Formality, says Israel Lopez, is the distinguishing feature of traditional Spanish wedding celebrations. Lopez is the head chef at La Tasca, a tapas restaurant on King Street. “Reception is never a buffet style,” he explained. “It’s more formal.”
After the ceremony, while the bride and groom linger to have their photo taken, the guests, dressed in their finest clothes, head to the reception to drink cocktails and eat canapés and tapas until the couple arrives and the meal begins. It is always “a big thing” though the nouvelle cuisine means it may not be the traditional three courses.
Monkfish is a popular light course for Spanish celebrations, often wrapped in bacon.
“They love to combine things,” Lopez said. “Especially anything with pork is also welcome.” Beef or lamb is usually served for the main course, sometimes with lobster, explained Atef Tayari, the store manager. For weddings, the Spanish spare no expense.
But the food is only a detail of the meal. “Once you say ‘family,’ the whole meaning of the word is there,” Tayari explained. Grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts, everyone gathers around the table. “It’s a lot of food. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of drinking.”
“That’s the idea of tapas,” Tayari added. He said La Tasca, which opened last summer, is scheduled to host its first wedding parties this spring in its main room. They will rearrange the tables to fit 60 people. The hosts will be able to select from La Tasca’s selection of 44 options for tapas – finger-food meant for browsing, often served on slices of bread. Tayari and Lopez had been hard-pressed to come up with an indispensable dish for a traditional Spanish wedding, but as he was ushering his guest out the door. He remembered. “We did not talk about sangrias. That is there at every wedding.”
AT PITA HOUSE on Cameron Street, chef Mostafa Aly, said the Lebanese eat their staple foods at weddings: hummus, tabuoleh, chicken kabobs, chicken shawarama and falafel. “It’s just a big meal, like a wedding or a party or anything.” He said Pita House will cater wedding receptions.
Mohamed Allani, manager of Le Gaulois, said his restaurant can serve its French cuisine to 50 or 60 guests in its upstairs room, and offers a variety of three-course, price fixe menus. The cassoulet is one popular entrée, a casserole with white beans, beef, sausage a duck. Duck breast, steak and ravioli stuffed with crab sauce are also popular.
Thanan Peree, the manager, chef and owner of Asian Bistro said they could host weddings, though so far the only wedding they’ve hosted was his brother’s. Typical of the restaurant’s Asian cuisine, they served a Japanese, Thai and Chinese buffet to about 90 people. “We closed the whole restaurant,” Peree said.
Peree’s background is Thai, and he said that before the wedding banquet, the bride and groom will stand together while water is poured over their interlaced hands. What does the tradition mean?
“I don’t remember anymore,” Peree said. “My grandparents probably know more.”
Kancsana Phentsua, the owner of Tobe Thai on Richmond Highway, said traditional Thai wedding food is not on her restaurant’s menu. Noodles are usually served at the feast, symbolizing long lifetimes intertwined together. A golden desert made from egg yolk is also served. “It represent the couple’s future: long life and prosperity.”
STANDING BEHIND THE BAR at Murphy’s Irish Pub, manager Kenny Mitchell, a Dublin native, had a ready answer when asked whether the pub hosted wedding parties. “I had my wedding here,” he said. “Kind of made sense, didn't it?”
Murphy’s rents out its upper room, which can hold up to 120 people and can provide entertainment as well as food and drinks. Mitchell said he had a dance floor installed beside the fireplace. After the meal, they held traditional Irish dances.
Mitchell said he’d ordered the steak and fish for his wedding menu, but he also recommended the Irish pie and Irish stew. Asked when whether there is anything the Irish have traditionally eat at a wedding, Mitchell was stumped. But casting his mind back to his own wedding, one thing leapt out.
“A lot of whiskey was drunk. That’s for sure. A lot of Guinness.”