Good Things to Eat
To get your meal off to a great start, perk up pats of butter with zesty herbs and spices. These four delicious combinations, include (clockwise from top left) turmeric and mustard seed; Asian nori and sesame; smoked chipotle and lime; and lemon basil. At your reception, set each table with assorted compounds in passable dishes; between bites, total strangers can become friends while trading their tasting notes on each variety.
Like the carnival apples you'd drool over as a tyke, these fruits, which include pears, cherries, and apricots, were popped on sticks and dunked in various glazes. Contributing editor Peter Callahan, of Peter Callahan Catering in New York City, who made all the desserts on this page, suggests setting out a selection after dinner. Or, have servers pass them to revelers later in the night.
Packing some major flavor ammo, these "spoons"— each dipped in different delectable chocolate combos—are meant to be swirled in coffee or warm milk served in petite demitasse cups. And, with a sugar-cookie base, the mouthwatering delights can withstand repeat dippings.
One-bite treats with seasonal ingredients have all the appeal of their Thanksgiving-size counterparts, minus the food coma. Set out an assortment buffet-style, or serve a trio to each guest in lieu of a slice of cake.
Here, we plated a Heart-Shaped Apple-and-Raspberry Hand Pie, Chocolate-Ginger Ganache Phyllo Cup, and Red-Wine Poached Plum Tartlet. You could also ask your caterer to make a mini-me version of your favorite.
These bite-size treats may be breakfast foods, but they make equally delicious late-night snacks for your wedding guests.
Mini Mac and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese becomes an elegant passed appetizer when served in dainty ramekins. Our version features sharp white cheddar and Gruyere.
Ice Cream Cups
These tiny ice cream cups are ideal for a no-mess refreshing dessert -- or a snack during cocktails. The cups are made on a pizzelle iron, which is available at cookware stores and looks like a flat, decorative waffle iron.
Elegant Eggs with Caviar Butter
Combine the luxury of caviar with the simplicity of a soft-boiled egg in a delightful dish for a wedding brunch or shower. We used salmon caviar and orange roe, which are pretty, flavorful, and relatively inexpensive. Acknowledge Cupid with toast cut into hearts and arrows.
Red Potatoes with Sour Cream and Caviar
Choose the smallest, most blemish-free red-skinned potatoes, allowing two to three per person. You can either boil or bake the potatoes -- either will work for this dish.
A wedding is such a sweet occasion, it wouldn't seem right if the coffee were bitter. You can sweeten your guests' after-dinner cappuccinos by having a flower drizzle-drawn atop the steamed milk of each cup using warm chocolate syrup. Serve crisp ginger biscuits alongside.
Spring Vegetable Potpies
With a puff-pastry blossom resting atop a flaky crust, a miniature pot pie makes a delightful and delicious first course at a wedding. This favorite home-style dish is filled with a medley of vegetables, including asparagus, carrots, and pearl onions, and baked in a ramekin. Wonderful for a country-themed reception, it would be appropriate to serve at a shower, too.
Thin breadsticks are enriched with a lively flavor and hue when they're infused with extracts of beet, carrot, parsley, or tomato.
Cinnamon-Orange Molasses Cookies
The dough for these cookies is firm, making it ideal to cut out in shapes.
At the cocktail hour, serve crunchy vegetables complete with their own dip: buttermilk-peppercorn, roasted pepper and eggplant, or toasted curry. Their bowls -- hollowed-out slices of baguettes in pumpernickel, plain, or everything -- are meant to be eaten, too.
Sweet Marzipan Acorns
Sweet marzipan acorns capture the beauty of fall. The marzipan is tinted pale green with food coloring to mimic the appearance of nuts just picked from the tree; a thin coating of bittersweet chocolate, decorated with sprinkles, crowns each one and balances the marzipan's concentrated sweetness. Place the acorns on pressed leaves for a lovely autumn display, and serve them on a dessert buffet or on platters at guests' tables.
End your celebration by passing out these traditional breakfast treats as a dessert with coffee service, either skewered on coffee spoons or set in dainty piles. Any way you serve them, guests are sure to circle back for more.
Roasted Mushrooms with Robiola and Truffle Oil
Roasted wild mushrooms lie on a bed of Robiola, a mild and soft Italian cheese. Ribbons of flat-leaf parsley and a drop of white truffle oil perfume the whole.
Let guests cleanse their palates with a miniature "cake" molded from sorbet. For a sweet decoration, the bride's and groom's initials are piped in chocolate along the edge of each plate, and the sorbet cake is garnished with raspberries.
Warm up an autumn cocktail hour with a comforting, colorful shot of savory vegetable soup in eye-catching colors. Guests can sip the harvest flavors of beet, butternut squash, and spinach-pea puree served in diminutive, finger-friendly sake or espresso cups -- no spoon required. With their free hand, they can either raise a glass of Champagne or reach for seconds.
Basic sugar cookies become elegant favors when stacked to resemble miniature wedding cakes and topped with sugar flowers. Each sugar-cookie cake was spread with royal icing, then assembled once the frosting was set. Small dabs of icing also secure each layer, holding the tower intact while still allowing the cookies to be pulled apart easily.
Take a cue from the Milanese, who serve panettone, a sweet bread made with dried fruit and citrus zest, on special occasions. The loaf is traditionally made in a large panettone mold, but we baked ours in attractive mini paper ones. Each treat is then wrapped in a cellophane bag tied with a letterpress tag by Austin Press. Bellissimo!
Ham and Egg Hors d'Oeuvres
For a chic twist on bacon and eggs, serve crispy prosciutto cups filled with baked quail eggs, plus toasted rye cocktail bread, cut in half, on the side. These stylish appetizers work well at a post-wedding brunch or bridal luncheon.
Beet Chip Hors d'Oeuvres
For a finger-friendly take on classic beet-and-goat-cheese salad, serve fried beet chips topped with a dollop of the tangy cheese and vinaigrette-laced microgreens. They make perfect hors d'oeuvres -- crispy instead of juicy beets means no one will be caught red-handed.
Eggs in Nests
These egg desserts, made with delicious white chocolate, will remind you of the snowstorm outside as they warm up your taste buds.
Spicy Asian Brittle
For a milder version, eliminate the wasabi peas and red pepper.
Nuts in a Single Serving
At a cocktail hour, pass candy cups of sweet and savory roasted nuts for a delicious, no-fuss treat. Each paper bowl holds just the right snack-size amount. Our homemade mix is served with store-bought Marcona almonds.
For these savory napoleons, wonton wrappers are sprinkled with coarse salt, baked, then layered with herbed ricotta cheese. A basil sprig, black-olive slice, and wedge of shiny roasted red pepper form a topknot.
Make an impression on guests by adding eye-catching detail to basic cookies with ordinary rubber stamps, which come in a wide range of designs, or ceramic cookie stamps. Since rubber stamps can be custom ordered, create your own, like our monogram. To yield the best results, use the stamps on cookie dough containing no leaveners, such as shortbread.
These marshmallows are imported from Paris and, as you might suspect, they're not your typical campfire fare. They are long (about 14 inches), pastel-hued, and quite pretty, especially when fashioned into love knots, time-honored symbols of commitment. Tie marshmallows into basic knots (to keep them from getting stale, don't leave them exposed to the air for too long), and place in cellophane bags.
Savory madeleines can be flavored with many varieties of herbs, seasonings, and cheeses. Some options are Gruyere cheese, fresh rosemary, and cayenne pepper.
In this version of pan tomate, Serrano ham and sun-dried tomato butter create a Spanish-inspired union of savory flavors.
Frozen phyllo dough is available in most supermarkets. To keep it from drying out while you work, cover the dough you're not using with a damp kitchen towel.
These containers were made to look like humble brown-paper bags, but that's where the resemblance ends. Sweet and crunchy, they can hold fruit or candy and can be served as an individual dessert as part of a buffet, or offered as a take-home favor.
Deviled Quail Eggs with Caviar
A deviled quail egg dressed with caviar and dill sits atop a piece of pumpernickel bread.
White Chocolate-Covered Cherries
As the reception dinner winds down with coffee, give your guests one last delicious treat -- fresh cherries dipped in melted white chocolate. This fruit is at its best during the summertime, making it a perfect choice for a warm-weather wedding. A pair of cherries with the stems attached will perch daintily on a saucer.
Caramel Coffee Warmers
Just as the coffee is being served, the dancing always seems to begin in earnest, leaving guests with cold coffee when they return to the table. At your reception, offer caramel wafers to rest across the top of the cup -- the coffee will stay warm and the caramel will soften, turning the wafer into a sweet, gooey treat.
Citrus Wine Gelees
Just don't call them Jell-O shots. These sangria-inspired gelees, infused with sweet wines and subtly undercut with citrus flavors, are for sophisticated palates. The glistening, gemlike squares make a refreshing dessert and add fetching sunset hues to a reception table.
White treats are just right for a winter wedding, while the coconut flavor gives just enough sweet nostalgia for the summer months.
Customized Letter Cookies
Everyone knows you and your groom are cut out for each other; these monogrammed shortbread sandwich cookies just drive home the point. Let store-bought cookie cutters do the heavy lifting; we used a round ruffly one to get the shape and mini alphabet cutters for the monogram. Between the layers: sweet-tart rhubarb jam -- another perfect match.
Custom Colored Candies
Specialty vendors such as Translucent Chocolates make it easy to match your wedding favors with your decor. Just send them a fabric swatch, color chip, or other sample of your wedding colors, and they'll custom-mix candies in the same hues. Vendors generally offer a large assortment -- we chose candy-covered sunflower seeds, dried apricots, and mini chocolates.
Creative Food Containers
It's what's inside that counts, but sometimes the outside is just as important. Two cases in point: Fresh salads can be easily reinvented as hors d'oeuvres when nestled in paper nut cups. And gooey-good desserts can be sent home with guests when cradled in old-fashioned jars.
Edible Plant Desserts
This delectable display starts with votive candleholders filled with chocolate pudding and topped with crushed-cookie "dirt." Lemon verbena, lavender, and basil flowers sprout from each pot. Serve your treats with wooden ice cream spoons stamped with your and his initials to resemble plant tags.
Fall Foliage Lasagna
Shake things up with a dish that's distinctive but doesn't abandon traditional flavors: fall-foliage lasagna. The secret? Pasta colored with beet and carrot puree, and shaped with cookie cutters. Your caterer can incorporate these tricks into her recipe; we layered fresh ricotta cheese between beet and carrot pastas, which were cooked, then sauteed in -- and drizzled with -- a brown-butter and sage sauce. The combination is hard to, ahem, beet.
Mini Candied Apples
The diminutive scale of lady apples transforms a fall favorite into a dainty nibble; offer to guests on passed trays as a sweet-tart surprise at the cocktail hour. A paper leaf is an elegant touch: Use a computer to design and print "Enjoy!" on card stock, then cut out with a leaf-shape craft punch; affix to short skewers with adhesive dots.
Melted chocolate is nearly synonymous with indulgence. Serve it alongside yummy delectables to dip, such as dried apricots, pretzel sticks, and cubes of pound cake. Or consider cookies, caramels, fresh fruit, and chunks of coconut. Use Japanese porcelain teacups and sushi trays to yield single-size portions for guilt-free double-dipping.
Precious Pansy Cookies
Edible pansies give shortbread cookies texture and color as only nature can. They look catered, but these sweet treats can be turned out by anyone capable of turning on an oven: Bake sugar cookies, decorate with royal icing, and top each with a fresh pansy (or two).
Mixed pansies, Jansal Valley.
Cherry Blossom Tuiles
A few handfuls of our fluttery tuiles, made with floral cookie cutters and dipped in pink chocolate, make for a delightful (and delicious) favor or reception snack.
Potatoes with Creme Fraiche and Bacon
This upscale version of potato skins features Red Bliss potatoes with creme fraiche, bacon, and leeks.
This trio of shortbread cookies, meringue kisses, and lemon marshmallows is a riff on the tangy pie that's meant to be eaten in one tasty bite. To make them, bake shortbread onto sticks, and add the meringue and marshmallows once they've cooled.
For a heavenly presentation, line a serving tray with a sheet of Styrofoam, poke the finished skewers through so they stand upright, and cover with a layer of candy. (Try Economy Candy's white stars.)
Salted Caramel Apples
This clever update to the classic fall treat is the brainchild of New York City caterer Peter Callahan, author of the cookbook "Bite by Bite." He added wood twigs to tiny apples, dipped the fruits in caramel, and rolled them in sea salt. Offer these at dessert, or give them out as favors. Whatever you decide, have your caterer make extras -- guests won't be able to eat just one.
These charming spring sweeteners from Gourmet Sugar Company are a fresh alternative to plain old coffeehouse cubes. They're available in more than 50 styles, including leaves, shells, and hearts, as well as custom shapes, and can be served on individual saucer rims or arranged on a platter with dessert tongs.
Bird's Nest Cookies
These thin chocolate cookies with ganache icing dipped into grated coconut make the perfect nests for two or three miniature chocolate eggs.
Consider this small but sassy dessert the love child of two classic sweets: cupcakes and ice cream cones. Bake cupcake batter in store-bought cones, pipe on buttercream, and add edible glitter; they're kid tested and adult approved.
Mini cones, Home Chef Marketplace
You've heard of macarons for dessert, but as an appetizer? Your friends will be every bit as intrigued. This savory take on the traditionally sugary recipe combines sesame seed-spiked batter with a center of smoked salmon, shallots, and creme fraiche.
Grown-Up Ice Cream Floats
Give the childhood treat a grown-up twist by pairing raspberry sorbet with lemon soda, and lemon sorbet with orange soda. To deck out a standard cart for your reception, tape colorful scalloped paper to the front.
Ceviche in a Seashell
Your appetizer will feel right at home served in a seashell, at least if you're serving ceviche -- a dish made with marinated raw fish (we added pink grapefruit in this version). You'll feel secure knowing that these particular shells are oven -- and food -- safe.
White Irish scallop shells, Conch King.
Easy Layered Ice-Cream Treat
Refresh your guests with layer after colorful layer of icy treats. Creating this stacked confection is simpler than making a sundae -- just spoon the slightly softened ice cream into a loaf pan (line the pan with plastic wrap first, and freeze one layer before adding the next).
Our stripes, from top, are cantaloupe sorbet, peach frozen yogurt, strawberry ice cream, and raspberry sorbet.
Madeleine Sandwich Cookies
Proust waxed poetic about madeleines for a reason: They're buttery and delicious! To make the shell-shaped cookies even more mouthwatering, spread a layer of fruity frozen yogurt or lemon curd between two store-bought madeleines, and serve.
You've heard of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but here's something even more delicious (and just as seasonally appropriate): chestnuts dipped in white or semisweet chocolate. To make them, coat chestnuts in melted chocolate, let cool, and garnish with a bit of edible gold leaf.
Think of it as a gift that doesn't need to be unwrapped: small slivers of vegetables usually found on a crudite platter, tied with an edible ribbon. To make each mini bunch, group thin slices of carrot, cucumber, red cabbage, pea sprouts, blanched haricots verts, and red, yellow, and orange pepper. Tie each cluster with a chive and serve alongside a tangy carrot-ginger dipping sauce.
Seaweed salad atop a crispy bread slice is paired with spicy wasabi powder for a refreshing appetizer that packs a flavorful punch.
Gorgonzola Dolce with Figs and Port
For sophisticated hors d'oeuvres in season for summer, pair ripe figs with gorgonzola dolce and sweet port sauce.
Spicy Shrimp and Avocado
Spicy shrimp and avocado aren't just meant for sushi rolls -- they also taste delicious when placed atop white bread and topped with a dollop of sour cream.
Cucumber with Roe and Chives
This light and refreshing treat will leave guests feeling cool as a cucumber.