Today, dietary preferences can be as customized as clothing; perhaps your spouse-to-be is a hard-core vegan or maybe two-thirds of your wedding party are gluten-intolerant. Our day-to-day eating habits are certainly evolving, and our celebration menus follow suit. Instead of gritting their teeth and ordering a traditional menu, many forward-thinking couples are challenging their caterers to create special meals that incorporate their food philosophies. “I always encourage couples to do a menu that reflects their personality and not to dumb it down,” says Jamie Snell of Portland’s the Lamb’s Table Catering Co, who has created everything from vegan to paleo-themed spreads. “Most of your guests will be thrilled.” We tapped five local caterers to dream up delicious alternative wedding-day menus for modern eaters. Their mouthwatering meat, dairy- and even grain-free feasts prove that it’s possible to accommodate food restrictions without sacrificing taste or quality. Now, pass the zucchini noodles with cashew-basil sauce, please.



“When I’m writing gluten-free menus, I really put the focus on fresh, bright ingredients,” says Crown Paella chef-owner Scott Ketterman, whose vibrant, rice-based feast sends wedding parties on a saffron-perfumed flight to Spain. “Foods that are perfectly in season don’t need fluff like bread to taste awesome.” Ketterman says that the texture and substance gluten provides is easily achieved with other ingredients: he emulsifies olive oil in his gazpacho to give it extra body and packs his decadent meringue-based chocolate cake with finely ground almonds and dates to keep it “super moist.” “A special menu should never feel like a knockoff, or like it’s lacking in components,” he says. “It’s about letting other ingredients shine.”

Food for thought  

Karen Pride, owner of Portland’s all-gluten-free haven Harlow,

appeases pasta fans with Big Night–worthy family-style bowls of raw zucchini noodles tossed in a peppery lemon-basil-cashew alfredo sauce. Conscientious PDX caterer Artemis Foods stocks gluten-free flours and swaps sneaky gluten culprit soy sauce for organic tamari so sauces are truly gluten-free. And who needs cake? Jessica MacMurray Blaine of Eugene’s Marché Catering says she’s seeing couples cap off celebrations with gorgeous cheese plates: “Some go as far as creating a tiered wedding-cake look with beautiful white wheels of cheese on pedestals, decorated with flowers and dried fruit.”



Catalan olivada and Cypress Grove chèvre on diva cucumber Chilled Andalusian gazpacho shots with basil and olive oil

Crown Royale paella

Chicken, mussels, clams, prawns, chorizo, piquillo peppers, saffron, sofrito

Grilled green beans

Mint, preserved blood orange, oil-cured olives

Moorish chocolate cake

Almond, dates, chocolate-olive oil sauce, caramelized lemon



Banish the pallid crudités tray. A vegan menu gives Lake Oswego’s GP Catering an excuse to incorporate flavorful Oregon winter produce in a hearty, “soul-soothing” spread. “If you put together the right ingredients the right way, you can provide a stick-to-your-ribs meal that will even leave the carnivores licking their chops,” says GP manager Kindi Lantz. House-preserved lemons give stuffed grape leaves a tangy twist, while a zesty marinara lends versatile polenta a bright pop of color. And yellow-and-green-striped delicata squash makes for a stunning edible focal point: “We roast the squash to bring out the sweetness,” Lantz says. “I eat them like candy.”


Food for thought

Think beyond the salad bowl: Portland chef Abby Fammartino of Abby’s Table creates exciting “main centerpiece items” for her vegan table like meaty strips of eggplant rolled with fig and sweet potato compote. The (Vegan) Caterer, a.k.a. Josh Raymond, counsels that the flavors of familiar comfort foods can win over meat lovers; he sneaks locally made tofu into barbecue baked beans and skewers house-made seitan for saucy Hawaiian kebabs. Vegan- and vegetarian-friendly Mexican operation Los Gorditos helps Portlanders throw inexpensive, meat-free fiestas with made-to-order tacos, grilled on-site and packed with roasted veggies and spicy soyrizo.


Greek dolmas

Basmati rice and preserved lemon

Creamy polenta

Fresh-tomato marinara, roasted vegetables, chard

Vegetable shepherd’s pie

Butternut squash, wild mushrooms, corn, fines herbes, potato crown

Delicata squash rings

Roasted shallot and fresh thyme

MediterRanean quinoa salad

Cucumber, green onion, pecans, feta, mint


Paleo-Friendly Féte

No sugar, no cheese, no grains or beans? No problem. Acolytes of the increasingly popular “caveman diet” beloved by CrossFit trainers are in luck because, according to Snell of the Lamb’s Table, a paleo-friendly menu should be “meat, fire, and vegetables, pretty much … who doesn’t like that?” Snell visualizes her paleo meal as a “woodsy outdoor celebration” that turns the spotlight on a variety of luscious local meats and produce. Her favorite protein: rich, relatively inexpensive duck. “It’s earthy, and it goes well with herbs and fruits,” she says. “If you were a hunter-gatherer in Oregon you would be eating a ton of duck.”  

Food for thought   

Breakfast for dinner anyone? Gregory Gourdet, chef of PDX’s Departure restaurant and a committed paleo eater, reminds couples that the culinary possibilities of “eggs are endless.” Think “awesome meat-and-vegetable-stuffed frittatas,” he says. Heather Hunter, co-owner of Portland food cart the Cultured Caveman, advises scanning paleo cookbooks like Gather, the Art of Paleo Entertaining to aid a brainstorming sesh with your caterer. Merit Badge bar catering co-owner Matt Mount suggests shaking up a signature paleo-friendly cocktail like his “Bam Bam,” which muddles red grapes and dried cardamom with grain-free Clear Creek brandy and fresh grapefruit and orange juices.


Alder-smoked duck skewers

Gooseberry glaze and chile flake

Deviled eggs

Seared Oregon albacore tuna, toasted mustard seed, black salt

Late summer soup

Sunchoke, fennel, Gravenstein apple

Wild arugula salad

Honeydew melon, Olympic Provisions coppa, toasted walnuts, olive oil, saba

Pink peppercorn leg of lamb

Bing cherry and mint gremolata, olive oil smashed sweet potatoes



Gourmands whose dream wedding is a culinary showcase are just as picky as food-allergy sufferers. “Those who live to eat can’t go wrong in making dinner with friends and family the focus of the reception,” says Art of Catering event coordinator James Lowry, whose “Bounty of the Northwest” menu highlights rustic meats, fruit, and fungus in luxe, modern presentations. He suggests adding courses to dinner to elevate your guests’ experience (and provide natural breaks for toasts and stories). Lowry reminds couples that the logistics of a sit-down dinner are more complex than a buffet bash. “Quiz your caterers on how they are going to make your event happen flawlessly,” he says.


 Food for thought   

Courtney Sproule of Portland’s Din Din loves playful, interactive appetizers: she serves poached pullet eggs in their own shells with sherried cream, maple syrup, and caviar. “We tell guests to do three turns of the spoon and they’ll have mousse,” she says. Take cues from your venue, counsels chef Anthony Cafiero of modernist tapas bar Ración: “If you’re getting married on a farm, do a hay-smoked pork shoulder with a feta mousse and grilled zucchini.” Or make dinner part of the wedding “edu-tainment.” Simpatica Catering often roasts whole pigs on a giant charcoal grill for outdoor fêtes. Simpatica GM Jamie O’Brien says he’s had clients ask that the chef “grab the microphone” mid-reception to talk about the dinner.


Velvety rabbit liver mousse

Clear Creek pear brandy drizzle, grilled pears, brioche toast points

Dungeness crab salad

Endive spears, grapefruit supremes, Champagne dressing, elderflower water gel

For an intermezzo

Heirloom tomato water and basil sorbet

Oregon pinot marinated rack of lamb 

Risotto-style multigrain rice, chanterelles, caramelized leeks

Something sweet

Lavender shortbreads, chocolate-dipped and truffle-filled Calimyrna figs, petite citrus tarts with bourbon hazelnut brittle


Young-At-Heart party 

If you’re throwing a bash where many of the attendees are children, it pays to create a menu that will please both the tall and the small. Portland’s Devil’s Food Catering nails the vibe with a menu that hits all our gooey, cheesy, sugary pleasure centers. “If you make it fun, kids will eat virtually anything. Also, if you put it in on pasta, it’s a guaranteed lock,” says Devil’s Food creative director James Fowler. Using “super-high-quality” ingredients raises these dishes from toddler bites to grown-up delights. Bonus: “All adults are closeted kids’-food lovers,” he says with a laugh.

Food for thought    

Hood River’s hyperseasonal Cultivate Catering delights little ones with platters of puckery, vividly colored pickles. “Purple cauliflower turns fluorescent when you pickle it,” swears Cultivate owner Ginger Power. “Kids will eat it just for the color!” Portland charmer PBJ’s slaps together grown-up homages to grade-school lunches for revelers at its mobile catering cart. They sneak black cherry jam, roasted jalapeños, and applewood bacon, among other ingredients, into grilled-to-order peanut butter sandwiches. For outdoor receptions, follow the lead of Bend’s Brasada Ranch, which offers campfire nostalgia in the form of s’mores classed up with house-made marshmallows and graham crackers.


Two-bite pizzettas

Tomato sauce, basil, fresh mozzarella

Pigs in a puff

Olympic Provisions frankfurters, Devil’s extra-special catsup

Fried chicken & sweet potato waffles

Served with spicy-sweet ginger syrup

Mac & cheese ramekins

With a bacon–corn bread top

Ice cream sandwiches

Chocolate chip cookies with Cool Moon vanilla-bean ice cream


Filed under
Show Comments

Related Content