Choosing wedding food: our top tips

0706For most couples, their wedding day is the biggest and best day of their lives. Surrounded by loved ones, great friends, it’s a celebration of two households uniting and carving a piece of family history forever. Such an important day requires careful planning – from the bridal gown to the cake stand, every detail is significant.

A vital part of any wedding is the food. For many, paying for it can absorb up to 50% of their overall budget. It is therefore a critical part of the planning to get right. Ensuring guests are given high quality, meticulously prepared, accurately cooked food and drink creates a fantastic atmosphere and controls the rhythm of the day. At Llansantffraed Court, we know picking the right dish is important to you, so here are our tips on how to choose perfect wedding cuisine:

Taste is everything

As catering performs such an important role on your wedding day, it is helpful to ensure that you are familiar with the style and provenance of the ingredients and finished dishes available at your chosen venue. Any good quality caterer or venue will be pleased to arrange for you to try samples of dishes and preview the presentation, for instance, here at Llansantffraed Court we offer a tasting to the couple and parents a few months before their big day. Another useful tip is to get references from previous brides and grooms, perhaps check some internet resources such forums; that way any reservations can be put to rest.

Food isn’t a solo affair

Whether it’s post ceremony canapés, the wedding breakfast or a grand evening buffet, your wedding food should mirror the day’s theme. For a summer wedding, an lighter option might include a stunning carved buffet comprising of fresh salads or tapas and cold cuts of Welsh charcuterie. If, however, you’re planning on having a wonderful winter wedding, think about a more traditional Welsh themed meal such as Loin and shoulder of Monmouthshire lamb, butter braised potato, and seasonal garden vegetables. If you’re after something a little quirkier, an interesting option may be to have a wedding cake made out of cheese to be served with a selection of biscuits and homemade chutney. Whatever you choose, do be careful not to overload your guests if you’re expecting them to throw some shapes on the dance floor later.  Take advice from the Head Chef and Management at the venue as they will have a wealth of experience about how to balance a menu carefully.

Feel free to make requests

Many suppliers or venues can tailor dishes to meet your requirements. If there’s a particular meal you love, they may well be able to adapt it for your wedding. Don’t rule out personalising your day by bringing your ideas for Chef to adapt for your wedding breakfast: it would certainly make your wedding unique. After all, your day should reflect your personalities and tastes.

Location, location, location

A little trick is to always be mindful of the seasons. Using non-seasonal ingredients may result in some consequences, for instance winter strawberries are often flown in from overseas, with transport costs passed on to the customer, and the taste will not reflect your surroundings. Buying seasonal ingredients always improves the taste too, as discussed in our previous blog on ‘food miles’. An ingredient that has been grown within a few miles will save you money and create a more delicious dish. For a great example of this, here at Llansantffraed Court we grow an abundance of seasonal vegetables in our large restored walled garden, and use preferred local suppliers to ensure food is consistently fresh all year through. Be sure to ask the venue about what fruit, herbs and vegetables and even meat, will be in season when your big day comes around, and how they source it.

Be on trend with dessert boards

Wedding cakes are traditionally the centrepiece of any wedding, but why not try an additional dessert board instead? The latest trend is having a dessert board comprising of either full-size or mini versions of family favourites for your guests to choose from. This modern twist on classic desserts means you can customise options, for instance providing wheat and dairy free alternatives for your guests. An advantage is that more of the wedding cake will be left over for you to take home – think of it as your first wedding present!

Don’t be afraid to be different

Your wedding day is about you. However, choosing menus for the big day often involves attempting to balance what you’d truly like with crowd-pleasing dishes. Your wedding day should reflect your tastes and values without being insensitive to guests’ palates, but don’t be afraid to be different by going for having a ‘feasting’ menu to surprise your guests and get them mingling, or a full vintage themed afternoon tea. Focussing on food that reflects your individual personalities will showcase something unique about you as a couple on your special day.

We hope these top tips will solve your wedding food issues in no time, so you can enjoy your big day! For more advice and friendly chat feel free to just give us a call anytime.

Food yards, not miles

IMAG0319A New Year symbolises a fresh start and a chance to wipe the slate clean  – or in our case, the plates clean!  We all enjoy making resolutions – a common one being to eat healthier. While many of us will calorie-count all the way through January until succumbing to a Mars bar in February, eating healthily doesn’t have to be the calorie-counting, rule-heavy activity its often made out to be.

Eating healthily can be as simple as eating more fresh produce or even growing it yourself (see our guide on growing vegetables here). It is no secret that, with over 100 different varieties of vegetables, fruit and herbs in our own walled garden and a contact list of brilliant local suppliers, we’re passionate about local fresh produce.
Eating food sourced locally doesn’t just help the community and independent suppliers, but also the environment. ‘Food miles’ is a term used to describe the distance food to get from the farm to the plate. The more ‘food miles’ a product has, the more fuel is used in the process of getting it to you. There is also an impact on freshness – a tomato from Spain will take more time from harvest to a dish, so won’t be as fresh as one grown in your back garden, for instance. When you open that sealed pack of tomatoes from the supermarket looking invitingly still attached to the vine, believe us, the smell is from the vine, not the tomato!

One of the great advantages of living in Britain is the seasons. We’re particularly proud that, whatever the time of year, there is something that can be grown and used in the restaurant. Anything from potatoes to beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, asparagus, roots, greens and herbs can find its way to our tables. Having seasonal variations also makes menu planning more exciting, ensuring there is plenty of opportunity to experiment throughout the year. 

For an avid foodie, it is very satisfying to grow your own salad or vegetables, prepare a meal and eat it on the same day – safe in the knowledge that you have used zero food miles. Of course, you can’t always avoid food miles or food yards in our case – for example it isn’t possible to grow bananas or pineapples in the UK – but it is possible to grow lots of fresh fruit and vegetables at home. It’s a fun activity to do with your family and you don’t necessarily need a big garden or allotment to experience the excitement of growing your own fresh crops. 

So, if less ‘food miles’ is part of your healthy eating plan for 2014, here are some suggestions for easy-to-grow produce:

Salad leaves
Mixed salad is a wonderful food to grow all year round and you don’t even need a garden, as you can grow it indoors. One of the fantastic things about growing mixed salad leaves is that you can keep picking the leaves and the stumps will grow back two or three times. You will have seen ‘micro greens’ on many a good restaurant’s plate in recent years, and these tiny explosions of flavour are surprisingly easy to produce.  We plant them in long pieces of semi-circular drain pipe gutter.
You can grow mixed salad leaves from the seed and you can even buy pre-seeded pots and trays from some shops and supermarkets. There are many different types available and you can buy seed packs containing lettuce, rocket, spinach and host of different leaf varieties. If you like specific varieties then buy separate seed packets and blend to create your own unique salad mix.

Tomatoes are a green house favourite and very easy to grow. They can be planted from the spring and there is a huge variety available with different flavours and colours – they can be grown from seeds or you can buy plugs (small plants that have already started growing). Tomatoes are best grown in a green house but they can be grown outside as well. We love heritage varieties for their flavour, and yellow plums to tomatoes as they look so great on a dish.

Potatoes are a fun vegetable to grow at home because they are easy to care for and you can even grow them in a large pot on the patio. You can buy ‘seed’ potatoes from the garden centre and if you pick an early variety and plant in March you should have a crop by late May/early June. Try to sow successions so they don’t all come at once.

Strawberries are very adaptable plants. They can be grown in the garden, in a large pot or even in a hanging basket. You can usually buy plants from April onwards. Pot them up and you’ll have delicious fruit in time for Wimbledon! This season we are trying a new variety of white strawberries, yes, white! …We’ll keep you posted.

We hope we have inspired you on to your own fresh food adventure and we would love to hear how you get on in 2014.