Plan a memorable event by providing a unique pairing menu for your guests.
Several variables go into planning an event—location, theme, music, and itinerary are all aspects to consider, but the most important component that is sometimes overlooked is food. For one, everyone needs to eat! The more creative your options are, the more memorable your event will be. Sharing a meal invites the sharing of conversations and ideas just as much as food.
Allen Plante, Director of Banquets at Radisson Blu Mall of America, encourages those planning an event to keep the menu in mind: “When it comes to events, prioritizing the food and beverage experience is of utmost importance. We all need food to live—and food also is a window into our emotions and memories. We all recall meals and special celebrations from years gone by…when gatherings revolve around food and drink, we can stimulate all five senses and create moments that matter for our guests.”
A new year brings new trends to every space, and catering is no exception. Unique pairings are one of the upcoming trends that we are excited about for 2023. For example, some winning combinations include whiskey and farm-to-table, local beer and seafood, fried chicken and sake, and wine and tacos.
Whiskey is a neutral spirit that enhances the flavors of food it’s paired with. Malty, fruity, nutty, or smoky, the right whiskey can make a meal more decadent and fragrant, making it an optimal choice for a tasting event. For these pairings, there is sure to be a locale nearby for catering your next meeting or event. O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co., Dampfwerk Distilling, or Brother Justus Whiskey Co. can provide the whiskey, while Farmers Kitchen and Bar is entirely owned and operated by local members of the Minnesota Farmers Union, bringing fresh food made with locally sourced ingredients to your meeting or event.
Beer and seafood as a combo will surprise and delight attendees while giving you an opportunity to highlight local breweries. The tangy punch of Belgian and wheat beers pairs perfectly with seafood, while a classic lager can bring out the lighter flavors and amplify the umami of the same dish. Bloomington’s own Nine Mile Brewing has a variety of craft beers and also offers crowlers, ensuring the beverages you provide to your guests will be as fresh as possible. To pair with the beer, Mallards in Bloomington offers a full catering menu, complete with Pecan Crusted Walleye, Salmon New Orleans, and Baked Cod Vesuvio.
Sake can also be used in tastings to embolden flavors or to cleanse the palate between bites, such as fried chicken (though it is recommended to avoid light and fruity sake that will get overpowered by the savory flavors of the chicken). For an evening of chicken and sake, Revival can serve up fried or Tennessee hot chicken to go alongside Minnesota-brewed sake from Moto-i.
Step aside, margaritas—it’s wine’s time to shine next to tacos! While tannin-heavy and oaky wines won’t complement tacos, fruity reds go great with red meat, and a crisp white is excellent with light fish or shrimp tacos. Bloomington has no shortage of taco joints to choose from, (we even have our own taco trail if you want to try them all!), and one option worth considering for groups is Andale Tacqueria & Mercado. Pair their house-made tacos with a wine from Schram Vineyards Winery & Brewery for a match made in foodie heaven.
For any of these unique combinations, event planners and catering professionals will be able to step in and help you create the perfect pairing for an unforgettable meeting or event. “From concepting to execution, our team works with each client to create events that will wow—whether that means starting from scratch and building something from the ground up, or bringing a client’s vision to life,” Plante says of his team at Radisson Blu. Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to lean on the professionals—chances are they have created ample customized menus for groups and will be happy to curate something special.
A well-tailored food menu is one of the keys to a successful event. Themed dishes to fit the overall tone are a safe bet, but unique pairs will stand out in the minds (and stomachs!) of attendees. Plante says, “Pairings are an amazing way for guests to tour the world and have a full circle experience—all at one meal.” Taking advantage of local options to create that experience will ensure an event your guests won’t find anywhere else.