Great Wedding Destinations for Foodies
Your wedding day should be perfect, from the boutonniere in the best man’s lapel to the champagne for your toasts. If you and your partner are foodies, treat your guests to a venue that offers fresh-from-the-garden herbs, fruits and vegetables and authentic, regional cuisine.
“New Orleans is a wonderful choice for foodies looking to do a destination wedding,” says Kim Sayatovic, founder and chief creative officer of Belladeux Event Design. ‘We basically have four seasons in the Big Easy: crab (winter), crawfish (spring), shrimp (summer) and oyster (fall,) so it’s pretty easy to plan your wedding around your favorite seafood."
Sayatovic adds, "But what about food that is not seafood, you ask? Don’t worry. New Orleans has you covered. From a Southern grits bar to alligator cheesecake, you would be hard pressed to find a city with more diversity in its food than New Orleans.” Southern fried chicken, cheddar biscuits and macaroni with cheese are popular buffet choices.
Sayatovic recommends planning your wedding menu around the peak season for your favorite local seafood. “Many receptions across the country are no strangers to a french fry bar or even a late night taco/nacho bar. In New Orleans, we have grits bars. During shrimp season a giant helping of shrimp and grits is never a bad idea." If you don't care for shrimp, she suggests serving local, smoked meats like tasso with shredded local cheese, or Louisiana crab cakes topped with seasonal relish and beurre blanc.
For a menu with a traditional New Orleans feel, Sayatovic suggests adding gumbo, jambalaya, an etouffee or seasonal vegetables like mirliton (pear-shaped veggies served fried, stuffed or raw in salads). She says mini-muffulettas (local sandwiches made with round bread and olive salad), served as hors d’oeuvres, are also a great choice. “We are big fans of alligator and pork in this part of the world, so you can always do a full cochon de lait (pig roast) or add dishes made with alligator to give your guests something to talk about for years! An alligator and shrimp cheesecake from Jacques-Imo's is the savory dish you never knew you were missing from your life.”
“Finally," Sayatovic says, "finish out your custom menu with beignets, bread pudding, or bananas foster. The sky is the limit here in New Orleans, and if you can imagine it, a local chef can create it."
“In Tuscany, fresh breads and local olive oils are always a staple at wedding celebrations,” says Destination Weddings VP Megan Velez. “It would be a mistake to leave without trying regional favorites like fettunta (bruschetta) and panzanella, a traditional bread salad with sun-ripened vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.”
Velez says she’s noted a shift away from the custom of serving only a few items on the menu. Instead, more couples are asking for tasting menus that "include small portions featured over several courses," she says. "These courses are then paired with complementary Tuscan wines.” Appetizers like carpaccio and affetatti misti (antipasti) also fit the bill.
“An emphasis on local ingredients is also catching the attention of destination wedding couples in the Tuscan food world with chefs embracing rare ingredients local to the area, such as bluefish, and pairing them with Tuscan wines,” Velez adds.
Tuscany cuisine is known for its simple, high-quality ingredients. Cheeses like pecorino, ricotta and caprine, and mushrooms, garlic, truffles and pastas play a role in the region's memorable dishes, along with spezzatino con cipolle in blanco (a stew made with onions), shown here.
In Hawaii, Velez says weddings frequently offer ‘"a one-of-a-kind cuisine that is a unique blend of American, Filipino, Japanese, Polynesian and Korean flavors. The islands also feature an abundance of luscious fruits and plants that are great for incorporating into a wedding menu. While seafood is always a popular choice, as it can be sourced fresh, kalua pig is a true Hawaiian staple, known for its rich flavor and its presence at luaus.”
Plentiful fresh fruits, she adds, brighten the beverage menu. “From traditional pina coladas to festive Mai Tais and Blue Hawaiians, everything is served best with a wedge of juicy pineapple or mango. Kona coffee is another local favorite that makes for a great late-night flavor, whether served plain or incorporated into a cocktail or dessert."
Think of spices when you’re planning your wedding menu in Morocco. “Every bite of Moroccan food is bursting with flavor because of the diverse blend of spices that we use in the region,” says Fabrice Orlando, founder of Cocoon Events Management Group. Rolled cigar nems made with chicken and spinach, and served with gambas (shrimp or prawns) coated with sesame grain, are popular.
"The local fare is a fusion of tastes from all over the place. Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern and Southern European influences all play a role in the complex cuisine of Morocco," he adds.
“Couscous (a small pasta made from wheat or barley) is a simple yet popular choice and quite versatile as it can be dressed up with virtually any combination of spices and come out delicious," Orlando says. "Meat and seafood are also staples in Morocco, with chicken and beef tagine (a slow-cooked, spicy dish) as favorites for visitors from around the world.”
California’s Napa Valley is one of the top foodie destinations in the U.S., known for its outstanding wineries and farm-fresh, organically grown produce.
But the state is better known for its philosophy about food than for any specific dish, says Executive Catering Chef Jeff Farlow of Wente Vineyards. “While California cuisine is an eclectic melting pot of many regions, it does not necessarily utilize a particular culture to influence its style.” Wente, located in Livermore, on the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area, creates its dishes to pair with the estate's wines.
Wente's menus feature regional American dishes with local, sustainable ingredients. The House Smoked Double Cut Pork Chop is a homestyle speciality often served with the vineyard’s Riva Ranch Pinot Noir.
“Customizing menus is a team effort between the guest and the chef," Farlow adds. “We want to make sure the guests' expectations and visions are met while also staying true to our philosophy of local and sustainable ingredients.”