Eat, Drink and Be Married: 15 Reception Dishes We Love

There are a variety of factors that make a wedding memorable and one of the most key is the quality and uniqueness of the reception food. The range of possibilities is vast.

At hotels and banquet rooms you are usually given a spectrum of à la carte items to personalize your menu.

At some reception facilities you hire your own caterer, giving you, generally, more latitude in food types. And often the personnel at the facility have experience with local caterers and will help you find the best fit.

If the wedding is small and low budget you can bring your own food sourced from local gourmet-to-go providers.

Prices for the above can range from $5 to $100 a plate.

Once you have established a budget, it is time to work within the financial constraints to provide food with the same level of sophistication as your ceremony.

One prime concern is making everybody happy. Often invitations are sent with choice of entrées: “Check here for chicken or beef.” But recently, more common is the “station” concept of food service. Here, guests serve themselves from manned or static stations, choosing the foods they prefer. This also gives people a chance to mingle before returning to traditional tables for eight or high tables perfect for sipping a drink and grazing through a variety of appetizers.

Once your service level and method is decided it is time to push the limits. Go ahead and ask for special menu items. You may even get the chef to use Grandma’s recipe for a pasta dish. Often you can ask for substitutions or exchanges on a prix-fixed type menu. Even working within a given list of items you can create a unique menu by choosing a few more creative or unique options as appetizers. Don’t let the timid tastes of a few guests “dumb down” your entire menu. Make sure the menu reflects your tastes and preferences, too.

We have perused the menus of a variety of facilities for unique, highly praised or popular items. They may influence your choice of venue or just give you ideas to further customize an existing banquet menu. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Martini Whipped Potato Station

Who doesn’t like potatoes? Here guests build their own “martini” in a glass starting with either a garlic and chive-laced whipped potato or Maple-laced sweet potato, then top it off with a variety of toppings ranging from sautéed mushrooms, roasted asparagus tips, cheeses, sour cream, warm bacon, chili and much more.
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Nashua

Seafood Martini Bar

Please your adventurous guests with garlicky mussels, seared sea scallops in tarragon cream, mahi mahi in a lemon caper sauce and grill brasserie shrimp served in an over-sized martini glass.
Hampshires Events, Northfield

Afternoon Delights

One way to cut down on food cost is to have an afternoon wedding. Here an elegant sandwich, and a great view, goes a long way toward memorability. Sunset Hill House’s chicken and boursin sandwich may be served warm or cool and served with a fire-roasted red potato salad and asparagus with a balsamic reduction.
Sunset Hill House, Sugar Hill

Colby Chicken

Sure to make everybody happy, this oft-requested dish is a boneless breast of chicken stuffed with lobster, leeks and Boursin cheese married with a Chardonnay cream. Enough said.
Colby Hill Inn, Henniker
(603) 428-3281

Localvore Dinner
Love the concept of local foods? The Flag Hill Winery is really zeroing in on “localvore” dining with the addition of Chef Ted McCormack.
Everything on the menu, from soup to spirits, will have a regional source. Of course you know where the wine will come from. To complete the touch, the chef will pair wines for each course, too.
Flaghill Winery, Lee
(603) 659-2949,


Delicate lobster swans floating on a mirror in a sea of greens will give your guests a touch of the sea when served as an appetizer. A bit of art and elegant food combined.
Castle Catering, Manchester

Have it both ways

Chef David Smith at the new Brookstone Grill and event center will serve up a shrimp and steak duet that will be a crowd pleaser. Why have guests make a decision when they can have both?
Brookstone Grille, Derry
(603) 328-9255

Big flavors on a Budget

For a backyard wedding you can save a lot of cash by having friends and family transport food from a caterer. You save by providing the manpower in this catering-to-go concept. The Gourmet Grille in Windham will prepare as many dishes as you choose, all with à l a carte pricing. Prices can be as low as $5 per serving for roast tenderloin of beef with a Port wine demi-glaze or chicken piccata. Their grilled vegetables and pastas make good sides, too. They can also provide the chafing dishes if necessary. Guests then serve themselves. This concept can also work well for an informal rehearsal dinner.
Gourmet Grille, Windham

Classics with a little twist

The Balsams Grand Hotel has been offering top-notch classics in an elegant setting for more than 100 years. The venerable hotel strives to offer the taste of the latest nouvelle cuisine in their classic preparations. Succulent pork raised for its full fat flavor is a crowd pleaser along with any of their beef preparations, including the classic prime rib.
The Balsams Grand Hotel
and Resort, Dixville Notch

Yes, Chicken

If there is a perfect median choice for an entrée it is chicken. Just make sure it is the best available. The Statler Chicken at the Bedford Village Inn was a standout.
Bedford Village Inn, Bedford

Yes, chicken again (above)

This decadent entrée features chicken breast stuffed with chunks of tender lobster and fontina cheese, smothered in rich Newburg sauce and a special crumb topping. “Legacy Chicken” is fast becoming Atkinson Resort’s signature dish.
Atkinson Resort & Country Club, Atkinson 603-362-8700, Apple of Your Eye At reception facilities without their own kitchen you can ask about recommended caterers.They have seen it all. At Alyson’s Orchard, depending on the season, you will be surrounded with a bounty of blossoms, fragrant apples or the aroma of apple cider. Susan Jasse, co-owner recommends Harvest Moon and Elizabethan Fare just over the border in Vermont, and Luca’s in Keene, and Kristen’s Bakery in Keene for cakes. A great harvest theme in the fall is roast pork with apples and apple pies stacked in a tier instead of wedding cake.
Alyson’s Orchard, Walpole

Upscale Clam Bake

Keep it native with a petite clam bake from the Mountain View Grand.
Lobsters are a classic dish, but this “clam bake” takes the concept up a notch. An elegant looking, butter-poached lobster is served with grilled corn in a custard-style pudding, emulsified butter, littleneck clams in the shell, and green and white asparagus.
The Mountain View, A Grand Hotel and Spa, Whitefield 800-438-3017, Chicken, It’s what everbody loves New London has many beautiful sites for a reception, including the local historic society’s barns. Jack’s has a great, long list of options on the catering menu, but chicken is one of the most popular items. Their “Mustard and Herb Rubbed Chicken Roulade with Local Goat Cheese and Fresh Vegetables” is thinly pounded chicken around a mélange of tangy goat cheese, summer squash, roasted peppers, sautéed garlic, baby spinach and ripe tomato. The roulade is rubbed with a whole-grain mustard and topped with freshly chopped herbs.
Jack’s of New London, New London

Peachy Keen

Sweet Comfort Farm suggests serving their peach cookies piled high on platters. They use an old Sicilian recipe with a light sponge cookie, add a cream filling and finally dust with a peach sugar. Two cookies together resemble a peach. Available by mail order.
Sweet Comfort Farm, New Boston
603-325-5860, www.