Home-cooked Comfort Food

The air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and comfort food seems to be roasting or baking everywhere.  Thanksgiving is the perfect blend of family, friends and good food, so it’s no wonder many people claim it as their favorite holiday. 

Today, some couples are choosing to create that warm holiday feeling on their special day — and they’re doing it with their wedding menu.

“Everyone loves comfort food,” said Beverly Hills event planner Mindy Weiss, who has done hundreds of weddings on Thanksgiving weekend, many of which have included “Crantini” cocktails, turkey carvers and mashed potato bars. “It’s a great time to have a wedding,” she said, noting that people are in the mood to be at table with loved ones. “You have an instant feeling of warmth and togetherness,” she said.

But do roast turkey, stuffing and Grandma’s green bean casserole really have a place at
a wedding?  

It’s all about presentation, according to Joachim Splichal, James Beard award-winning chef and founder of Patina Restaurant Group. “Whether it’s a sit-down or buffet dinner, a Thanksgiving menu can be very elegant,” he said, adding that, “décor is very important.”  He suggests serving everything on silver, with gorgeous bouquets of flowers everywhere, in addition to rich autumn colors.


Incorporating the Classics with Class

Though traditional Thanksgiving fare isn’t exactly fancy, there are ways to make it feel more upscale. Splichal, whose Patina Restaurant Group does between 175 to 200 weddings a year, believes that incorporating seasonal ingredients into the menu is key. 

“Along with roast turkey and filet mignon, we might offer a truffle risotto or tiny roasted pumpkins stuffed with wild mushrooms and rice,” he said.  Though he was born in Germany, Splichal is a huge fan of Thanksgiving and the comfort food that comes with it, such as his favorite stuffing made with bread, caramelized applies and brandy-soaked cherries. 

It takes a certain kind of bride and groom to choose a Thanksgiving-themed wedding menu, according to Richard Lauter, chef and co-owner of Savore Cuisine & Events in Beverly Hills. “Couples with a lot of confidence who know exactly how they want their guests to experience their wedding are choosing their favorite foods, whether it’s comfort food or breakfast,” he said. 

But traditional doesn’t have to mean boring. Savore has done unique twists on old favorites, such as butternut squash soup with candied walnuts, cranberry relish and cardamom cream; sweet corn tamales stuffed with turkey leg confit; garnet yam and purple potato lyonnaise with dried plums and yuzu preserve; and individual cranberry “brulees.”

At Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, executive chef Walter Sterling is planning an upcoming Thanksgiving wedding menu which will include baby pumpkins filled with lobster bisque, seared Hudson Valley foie gras on brioche toast with pomegranate seeds, and slow-cooked-honey-infused pulled turkey topped with jamon iberico.

At a Thanksgiving Day wedding a few years ago, Weiss planned for 200 guests. Families were seated together at long tables for the traditional feast of roast turkey and all the trimmings, while jars of homemade cranberry sauce served as wedding favors.

But while most of us enjoy our Thanksgiving feasts at the table, both Splichal and Lauter noted that a Thanksgiving menu doesn’t have to be a sit-down affair. Lauter said that an evening of thematic passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails are perfect for “a modern take on the holiday,” for those who want to change things up a bit.  And while Splichal agrees that Thanksgiving-inspired small bites are festive and uncomplicated, “it does change the formality of the affair,” making it a bit more casual.

While some couples embrace comfort food at their Thanksgiving weekend weddings, others aren’t as keen to do so. 

“On a Saturday after Thanksgiving, guests may be burnt out on turkey,” reminded Weiss, in which case a different comfort menu is recommended. However, she said, “if you are having guests travel during the holiday, you are obligated to offer them the traditional meal they will be missing at some point during their stay.” Her suggestion: A Thanksgiving rehearsal dinner with turkey and all the trimmings. “We’ve done it many times,” she said. “Everyone loves it.”

A Thanksgiving wedding should definitely include pie, said Splichal, whose company just launched Feasts To Go, which will include pumpkin, pecan and apple pie desserts.  “Dessert is very important,” he said, noting that, “a seasonal dessert buffet or a pie bar is a fantastic way to end the meal.” Of course, having pie doesn’t mean you have to forgo the wedding cake. A pumpkin or maple-flavored wedding cake topped with harvest decorations is a beautiful way to reflect the holiday theme.

Though Splichal is not from this country, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the warmth and spirit of Thanksgiving. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “Good food, family, friends — and true love.  Now that’s something to be thankful for.”


—Jennifer Evans Gardner
Custom Publishing Writer

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