By JOEY CAMPANARO of LITTLE OWL
COST OF FOOD:$75 per person
Lobster arancini with lemon-basil aïoli.
“Arancini are Italian, beach-style snacks with a sweet, ocean flavor. Put them in large, banana-leaf-lined cups, which will keep them warm—and it’ll look cool.”
Gravy meatball sliders.
“Combine beef, pork, and veal with freshly ground Pecorino Romano and a gravy of whole field tomatos, fennel seeds, garlic, onion, and fresh basil. We just catered a party where we served over 2,000 meatballs in an hour. They’re not dainty; they look substantial, but aren’t overly filling. You can eat them with your fingers or with a knife and fork.”
Roasted halibut with blue-crab gratin, grilled asparagus, and corn relish.
“Blue crab is sweet, and halibut is such an East Coast thing. The best crabs come from Maryland. Serve in a bamboo-wood bowl. It would also work well in a buffet.”
Colorado lamb T-bones with goat-cheese gnocchi and watercress-and-onion salad.
“For a sit-down, put them on long, rectangular platters with the T-bones on the sides, the gnocchi in the middle, and the salad on the top. Broadway Party Rentals has butcher-block cutting boards with built in heat lamps to keep the lamb at the appropriate temperature.”
Lemon-blueberry bars with lavender crème.
“Do a streusel crumble or a graham-cracker crust. Most of the blueberries come from the Jersey Shore; they thrive in beach towns. Put the lemon bars on five-tier stands from Broadway Party Rentals.”
BY ANNE BURRELL of CENTRO
COST OF FOOD:$150 per person
Duck prosciutto on pistachio shortbread with quince mostarda, truffled deviled eggs, fried oysters with spicy aïoli, and celery-and-apple salad.
“The prosciutto’s leathery texture plays off the crispy shortbread very well. And who doesn’t love a deviled egg?”
Quail stuffed with sausage and pine nuts, with roasted figs.
“Poultry is fine at room temperature, which is good when you’re serving a big party. Definitely get semi-boneless quail—it’s worth the few extra dollars. The sausage is nice and fatty so it’ll keep the quail moist, and the figs should be squishy-wushy. ”
Whole-wheat pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, organic egg yolk, crispy Parmigiano, and white truffles.
“Take a big whiff of the white truffles—if they’re not pungent, they’re not good enough. Have servers shave the truffle directly onto guests’ plates.”
Braised pork cheek with pumpkin purée, bitter greens, crispy guanciale, and pumpkin seeds.
“Butternut squash is a good alternative to pumpkin. The pork cheek is so fatty and the pumpkin purée is so sweet, you’ll need something to cleanse the palate. Dandelion, chicory, or broccoli rabe are good choices for that.”
Olive-oil cake with sautéed apples and pears, and chestnut-honey gelato.
“Get the gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Use super-swank extra-virgin olive oil— a sweet, lovely finish.”
BY MARCUS SAMUELSSON of MERKATO 55
COST OF FOOD:$250 per person
Scallops with harissa mignonnette and winter-melon granité, radish cups filled with jerk pork-belly and green mango, and shrimp piri piri.
“Serve the scallops in cocktail spoons—and make sure they’re not the smaller sea scallops. Set up a station where cooks sautée the shrimp to order; the smell would be incredible. Or pass them on trays with skewers placed in a winter gourd.”
Warm butternut-squash salad with watercress and cardamom-glazed duck breast.
“The standout ingredient in the salad dish is the cardamom. It gives the duck a lovely aromatic nuance that goes well with the sweet, warm squash—perfect for the cold weather.”
Snapper wrapped in banana leaves.
“You don’t want guests to feel like they’re at a banquet, so choose a presentation to keep them guessing: Use a large banana leaf on the plate and have a gorgeous piece of fish inside.”
Venison with mustard seed, truffle orzo, and roasted orange and purple beets.
“The beet salad is spectacularly colorful, and venison is extremely sophisticated and not fatty—definitely a black-tie dinner dish.”
Warm chocolate cake with pomegranate glaze and spiced wine.
“People do still want to see the big, tiered wedding cake—but you’ll want to provide a dessert alternative. A three-ounce chocolate cake isn’t too big or rich, and pomegranate is in season. Valrhona or Scharffen Berger chocolate is best, or Callebaut from Belgium.”
BY DAVID WALTUCK of CHANTERELLE
COST OF FOOD:$210 per person
Crisp curried crab-cannoli with cucumber and coriander, chilled sorrel-soup “shots” with crème fraîche and Parmigiano croutons, and deviled quail eggs with American black caviar.
“The appearance of sorrel means spring has arrived; it’s lemony and refreshing.”
Salad of white-and-green asparagus with fresh smoked salmon and chervil vinaigrette.
“Asparagus are at their peak in the spring: Plump and full of flavor. The contrasting white and green color of the asparagus with the pink smoked salmon makes an extremely elegant plate. Chervil is a delicate herb that complements both without being at all overpowering.”
Steamed zucchini blossoms filled with lobster and shrimp.
“Arrange three vibrant yellow and green blossoms in a fan shape at the top of the plate, then use julienned zucchini at the bottom to create the ‘stem’.”
Roasted rack-and-loin-of-lamb with mint and vinegar.
“Lamb is best medium-rare, so don’t overcook. Australian lamb is a little strong and less delicate than American lamb. For an elegant cocktail-reception alternative prepare the lamb chops in a two-bite style—they’re perfect to pick up and eat.”
Brown butter and Madagascar vanilla-almond financier with rhubarb coulis and fresh strawberry ice cream.
“This is a very refined version of a strawberry shortcake. Make sure it’s hothouse rhubarb; the stuff grown in the field tastes good, but tends to be green. The pinker rhubarb is much prettier. You can serve the ice cream in clear shot glasses with demi-spoons.”