Wedding Weekend, Part II
September 7, 2011

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After a delightful evening, I woke up well rested and ready for a spectacular ceremony at Blue Hill Stone Barns. Those of you who don’t know of the restaurant/farm/center for agriculture should check out the Wikipedia page, because it explains a lot about the way the institution works and what its founder, Dan Barber, is trying to accomplish. A few of you may have dined at the Washington Square location (in downtown Manhattan), and many more of you probably know of the restaurant from episode 8 of Top Chef NY, when the cheftestants paid the restaurant a visit.

In any case, Blue Hill Stone Barns is a coveted destination for all sorts of foodies (especially locavores), and I considered myself really lucky to be attending a ceremony on its beautiful and sprawling grounds:

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I had emailed the wedding planner in advance (and at my host’s urging) to let her know that I’m vegan, and to go over what that meant (lots of wedding planners will understand that vegans don’t eat dairy or eggs, but forget that those things appear in pastas and breads, or forget about things like chicken stock or gelatin). She was more than gracious, but neither of us were really worried: Blue Hill has no predetermined menu, so one of its tremendous strengths is that, as it crafts a meal for its patrons based on the day’s best produce, it can accommodate just about any selective diet. I knew my meal would be good—maybe the best I’ve ever had at a wedding—and couldn’t wait to see it.

Some of you are curious about what I wore. That’s funny, because while I give fairly little thought to dressing up for these kinds of occasions, my mom still insists on documenting my attire as if I were a high school girl attending prom. This was no exception, so here you are:

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Dress: J. Crew (4+ years old!). Shoes: faux suede (via Ebay).

There was a Tuxedo jacket later on, courtesy of an UWS boutique that was cheap and awesome and I miss like crazy.

The bride and groom get credit for organizing what is surely the most generous and convenient wedding, ever: there were roomy buses to pick us up in Manhattan and take us north, toward the Hudson Valley, where Blue Hill is located. They had such nice bathrooms. When you spend as much time on buses as I do, you start to notice these things.

It’s really easy to get dehydrated at weddings: the standing, the waiting for the ceremony to start, the cocktails immediately after, the richly seasoned food. Always hydrate beforehand! I enjoyed a coco water on the bus:

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We pulled up to the farm, ooh-ing and ahhh-ing at the pristine grounds. Fireflies were already out:

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The ceremony itself was beautiful, and the bride and groom picked some fairly perfect epithets to share in the program. My fave:

“There isn’t time—so brief is life—for bickerings apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving—and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”  –Mark Twain

Afterward, we lucky guests were treated to drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the patio. The house cocktails were a mix of cucumber juice, some sort of bright purple juice (passion fruit?!), basil, and gin. I didn’t care for one but had to photograph the color:

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For my part, and in keeping with yesterday’s theme, I asked for a surprise mocktail. The wonderful mixologist, Julio, made me a fantastic virgin cocktail with fresh grapefruit and lemon (super tart, the way I like it) and mint:

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I caught up with some old friends from FSG:

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And we all marveled over the food. Oh, the food. Let’s start with the tomato broth, a consomme so delicate and flavorful that we all were gasping with pleasure at our first sip:

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I stole four of these over the course of appetizers. They were amazing.

Next up were vegan (!) tomato napoleons, featuring an eggplant cream that used silken tofu (I’m pretty sure) to achieve a rich and velvety texture:

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All drizzled with aged balsamic.

Tomato burgers (covered in goat’s cheese, I’m afraid):

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Non vegan corn cakes:

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And the best: servers circled the room with vegetables skewered to wooden planks. Raw, lightly dressed, fresh from the garden that very day. Guess who always managed to steal the lettuce?

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I mean, every time. Later, describing this to Andrea, I actually said “it was like my idea of heaven: people just walking around and bringing me raw garden veggies on a stick.” Hyperbole? Not really.

As the sky darkened and the moon peeked out, we all got ready to enter the main hall for our sumptuous dinner:

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Again, Sarah and Jesse outdid themselves. From the location to the place settings to the glassware, this dinner was the definition of elegance:

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I started my meal with another mocktail, this one some sort of cucumber and fruit concoction with purple basil that was too good to even describe to my friends at the table with me. They all had to taste it for themselves:

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Amazing color!!

Our first coarse was a roast tomato soup. The omni diners had it garnished with caviar; I got some sort of veggie mousse that was wonderful. The soup, overall, was rich and vibrant and very silky in texture. A real treat:

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Our salad course may have predictably been my favorite. Greens that were so fresh, you could taste the dew on them, dressed with only a hint of fruity oil and lemon. Most guests had a smear of goat cheese on the tray: I got an avocado mousse.

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You can guess how I felt about that:

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Next up was a fish course for everyone else, roast fennel and carrots for me:

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There are few things I love more than roast fennel: so sweet, and it has so much character. The carrots were great, too.

For the entrée, most people were served lamb. I got more roasted seasonal veggies, including an oven roasted tomato that made me swoon, baby zucchini to die for, and some sort of herb gremolata (of sorts) that was delicious:

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A whole grain would have added a little density here, but on the whole I was so, so grateful that my vegan meal was veggie-centric, rather than a bland pasta dish or faux meat, which is what I’ve gotten at other special occasions like this one. Blue Hill is known for doing innovative and brilliant things with seasonal produce, and if you ask me, the reputation is richly deserved. What a fantastic wedding meal. Can you tell I was happy?

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Most of all, I was touched and thrilled to see my dear friend become a husband:

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Jesse is one of the best friends I have, and now that he’s acquired his best friend for life (theme of the evening: Jesse’s best friend gave a speech about how marriage bequeaths us with a new best friend), I couldn’t be happier for him:

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In all, this was a truly special night. It was grand, but never ostentatious, and the focus was on the two things that actually make a wedding fun: great music (thank you Jesse and Sarah, for a constant rotation of The Pixies, Vampire Weekend, Massive Attack, and other indie rock) and great food.

Of course, it would be tough for me to end this post without mention of the obvious: Blue Hill is a working farm, and on it, animals are slaughtered for food. It is precisely the kind of farm that conscious omnivores (a la Michael Pollan) would praise for being local, privately operated and owned, all organic, and committed to humane treatment of animals pre-slaughter. I respect this point of view insofar as I believe it offers people an alternate to the horrors of factory farming, and that it has served to awaken public consciousness and foster respect for animal life. The more farms like this that displace factory farms, the better.

At the same time, I’ve never believed that it’s acceptable to kill an animal so long as you treat it well before you do. Avoidance of cruelty is crucial, and I love that it has entered into our conversations about food production; certainly, places like Blue Hill are to thank for that. But to me, cruelty and suffering are not the only wrongs we do our animal neighbors when we choose to eat them: we also end their lives prematurely, and without necessity. As our bus pulled into the farm, and my friends exclaimed how sweet the animals at pasture were, I couldn’t help but think that many of those animals would not see the majority of their life spans. And that saddens me, even if I celebrate much of what Blue Hill stands for.

I hope you enjoyed my wedding recap, everyone. See you back here soon for some food and some healthy breakfast talk.

xo

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    33 Comments
  1. Oh, dear, honey buns. Looks like I’m going to have to get married all over again – I’ve got wedding competition for my favorite girl! Love following you via your posts, though it makes me miss you all the more. Wonderful job, all around, my dear. With my RA, my diet is super restricted, and I’m trying hard to see it as an opportunity, rather than a door closing – your posts really help me to do that! Am looking forward to making your miso dressing tomorrow…. xx

  2. Wow, food and drinks look amazingly good!
    Now, about one of the cocktails… passion fruit is yellow, not purple or red!

  3. I can feel your conflict here. It is always nice to have a chef who knows how to appreciate vegetables and herbs, the fine dining chefs like that can make a good vegan meal if they really think. I’ve had a few of those myself over the years.

    It would have been hard for me to be at a farm where slaughter occurred. I too never feel that the fair treatment justifies the means. Perhaps not that this farm, but it is so hard to know and define what “humane” treatment really even means, although some states are trying to legislate that. From a utilitarian point of view, I appreciate that the animal who has to die in the end suffered less. But it still is unfair they have to die.

  4. Yeah, it’s tough to be 100 percent enthusiastic about “local” farming. As I think it kind of justifies the whole killing part of meat. Like it’s okay because it’s “local” and Poopy Pants Pollan is really a pet peeve of mine. Thought he was kind of okay but really didn’t like him on Oprah when he & Kathy Freston were on. He acted like it was so radical or unrealistic to give up meat & also used the “we want to support the farmers” etc…I think we could employ more farmers if they were to grow kale, and if it were organic then all the people who work in and around the farm wouldn’t be sick!

  5. So pretty pictures….for site as well as food.

    I do not get the concept of ‘ethical meat’. Is there something like ‘ethical cheating on your partner’?
    We went to farm recently and as kids patted the animals, I felt very sad for animals who were on display for our enjoyment. I am already very much alien due to my food choices and then some(you will not believe what our school does to raise money, yes they flip burger at golden arch), so I could not say no to farm visit.
    However, after coming home, we were talking about what it is like to ‘loved by 10,000 kids in day’. My daughter was very clear that she does not want ‘that love’. Good thing came out of this is that probably this will be our last visit to such place.

  6. What a lovely wedding! Your photographs of the food are inspiring me to make beautiful veggie dishes this weekend. Avocado mousse? Yum. Also, thank you for the last paragraph. As happy as I am that the animals are treated humanely, the bottom line is still slaughter. Life on the ethical farm is bittersweet.

  7. Sounds like a beautiful wedding and a wonderful meal. I am always amazed when I call ahead and ask for a vegan meal and am told enthusiatically that they can accomodate me, only to show up to either a mountain of broccoli or bland pasta!

    I also want to echo what many have already said and thank you for your final paragraphs re the “kind” treatment of animals that are going to slaughter. The longer I am vegan (just over one year) the more I have a difficult time with people not opening their eyes to the reality that killing animals is cruel. Period. I think we all enjoy it when we come across others, like you, who “get it”. Thank you.

  8. beautiful wedding! and glad you were able to find some yummy food to eat and drinks 🙂 this is making me more excited for Lori’s wedding! love weddings

    congrats to your friend!

  9. In the UK last year one of the big 4 supermarket chains ran a TV ad about how ethical they are because they sell “happy” (i.e. not factory reared or farmed) meat and eggs. In this ad, a teenage girl tells her father, who is cooking supper, that she will only eat the bolognese if he uses happy meat. All I could think was: if you’re that concerned about ensuring the quality of life of an animal, how can you be happy to take that life away? Isn’t that a fundamental indiscrepancy?
    I also used to live near a farm which reared ancient breeds of cow for speciality beef, and was interested by the fact that, after lovingly and painstakingly rearing these cows, the farm manager refused to take them to the abattoir, because he was unable to bear witnessing the terror that these animals showed when being taken to their slaughter. It begged the question as to how, feeling this empathy, he was able to continue with his work, but at least he was able to see them as animate beings capable of recognizable and valid emotions. If only this empathy was more widespread and acted upon..

  10. What a great post! The wedding looked divine in every way. And don’t you just love those staple dresses that just always seem to work? Bonus when they last so many years!

    Thank you for your ending commentary on the realities of ‘the farm’. While I am sure this weighed on you, it seems like you really were able to appreciate your well-prepared vegan courses.

    One last thing I’ll mention while I’m commenting– though I’m not a vegan, or even a vegetarian (yet), reading your blog has been moving me in that direction for some time. It has, at the very least, made me so much more conscious of being compassionate towards animals. In fact, I have been surprised to notice that since having my first baby earlier this year, I have a very different perspective on animals. It’s as if the new mother instincts in me are more acutely in touch with suffering that we inflict upon them, and the fact that they are helpless. It could just be what helps me turn the corner on my eating philosophy. Jeez, is there no end to the power of pregnancy/post-partum hormones?? 🙂

  11. You always find a way to make beautiful events and beautiful food even more beautiful. And I thought you looked stunning! I’m glad that you enjoyed your meal because I can certainly relate to awful pasta dishes or other vegan dishes served at events. And I loved your last paragraph as well. I just recently added in some animal products to my diet for health reasons but now I am thinking if I should try again to look more carefully at my diet and see if I can go back to being vegan.

  12. I, too, am utterly delighted to learn of your Eugenia alternate reality 😉 The dress looks gorgeous, and as someone who is currently wearing jeans and a jacket that I’ve owned for five years, REPRESENT. There are such better things to spend one’s money on than each season’s horrific new jeggings 😛

  13. Thanks for sharing this! I appreciate your thoughts on that beautiful farm/resort: I guess it’s sort of a bridge between factory farms and an ideal. I don’t see any evidence that the world is going to go vegan and any movement toward a more sustainable and humane model seems like a win. Although I’d be even happier if the animals were rescue animals living out a happy life and perhaps their manure composted to amend soil where necessary…

    Glad that you were so well taken care of.

    And I loved seeing your full name: I’ve wondered about that for a long time, knowing that you’re Greek and that there’s no “dj” sound in modern Greek. Beautiful name, noble girl!

  14. This is beautiful, Gena. The balance of honesty, gratitude, and grace is what I appreciate most about your blog. Thanks for sharing this special experience with thoughtfulness.

    P.S. Eugenia! The Classicist in me is delighted to learn that this is your full name. Ahhh… Greek. So good. 🙂

  15. I just loved the tone of this post. It was like I could hear you speaking. Is that weird? 🙂 Your food descriptions were wonderful. They really did an amazing job catering to you. We’re going to a wedding in Asheville, NC, next month and I cannot wait. It’s at some sort of old camp, turned restaurant/event center/lodging and it sounds somewhat similar. It’s not a farm with animals, but there are gardens that supply the restaurant and what they don’t grow, they buy locally. With a few exceptions, I’m sure. Our friends are supplying us with food all weekend, and the chef is creating a special veggie + GF meal for the rehearsal dinner. There will also be GF + veggie options at the wedding. Wooho! Pretty amazing! I’m so looking forward to a weekend with our friends and delicious [free!] food. 🙂

  16. You were in my part of the world! I run by the farm all the time (Rockefeller Preserve trails).

    What a meal.They did a beautiful job for you.

    Thank you for your concluding remarks. I have never been Michael Pollen groupie (nice idea but in the end you eat slaughtered animals, no matter how “kindly” you think it was done) and just today at the gym I was listening to Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s podcast about people like him who excuse killing animals by calling it humane.

    I adore you for being able to celebrate an intimate moment of marriage, share your delicious eats and still remind us that, as ever, it is about the animals.

  17. Great points! You summed up a beautiful post with unnecessary truth and compassion. I salute you for it!

  18. I agree with your last statement whole heartedly. Would it be OK to kill a human, so long as you treated it really really well before you did it? I still find it funny that people feel they are being virtuous when they treat animals “humanely.” The fact is, you have still captured a being that was meant to be out in the wild! It is not our place to decided how that animals life should be lived “humanely or not…), nor is it our place to decided when that life should end. I am glad that you got a glowing vegan dinner though! And that dress looks amazing! Can’t believe it is four plus years old!

  19. Great general wedding tips that all of us can really put into perspective. You were a great example of a vegan/ and or vegetarian attending a wedding with the unknown in mind. Looks like you had a wonderful time and it couldn’t have been at a more pristine and elegant place! 🙂

  20. So jealous! I was in a wedding in July, for my bro in law. His (now) wife is vegan and the vegan options were terrible! Such a disappointment. My dinner was 4 asparagus and a scoop of vegan mashed potatoes that I suspect came from a box. 🙁

  21. As a former vegan, and current omni, I want to comment on the last paragraphs of this post. When I was vegan, I often had friendly–and occasionally not so friendly (when I felt I was faced with an exceptionally rude or ignorant opponent)–debates with people over “ethical” meat and dairy. I was often told, as I’m sure you are, things like “Yeah, but I only buy cage-free eggs” and “The beef I buy doesn’t come from cows injected with hormones.” It was as if people discarded the fact that animals were slaughtered, just because they were treated somewhat respectfully (which even now, I think is a big word to use in this context) before their death. Try putting a human in the animal’s position and see how he/she feels about that! It’s kind of twisted when you really think about it, you know? Well, of course you know. I won’t go into my reasons for abandoning veganism here, but I still have a lot of compassion for animals, and I just wanted to tell you that I agree with you about what you said. While I do try my absolute hardest to buy organic/cage-free/hormone-free/grass-fed meat and dairy, your point is exactly why I don’t go around thinking I’m doing the animals some sort of favor. That would be a very naive belief.

    End of essay! (I feel like a hypocrite after writing that. Certain topics trigger the former vegan within me, and I end up feeling awful.)

    On another note, the food from that wedding looks wonderful! I actually would have preferred your food over the omni food. Maybe making one exception for those cute little tomato burgers. They should’ve made those with the eggplant cream too! 🙂

  22. I’m so glad the venue was able to accomodate you so well! Your meals looked delicious and your descriptions made me drool. And more mocktail ideas! It looks like the wedding was truly a celebration of what will be a rewarding, fulfilling, and happy life together for your friends.

    I have to say I really appreciate your final commentary on the farm. I struggle with explaining to people why I’m opposed to even “ethically raised” animal products and there you have stated my exact sentiments so eloquently. Thank you for helping to arm me with responses to such questions! As much as I understand that my diet is my choice and I don’t need to answer to anyone, I do appreciate being able to educate anyone who asks and maybe change their minds or at least get them thinking about their own lifestyles. It helps the case for veganism if I have something intelligent to say, rather than stuttering and not doing justice to the cause.

  23. what great playlists ( a rarity for most weddings) & gorgeous grounds! i love j crew. i just bought wool cafe crops in bright dahlia. i’m pretending i’m italian with a luxe wardrobe ;p

  24. Gena what an amazing post…the photography & sheer amount of pics you uploaded…thank you for taking the time to share it with us all!

    “but on the whole I was so, so grateful that my vegan meal was veggie-centric, rather than a bland pasta dish or faux meat,” <– yes most times pasta with cream sauce & a 3 bite iceberg lettuce "salad" is the idea of a vegetarian meal. Glad this one was amazing for you.

    And you in your dress and your mom wanting to take pics of you…I think it's so sweet and you looked beautiful!!! Love seeing you all gussied up!

    Your last paragraph…thank you for sharing that and it will give me lots to think about and reflect on as I go about my day today…

    "At the same time, I’ve never believed that it’s acceptable to kill an animal so long as you treat it well before you do. " <– Deep & powerful.

  25. Thanks, Gena, for a beautiful post about what looked like a beautiful wedding. In particular, I was glad to read your critique of even alternative meat/ dairy farming–an important point I think is often lost in the Pollan-driven excitement over local, small-scale agriculture.

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