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Please help review this menu!

The saga of my wedding planning continues. Hopefully someone is enjoying reading about all this food, since it really is the high point of the entire affair! We had our food tasting this weekend and have narrowed down our options. Being a fickle person, I wanted to see what everyone thinks. See photos here: http://www.chezpei.com/2007/10/casa-d...

If budget allows, our menu will run as follows. Bear in mind that this will be January in Los Angeles. So it will be cool, or even cold, but it is usually pleasant enough that the menu doesn't have to be 100% "wintery."

COCKTAIL HOUR (open bar with wine selections of a classic Californa style cabernet sauvignon, zippy/light/fragrant gruner veltliner, and fruity/quaffable prosecco
)-shrimp cocktail
-peppered beef with bell peppers
-artichoke puffs
-prosciutto and figs OR oysters on the halfshell (subject to availability of figs or oysters)

DINNER (everyone will receive the same four course meal, with the option to substitute one course with vegetables. We don't have any vegetarian requests, but we do know people who don't eat one particular item. We chose this route because 90% of our guests love to eat EVERYTHING, and we didn't want to punish them because of a handful of finnicky eaters. Let them eat veggies!).

-woodland mushrooms on a phyllo crisp, with port reduction sauce
-lobster bisque
-miso cod (very lightly miso flavored, you can barely tell that it's "Asian" so it doesn't clash) with Tatsoi (sometimes called spinach mustard)
-Colorado rack of lamb (with roast asparagus)

I realize the progression doesn't lend itself to the usual white-then-red pairing, so both prosecco and red will be poured and people can enjoy what pairings they like.

DESSERTS
-a cake and a table of assorted sweets

What do you think? Would you enjoy such a meal, or is the progression disjointed? Bear in mind most people aren't foodies and won't be judging us on the order. But we also don't want people to have some kind of unsettled feeling that their meal didn't flow well. It certainly isn't a classic menu progression, but is it downright bad?

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  1. This menu looks great and it sounds like it will be better than any meal I've ever had at a wedding. Congratulations on your special day.

    1. I think it depends on your guests. I am a meeting planner and I wouldn't serve flavors this strong for any group dinner. I tend to have at least one entree that is a "safe" choice for the picky eaters. e.g.:

      A *lot* of people don't like lobster bisque and some have allergies to shellfish that will make them steer clear; can you have a 2nd soup? If not, I would pick a more generic soup that everyone likes, such as Italian wedding soup or even mushroom barley or veg soup or something.

      Even those who like cod may not like miso, soy/miso flavoring is an aquired taste and seems a strange way to prepare cod. Could you just do baked cod with a crumb type topping?

      Lamb can be very gamey, especially if it's bought and prepared en masse as it will not be the A #1 top quality lamb available, so it could be a little old which will make it more gamey. I would go for regular beef instead of lamb; tournados or filet.

      This is why so many people go the chicken-beef route for their menus. If you deviate too much from that, you risk having a lot of people with nothing to eat. I think this is too risky a menu for a wedding. The apps/cocktail hour sounds good though!

      Just my 2 cents, hope that helps.

      1. I think it all sounds really delicious - anyone would be silly to skip any of these courses! Without knowing what your caterer is good at, or having tasted these myself, I would say just pick what sounds good and have fun with it. You're not offering anything bizarre.. but it does all look heavy, except for the cod. but again, I would love to be served all these courses.

        1. I have a couple of friends with severe shellfish allergies -- it's not terribly uncommon. I know many people who will not touch lamb. I would love to be offered this meal, but I suggest re-thinking this menu. It's possible to go the beef/chicken route without being boring: a killer sauce for each (served on the side, of course) would be an avenue to explore.

          1. Sounds wonderful! However, from my own wedding experience, we had oysters on the half-shell which went basically untouched. I would go with the prosciutto and figs -- think it's much more guest-friendly.

            Just looked at your website. Crabcakes are really popular at parties. I think it would lighten your menu a bit. And one thing I'd like to point out (which I sadly learned through my wedding) is that try to pick foods that hold up well. We had the most delicious halibut at the tasting, only to have it be overcooked at the wedding. And the filet mignon (which is a pretty dry piece of meat anyway) got dryer as it sat around the kitchen before we were served.

            1. Thanks, all! Believe me, we've been agonizing about the menu. Nothing will be final until the RSVPs are in. If people's preferences are skewed one way or another of course we'll accomodate them. But I think our group is a little different from your average wedding guests. We're 90% Chinese (read: love miso, lamb, and shellfish).

              I know one can never know if a guest will be highly allergic or averse to something, but that's what the 100% vegetarian menu is for (I will ask the hotel to have that option available). If you hate both lamb and lobster, then you're eating vegetables, plus maybe some stuff at cocktail hour and an extra slice of cake. I don't want to deprive the 90 people who love to eat everything the chance to really enjoy an unusually amazing wedding meal so the one person who can't/won't eat it can have chicken.

              I am only able to do this because my friends and family are universally adventurous eaters, and we're having a smaller wedding where we personally know almost every single guest. If I had a lot of strangers coming in the form of friends' dates and such, I would play it safer!

              My real concern, as erin noted, is that this menu is heavy. I might indeed sub in a crabcake, though we were also thinking about having crabcakes during cocktails.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Pei

                Pei, as someone who is allergic to shellfish I'd suggest not including the crabcake during dinner service. I can live with not being to eat the lobster bisque but I'd hate to have to opt out of 2 courses.

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  That was our thought too. If we have crabcakes at dinner, we'd have to pick another soup, and frankly they weren't very good.

                  Dates instead of figs: genius!

              2. Sounds delicous ... figs ... fresh? in January? Even if available I've never had good out of season fresh figs.

                1. This sounds incredible. Congratulations! My only comment is to concur with the person who said to go with the figs vs oysters. You don't want them sitting, you already have the shrimp, and the fig-proscuitto pairing sound lovely and appropriately seasonal. My only other thought stems more from personal taste than my catering experience, but the peppered beef with bell peppers sounds a tad overwhelming. I'd be tasting those bell-peppers all night and might not enjoy the delicate mushrooms, bisque and cod as much. Can they pair the beef with carmelized onion, gorgonzola, or something a bit more rich and less pungent? All that said, you know your guests and family better than anyone - so go with your instincts! P.S. I've never met anyone (non-vegetarian), who doesn't adore lobster bisque!

                  1. Just wanting to let you know that one of the earlier posters was correct about the availability of fresh California figs. They're harvested once in June and then again in September. Also, if you're going to use fresh figs, it's best to decide which of the two varieties you prefer - the two most common are the golden, slightly nutty-flavored Calimyrna and the dark, sweet Mission. Best wishes on the wedding.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: DrBehavior

                      Another option for the figs and prosciutto is dates - they're lovely stuffed with goat cheese or blue and wrapped with prosciutto, and much more available in Jan.

                      1. re: Chezstacey

                        I'd second the dates.

                        I was a bit curious about the beef and peppers and how they're served; if it's cocktail hour, I presume people are standing with drinks so it might help to have foods easily eaten with one hand, or negotiated as one continues to hold a glass.

                        Of course, maybe people will be seated as the food and drink is passed around.

                    2. Everything looks beautiful! My one concern is that all the courses seem quite heavy and overly filling, especially after dense hors d oeuvres like beef, shrimp and puffs (I assume these involve pastry). Mushrooms on phyllo, lobster bisque and rack of lamb are all very rich. The miso cod appears to be the one lighter dish but is served over rice. Switching in crabcakes won't necessarily help much, but subbing one of the courses for a salad or having a broth-based soup would lighten the meal considerably.

                      I would love to enjoy such a meal if I could pass out in a food coma directly afterwards, but at a wedding I personally would pick some lighter fare.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: hrhboo

                        Thanks! This is exactly what I feared. We're lightening the courses by making them smaller than in my photos and eliminating most if not all of the starches (very Chinese thing to do--ever notice banquets have no rice?). We're also choosing a very light cake instead of a dense chocolate type thing.

                        But yes, it seems everyone agrees it's extremely heavy. I will see what we can do about subbign out the bisque or the mushrooms in heavy sauce.

                        1. re: Pei

                          I went back and read your review of the tasting, and see that you weren't wowed by the other soups. If you love the bisque, maybe you can get away with keeping it on the menu if you're planning to make the other dishes smaller. It seems like the perfect compromise!

                      2. Congrats on your upcoming marriage! You have my best wishes for much happiness, much patience, and much joy. (FWIW: Walter Wangerin, Jr.'s book, "As For Me & My House" is the single best book I've ever read on marriage and human relationships in general. It has been invaluable in my own marriage.)

                        It sounds like you've really worked hard on your rmenu. I agree with previous posters, it feels heavy, but it would work well for a rustic winter wedding.

                        Even small portions will still feel heavy to the guests.

                        Here are some ideas for you to consider. Take whichever you like, leave the rest!

                        COCKTAIL HOUR (open bar with wine selections: Cabernet sauvignon, beaujolais, gewurtz or rieseling, fruity/quaffable prosecco)

                        -hot/sweet toasted pecans
                        -classic shrimp cocktail
                        -peppered beef with pineapple and bell peppers
                        -eggrolls (both veggie and chicken) w/ sweet & sour, spicy, mustard, and soy dipping sauces
                        -spinach and cheese tartlets

                        DINNER
                        -woodland mushrooms on a phyllo crisp, with port reduction sauce
                        -butternut squash cream soup (Have someone else do this if your caterer can't deliver a version you like)
                        -potato-wrapped monkfish filet with grilled baby bok choy --OR --
                        -wood roasted simple split chicken cooked w/ herbs and with baked potato --OR --
                        -grilled tri-tip marinated in chimichurri and with caramelized onions in a red wine reduction and creamed turnips.

                        DESSERTS
                        -a cake and a table of assorted sweets
                        -fresh fruit

                        IMHO this menu is a bit friendlier to diners and to varying tastes, without adding too much to your catering budget. I hope you find this helpful.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: KenWritez

                          Thanks again, everyone! This continues to add various thoughts and options for us.

                        2. Have you considered pork as your meat course? It can be lighter than lamb or beef and, I think, is crowd pleasing without being as commonplace as chicken.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: spellweaver16

                            I agree with this (and thx for the insight about the 90% Chinese attendance, that helps). Although everyone might like lamb, rack of lamb is really heavy. Something with pork might be lighter?

                          2. What if you switched the order? Start with the bisque, served in a demitasse cup to begin with, like an amuse. Then move to the mushrooms on philo crisp , but serve them as an accent to a simple green salad.

                            I love miso cod, and since half the restaurants in the world are trying to copy Nobu, I wouldn't think anyone should find that odd.

                            Another thought for the lamb accompaniment would be some sort of winter veggie puree. Celery root or parship or cauliflower? Both a bit lighter tasting than potato, but easier on your wine, and possibly less expensive since asparagus is out of season. (or is anything ever out of season in SoCal?)

                            You could use dried figs, halved, and cooked in a red wine syrup w/ the proscuitto.

                            Please keep us posted!

                            1. Have a look at this thread for lightening up your menu:
                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/414620 (trendy hors d'oeuvres)

                              1. The issue that jumps out at me is potential drips during the cocktail hour. I know the shrimp cocktail will be offered with a dipping sauce. How will the peppered beef with bell peppers be prepared? Beef strips threaded on skewers alternating with bell pepper slices? With a dipping sauce? Will there be a dipping sauce for the artichoke puffs?

                                When I choose the menu for my husband's company's annual party, I select hors d'ouevres that are self-contained -- items in which the flavors are good enough on their own to not require a dipping sauce.

                                1. The menu sounds and looks delicious!
                                  I think it's lovely that you've put so much thought into throwing a great party for your guests, where food is a highlight instead of an afterthought. The portions do look rather large for so many courses. I would be afraid that my guests wouldn't be able to dance!
                                  Enjoy your special day!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: whatsfordinner

                                    i attended a fabulous wedding reception in nyc a few years ago. i was a total hog on the shrimp cocktail tower. and there were passed hors d'oeurvres, too!

                                    then, i was shocked at the amazing 4 course dinner. still tried to dance salsa. lesson: save your money -- or at least think about whether you are going "overboard". maybe money is free flowing for you -- and God bless you if that is true-- but sometimes too much is too much. :- ). frankly, i think it is too much. guests come to celebrate your marriage, and don't expect to gorge!

                                  2. Congratulations! Your menu sounds beautiful and well planned, but I would advise rethinking the main courses. I would add at least 1 safety (steak or chicken) for the real non foodies. But, it is your wedding, and the people who attend are there because they love you and want to share your special day. They aren't there for the food.