From Field to Feast: At These Venues, What You Eat Is Grown on Site


Last October, Matthew Steinberg and Michelle Schwartz married in front of 100 guests in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, atop a thriving roof-deck farm overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

The cocktail hour was held outside, and photos of the couple were taken as they stood between crop beds. “It was cool to see people picking peppers on the property, and knowing hours later we were drinking them with tequila,” Mr. Steinberg, 30, a freelance TV editor, said of the pepper margaritas that were served.

Brooklyn Grange, which runs the rooftop facility, hosts around 45 weddings from April through November at its Sunset Park and Brooklyn Navy Yard locations. Rates start at $13,500 for a maximum of 150 people at Sunset Park and $6,000 for 50 or less at the Navy Yard.

The fully functioning, sustainably cultured farms grow botanicals, which are used in cocktails, as well as wildflowers for décor and various produce that is handpicked by staffers and incorporated into catered meals.

“To look at a plant or produce growing, while simultaneously consuming and tasting it in your drink or on your plate, and to look at wildflowers blooming and to see them arranged on your table, brings a deep, intensified full-circle connection between you, nature, and of all of these elements and experiences,” said Anastasia Cole Plakias, a founder of Brooklyn Grange. “The idea of farm to table is changing. Now you’re coming to the food, and the table is in the farm.”

The farm-to-table concept has long meant harvesting agricultural products and distributing fresh, seasonal food locally to retailers, restaurants, farmers’ markets, or even directly to customers.

But nowadays couples planning a wedding also “want a location and menu options that reflect their values, while being part of an experience and the environment,” said Viva Max Kaley, a senior events manager at Lindsay Landman Events, a boutique firm in New York.

“People want to know where their food has come from, who picked it, what they’re eating, and is it fresh,” she said.

The Stone Barns Center in Tarrytown, N.Y., has seen a steady increase in on-site weddings, to 88 last year from 64 in 2016. The farm encompasses 250 acres of pastures, woodlands, vegetable gardens, a green house, beehives and farming animals like cows, chickens, goats and pigs.

Integration is a major component of its attraction. In the property’s garden, cocktails are infused with foraged ingredients from the farm, such as badger flame beets, jalapeños (breeders remove the heat to produce flavor without the spiciness), and sassafras wood bark from the property’s surrounding trees.

“Couples want better-tasting food and flavors, happier experiences around what they are eating while letting the farm dictate the meal,” said Dan Barber, the executive chef and an owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the restaurant on the property.

When planning a farm-to-table-wedding couples need to know that not all ingredients will be available when and how they want them.

“Produce is seasonal and depends on weather’s cooperation,” Mr. Barber said. These conditions, though, can add to the overall experience. “We are hard-wired to want a connection to eating in the place where you can see and experience food ripening in front of you,” he said. “There’s an intuitive pleasure when that happens.”

At a farm wedding in Saratoga, Wyo., planned by Ms. Kaley last year, guests nibbled on fresh baked bread and imbibed sourced cocktails, while a farmer explained how everything was made. Crudités boxes filled with produce picked fresh from the garden, were placed on guests’ tables. “The food served at our event was butchered, grown and cultivated on site,” said Ms. Kaley, adding that the experience made the meal more enjoyable for guests.

For urbanites, “those experiences are more meaningful,” said Sneh Diwan, the owner of Diwan by Design, a destination event planning company in Jersey City, N.J., especially for “people coming from New York, a city that doesn’t always allow you to have these experiences like frolicking through the field and then eating in it.”

Food served at farms comes with a story, as well as a level of trust, “a sense of home, a natural setting and the opportunity to create something together with the chef, the farmer, the baker, even with the location and environment,” Ms. Diwan said.

Those interested in food foraging with the person responsible for creating their wedding meal can be active picking participants at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. The executive chef, Michelle Wick, leads the couple on a tour of the property’s farm, which features chickens, quails, ducks, mango and banana trees, herbs and produce. (Wedding dinners start at $275 per person.)

Want quail eggs with your canapés? Simply point and pick. Perhaps it’s choosing buzz buttons flowers, which have edible petals that tingle when you bite into them, to sprinkle on dishes or muddle in cocktails. The flavor “adds a nice sensation and pairs well with the honey collected from our bees,” Ms. Wick said.

“Couples are connecting with nature, and with every element of their wedding,” Ms. Wick added. “They are getting joy by seeing where their food is coming from, selecting specific ingredients, and in knowing they helped customize and curate the menu for their guests. It’s a very tactile and emotional experience. You can get a ballroom anywhere. Eating on a lawn next to the garden is special.”

Ten minutes from Chatham Bars Inn in Cape Cod is its eight-acre farm, which grows more than 180 varieties of produce and an array of botanical and wildflowers, including edible ones, which can also be used for bridal bouquets and table centerpieces. Apples harvested on the inn’s orchard are incorporated into vinaigrettes and mignonettes.

The inn hosts 75 to 100 weddings a year and offers educational tours that guests can participate in during the rehearsal dinner. “Guests travel through the farm with a cocktail as we highlight the methods of produce and where things come from,” Joshua Schiff, the inn’s farm manager, said. At the end of the wedding experience, guests get gift baskets filled with harvested produce. (Brooklyn Grange has something similar.)

These curated encounters help “guests get a greater sense of connection with the point of origins,” said Mr. Schiff, who added that barns have become desirable wedding locations. “Because you’re part of the harvesting, the tastes and textures of everything you’re eating create a longer-lasting memory.”

“A good vibe and connection to nature” were what Sunday Helmerich, 34, and Sally Rappaport, 29, desired when they booked the Brooklyn Grange at Sunset Park for their wedding on May 18.

“From the minute we got off the elevator and stepped into the farm,” said Mx. Helmerich, who identifies as nonbinary, “we knew they were creating a grounding experience that requires you to be present in a society that moves too fast.”



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