A Foodie Wedding
How to throw a great Foodie Wedding.
Photo by Thomas Schauer
Let Them Say, Wow! Farm-fresh vegetables from Blue Hill.
I may be biased, but as I see it, foodies have it over, say, stamp collectors or fantasy baseball enthusiasts when it comes to weddings—and life, for that matter. While I’m sure those quieter pursuits have their pleasures, who really wants to go to a stamp-collecting-themed wedding or a fantasy baseball reception?
The foodie wedding is another thing entirely. To be invited to a foodie wedding is like scoring a ticket to the event of the century. As guests, we know that a foodie celebration will lavish us with delicious treats, beautifully presented, and tastefully paired, and that we’ll leave the event feeling sated, grateful, and deliriously happy. My husband and I, the ultimate foodie couple, were married at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in 2006. Our foodie wedding allowed us to celebrate our passion for food and for each other with all of our far-flung friends. We’ve eaten all over the world, but our wedding was the happiest feast that we ever sat down to share.
In planning our own wedding, my husband and I learned that the key to a great foodie reception is to remember that restaurant trends also apply to weddings. That means, if it’s hot in restaurants, then it’s hot in weddings, too. Exotic ingredients, celebrity chefs, and trends like local, seasonal produce and heritage breeds, all are available if you (or your caterer) look. Plus, there are plenty of other creative ways to include your foodie passions on your day. Go ahead, celebrate your foodie-dom. Remember: unlike collecting stamps or playing fantasy baseball, everyone loves great food!
Photo by Larry Tallis
Peter Kelly's Tempura Salmon Roll
Wedding banquets were once the province of anonymous hotel chefs, who dished out frozen pastry puffs and mini quiches to a weary, complacent crowd. Those days ended when culinary celebrities realized that catering draws higher revenues than restaurants. Name-dropping foodies should look for off-site catering by Daniel Boulud (Feast and Fêtes), Dan Barber (Blue Hill Catering), Peter X. Kelly (Events by Xaviars), and Rafael Palomino (Pasión by Palomino). But you might need to skip the Vera Wang dress to afford a brand-name chef.
Besides the inherent snob appeal, celebrity chefs can offer some insurance. “You’re not going to spend a large part of your career building up a reputation only to throw it away on a not-so-great event for two-hundred people,” Peter Kelly says. “My name is on the line with every wedding that I do.”
Photo by Larry Tallis
Peter Kelly's Dumplings.
Of course, if you don’t want the headache (and extra expense) of matching up a caterer and event space, several of Westchester’s top-flight, foodie-approved restaurants also have wedding-sized private-events spaces. Blue Hill at Stone Barns can accommodate up to 64 people in its modernist indoor-outdoor events space, and has recently launched a stunning 260-seat catering venue above the site’s Norman-Revival Hay Barn. Meanwhile, diner favorite X20 Xaviars on the Hudson can accommodate up to 80 in its top floor with panoramic Hudson views, and fairy-tale Castle on the Hudson can accommodate up to 150. Largest of all, Crabtree’s Kittle House can serve 200 inside—and up to 400, if you add a tent.
We chose to have our low-key wedding at Blue Hill at Stone Barns because we love locally raised, seasonal food, and we fell in love with the restaurant’s outdoor party space—which features field views, a pretty lawn for ceremonies, and a charming outdoor seating area for cocktails. While the smaller space at BHSB was perfect for us (this was before the new space launched in 2009), we did make some sacrifices. We had to keep our wedding party under 64 and there was no room for a band or dancing. We blew our entertainment budget on two hours of the best classical quartet we could find (led by violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins), and then we programmed our iPod for the meal. We've never regretted our choice.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
Foodies have strong relationships to food based on fond memories and life-changing experiences. Design your wedding menu to reflect your lives—both individually, and as a couple. When frequent Westchester Magazine restaurant reviewers Marge Perry and David Bonom married—she’s a columnist at New York Newsday and Better Homes and Gardens, while he’s a recipe developer, cookbook author, and former restaurant chef—they took personalizing their wedding menu to its fullest extent. They found a flexible venue (Full Moon Mountain Resort in Big Indian, New York), and taught the resident chef some carefully chosen personal recipes. Their wedding menu was their own creation and it was designed to reflect their lives. For instance, since they met at a press event for Red Lobster, one of the hors d’oeuvres was their version of the perfect lobster roll, in miniature. Their cake, from Carlos Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey, was also an individual design; it included Nutella, a passion of David’s.
In our case, personalizing the menu was easy. I’m addicted to ripe tomatoes in season, so our feast began with an heirloom tomato salad. My husband and I both spent joyous childhood vacations in New England, so we chose a course of poached lobster over corn stew. And, of course, as foodies, we love pork, so our main course was heritage Berkshire pork with late summer beans and pork belly. Finally, my husband is obsessed with blueberries, so one layer of our wedding cake was filled with blueberry preserves.
The biggest buzz words in restaurants today are "local," "seasonal," and "heritage breed." Work with your caterer and try to include these foods in your wedding.
Foodies love stylish ingredients, too. Create a menu that nods to restaurant trends like exotic salts, or buzzy fruits like yuzu and Indian mangoes. And, of course, there’s always Kobe and Wagyu beef to consider. Chef Kelly does a witty, upscale version of that old crowd fave, pigs in blankets—using Kobe beef.
Photo by Bruce Plotkin
Drinks for Everyone: Le Château's Refreshing Cocktails
Consider serving a single passed cocktail as a fun way to inject color and personality into your wedding. Pick a single cocktail and choose one that’s pretty, elegant, and has some connection to your lives. Foodie travelers might choose a Bellini from Italy, a caipirinha from Brazil, or a sake cocktail from Japan. Cocktails make a great first impression: they’re pretty, festive, and their range is infinite. At Le Château in South Salem, trays of passed cocktails bring the bar right to the guest.
DISPLAY THE MENU
A foodie wedding doesn’t have to end with the menu: think about including food themes elsewhere in your day. Some of the most exciting floral arrangements today incorporate fruit (and even pretty vegetables like artichokes) into the overall design.
Or, tie your place cards to pretty, sculptural pieces of fruit. Or, choose a fruit, rather than flower, invitation motif. When Chef Kelly was married, he decorated one of his hors d’oeuvres stations with a Godzilla-sized, 30-pound lobster.
And after all this time agonizing over your menu, wouldn’t it be a shame if your guests didn’t notice? Buy three or four good-looking picture frames for each table and use them to display your menu (the frames work as great keepsakes later).
There are lots of other ways to incorporate your passion for food into your wedding. Have a vacation house in Nantucket? Consider miniature boxes of Aunt Leah’s Fudge on the tables. In love with jelly beans or fleur de sel caramels? How about pretty little trays placed on the tables with dessert? Or stuff your gift bags with half-bottles of your favorite wines and sample sizes of your favorite foods. And don’t leave your attendants out: give them gift certificates to your favorite restaurants.
When it comes to adding little edible treats to your wedding, the possibilities are as endless as your foodie imagination can devise.
DEALING WITH NON-FOODIE GUESTS
IT’S UNFORTUNATE, but not everyone is a foodie. That means that some of your guests might balk when presented with raw fish, pink lamb, or highly spiced curries. While those guests must be accommodated, remember—as foodies, you don’t want the least adventurous palate in the group to determine your entire menu.
The best way to address conservative palates is to offer lots of choices in the main course. (Hors d’oeuvres already are offered in a broad assortment, so they’re not a worry.) Chef Peter Kelly suggests offering three. “We like to offer one for the real foodies, one for the more conservative diner, and one for the guy in between.”
If a three-option menu choice is not in your budget, talk with your caterer about arranging a few special meals. Send out an email blast to discover allergies, special dietary needs, and unadventurous eaters. After troubleshooting your menu, ask if raw fish or spicy food is a problem. Armed with your email info, talk with your caterer about accommodating a few special meals. Make sure that he or she realizes that there may be a few more special requests on the day of your wedding. To sidetrack any service slowdowns, we pre-arranged for eight simpler children’s meals. We anticipated that a five-course pork, tomato, and corn extravaganza might have the poor tykes squirming. This foresight also saved us some money.
Julia Sexton is a regular Westchester Magazine restaurant critic and food writer.