New This Month

7 Wedding-Worthy Food Ideas from Caterer Peter Callahan

  • By Peter Callahan
  • Photos by Con Poulos

We took a few excerpts from the author's new book, Party Food, to offer inspiration for your reception menu.

We've been big fans of New York City–based caterer Peter Callahan for years. His mini versions of favorite foods and other clever creations set a joyful tone for any celebration. In his new book, Party Food (Clarkson Potter/Publishers), he shares ideas and recipes for some of his most memorable and delicious bites.


"I've become famous for miniaturized versions of comfort foods and hors d'oeuvres with wit and whimsy," Callahan shares of his new work. "My hors d'oeuvres aren't complicated, but most are original ideas or twists on a classic item," he adds. "I try to create food that makes an emotional connection with guests—that goes beyond being attractive and tasty. It often triggers favorite memories, reminding people of birthday cake from their youth, or summer nights at an ice cream stand. The connection is also achieved through styling. It often makes people smile when they see it. When done right, the presentation is about much more than food—it becomes a whole experience."


In our Fall 2017 issue, we highlight seven of his genius ideas, each pulled straight from the pages of Party Food. All would work wonders for your wedding's cocktail hour, reception, or after-party, or for any pre-wedding event. Scroll down to see them all here.

Pizza Trio

"We serve our pizzas (seen above) with three different toppings: mozzarella with the classic basil and tomato; pepperoni; and a more sophisticated fig, leek, and shallot combination. For weddings, we customize the mini-pizza box lids with the couple's names and the date."

Walking Paella Pan

"This is one of our more unusual roaming services—paella served in oversize paella pans, fitted with straps so they can be carried. This is a classic with shrimp, mussels, cockles, and chorizo. We make the saffron rice and sauté the shrimp ahead of time. At the event, we steam the mussels and cockles and warm everything separately. Once everything is hot, we mix it all together and serve."

Peking Duck Steamed Buns

"We roll the dough a bit thinner than we would for a full-size bun. The trick is to make the buns small, but with enough room for the filling without being too doughy."


"Lobster" Bake

"This mini version of a clambake can also serve as a first course. A small metal sand pail holds one whole cooked crayfish and two cooked, shelled crayfish tails; a salt-baked baby potato; and baby corn."

Meatball Subs

"A meatball sub at full size could never be done at a party, but we shrink it down to about an inch and a half, shave a little bit of Parmesan over the top, and add a baby basil sprig."


Bacon and Maker's Mark

"We drill through the wax and the metal caps of mini bottles of Maker's Mark and empty out the bourbon, which is then mixed with apple cider and sparkling water and funneled back into the bottle. We insert red straws and serve the bacon squares alongside."

Mini Affogato

"This is a great dessert to kick off after-dinner festivities: It's a coffee; it's a dessert—it's both. We serve it in mini stemless glasses for an attractive presentation. We put a scoop of frozen ice cream in the warm espresso, timed so the ice cream hasn't all melted but is drinkable by the time it's served. We do put a little spoon with it, but you don't really need one—most people drink it like a shot."