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Catering Trends 2010: What to Serve Now

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Photo: Keith Sirchio for BizBash

You never know what might be on the menu at an event these days. Bowls of unadorned fruit. Fancy box meals. Edible art installations of donuts. Grilled cheese sandwiches made with a clothing iron.

Although chicken dinners—often locally sourced, these days—are still served at galas and other formal functions, today’s menus regularly mix upscale and casual. A recent benefit dinner in Chicago included passed pulled pork sliders, an appetizer of caviar and smoked salmon, and mini root beer floats for dessert. At a New York dinner, dressed-up guests carved whole roast turkeys and rabbits. Tried and true comfort foods like burgers and nachos are still making the rounds on catering trays, but so are cotton candy-wrapped shrimp.

Meanwhile, guests are more food-obsessed than ever, staying up on sustainable ingredients, cooking techniques, and the latest big-name chefs. To meet these high standards, caterers are sourcing food from local farmers, plating dishes artfully, and keeping up with the latest trends. Some are even giving attendees more control over what’s on their plates. Customization is everywhere, from D.I.Y. cocktails to small-plate buffets that allow attendees to pick and choose from a range of offerings. 

This week, we're posting our Catering Trends 2010 report, with a look at the trends and ideas that epitomize this moment in catering—event food that feels comfortable and considered, not formal or fussy, with a focus on giving guests an experience that’s not ostentatiously expensive.

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