As has been documented on this blog and in countless frantic conversations with family and friends, I've been pulling my hair out over affordable, good food that comes from relatively local sources. As prevalent as the "green" message is nowadays, I've found that very few articles, books or web sites have anything new to offer. It's the same messaging over and over: bring your own bags to the grocery store, set the timer on your thermostat. Thus, even though local-food awareness is on the upswing, I had a terrible time getting responses from caterers or even farms about buying local food for the wedding.
At one point, I thought I'd have to get in touch with several farms and source vegetables from some, dairy and meat from some others. Then E and me would pretty much handle all the food ourselves, with a lot of advice from E's girlfriend Alli, a culinary student and chef at The Inn at Little Washington. Due to crazy, unpredicatble chef hours, it's unclear even now if Alli can attend the big day, so E and I were looking at lots of prepping and freezing ahead of time, with some frantic work the morning of.
A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that I'd have enough stress without worrying about chopping and tossing in the hours before the wedding. Plus, E is my best friend and numera una bridesperson. I don't want her shuffling around when she could be having a ball.
And as much as I'd like to be a bad-ass Marylander and catch enough crabs to feed us all, somehow our last excursion to the Chesapeake Bay leaves me lacking confidence (notice the banana-peel bait).
My big wake-up call came when I googled vegetarian catering on a whim, and spoke with Gail at Gail's Vegetarian Catering in DC. I explained that although neither Eric nor I are vegetarians, we want to avoid a big meatfest (sorry, Dad) for health, ethics and sustainability reasons. Her website mentioned local-sources and seasonal menus, so I thought it would be cool to see what she could offer, since free-range meat (what we try to eat when there's not some half-priced happy hour burger special tempting me) is kind of hard to get in bulk, and more expensive than our budget allows.
Although I didn't end up having Gail fully cater, I can't tell you how much she helped me put things in perspective. I'm so abrasive about what I expect my relationship and the wedding (which I think should reflect the relationship) to be. I wanted the reception to be so non-formal, but I realized that having a free-for all and setting no expectations for my guests would be a disaster. On her advice, Eric and I set a schedule (which you can see in the previous post) and a lot of things have fallen into place since then.
For one thing, we decided to go with our favorite local Italian place, Mama Lucia, for pasta entrees. We're getting equal amounts of the following, served buffet style for you to choose:
Spaghetti and meatballs (meat)
I know some of you have dietary restrictions, which we can deal with on an individual basis.
For the salads, I contacted a farmer who I know through Community Sustained Agriculture, which is a program where you can buy a "share" of a farm and then receive weekly deliveries of vegetables for the entire growing season. It ends up being really cheap, and you get lots of different kinds of vegetables to work with. Plus, you're supporting your local farm and your food isn't travelling half-way around the world to get to you.
Since a share is for a famiy of four, Eric and I teamed up with E and Alli to buy a full share of vegetables for 2008, and our deliveries start in June. I emailed the farm, Fresh and Local CSA in Shepherdstown, and Farmer Allan (yep, seriously) was very enthusiastic about selling me greens and vegetables for salads. I'll probably pick them up the week of at our normal CSA delivery site in Silver Spring. As far as what the salads will have in them, that depends on what's available that week. That's the fun of seasonal living.
We plan to order baguettes or some other sort of dipping-in-olive-oil bread to be served with the salads. For that, we're going to Takoma Kitchens, a bakery down the street from us on East-West Highway.
But I still wanted something special to greet everyone as they arrived at Cherry Hill. I thought of something Gail told me that her catering company offers: a fruit, nut and vegetable cornucopia display. It's the most pricey course so far, but Eric and I agreed that we've cut enough corners to have a mini-splurge for a beautiful fruit display.
Eric can fill you in on the cake details once we have our tasting with Sam next week, but I for sure recommend getting in touch with any chef or culinary school you know to see if they can recommend a private pastry chef to do your cake. Sam is giving us a major deal (including delivery and set up), and I think it'll turn out awesome.
After the cake, we plan to put out appetizers that our family members have agreed to help us with. The idea is that all the major wedding events are over, now everyone can either hang out, dance, swim, play video games or even leave if they're getting tired. But for those who want to stay, there will be something to munch on if you're hungry.
Eric is handling the beer. We plan to get kegs of our favorite local brews, probably from Wild Goose. We'll get at least one light and one dark beer, and the ratio will be something like 3:1 light to dark. I'm researching Virginia wines, and hope to have two bottles of red and two bottles of white per table, one bottle of champagne per table, and one bottle of Martinelli's for the kids. We also plan on having lots of cold water, iced tea and home-made lemonade.