing at InterContinental.
Among other helpful highlights, Campbell says InterContinental ensures the catering manager working with a couple is with them from the beginning to the big day. It also works with other vendors, such as the florist, to make sure everything comes together smoothly.
Another notable trend? Late-night snacks via food truck favorites. Terri Kufel, director of sales and catering, says late-night food is among requests – such as creating a specialty cocktail or artistic, special table numbers – she hears frequently from couples looking to express their individuality through their special day.
“People are looking to do things that they love, that they want to share with their guests, because it speaks to who the two of them are,” Kufel says.
Customization, family style at StoneWater Golf Club
At StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights, couples can come in with a vision, and StoneWater creates it from scratch. And if the pair doesn’t have such a clear idea at the outset, it’s no problem for general manager Whitney Neidus – she says the team will look at the budget and create a menu that fits both their finances and taste.
“They take ownership of it, and it’s fun for them,” she says of wedding clients.
Today, Neidus says family style dinners are trending. At StoneWater, that means after the salad course, each table gets everything on the menu. She says the concept is in keeping with couples choosing a less formal setting than others may have in the past. It also takes away pressure on the couple to collect everyone’s entree preference via RSVP card – only dietary restrictions are needed.
Neidus says StoneWater has fun with couples who are “foodies” and those willing to let the staff be creative in developing a menu that suits the wedding’s vibe. Another plus of customization is both sides of the new family can likely get what they want.
“And they are getting really creative with it,” Neidus says. “So, they might say, ‘OK we want two proteins – my bride really likes fish, the groom really likes steak. And then to bring in some of our culture and family history, we need this pasta.’ So it’s kind of fun – we are bringing family traditions into their menu.”
Let The 9 handle the details
The team at The 9 in downtown Cleveland is used to customizing wedding fare based on a couple’s cultures and tastes. And one way they take it further is to match that food with the “whole package,” says Zeina Kleib, senior catering sales manager.
Kleib says each bride she’s talked with over the last six months at the hotel has indicated an interest in ”something (where) I don’t have to worry about 18 different people who I’m working with, and 18 different bills and different venues, and getting everybody on the same page.” Think food, venue, beverage, cake, linens and set-up, all handled by the same planner or team. The 9 can work it out so the only outside vendors might be the photographer, DJ and florist.
Specifically, as the average age at which people marry shifts upward, and they tend to be in a career-focused mode of life, couples are looking to hold a certain level of control, yet be able to delegate “tedious” tasks and details in an efficient and effective manner, Kleib says.
Focusing on food, Kleib says she’s seen a trend toward stations, hors d’oeuvres and a “moving style wedding,” where a long sit-down dinner is eschewed, and food is enjoyed in shifts between dancing, socializing and generally celebrating.
The 9 also has a celebrity factor – chef Natalie Blake is a “Hell’s Kitchen” season 9 alum. She or the sous chef meet with each couple planning a wedding to better create a menu and style that works for them.
“I’ve worked with a lot of diverse couples, and I think what I found in common with every single bride … everybody wants their own, so everybody customizes,” Kleib says.