Utah Bride and Groom

Eat This: Family Style Reception Fare

Farm Fresh, family style meals for a party of six or 600. 

Homemade beef stew by Blended Table’s chef Alberto Aguilera.

Get moving! Family-style eating–be it from an action station or as a table centerpiece–lets guests choose their own culinary adventure. Flaming skewers? Oh boy. Local ingredients? Delightful. A passed-down family recipe? Heartwarming.

Food trends come and go, but certainly some favorites stand the test of time. On the other hand, some crazes are too piping hot to pass up Whether you choose a tried-and-true dish or one that’s all the rage, the gang from Blended Table teaches us that all parties must offer one thing for certain: the freshest ingredients from multiple local farms passed around the table with familial love.

Tried and True: Serve up a Family Recipe 

“Growing up in Mexico, it’s all about cooking and culture,” says Blended Table chef Alberto Aguilera. He grew up in Alesso, Guadalajara where his family served up savory stews for most celebrations. “I learned how to make this dish as a child,” he explains. “I use ancho chiles, guajillo chiles, garlic, roasted tomatoes, onions and seasoning. Then, I put a paste on the meat, sear it, then slow cook for four to five hours.”

Chorizos and beans round out the traditional stew. “I like refried beans, but you can do whatever you like,” he says. Aguilera sprinkles Queso fresco and cilantro on top, then serves Mexican rice and corn tortillas on the side. “Toppings can be pickled red onions, cabbage, radish, cilantro and avocado. Whatever you want, really.”

Beef stew can be served all year round! 

Tried and True: Bring a Basic Back to Life

“Nicoise salad ingredients have changed dramatically since the 1950s,” explains Blended Table co-owner Emery Lortsher, referencing her well-used edition of the Joy of Cooking cookbook. “It used to be only four or five ingredients, but today, there arriver 15 ingredients. The salad has actually been around since the early 1900s. You don’t see it a ton, but we’re getting more and more requests for it because it’s so pretty.” 

“Today, we added salmon instead of tuna. We didn’t do egg or creamy dressing here, but you can do whatever you like. It can be any flavor for anybody. You can even go vegetarian with just the potatoes and the egg,” she says. Here, the salmon is poached, so it can be easily served at room temperature for picnics or outdoor parties on a hot day.

When should I serve a Nicoise Salad? The spring and summer seasons are best. For a fall version, incorporate hearty root veggies. 

Tried and True: Modernize A Traditional Salad

Reinvent the cheese wheel. “A few years ago, Caputo’s started making burrata in-house, and we all fell in love with it. We started making a tomato and burrata salad, then later, we added grilled peaches,” Lortsher says. 

How does Caprese differ from a burrata cheese? “Burrata has a milder flavor and a softer texture. The flavor profile is a little bit sweeter. Caprese’s mozzarella is almost a flavorless cheese, whereas burrata has its own little sweetness,” she explains.

Lortsher favors a traditional dressing. “We change it up, but a classic balsamic is ideal. A lemon vinaigrette or a lemon shallot is good too, but I lean toward the classic balsamic.” Toss right before serving, Lortsher recommends. “Often we’ll toss the greens first, then lay the components on top. Sometimes hosts like the dressing and toppings served on the side.”

What about a cold-weather option? Add stone fruit–like apricots, nectarines and peaches– in the fall. For winter, a Caesar salad, with grilled potatoes and polenta, makes a great alternative to the fresh, seasonal salad. 

Unique and New: Super-Sized Charcuterie Board

Served as an appetizer or as a finale like the Europeans do, charcuterie offers an entertaining dish. The platter conveniently works as a table centerpiece, too. “It’s all very interactive. Guests like something to do and talk about while they’re sitting. It’s fun for everyone to play around and mix and match. I like this and this, but I don’t like that and that,” says Blended Table’s Rachel Astin, who likes to add local goodies including Creminelli meats, Beehive cheeses, dried fruits, figs and nuts.

Unique and New: Greek Platter

Go Greek and gather ’round the finest feta you can find. Lemon, rosemary and parsley flavor dolmades, hummus, roasted red peppers, artichokes, mini cucumbers and white beans. “For formal events plated service is great, but I think it’s on its way out. People love the more casual communal feel of a grazing board,” Astin says. Lortsher agrees. “It also gives guests an opportunity to try things that you might not try on a big plate.”

Unique and New: Grazing Asian-Style

Fire up the tabletop and turn takeout into a culinary treat. “These yakitori skewers are meant for four to six people to share and grill together. You can incorporate shrimp, chicken, or beef with different sauces,” Lortsher explains. Grilled shishito peppers, seaweed salad, black sesame mocha, pork dumplings, grilled baby boy chow, black radish, enoki mushrooms, pickled plums, chicken yakitori skewers, veggie spring rolls and peanut sauce offer assorted options for all taste buds.

Can Utah’s most rustic venues handle an Asian style? “Absolutely,” Lortsher says. “We’d alter a few items and the way they’re presented, but it definitely works.” 

Want more food inspiration? Check our archives here! 

Val Rasmussen on Instagram
Val Rasmussen
Val Rasmussen reports on local trailblazers in design and fashion for Utah Bride & Groom, Utah Style & Design and Salt Lake magazines. Additionally, she works with marketing teams to create content about leaders impacting business, construction, technology and healthcare.

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