The Menu Gurus: Victor and Mary Alsobrook of La Bonne Maison
From craft cocktails to late-night bites, the caterers dish on planning the ultimate wedding feast.
You can’t throw a great party without great food. Just ask Victor and Mary Alsobrook, the husband-and-wife team behind the catering company La Bonne Maison. As the new owners of the Watertown-based culinary outfit—founded nearly 40 years ago by Mary’s mother, chef Linda Marino—the couple oversees the planning and execution of custom, globally inspired menus for nuptials and other special events. “I’ve been to a ton of weddings, and the first things people notice are the food and drinks,” Victor says. “It’s so important.” Ahead, the Alsobrooks share their tips for choosing a menu that you and your guests will not only love, but also remember forever.
La Bonne Maison is a full-service catering company. What does that mean?
M.A. When a couple comes to us, we can handle all of their party- planning needs. So in addition to planning your menu, we work with vendors and handle all of the rentals and logistics. Also, we recently got licensed to sell and transport alcohol, so brides and grooms can come to us for one-stop shopping.
What changes have you made since you took the reins to reflect the modern tastes of couples?
M.A. We’ve updated our menu with healthier options that are prepared with local and seasonal ingredients, and have also created a cocktail program. We really pride ourselves on our craft cocktails, and make all of our mixes from scratch.
V.A. We’re also doing organic wine, which a lot of our clients are getting into. Going back to what Mary was saying about the food, we live in a
gluten-free world. There are a lot of things we’ve added to our menus to be able to cater to people with certain allergies or who are vegan or vegetarian. We’ve definitely souped up our offerings to be able to handle whatever comes our way.
At what point in the wedding- planning process should a couple book a caterer?
M.A. The next step after booking a venue is to vet the venue’s list of caterers, and then try to book one as soon as possible. We’re already getting booked for peak months in 2018.
What are some things to keep in mind when choosing a menu for the big day?
M.A. First and foremost, decide on the type of event you want. Do you want a formal plated dinner or a casual buffet? Do you want a cocktail party? We’re seeing a lot of couples do cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and then stations or passed tapas plates.
V.A. All of these options, it should be noted, are different costs. We always tell people that plated dinners are the least expensive option, buffets fall somewhere in the middle, and then serving stations are going to be your most expensive because you have to have food stocked at every station, no matter how much people are going to eat.
Is it possible to please everyone with the dishes you choose?
M.A. Essentially, you are throwing a party for your friends and family. Try to choose aspects of the food that are important to you, and then insert them in a creative and thoughtful way. For example, maybe you have exotic taste but you know that your in-laws are from the Midwest and really want that kind of food. You could make the main course simple and leave the exotic flavors to cocktail hour.
What foods are in demand for weddings right now?
M.A. We’re getting more and more requests for completely gluten-free and vegan menus, and we welcome that. There’s no reason that kind of food can’t be as delicious as meat and carb-heavy options, and I think a lot of couples really want to be able to cater to those guests at their weddings. We’ve been doing a lot of vegetarian entrées, too. Years ago, the vegetarian entrée was super-boring for people. It was either steamed vegetables or some kind of pasta. We’ve been getting really creative with our dishes, trying things like stuffed acorn squash or butternut-squash ravioli. Late-night snack stations are also really popular. We’ve been serving a lot of hot pretzels with cheese dip and mustard. We’re even working with a couple that wants to do a late-night breakfast station with French toast sticks and little egg sandwiches.
What are some ways couples can personalize their food and drink offerings?
V.A. People have been getting really creative in the cocktails. We just did a wedding where the husband was into bourbon sidecars, and people were all over them.
M.A. We’re doing a wedding for a Russian couple, and they’re having a bottle of vodka and shot glasses on each table. That’s representative of their culture. I’m sure everyone will be smashed at the end of the night, but they’ll be having a good time.
Elevate your first meal as newlyweds with these food and wine pairings, recommended by Victor and Mary Alsobrook.
THE DISH Petite filet mignon
THE WINE Sarrelon Côtes du Rhône (France, 2015)
Upon breathing, this medium-bodied organic wine’s dry and rich flavor complements the tender meat perfectly.
THE DISH A summertime clambake
THE WINE Julien Guillot White Burgundy (France, 2015)
Nothing pairs better with steamed clams than a chardonnay. It provides a balance of oak and butter that is ideal for shellfish.
THE DISH Classic wedding cake
THE WINE Pacina La Sorpresa (Italy, 2003)
The lengthy aging process produces a velvety, smooth feel with deep, ripe fruit flavor, complementing your dessert selection. For a sophisticated twist, serve this versatile wine with an after-dinner cheese and charcuterie course.