Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Part Two of Designing our Menu

Sorry for the non-creative title. I've been invaded by some kind of flu bug and it has debilitated my brain a bit.

A few days ago I started talking about our desire to build a local/organic menu. Here are the meals that will round out our weekend.

Cocktail Hour Saturday:
Sources: Veggies and Dip, Cheese, Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato, Pita and Hummus, Fresh Fruit, Bruschetta

Of all the meals, the cocktail hour menu was the one that departed furthest from Indian Head's initial suggestions. We moved from a microwaved/fried meaty hot menu towards a fresh cool light menu. Given the taco lunch and potential heat of august we thought this was a good call. We want people up and dancing, not down and digesting. It also helped bring down the cost of the menu and make it more local.

Sat Dinner
Sources: Baked Ziti with Spinach, Carved Meat, Yuengling, Roasted Summer Veg, Rice and Beans, Dinner Rolls, Mixed Greens, Roasted Winter Veg Unpictured: Green Beans Almondine (darn you flu-brain).

For Saturday's dinner we wanted to provide one main meat dish and lots of vegetarian sides to choose from. We're not sure whether to do beef or pork yet (have a preference? please let us know!), but in either case the meat will be free-range-grass-fed-organic and come to us from a local butcher. We haven't made all of the alcohol decisions for the weekend, but definitely know that we will have Yuengling available with dinner (PA pride!).

Sunday Buffet:Sources: Scrambled Eggs, Beautiful Vermont Maple Syrup, Pancakes with berries, Homefries

We'll finish off the weekend with Sunday brunch. By then, hopefully, everyone will be exhausted and stuffed.

Looking at our menu, and how full it is, its hard to imagine that we had to leave some things out. But just like how we had to make tough choices when coming up with our financial budget, we also had to make tough choices in our food-miles budget. Some of the big ticket items on our food mile list were: exotic fruits like bananas, mangos, and kiwi fruit; imported gourmet cheeses; coffee; tea; hot chocolate; asparagus; imported wine; rice; chickpeas for hummus; dried beans; and spices.

When possible, we switched these items for their local/ in-season counterparts. Melons and berries got swapped in for bananas and mangos, asparagus got traded in for green beans, gourmet cheeses were nixed for local varieties (like Cabot yummm...). We will try to stash a few bottles of NZ wine in our luggage, but other wines will come from Europe (which actually have a smaller eco-footprint than Californian wines for us East-Coasters).

There are some things that are important to us and will need to come from far away, no matter what. For these items, like coffee, hot chocolate, rice, beans, and spices, we will be sure to choose fair trade producers from as local as possible.

At some point I will do a calculation on the total food miles for our weekend wedding and convert that into carbon emissions produced, but since we don't know the exact suppliers for most things, its a bit early for all that yet. Plus, honestly, I don't think my flu brain would allow for it at the moment. But as far as I can tell about 90% of the food served will come from within the northeastern U.S. (Woo hoo!!).

Given the price of organic food (due to too many fair and unfair reasons to list here), it might seem like an organic local menu isn't feasible on a shoe-string budget. But, we are paying the same price per head with our new menu, as we we would have with Indian Head's original proposed menu. There are a few ways we made this possible:

1. Our menu is in-season. Almost all of our fresh fruit and veggies will come from local farms and markets. We have planned on cooking things that are generally in surplus in August in our region, which means lower prices.

2. Flexibility. Our cook is flexible. If a certain fresh item isn't available in abundance in August, he is willing to switch to another local item, rather than importing the original item. This keeps costs low.

3. Hot breakfasts and hot hors d'oeuvres were substituted with cold items.

4. We planned our meals with creative ways to use leftovers in mind. Chili and salad bar from friday will become taco bar on Saturday.

5. We are forming a close relationship with our caterer and are offering to support him in researching local providers for specific items.

O.K., I've talked far too much about this for the moment (can you tell we love our jobs!). Would love to hear any suggestions for our menu, especially about the beef or pork toss-up.

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