By June Naylor
To guarantee that your wedding celebration is an event that lingers long in memory, every detail requires careful thought. While the flowers, your dress and music are key, stellar food makes a huge impact. Choosing just the right menu, and the perfect culinary team to create the cuisine, should be high on your list of musts. We asked three Tarrant County chefs about staging a fabulous rehearsal dinner or wedding reception feast; here, they dish on what takes a celebratory spread to the next level.
Executive chef at Café Modern, Denise Shavandy conjures dishes worthy of their surroundings at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, where sleek lines, glass and steel are integral to architect Tadao Ando’s landmark design. Her talent for beautiful presentations matches her accomplishment in varied cuisines, with influences coming from Asia, Latin America, India and the Middle East. The menu’s starting point is often found in existing sample menus Denise shares with clients, and tastings bring the promise that chef and client agree on everything, down to wine pairings or specialty cocktails. Her creations have included dinners for as few as 24 guests, with a menu of lobster, filet mignon, caviar and Dom Pérignon. “While some couples find what they are looking for there, others have special and specific requests,” Denise says, noting that budget often dictates decisions. “We often do three- or four-course plated dinners that begin with passed hors d’oeuvres, but that isn’t the least expensive option.” A large wedding reception accommodated 450 in both Café Modern and the museum’s magnificent lobby, with its soaring windows and ceiling. For the largest parties, tasting stations allow guests access to food more quickly, giving them choices like a mac ’n’ cheese bar, flatbreads with toppings, antipasto, salads and other customizable options. The museum spaces allow for dramatic decor options — the museum staff works with a wide number of vendors and suppliers for everything — as with a recent wedding at which enormous trees and greenery filled the lobby, making it feel like guests were in a forest. She notes, too, that sparer settings are often just as lovely. “One had simple table linens, candles and just greenery on the tables, and the minimalist look was beautiful in this building.” Call 817-840-2175 or visit themodern.org/cafe.
Chef Shavandy’s Serving Station Sampler
Beef tenderloin medallions with mushroom risotto cake, demi-glace and creamed spinach; pan-roasted chicken with mushroom Madeira cream and cheese tortellini; low-country shrimp and cheddar grits with applewood smoked bacon; mini sliders including Angus beef burgers with cheddar and jalapenos, Maytag blue cheese and bacon burger, and California chicken slider with pepper jack cheese and bacon; cocktail salads including the Bellini — with roasted peaches and almonds over arugula, with Gorgonzola and champagne vinaigrette — and the mojito, with cucumber-melon relish, mint and spiced rum vinaigrette; an avocado bar, available seasonally, which pairs perfectly ripe avocado halves with assorted salads like lemon dill seafood salad, roasted vegetable couscous salad, and roasted corn and black bean salad
Trio New American Cuisine
Exactly 10 years ago, chef Jason Harper was newly married to pastry chef Miriam Harper when the two took a struggling lunchtime spot and began transforming it into a destination for fine dining. Today, Trio New American Cuisine in Colleyville is the go-to for people with sophisticated palates who enjoy plates of deviled eggs with lobster tempura, bacon-wrapped Texas quail with spring onion risotto, and pecan-crusted rack of lamb to pair with wines from around the world. As the former sandwich cafe became a fine-dining destination, they also grew their catering business. While rehearsal dinners and weddings aren’t held on-site, the team works with a wide variety of locations, from such interesting spots as Four Corners Brewing Co. in Dallas to traditional venues like The Laurel in Grapevine and The Marq in Southlake. “A lot of the brides, grooms or their parents have been to Trio and have a baseline of expectations. Sometimes they want something really specific, or they trust us to come up with ideas,” says Jason. Tastings are imperative; when a client wanted a four-course vegan dinner, three tastings were required before the selections were finalized. “We put together a cool menu, inspired by things they’d enjoyed at a New York restaurant,” says Jason, who crafted tempura-fried trumpet mushrooms that resembled calamari. “This couple really wanted to educate family and friends that vegan food could be really good.” When clients just trust him to come up with something, he enjoys taking them on a gastronomic adventure. Such menus can include duck confit tacos, smoked and braised short ribs in adobo sauce, and Thai curry mac ’n’ cheese. They can handle any size celebration, from plated dinners for smaller events to a buffet or tasting station setup for larger crowds. Call 817-629-0879 or visit trionewamerican.com.
Chef Harper’s Sample Wedding Menu
COCKTAIL HOUR Bacon-cherry-Gorgonzola crostini; country ham with blackberry jam on duck-fat biscuits; grilled cheese and tomato bisque
DINNER Local honey with cheeses, spreads, savory jams and butter with assorted mini biscuits, lavosh and crostini, garnished with roasted grapes and fresh pear; salad with pomegranate, pear, spiced pepita brittle, goat cheese and honey; stuffed airline chicken breast with whole grain mustard and fresh herb jus; smoked fingerling potatoes, heirloom baby carrots and French green beans; artisan breads
DESSERT Fruited teas and gourmet coffees; wedding cake; make your own s’mores and Mexican hot chocolate
At Magdalena’s in Fort Worth, owner-chef Juan Rodriguez hosts popular pop-up Supper Club meals indoors and outside on the romantic, lighted patio. He and wife Paige Rodriguez, who handles his sizable catering business, also juggle a schedule of private events like weddings and rehearsal dinners. At Magdalena’s new event space Ivy Terrace, Paige and Juan offer another setting in which to translate Juan’s brand of elegant Mexican cooking. Adjacent to Magdalena’s garden patio, the two-story, contemporary building has brick walls and wood appointments; it seats parties of up to 50 guests — or as many as 80 when combined with the patio. Every course in Juan’s repertoire is a gift to the senses, whether it’s a pairing of fresh ceviche and sangria, a delicate short rib taco or a traditional paella. Juan offers tastings for couples deciding on their menu, whether that means plated courses, serving stations or family-style table service. Intimate weddings have been popular at Ivy Terrace, but Juan and Paige have staged much bigger celebrations at other venues. “We had a wedding at Firestone & Robertson Distilling, where we incorporated our clients’ love of whiskey with a TX Whiskey Coke Float with Mexican vanilla ice cream,” Juan recalls. “We had another bride and groom from Canada with a love for poutine, a traditional Canadian dish. We were able to put our spin on it and provide it for their late-night snack.” When the couple wants a signature cocktail, specialty mixology outfits such as HD Liquid Catering or Pop Up Bar are brought in to create drinks. The Magdalena’s team works with rental companies, along with the couple’s chosen florist and pastry chef, on all details. Call 817-740-8085 or visit magdalenastx.com.
Chef Rodriguez’s Sample Wedding Menu
COCKTAIL HOUR Mini butternut squash empanadas with Fresno peppers, Oaxaca cheese, edible marigolds and dill-avocado crema; fresh assorted artisan breads, local and domestic cheeses, pecans, assorted dried and fresh fruits
DINNER Shrimp escabeche salad with arugula, feta, English cucumbers, lima beans and Thai chilis; mini arrachera skirt steak tacos with house-made tortilla, ginger mojo de ajo, caramelized onions and celery root puree; seafood paella with shrimp, littleneck clams, mussels, chicken, sofrito oregano, Spanish chorizo, lemon aioli and bomba rice
DESSERT Rum cake