Photo courtesy of Marcus Hotels &
The Perfect Pair
One of the biggest trends in catering, says Sydney Waisanen, market
director of catering sales at Marcus Hotels & Resorts, is “the perfect
pair,” which combines a food item and complementary beverage. During
cocktail hour, she recommends replacing the traditional beef crostini
passed appetizer with a cheese and beer pairing, mini tequila bottles
paired with tuna tartare tacos, or grilled cheese sandwiches and bloody
“The main meal is a little more on the traditional side, (but couples)
can bring in the flair in the cocktail hour and late night snack,”
Waisanen says. “Your guests will have a great meal, but there are fun
components throughout the night that aren’t expected and pop up in
Photo courtesy of Shully's Cuisine
“People still want to offer choices, whether it’s a buffet or a sit-down
menu,” says Nina Darling, an event coordinator with Shully’s Cuisine &
Events in Thiensville. “They’re still keeping (the menu) traditional in
that respect. What we are seeing a lot more of is that the food is
creative (and) has a local or organic influence, if possible.”
“It’s about bringing your community into your menu,” echoes Waisanen.
“With us being in Wisconsin, cheese is very popular, (and) beer is very
“It’s (also) a special treat for out-of-town guests,” notes Darling. “A
welcome to Milwaukee — the land of cheese and beer.” She says
Wisconsin-themed hors d’oeuvres like mini fish fries, fried cheese curds
and mini brats on pretzel buns are popular choices.
Caterers aren’t limiting their local love to cheese and beer, though.
Shully’s chefs frequent the nearby Thiensville Farmers Market during the
summer months to stock up on produce, Darling says, and preferred local
farmers include Charlie Thao, who supplies Shully’s with beets and
potatoes, and Witte’s Vegetable Farm in Cedarburg.
The advent of rustic, barn-style weddings has affected how food is
presented and served, and Shully’s general manager, Jacob Shully, says
more informal, laid-back dining options like pig roasts and barbecue are
on the rise. He even visited Austin last year to study Texas-style
barbecue, and this summer Shully’s will debut its latest kitchen
addition: a meat smoker on wheels. “I’ve booked two weddings next summer
using the smoker,” adds Darling. “The star of the show is certainly our
brisket. ... (Some couples) don’t want a stuffy, sit-down dinner, and
there’s an emphasis on casualness.” Shully says he envisions the brisket
being served alongside traditional barbecue sides like mac ’n’ cheese,
grits and smoked sausage.
favorite food or an overall theme can be incorporated throughout each
stage of the meal too, says Waisanen. “Take bacon, for instance —
(having) bacon-wrapped shrimp for an appetizer, pancetta in the entree,
and (then) bacon-topped doughnuts for late night snacks,” she says.
“(It’s about) taking a theme and making it elegant and beautiful based
on what the couple wants.”
Shully and his wife lived in New York City for five years before
relocating back to Milwaukee, so they chose to weave their time in the
Big Apple into their special day. “Our menu was based around our
favorite dishes and moments in New York, (and) told a story about us as
a couple,” he says. A favorite NYC dish, he adds, was the lobster roll
from Luke’s Lobster, so mini lobster rolls were passed during the
“If it means something to someone, we will make it happen so they’re
happy,” says Darling.
While many venues have in-house catering or a
list of preferred vendors, some offer complete flexibility for their
clients and a chance to choose a more offbeat, specialized caterer. Here
are five unique options.
The beloved taco and tequila joint, now with four Milwaukee area
locations, caters weddings, parties and the like, with two
build-your-own bar options — either nacho or taco. belaircantina.com
The Hawaiian-themed, Wauwatosa-based eatery offers catering options for
groups of up to 200 people. Think savory, meat-heavy dishes like
baby-back pork ribs and shaved prime rib paired with Asian-influenced
sides, including kimchee cabbage and purple sticky rice. okgrindz.com
A healthy — and tasty — alternative to the usual steak and salmon fare,
Ball ’n Biscuit’s vegan menu option boasts inventive dishes like tempeh
bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and vegan brat and Italian sausages.
Tall Guy and
Hosting an outdoor wedding or event? Play up the laid-back, casual vibe
and select items from Tall Guy and a Grill’s Picnic or Tailgate catering
As one of Milwaukee’s longest-standing Indian restaurants, Maharaja is
authentic and affordable. Treat your guests to traditional delicacies
like lamb kebabs and potato-stuffed samosas. maharajarestaurants.com