Fresh flavors, small plates and big cocktails are what’s trending on wedding and party menus. Writer Nancy Miller shares a taste of what some top caterers will be dishing out this year.

Wiltshire Pantry
502-581-8560 |

Fine food and wines are trending for wedding receptions, according to Wiltshire Pantry owner Susan Hershberg. “Brides and wedding planners are interested in a culinary experience, pairing wines and bourbon experiences. Farm weddings are still popular but family style service at them isn’t requested as often as in the past. Instead, plated dinners with refined dishes seem to offer more appeal, and not only at farm weddings, but most weddings,” she says.

Wiltshire is characterized by chef-driven, upscale, seasonal menus that feature local food and purveyors, and its own artisan breads and other baked goods from its bakery production facility. A mobile kitchen enables Wiltshire to cook on site at venues that have no kitchen, including popular wedding locations such as Hermitage Farm. Many of Hershberg’s clients ask her to create a variety of stations, such as thematic ones – perhaps Bluegrass or international. The menu for a New Year’s wedding reception incorporated some Latin American dishes to reflect the groom’s Columbian heritage and Kentucky stations that offered beef tenderloin, grits, fall vegetables and even Hoppin’ John accompanied by several toppings.

Being in the heart of bourbon country, she might suggest to a bride a bourbon cocktail tasting station along with recipes handed out for each drink. A craft bartender will be on hand to demonstrate how to make classics such as a Manhattan and a Kentucky Mule.

Hostesses, hosts, brides and grooms and guests all enjoy Wiltshire’s beautiful presentations of dessert buffets of luscious French macarons, mini eclairs, Viennese pastries, Opera cakes and mini mousse bombes, all displayed on gold boards.

“With weddings and events in general, I emphasize to brides or hostesses that they need to envision how they want the reception to proceed and to let us accomplish that for them,” she says. “There can be so many distractions and outside influences. I advocate for the bride to focus on what she wants and we take it from there.”

Ladyfingers Catering 
502-245-7734 |

Unique venues top the wish list for many brides as they’re planning their weddings. Donna Brown, marketing director for Ladyfingers Catering, says Hockensmith Barn at 21st Century Parks is one of those at which her company has catered fun and fabulous events. “Brides seem to want out in the country or downtown. Museums are great because they’re kind of urban and cool. The Frazier has a new speakeasy where we’ve been doing small weddings. The Kentucky Science Center has revamped their space and the Muhammad Ali Center is booming now for weddings.

Hot on the Louisville wedding reception radar are bourbon-themed menus or those that combine the food histories of both the bride and groom, such as Kentucky-inspired or East Coast shore influenced.

Brown’s most recent experiences reveal that weddings are becoming more lavish, with guest counts ranging between 250 and 300. Newly popular Friday night weddings sacrifice none of the details of a meticulously planned and exquisitely executed Saturday night ceremony and reception.

“People think they want a plated dinner until they realize their guests will be sitting in their seats for a long time and the vibe of the room will die down. So, we’ll usually start with passed hors d’oeuvres followed by a pre-plated salad, then a buffet or stations. That keeps everyone mingling,” she says. Some of Ladyfingers’ most requested dishes are mini Hot Browns, orange beurre blanc chicken, charcoal-grilled bourbon barrel beef tenderloin. And deviled eggs are making a comeback!

She sees a trend away from the traditional, large wedding cake to a small ceremonial cake and several bite-size desserts, referred to as a Venetian Hour.

Ladyfingers hosts open house tastings for 50 to 100 brides every month except April and December. The tastings are ideal opportunities to sample the caterer’s food and meet the staff.

At the reception, the bride and groom may be so busy talking to their guests that they have little time to enjoy the meal. Ladyfingers sends them away with a little box of their dinner along with a few desserts.

Bristol Catering
502-584-3663 |

The do-it-yourself phenomenon is having an influence on weddings, says Emilie Pfeiffer, catering director for Bristol Catering. Brides, their families and their friends are showing off their creativity in everything from bridal bouquets to centerpieces. But, when it comes to food, most brides turn to the expertise of a professional caterer.

The Bristol caters weddings for as few as 25 and as many as 500 guests at locations such as Gardencourt, Muhammad Ali Center, Kentucky Science Center, Frazier Kentucky History Museum, The Kentucky Center, farms and private homes.

She says culinary bars are the big news in reception food. “Hummus bars, bruschetta bars and even slider bars are so much fun. Ideas for slider bars are almost unending, from southern pulled pork and cheeseburgers to mushroom sliders and salmon sliders, says Pfeiffer.

The popularity of bars extends to libations of all types. There are myriad of specialty drinks bars that frequently feature bourbon, tequila or champagne. Newlyweds may also like both bride’s and groom’s cocktails, maybe a Lemon drop for her and an Old Fashioned for him.

Modern brides are conscious of guests’ possible dietary restrictions and often request that the caterer offer vegetarian and vegan options.

The idea of breakfast for dinner has made its way to wedding receptions. And, brides who have a morning wedding might follow it with a brunch reception that could include a scrambled egg station, a waffle bar and a hot chocolate bar.

The Bristol’s catering is usually based on a per person charge although they will provide a platter price. “We customize each menu for each bride. Brides may have a beef tenderloin taste and a chicken budget. We work within their constraints. To us, it doesn’t matter whether the reception is modest or elaborate. It’s their special day, so we’ll do everything possible to make it perfect,” she says.

The Silver Spoon
502-584-4379 |

Weddings are becoming more family-oriented, like a big family reunion to celebrate a joyous time. The food is secondary to the bride and groom, and the guests are there to party. Memories are made dancing and having a good time,” says Phillip Koenig, partner at The Silver Spoon.

Whether slightly casual and relaxed or very formal, at the Henry Clay, the Derby Museum or the many other venues where his company caters, receptions average 250 to 275 people and generally begin with cocktails and specialty drinks before guests visit stations or are seated for dinner, both of which could include two or three meats and one vegetable entrée.

Desserts are a sweet trend. Although a wedding cake is usually present for a photo shoot, its presence as the main dessert is being eclipsed by cupcakes, donut stations or a Viennese dessert display of several small selections. Koenig has worked with a few brides who were such fans of pies that a pie station was a surprise dessert greeting to guests.

For The Silver Spoon receptions, it’s not unusual for the bride’s grandmother or aunt to bring cookies or candies. “I had a mother-in-law bring two hundred dozen cookies!” he says in appreciative awe.

“At the end of the evening, we have brought in White Castles, pizza or breakfast from McDonalds. Food trucks are also a new thing for winding up a reception, as are candy bars or ice cream bars. Two-packs of Krispy Kremes are a great send-off,” he says.

“When we first meet with a bride, I ask her to prioritize what’s most important to her about the reception. She needs to have good rapport with the caterer. Sometimes the caterer steps in to help implement ideas and ease the bride’s mind. I know my place: to make it a fun evening. Not everyone has a wedding planner but everyone needs a general to keep things in order.”

Farm to Fork
502-365-3276 |

Our focus is on the ingredients and making sure we work with farmers to get the healthiest, most vibrant ingredients, all of which plays into the trend of healthy, plant-based recipes,” says Farm to Fork founder and president Sherry Hurley.

Most of the brides who choose Farm to Fork to cater their wedding have a specific interest in locally sourced, organic ingredients. She has worked with bridal clients on custom menus based on their travels, favorite foods, and how they became engaged. Her company caters at many locations in the Louisville area, such as at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, Whitehall, Hermitage, Locust Grove and Farm to Fork’s new location in Portland. Farm to Fork will also provide a personal chef to cook dishes to order for small receptions.

“We find that our brides are interested in food, family and community. They like to have the salad already plated but then have the entrée and sides brought to each table to be passed around. It’s a step above a buffet but keeps it more casual than completely plated service,” she says.

“There’s a return to nostalgia and comfort foods, especially whole-roasted rotisserie chickens. Colorful foods are also trending. Something that gets a lot of attention is our bright fuchsia beet hummus. We’re really excited about the grass-fed beef that people are asking for more and more and hemp hearts that we use to bulk up a dish without using as much meat, so it’s a little healthier,” says Hurley.

She has some advice for brides to keep in mind before calling a potential caterer: Confirm the date and venue, and decide on the desired type of service (plated, buffet, stations, family style), guest count and budget.

“Do not let friends or family help with your wedding. Stick with the professionals, even for setting up and taking down. If your sister is a floral designer and insists on doing the flowers, that might be okay, but don’t say yes to someone who just likes to put together flower arrangements,” she says. “That never works.”

Posted on 2018-01-04 by Nancy Miller