To get your meal off to a great start, perk up pats of butter with zesty herbs and spices. These four delicious combinations, include (clockwise from top left) turmeric and mustard seed; Asian nori and sesame; smoked chipotle and lime; and lemon basil. At your reception, set each table with assorted compounds in passable dishes; between bites, total strangers can become friends while trading their tasting notes on each variety.
Like the carnival apples you’d drool over as a tyke, these fruits, which include pears, cherries, and apricots, were popped on sticks and dunked in various glazes. Contributing editor Peter Callahan, of Peter Callahan Catering in New York City, who made all the desserts on this page, suggests setting out a selection after dinner. Or, have servers pass them to revelers later in the night.
One-bite treats with seasonal ingredients have all the appeal of their Thanksgiving-size counterparts, minus the food coma. Set out an assortment buffet-style, or serve a trio to each guest in lieu of a slice of cake.
Here, we plated a Heart-Shaped Apple-and-Raspberry Hand Pie, Chocolate-Ginger Ganache Phyllo Cup, and Red-Wine Poached Plum Tartlet. You could also ask your caterer to make a mini-me version of your favorite.
These bite-size treats may be breakfast foods, but they make equally delicious late-night snacks for your wedding guests.
Combine the luxury of caviar with the simplicity of a soft-boiled egg in a delightful dish for a wedding brunch or shower. We used salmon caviar and orange roe, which are pretty, flavorful, and relatively inexpensive. Acknowledge Cupid with toast cut into hearts and arrows.
A wedding is such a sweet occasion, it wouldn't seem right if the coffee were bitter. You can sweeten your guests' after-dinner cappuccinos by having a flower drizzle-drawn atop the steamed milk of each cup using warm chocolate syrup. Serve crisp ginger biscuits alongside.
With a puff-pastry blossom resting atop a flaky crust, a miniature pot pie makes a delightful and delicious first course at a wedding. This favorite home-style dish is filled with a medley of vegetables, including asparagus, carrots, and pearl onions, and baked in a ramekin. Wonderful for a country-themed reception, it would be appropriate to serve at a shower, too.
Sweet marzipan acorns capture the beauty of fall. The marzipan is tinted pale green with food coloring to mimic the appearance of nuts just picked from the tree; a thin coating of bittersweet chocolate, decorated with sprinkles, crowns each one and balances the marzipan's concentrated sweetness. Place the acorns on pressed leaves for a lovely autumn display, and serve them on a dessert buffet or on platters at guests' tables.
Warm up an autumn cocktail hour with a comforting, colorful shot of savory vegetable soup in eye-catching colors. Guests can sip the harvest flavors of beet, butternut squash, and spinach-pea puree served in diminutive, finger-friendly sake or espresso cups -- no spoon required. With their free hand, they can either raise a glass of Champagne or reach for seconds.
Basic sugar cookies become elegant favors when stacked to resemble miniature wedding cakes and topped with sugar flowers. Each sugar-cookie cake was spread with royal icing, then assembled once the frosting was set. Small dabs of icing also secure each layer, holding the tower intact while still allowing the cookies to be pulled apart easily.
Take a cue from the Milanese, who serve panettone, a sweet bread made with dried fruit and citrus zest, on special occasions. The loaf is traditionally made in a large panettone mold, but we baked ours in attractive mini paper ones. Each treat is then wrapped in a cellophane bag tied with a letterpress tag by Austin Press. Bellissimo!
For a finger-friendly take on classic beet-and-goat-cheese salad, serve fried beet chips topped with a dollop of the tangy cheese and vinaigrette-laced microgreens. They make perfect hors d'oeuvres -- crispy instead of juicy beets means no one will be caught red-handed.
Make an impression on guests by adding eye-catching detail to basic cookies with ordinary rubber stamps, which come in a wide range of designs, or ceramic cookie stamps. Since rubber stamps can be custom ordered, create your own, like our monogram. To yield the best results, use the stamps on cookie dough containing no leaveners, such as shortbread.
These marshmallows are imported from Paris and, as you might suspect, they're not your typical campfire fare. They are long (about 14 inches), pastel-hued, and quite pretty, especially when fashioned into love knots, time-honored symbols of commitment. Tie marshmallows into basic knots (to keep them from getting stale, don't leave them exposed to the air for too long), and place in cellophane bags.
As the reception dinner winds down with coffee, give your guests one last delicious treat -- fresh cherries dipped in melted white chocolate. This fruit is at its best during the summertime, making it a perfect choice for a warm-weather wedding. A pair of cherries with the stems attached will perch daintily on a saucer.
Just as the coffee is being served, the dancing always seems to begin in earnest, leaving guests with cold coffee when they return to the table. At your reception, offer caramel wafers to rest across the top of the cup -- the coffee will stay warm and the caramel will soften, turning the wafer into a sweet, gooey treat.
Just don't call them Jell-O shots. These sangria-inspired gelees, infused with sweet wines and subtly undercut with citrus flavors, are for sophisticated palates. The glistening, gemlike squares make a refreshing dessert and add fetching sunset hues to a reception table.
Everyone knows you and your groom are cut out for each other; these monogrammed shortbread sandwich cookies just drive home the point. Let store-bought cookie cutters do the heavy lifting; we used a round ruffly one to get the shape and mini alphabet cutters for the monogram. Between the layers: sweet-tart rhubarb jam -- another perfect match.
Specialty vendors such as Translucent Chocolates make it easy to match your wedding favors with your decor. Just send them a fabric swatch, color chip, or other sample of your wedding colors, and they'll custom-mix candies in the same hues. Vendors generally offer a large assortment -- we chose candy-covered sunflower seeds, dried apricots, and mini chocolates.
It's what's inside that counts, but sometimes the outside is just as important. Two cases in point: Fresh salads can be easily reinvented as hors d'oeuvres when nestled in paper nut cups. And gooey-good desserts can be sent home with guests when cradled in old-fashioned jars.
This delectable display starts with votive candleholders filled with chocolate pudding and topped with crushed-cookie "dirt." Lemon verbena, lavender, and basil flowers sprout from each pot. Serve your treats with wooden ice cream spoons stamped with your and his initials to resemble plant tags.
Shake things up with a dish that's distinctive but doesn't abandon traditional flavors: fall-foliage lasagna. The secret? Pasta colored with beet and carrot puree, and shaped with cookie cutters. Your caterer can incorporate these tricks into her recipe; we layered fresh ricotta cheese between beet and carrot pastas, which were cooked, then sauteed in -- and drizzled with -- a brown-butter and sage sauce. The combination is hard to, ahem, beet.
The diminutive scale of lady apples transforms a fall favorite into a dainty nibble; offer to guests on passed trays as a sweet-tart surprise at the cocktail hour. A paper leaf is an elegant touch: Use a computer to design and print "Enjoy!" on card stock, then cut out with a leaf-shape craft punch; affix to short skewers with adhesive dots.
Melted chocolate is nearly synonymous with indulgence. Serve it alongside yummy delectables to dip, such as dried apricots, pretzel sticks, and cubes of pound cake. Or consider cookies, caramels, fresh fruit, and chunks of coconut. Use Japanese porcelain teacups and sushi trays to yield single-size portions for guilt-free double-dipping.
Edible pansies give shortbread cookies texture and color as only nature can. They look catered, but these sweet treats can be turned out by anyone capable of turning on an oven: Bake sugar cookies, decorate with royal icing, and top each with a fresh pansy (or two).
Mixed pansies, Jansal Valley.
This trio of shortbread cookies, meringue kisses, and lemon marshmallows is a riff on the tangy pie that's meant to be eaten in one tasty bite. To make them, bake shortbread onto sticks, and add the meringue and marshmallows once they've cooled.
For a heavenly presentation, line a serving tray with a sheet of Styrofoam, poke the finished skewers through so they stand upright, and cover with a layer of candy. (Try Economy Candy's white stars.)
This clever update to the classic fall treat is the brainchild of New York City caterer Peter Callahan, author of the cookbook "Bite by Bite." He added wood twigs to tiny apples, dipped the fruits in caramel, and rolled them in sea salt. Offer these at dessert, or give them out as favors. Whatever you decide, have your caterer make extras -- guests won't be able to eat just one.
These charming spring sweeteners from Gourmet Sugar Company are a fresh alternative to plain old coffeehouse cubes. They're available in more than 50 styles, including leaves, shells, and hearts, as well as custom shapes, and can be served on individual saucer rims or arranged on a platter with dessert tongs.
Your appetizer will feel right at home served in a seashell, at least if you're serving ceviche -- a dish made with marinated raw fish (we added pink grapefruit in this version). You'll feel secure knowing that these particular shells are oven -- and food -- safe.
White Irish scallop shells, Conch King.
Refresh your guests with layer after colorful layer of icy treats. Creating this stacked confection is simpler than making a sundae -- just spoon the slightly softened ice cream into a loaf pan (line the pan with plastic wrap first, and freeze one layer before adding the next).
Our stripes, from top, are cantaloupe sorbet, peach frozen yogurt, strawberry ice cream, and raspberry sorbet.
You've heard of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but here's something even more delicious (and just as seasonally appropriate): chestnuts dipped in white or semisweet chocolate. To make them, coat chestnuts in melted chocolate, let cool, and garnish with a bit of edible gold leaf.
Think of it as a gift that doesn't need to be unwrapped: small slivers of vegetables usually found on a crudite platter, tied with an edible ribbon. To make each mini bunch, group thin slices of carrot, cucumber, red cabbage, pea sprouts, blanched haricots verts, and red, yellow, and orange pepper. Tie each cluster with a chive and serve alongside a tangy carrot-ginger dipping sauce.