Creativity Gets Sweet and Salty


Written by Colleen Ann McNally | Photography courtesy of Rafterman Photography, Ibiza Bites; The Carl House; Talk of the Town Catering

Food/Interior/Kitchen shots for Ibiza Bites, a Dennis Dean catering concept.The big day’s ceremony and reception are laced with traditions, whether inspired by culture, families or the couple’s own sweet story. One of the most challenging tasks — but, perhaps most fun — is putting your own twist on those traditional themes. And while there are a million ways to play with personalization for your big day, we’ve got a craving for custom cakes and catering.

This season, the boldest brides on the Northside know creativity counts for big points in pleasing crowds. We’ve consulted local experts to dish out this season’s most sought-after trends: interactive catering stations, modern food borrowed from the festival scene and work-of-art wedding cakes for a reception that’s unforgettably yours. Ready to make your mouth water?

CRAVE CUPS_credit Cotton Cravings | Carl House


Bite-sized tapas in shot glasses and on spoons have remained popular in weddings for a few years now. Maybe you’ve heard rave reviews or took notes from a friend’s wedding about “potatotinis,” mashed sweet or whipped roasted potato bars allowing guests to choose their own toppings and devour them elegantly in martini glasses. More than a trend, this alternative to sit-down dining continues to please large parties for multiple reasons. BB Webb, owner of the award-winning Carl House in Auburn, Ga., summed these up by explaining that the brides she works with want a “do-it-yourself feel.” Whether these ideas come from Pinterest board obsessions, bridal magazine overload or their own imagination, Webb said she and her staff are willing to attempt whatever a bride can dream up.

While that sounds like a lot of work, Webb and her staff are there to provide all the pieces. One example she excitedly shares is a candy station, presented on vintage pieces of furniture that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the taste buds. Webb said that brides typically pick out different candies in a monochromatic fashion or to match the wedding’s color scheme. They also supply bags and ribbons, customized with the couples’ names and wedding date, making them a tasty party favor for guests to take home.

Candy is just one “action station” Webb has noticed stealing the catering show at weddings lately. She lists other delectable serve-yourself bar ideas, including a smoked gouda mac and cheese station with a chef’s assortment of toppings or a bruschetta station with Italian bread rounds, pesto, roasted garlic, sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, puréed mushrooms, black olives, marinara sauce, crumbled goat cheese, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and cracked pepper. Some brides opt to do sweet stations as an alternative to a cake, with build-your-own bars featuring s’mores, cupcakes, pies, waffles or combinations of “sweet and salty” bites.

Although these serving stations are all about one-of-a-kind customization, the Carl House isn’t alone in the concept. Chef Andrew Brackner of the acclaimed, Atlanta-based Talk of the Town Catering and his team are dedicated to developing and perfecting menu items that you and your guests will love. Action station creations are customizable, so each one is prepared fresh-to-order and can accommodate those with dietary restrictions. Not only will your guests ooh and ahh over the presentation, but they’ll be piling up their plates. Plus, action stations — emphasis on the word “action” — get guests up from their seats and mingling around the room. Next stop, dance floor.


Fun-loving couples looking for a party atmosphere should start by taking cues from your time-honored carnival trends. And though cotton candy doesn’t likely come to mind when planning your wedding’s menu — even Webb admits she was wary of the idea initially — we challenge you tight-lipped brides to consider it. As one of the first to partner with the evolutionary Cotton Cravings, the Carl House now has its own machine to spin sweet treats in-house. Best of all, they use pure organic sugar to create seasonal flavors as diverse as Peppy Peppermint Stick, Apple Pie Perfection, Tempting Toasted Marshmallow, Chic Chocolate Raspberry and more. At only 30 calories per stick, you’ll be guiltlessly licking your lips before you know it. For an unexpected pop of color, choose the bright LED sticks to light up the room and bring out the smiles — it is a celebration, after all.

Another out-of-the-box catering idea borrowed from Atlanta’s festival scene is rolling in a food truck to feed your crowd. These restaurants-on-wheels make catering easy because they have the capacity to be stand-alone units. Their small but mighty mobile kitchens allow fresher cooking on-site, especially if your venue is in a remote location or doesn’t have the necessary equipment some caterers require.

Since Andy Grimes, chef and owner of Ultimate Culinary Catering, started The Pickle in 2004, he said the buzz and hype for street food has grown exponentially. He also points out that while there’s a perception that food trucks are more causal and the cheaper option, he has served high-end plates including caviar and rack of lamb from inside his set of wheels. Of course, foodie brides can still enjoy their famous fish tacos, too. Ultimate Culinary Catering is one business that can offer the best of both, combining traditional buffet catering with the uniqueness of a food truck menu.

You may also recognize the bright orange Ibiza Bites truck from around town as well as from appearances on The Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race.” Owner Raf Morales agrees business is booming from wedding catering; however he said there isn’t a one-menu-fits-all served from his truck. Similar to action stations, brides and grooms can each build their own menu that best reflects their style — a true his and hers! Morales offers themed menus drawing from Southern-, Latin- or Asian-influence and has sample menus on their website for inspiration.


Last year, everyone was talking about “naked cakes” when a minimalistic approach was all the rage. Now, as those inspiration boards grow, so have the ideas. Loganville’s Sugar Kneads Cakery has a reputation for making ideas come to life in the form of sugary masterpieces. In fact, owner Tara Tomlinson’s knack for wacky even landed her an appearance on The Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” Her one heed of caution to brides that come, Pinterest-board pictures in hand, is to consider their real-life budget. “Most of the confusion is with budget,” Tomlinson said. “People’s cake ideas may not fit their spending plan.” While Tomlinson can help your wildest wedding-cake dreams come true, she advises to first understand the attached price tag, as custom designs can be pricey.

Before you schedule your consultation with a cake designer, do your math and don’t get discouraged. Once you bring in those pictures and ideas to someone like Megan Eden, creative sales director at For Goodness Cakes in Norcross, she can offer tips and tricks to creatively stack tiers without overreaching your pockets. She cites sugar flowers as fun and elegant way to scale back, asking, “Why not get more bang for your buck with a few ideas that are bigger and bolder, rather than a showcase of several small ones?

“Detail is absolutely gorgeous on wedding cakes, but doesn’t show up in pictures from far away,” Eden said. And since those memories captured on film will last much longer than the cake, choose those additions wisely. What will stand out in the candid shots of cutting the cake is interesting structure, incorporated design that complements the bride’s dress or varying sizes of tiers. Eden approaches each project as if the bride and groom are commissioning a unique piece of art decor to be displayed during their reception, rather than just another check on the to-do list. That, after all, may be priceless.

Perhaps you’re jotting down some unique ideas all your own as you finish reading this. Maybe none of the above ideas are for you, which is okay, too. Trends go in and out of style, but what we’re holding onto from these is one, simple rule: have fun planning and personalizing your special day.