This Summer, It’s Comfort Food And Mason Jars
Thu, 06/13/2013
Special To The Jewish Week
A mojito from Prime Catering.
A mojito from Prime Catering.

When I mentioned to someone recently that I was writing about “Jewish wedding food trends” they asked me — “what are Jewish wedding food trends? The dessert stinks and the caterer charges double?” Not so far from the truth.

But Jewish weddings seem to live up to the old adage about the tribe: Jews are like everyone else, just a little more so. And Jewish weddings are like everyone else’s, just a little bit more, right? More flowers. More family disagreements and drama. And definitely more food. After all, how could any Jewish life-cycle event be complete without more to eat?

The truth is that Jewish wedding food trends this summer are not so different from the non-Jewish counterparts, with some necessary adjustments for those having a kosher catered wedding.

So what is in store for your summer wedding season 2013? Marissa Rosenberg from the Manhattan-based high-end kosher restaurant group Prime Hospitality Group, says that “upscale BBQ” is in demand. “People are always wanting something different but with familiar flavors,” and an upscale BBQ certainly fits that description.

Another running theme from the caterers I spoke with is the desire for upscale comfort food, including hot dogs, sliders, lamb chops, mashed potatoes, and, for the dairy or non-kosher style weddings, macaroni and cheese. Billy Zolna of the Verona, N.J.-based Richfield Regency Caterers, which caters to a North Jersey clientele, says that two of the most requested items for cocktail hours are the sliders station and the French fries station.

Expect to see Mason jars, of all things, everywhere! Your flowers will be placed carefully in them, as will your drinks and your dessert. And the jar itself will even come home with you as the wedding favor. A quick search on Pinterest shows hundreds of ways Mason jars are being used in weddings this summer, so save those jam jars — you are now part of a trend.

Get ready for some signature cocktails this summer, too. At a wedding I attended a few weekends ago in Washington, D.C., we were each greeted with glasses of water, white wine and the couples’ signature cocktails: peach cosmopolitans. A peach cosmo isn’t exactly my cup of tea — a bit too sweet — but I will give 10 points for originality. Stephanie Gantman will be serving a white sangria out of Mason jars at her upcoming Philadelphia wedding, catered by Betty the Caterer, covering two wedding trends at once. Unique mixed drinks of mint, cucumber and jalapeno flavors are also likely to make it onto summer wedding menus, according to Marissa Rosenberg.

Everyone knows that the schmorg is the best part of a Jewish wedding, and this is the place couples are most likely to branch out. One couple I spoke with will be featuring a guacamole station and a taco station at its late-summer wedding, and Prime Hospitality has been featuring gazpacho shooters and tuna tataki as part of its cocktail hour offerings. 

One wedding tradition that hasn’t generated a lot of buzz? The sit-down dinner. Personally, I have never been a fan of the mediocre chicken and slab of meat duo served with tasteless veggies, and so I wish I could report that more couples are doing away with the sit-down portion of the evening all-together. The meat-centric sit-down dinner prevails (I didn’t encounter any couples requesting dairy or vegetarian menus.).

The one caterer I found trying something different with dinner is Foremost Ram Caterers in Moonachie, N.J. The company’s CEO, Randy Zablo, shared that couples are starting to try things that are a bit out of the box, for example, like keeping the traditional full cocktail hour, but then combining the first two courses of the sit-down meal, and then following that a family-style entrée. They’re hoping to create more social interaction among the guests, and allow for “more partying.” They’re also opting to serve dessert a bit later so that the dancing can continue without interruption.

Speaking of dessert, this is perhaps the trickiest piece of a Jewish wedding to execute well, since everyone knows that pareve desserts have the potential to greatly disappoint. Hoping to get out of the dull dessert rut, Stephanie Gantman will be having sorbet pops, a pareve alternative to cake pops.

All the caterers and vendors I spoke with agreed: the moment of the wedding cake has passed. Brides like Stephanie and many others are more interested in featuring cake pops, gourmet ice pops, s’mores and macarons for dessert. And while many couples are still opting to have a cake for the photo op, what couples really want to serve are bite-sized passed desserts and decadent dessert spreads.

Another popular dessert option? Upscale candy bars. Becca Goldberg of Manhattan’s Suite Paperie shared that brides are taking the classic candy bar of bar mitzvahs and making it wedding-appropriate by providing a more sophisticated selection of candy, including liquor-filled cordials and artisanal chocolate.

If the schmorg, signature cocktails, sit-down dinner and dessert weren’t enough, lots of couples are sending their guests home with wedding favors of food and drink. Becca Goldberg says that most of the brides she works with are including items like ice cream sandwiches packaged in custom-printed edible wax paper; home-made jam and beer; and other edible items that are personal to the bride and groom. “It’s a more affordable and more enjoyable wedding favor,” she says. Well, I won’t argue with that.

A guest appearance from a food truck is a huge hit at non-Jewish weddings currently, but the trend has not yet crossed over widely in Jewish circles because there aren’t many kosher food trucks. One couple I spoke with, Jamie Silverstein and Jonah Zinn, who are getting married this fall in Massachusetts, will be having a food truck cater their rehearsal dinner, but will still be going for a traditional kosher-style wedding.

As the foodie culture of North America endures, we will continue to see the food at Jewish weddings take center stage. And sometimes more isn’t more, even at a Jewish wedding. So I hope I can report next summer that the newest trend is a quality over quantity approach to the food.

But I’m not holding my breath. Someone get me a Mason jar full of sorbet pops. ✦

Shannon Sarna is a food writer, blogger and avid baker, blogging regularly as The Nosher (myjewishlearning.com/blog/food/). When she isn’t tweeting, eating, or tweeting what she’s eating, Shannon spends her time in Jersey City, N.J., with her daughter, adopted dog, Otis, and husband.