Creating a ‘Foodie’ Wedding Menu – The Ballinacurra Way

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Adding Culinary Style to your Soiree

We have seen a shift in the last few years in wedding etiquette when it comes to creating the wedding menu. In the past, couples had less freedom to be a bit adventurous with their choices but this did not really reflect or express the couples own personal tastes. Food is really one of the key elements of a wedding since essentially you are taking your nearest and dearest out for dinner to celebrate your nuptials.

Very often couples choose their venue based on the look and feel of the place, which is obviously very important for making the first impression on guests. Though we do like breath taking views and a well-dressed table, the food selection should be the predominant centre-piece of the wedding, given that it is one of the key elements that guests will talk about afterwards and it is also one of the largest spends in the wedding budget.

Ballinacurra House in Kinsale, Co Cork is one venue that stands out for the rest in terms of their approach to creating an unforgettable Wedding Menu. Described by many as Ireland’s Ultimate wedding venue, it is no wonder that they focus far beyond the asthethics of the wedding and focus on the finer details to wow guests. (Don’t get us wrong, it is a spectacular setting and we can see why people fall in love with the place as soon as they see it!) When couples choose Kinsale as their wedding destination, given the culinary reputation that it enjoys, food has to be a central part of the party at Ballinacurra. They are so passionate about food that they have even opened up their own Cookery school – The Kinsale Gourmet Academy – and they source only the finest of local artisan produce from the surrounding West Cork area to serve to your guests. But you don’t have to spend all your wedding budget on adding culinary style to your soiree.


Here are their tips on how to create a ‘Foodie’Wedding Menu, the Ballinacurra Way


Ballinacurra Planquets

Add a Personal Touch

Beginning with the bride and groom is always a good place to start. A lot of couples fall into the habit or trying to recall what was served at other weddings they had recently attended but we would advise going against this. Instead we advise couples to think of what they would like to eat on their special day? If the answers are a bit extreme, then the next step is to be smart with your choices. Try to keep the main course to something that the majority will enjoy; not all guests might be as adventurous as you. Then you can weave the more exotic items into the canapés or into the other courses. This way, everyone is happy.

We also encourage couples to think about any foods that have a special significance to them and incorporate them into the menu. It is a great opportunity to personalize the menu a little to share with guests. For example, food that they enjoyed on their travels or food that they enjoy together.

Often, it is the case that the couple and their families have different culinary backgrounds and heritages and incorporating both these cultures into a menu can be a really special way to bring two families together. This can be done subtly in the canapés or right through the full menu. It depends how far you want to go with it. If you are worried that this will be too much for guests to handle, then there are other ways to do this outside of the main menu. Consider using the drinks reception to include drinks from each culture or background and it will share some insight into the couple with their guests.


Avoid Falling into the Budget Trap

Though it is important to keep some control on the budget, too often we see couples make bad choices that actually cost them more money in the end. For example, in the early stages of planning they go with choices on the menu that are not their first choice based on price. At that early stage, they think they are inviting 150 guests. Fast forward 6 to 9 months, and for various reasons their confirmed guest list comes in at around 110 people. So they probably could have gone with the better choices for a more intimate group of guests. Instead focus on ways of getting more value from your menu, but in a way that your guests will remember.

Another area that we find couples get too caught up in, is the wine. We have a very well priced selection of wines that we go to great deal of effort to keep as current and as competitively priced as we can. Couples have it in their heads that there is huge savings in sourcing their own wines. The reality is that guests would have to order enough of red and white wine to cover about 75% of their guests. So they basically have to over purchase both Red & White Wine. This is a false economy. Couples would be better to let us find a great wine to match their menu selection at a good price. We only charge for the wine that is consumed. So it is a much better approach without having to compromise on the quality of the wine selected. Couples can still keep the budget in check by setting a limit to the amount of bottles they want to cap it at.

Another old fashioned tradition is the toast drink. This is a drink of choice for guests after dinner when the speeches are going on. In our experience, at this time after dinner guests have probably had champagne at the drinks reception and then moved on to the wine over dinner. A toast glass of champagne at this time ends up being wasted – guests take a sip and then the glasses are left there. Too many times, we have watched full glasses being wasted – and we hate waste! Couples are better to keep the wine pouring at this time. Much more cost effective and probably preferred by guests.


Striking the Balance with Courses

Many venues try to entice couples to book by adding in extra courses to the menu selection. Again we feel this can be a bit of a false economy and we like to take a slightly different approach here. We don’t like to add too many courses just for the sake of it. In fact, we try to avoid that packaged approach all together. We like to focus on what the couples would like and then build the menu around that. We find if you add too many courses, it can dilute the effect and over-fill guests. Over the years, we’ve witnessed couples stress a bit over this and how many course to include to strike the balance. So we came up with a cost effective solution that has really worked. We created a special 4 course tasting menu. Guests enjoy a starter, a fish course, a main course and a dessert. Guests love this menu and the fact that they don’t have to choose between a fish and a meat course. It is something different that most of them haven’t experienced before at a wedding. It is also a clever way to give guests a great selection without having to pay for adding the supplements for offering guests a choice.

Ballinacurra Beef

Dietary Requirements

When you are sending out the invites, it is a good time to probe for dietary requirements. Guests with very specific requirements can often feel like a burden at special occasions. We like to make them feel more included and we like to have their exact requirements well in advance. Our chef has catered for absolutely every special request you can think of and he will create a menu for vegetarians or those with special requirements that will compliment the overall menu selection.


The Ballinacurra Food Tasting Approach

Many hotels and wedding venues offer food tastings in advance of the big day and they are fairly standard. But because we are such food lovers ourselves, we approach this part of the the planning in a very different way, that the ‘foodie’ couples really appreciate. Throughout the year, we host our own Food Tasting sessions. It is more like a food appreciation day. We basically invite wedding couples in to the Kinsale Gourmet Academy – our on-site cookery school – where our head Chef David Rice cooks up all the popular items on the wedding Menus right in front of them. So guest can be more familiar with how everything is prepared and cooked and how the selections are portioned and plated. We don’t think there is anywhere else in the country that do it this way and we find that it really instills confidence and trust in the couple. After the tasting demonstration, David talks through any concerns or questions that the couples may have in a very relaxed and enjoyable setting. He also chats with individual couples who want to have a bespoke menu created for them. But his philosophy is keep it simple and in season so that the food will shine in the plate, as well as being more cost effective.

After the tasting, when couples have a better idea of what they would like to serve at their wedding, Declan Ryan, our experienced bar manager and knowledgeable sommelier, talks through our vast selection of wines. Declan is known for his exceptional food and wine pairings and is great at taking your budget into consideration so that it sits well on both the pallet and pocket!

Couples don’t have to waste their valuable time looking through menus and wine lists. In a couple of hours, they can have dinner and sip the wine selections and it ends up being a productive and enjoyable afternoon of wedding planning with some handy cooking tips thrown in for good measure!

Amazing Garden Room

Recovery Day

For recovery day food, couple who can’t decide on just one or two types of cuisine, our stations are a good solution. A station is a buffet table featuring a particular type of food. A station reception should have four or five tables. Each may offer a different course or style of cooking: Japanese noodles, Italian antipasto, Mexican Burrito stations etc. Another innovative menu item that we created are the signature Ballinacurra Planquets – these are essentially banquets on a wood plank that are served right at the table and guests share. Instead of making guests walk up and down to stations or buffet tables, guest can sit and relax and our planquets will be dropped to their table and it encourages guest to get to know each other and share dishes.

Thanks to Ballinacurra House Kinsale for sharing this piece with us, you can take a look at what the wonderful Ballinacurra House has to offer here.

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