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Why I Loved (and Ate Lots Of!) the Food at My Wedding

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Even though I’m a recipe nut, cookbook author, and proud Food52 brand ambassador—when my now-husband Mike and I started planning our wedding, we put food as a #3 priority, behind DJ and “decor/vibe.”

This is because I didn’t think that people ever really remember wedding food, and I also didn’t want to peg my happy wedding day dreams on a catered dinner planned from across the country—it seemed like a risky proposition. I even tried to angle for casual tacos or barbecue instead, but that proved to be a terrible idea (because of all the set-up and breakdown and servers and bartenders and everything else that wedding caterers take care of).

Photo by Melissa Ergo

But our wedding dinner was not only the best wedding food I’ve ever had, it was some of the best food I’ve ever had, period. A lot of our guests, dumbstruck, said the same. It had very little to do with us, and everything to do with our dream caterers, Amy Padilla and Heidi Schlecht at Feel Good Foods in Santa Cruz, California.

Nonetheless, I’ve over-analyzed what I think worked so well, and thought I’d share my menu (and my notes) with you. (Please tell me your stories too!)

The Menu:

Welcome drinks

  • Strawberry lemonade
  • Cucumber water

3 passed appetizers

  • Grilled olive bread with roasted dry-farmed tomatoes, burrata, lemon oil, pink peppercorns, and marjoram (some vegan without burrata) (1)
  • El Salchichero bacon-wrapped dates with Point Reyes Bay blue cheese (some vegan with tangerine marmalade, pistachios, and orange water) (2)
  • Ahi poke with avocado, sesame, and fried wontons (3)

At the bar

  • Lemon and rosemary whiskey sours
  • Plumline Santa Rosa syrup, basil, and lime with vodka (4)

Family-style salad

  • Arugula, Chioggia beets, citrus, Brokaw avocados, citrus-date dressing, edible flowers (5)
  • Gayle’s bread and salted Strauss butter

Pretty salad from Saturday's wedding #redwoodweddings #fernriverresort with @bigsurweddings @melissaergophoto @miglorious

A photo posted by Amy Padilla & Heidi Schlecht (@feelgoodfoodscatering) on

Family-style dinner

  • Lemon-thyme marinated chicken with feta, salsa verde, and grilled summer squash (6)
  • Grilled porcini rubbed tri-tip with grilled oyster mushrooms and chimichurri
  • Gigante bean salad with French filet and yellow wax beans, cherry tomatoes, and basil (7)
  • Potato, tomato, olive oil, caramelized onion, and herb gratin (8)
  • Spring vegetable salad with sherry-shallot vinaigrette (9)

Cooking up some fava beans and squash blossoms #springvegetables #organiccatering #santacruzwedding

A photo posted by Amy Padilla & Heidi Schlecht (@feelgoodfoodscatering) on

Coffee and tea with service of dessert

Dessert (10)

  • Choose one of the two cobblers, whichever fruit looks best at market, chef’s choice (11)—strawberry-rhubarb cobbler or peach-blackberry—with whipped cream and ice cream options
  • Ice cream float bar with root beer, ginger ale, Penny Ice Cream vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sorbet, whipped cream, housemade strawberry and apricot syrups (12)

My Footnotes:

1. Amy and Heidi planned flexible apps that could be remixed easily for any dietary restriction our family and friends threw their way.

2. A nod to this party-starter. But fancier.

How to Make a Poke Bowl at Home

How to Make a Poke Bowl at Home by Leslie Stephens

The Elegant Hors d'Oeuvre's Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

The Elegant Hors d'Oeuvre's Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts by Genius Recipes

3. To help us stick to our budget, Amy recommended serving seafood in little portions (like these crunchy wontons with scoops of poke) instead of as a main. Plus, Mike freaked for these at our tasting.

4. Heidi also has a preserves company called Plumline Jams—including the syrups for the bar and ice cream floats, and the roasted tomatoes on the crostini. Like I said, dream caterers.

5. This salad was the perfect way to set the tone for a surprising, seasonal, gorgeous, damn delicious meal to come.

6. This is how to squelch any fear of sad, dried-out grilled meat—and cook it ahead for a big crowd: a) Pick tasty, not-too-lean cuts, like chicken thighs and tri-tip steak (a California Central Coast tradition!). b) Coat them with brilliant, herby green sauces like feta salsa verde and chimichurri.

Holy Smoke Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Holy Smoke Santa Maria Tri-Tip by pierino

Todd Coleman's Potato Gratin

Todd Coleman's Potato Gratin by Genius Recipes

7. These gigante beans with summery vegetable friends were a swing dish—a main for the vegetarians and vegans, a side for everyone else.

8. Amy and Heidi pitched a potato, tomato, and caramelized onion gratin as a vegan side and I was intrigued, but the day before the wedding, Amy emailed: “We wondered if we could do some of the gratins with Parmesan and cream?” The answer was "SURE, YUM" (and the biggest hit of the night).

9. This ended up like a big warm pile of fava beans, zucchini flowers, chubby little carrots, baby turnips, and all kinds of other stuff. Even my self-declared super taster brother-in-law was all over it.

10. The biggest, best decision Mike and I made about the food was to nix the wedding cake. Mike wishes all cakes were pie; I love them equally, but something less fancy and more playful felt better. We couldn’t imagine anything happier or more summery than ice cream floats and warm fruit cobbler.

Photos by Melissa Ergo

11. We knew that the very best fruit cobbler isn’t an objective call that can be made a month ahead—it’s gotta be made with whatever is perfectly ripe right now. We trusted Amy and Heidi to find it. (Peaches and blackberries won.)

12. …plus 4 cases of It’s-Its, which I’d picked up at the factory store for our welcome dinner and then completely forgot about. They seemed to all fit together just right, because they led to this:

Photo by Melissa Ergo

And this:

Photo by Melissa Ergo

What's the most memorable wedding food you've ever had? And was it at your own wedding our someone else's? Share your stories in the comments below!

Tags: wedding, wedding food, catering