From barbecue to Gulf-caught seafood, caterers meet demand for Texas-style receptions
In Texas, barbecue pairs well with just about any happy occasion, so it’s little wonder more couples are choosing grilled and smoked meats for their wedding reception dinners.
Barbecue is a hit because it’s a high-quality product made with time and love and stands out from standard banquet food, said Mary Bass, who caters about 50 weddings a year with her companies Chef Mary Bass and La Cocina.
Bass’ companies cater for a lot of couples who live in Galveston, but aren’t originally from here. Some might be studying at the University of Texas Medical Branch, or they’ve moved to the island for work.
“They love to choose barbecue because it’s a celebration of Galveston and Texas,” Bass said. “When their friends and family come from all over the U.S. and the world to attend the wedding, the couple can show off the local food and say ‘hey, we get to eat this delicious barbecue all the time.’”
For one recent wedding, Bass cooked Texas brisket, Kansas City burnt ends and Carolina pulled pork with traditional sides such as mac and cheese, green beans with bacon and slaw.
“The three different styles were important to the couple as they ate these styles at different milestones in their relationship, so the food told their story,” she said. “We also had a condiment bar with all these cool pickles and sauces from local places so the guests could dress their plates with all this cool and funky stuff.”
Barbecue weddings are part of a wider trend to make the reception dinners more fun and less formal, she said. Think food stations and elaborate small bites, rather than a sit-down dinner.
“Another trend we are seeing a lot is Mexican street food and tacos with bright flavors and fresh salsas,” Bass said. “It’s a good way to include vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options without making separate menus. Couples want their weddings to be more elaborate productions than in the past and food is an important part of making it a fun experience for every guest.”
Don McClaugherty, owner of Riondo’s Ristorante in Galveston, said the private events his team caters are known for fresh, Gulf Coast Italian cuisine. But Riondo’s also has catered barbecue for both rehearsal and reception dinners.
“My business partner and chef Rico is of Argentinian, Spanish and Italian heritage so he knows every trick in the book to making meat delicious,” McClaugherty said.
Riondo’s has private venues popular for both receptions and weddings and McClaugherty’s team likes to work with couples to make sure whatever the event, the food will be personal and memorable, he said.
“We are farm to fork and sea to table, so people come to us because they know it will be high-quality, local, tasty food,” he said. “We make all our own bread and 90 percent of the pasta, too.”
Mother-and-son team Judy Elmendorf and Todd Schott of Chopin Mon Ami in Galveston have catered more than 1,500 weddings and won many industry awards. Although Chopin Mon Ami has cooked barbecue for reception dinners, it’s more popular for rehearsal dinners because brides don’t want to take any chances with dropping sauce on their dresses, Elmendorf said.
“If you have a family barbecue recipe that you want for your reception dinner, we can cook it for you,” Elmendorf said. “Converting family recipes for large weddings is something we are known for.”
Chopin Mon Ami has catered everything from Thai to Russian cuisine for weddings and even traditional Indian from family recipes.
“At the Indian wedding, one of the aunties was very unimpressed that white caterers had cooked the curries,” Schott said. “When she tasted our food and especially the chicken curry, she was very impressed and complimentary.”
Many trends come and go, but carving stations remain a favorite because guests can choose what they eat and there’s an element of showmanship, Schott said. Increasingly, couples want more local Galveston sourced food, from local meats and seafood, to beer from Galveston Island Brewing. Small bites and cute, mini hors d’oeuvres also are popular.
For a different spin on barbecue, Katie’s Seafood House in Galveston offers barbecue-smoked oysters and “All Mighty Sauce,” a dipping sauce made from chargrilled, pureed vegetables.
Katie’s Seafood House, with views of the harbor, is very popular for rehearsal dinners and also has hosted weddings in its private patio that has room for a DJ, said Brett Otteman, general manager. Couples also are attracted by the fresh local shrimp, fish and other seafood, Otteman said.
“We celebrate Gulf Coast cuisine, and with our unique recipes, I’m always trying to elevate the Guindon family’s commitment to fresh seafood,” Otteman said. “Everything we serve is fresh caught and from our boats, nothing is imported, it is all local.”