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A wedding reception catered by Grace & Grit. (Courtesy Photo)

Farm-to-table isn’t just a catchy phrase on the North Fork, it’s a true obsession. Brides, grooms and guests want to know where their food comes from, and this closeness to the region’s land and sea bounty is often a primary reason to get married out here.

North Fork chefs and caterers also have longstanding relationships with farms and might just have wedding menu items grown exclusively for them. It’s all about the freshest ingredients possible, and caterers have been known to stop off at a farm stand on their way to the wedding for that final garnish. 

With just a few traditional wedding “event halls” on the North Fork, local caterers have developed impressive skills at setting up and serving for site-specific, off-premise weddings at vineyards, barns, fields, farms, beaches, barns and backyards.

Caterers can also accommodate various types of service, including French style (ordering plated dishes from the table), buffet (decorated tables traditionally ending with a carving station), family style (hot and cold food platters on each table meant for sharing) and cocktail reception (numerous service tables that might have varied food or cultural themes). So whether you want a formal sit-down or a casual hoedown, you can rest assured that the food will always be stellar. 

Here are some catering options to make your wedding as tasty — and tasteful — as possible. 

Lombardi’s Love Lane Market

Lauren Lombardi studied art history in Italy and was once a food photographer — and it shows. Her rustic harvest table cocktail hour creations are nothing short of edible masterpieces, and guests will feel like they’ve stepped into a Renaissance harvest painting. “I’m a human Instagram filter when it comes to my clients’ weddings!” Lombardi said. 

Lombardi’s Gourmet Market in Mattituck has been serving Mamma Lombardi’s homemade recipes for 40 years, always with the motto “Mangia Bene. Mangia Local,” so expect a rustic Italian flair (think gorgeous charcuterie, fig and cheese platters). But while Italy is the backdrop, the North Fork still takes center stage. Never taking on more than one wedding per weekend gives Lombardi the time to meticulously craft each scene, perfecting the way the food is prepared and displayed. “One of my favorite things to do is pull over at a farm stand on my way to the wedding site and grab that one last thing that will complete the look of the harvest table design or something to garnish the dishes,” she says. “It’s always a touch I notice in the photos!”

One dish that makes it to almost every dinner menu is locally caught striped bass with blistered Sun Gold tomatoes, shallots and Meyer lemon EVOO. But a pasta dish served tableside in a giant wheel of Parmigiano is also a showstopper. 

The harvest bounty might be displayed on a rustic wooden table that celebrates the area farms, or even in a rowboat display to honor the North Fork’s waterways. It’s all about capturing the mood of the region and adding those special touches. And a signature touch? Edible flowers, with the underlying theme harkening back to Lombardi’s Italian roots.

Grace + Grit

Grace + Grit is a staple on the North Fork, co-owned by Jennilee Morris and executive chef Adam Kaufer. Morris is one of the most acclaimed chefs on the North Fork and also co-owns the small-batch coffee roastery North Fork Roasting Co.

Specializing in off-premise catering, Grace + Grit can manage weddings from “40 to 400 people” with equal attention to detail. “Couples don’t always realize how much is involved in getting married outside of a traditional catering hall. We specialize in all of the logistics involved from planning to rentals to food,” said Samantha Payne-Markel, director of sales.

“We believe each wedding should be special and unique and we focus on emphasizing our couples’ personal tastes,” she said. “We spend time getting to know their background and history and try to incorporate that into their locally sourced menu and specialty cocktails.” 

Hospitality is always first on the menu, right down to any last-minute dietary restrictions or needs, be they vegetarian or vegan (“We do an amazing stuffed zucchini!”). Carnivores will love the “crowd pleaser” grilled steak with house-made chimichurri sauce and crispy fried onions.

Grace + Grit has a close relationship with many local farms, such as Southold’s Deep Roots Farm, and both Morris and Kaufer are often there picking ingredients and planning their menus. 

“We are dedicated to serving high-end restaurant-quality food no matter where we are or how many people we are feeding,” Morris said. “Our team is grateful for the abundance of high-quality local ingredients from farm and sea that we get to cook for our guests, and we love what we do.”

What’s newest at Grace + Grit is catering for micro wedding events that last the entire weekend, integrating food and experiences for guests at their destination wedding. Their team includes a North Carolina-trained BBQ pitmaster for, say, a beach barbecue paired with a Peconic Water Sports boat ride.

Creative Courses

For local food with a creative twist, check out Creative Courses, co-owned by Ryan Flatley and Samy Sabil. The two honed their respective culinary crafts working at North Fork Table and Inn, opened their catering business 10 years ago and in 2016 launched The North Fork Shack restaurant, which serves as an experimental test kitchen for catering flavors and dishes. 

“We both travel a lot and get inspired,” says Sabil, who is originally from Morocco. “We love incorporating international flavors and playing around with different ideas, influences and countries. 

“And even though we’re on the North Fork and incorporate the freshest local ingredients we can find, palates are all global these days,” he adds.

 “We had a wedding couple that was going to Morocco on their honeymoon, so they wanted to include that influence. The food was French-style plated, but each table got one Moroccan tagine to share.” 

Whether working with fun food stations or a plated dinner, know that each dish will be personalized to the couple, creative … and delicious. 

Christopher Michael Catering

Owned by chef Matt Kar, Christopher Michael Catering (named after Matt’s sons who worked for the company) is a pioneering full-service catering and event planning company, creating farm-to-fork and dock-to-dish events of all sizes since 1993. “We don’t like to say farm-to-table, as there isn’t necessarily a table,” Kar says, but the idea is the same: taking the freshest local ingredients and creating catering magic. 

Kar opened and operated Jamesport Country Kitchen for 34 years, closing it in 2015 to focus full time on Christopher Michael Catering and its upscale counterpart, Two Forks Catering. The catering business operates out of the Jamesport Manor Inn, and couples (even if they’re not getting married there) can visit the catering and planning showroom for ideas, creative brainstorming sessions and menu taste tests. Popular dishes include corn off the cob salad in summer and roasted local vegetables in the fall. 

“We also cook all our meats and fish on a grill, while many other caterers might use a convection oven,” Kar adds. 

“We recognize that each wedding has a unique style and our service varies along with it,” he says. In addition to the diverse menus and service options for sit-down, buffet or cocktail-style dinners, there’s even a 1953 GMC potato truck that has been renovated to serve as a bar and food truck. Roll that out for cocktails or an after-party as an added conversation piece. 

Plated Simply

The four co-owners of catering company Plated Simply — Tom Schaudel, Courtney Schaudel, Adam Lovett and Lenny Campanelli — have over 100 years of combined experience in food and hospitality, so you know you’re in good hands. In addition to currently running A Lure in Southold and A Mano in Mattituck, team members have cooked in, opened, managed or operated many successful restaurants from Manhattan to all points east. 

While Plated Simply has very extensive menu offerings for weddings, their specialty is collaboration. “We want to make anyone’s vision come true, and we can curate any menu to any budget,” says Liz Werkmeister, Plated Simply’s event coordinator. “You’re not bound to our menu or package.”

That said, the three formalized menu options do look pretty great. A quick glance turned up delectable dishes like baby lamb chops with Madeira sauce and herbed Catapano goat cheese truffles; grilled filet mignon with shallot-bacon-mushroom ragu, fingerling potato and fig relish; and a wasabi-scented potato mash. 

Plus, it’s always nice when caterers have their own restaurants so you can continue to experience their cooking expertise once the white dress and tux are packed away. 

If you book them to cater your wedding, they’ll also offer a discount on hosting your rehearsal dinner at A Lure. 

And don’t forget about cakes and dessert …

The cake is the pièce de résistance at many a wedding, and for those who go this route, that cake has to taste as good as it looks. So who better to hire than the pastry chef who literally made four cakes for her own wedding because she loved all the flavors of each one? We’re talking about Rachel Cronemeyer Flatley of Cakes & Confections

While her cakes are gorgeous, incorporating fresh local flowers or even branches, fruits and herbs, they are not overly formal or stuffy. 

“If someone wants a fondant cake, they don’t usually come to me,” said Flatley, who is known for her “naked” or “semi-naked” cakes with some icing scraped off to let the cake peek through. Flatley works with the florist to ensure the cake flowers coordinate with the theme. 

“Each cake is custom made and is made to be a reflection of the couple,” she said.

To keep things as fresh and local as possible, Flatley uses berries that are in season from area farms. In spring, when the fruit isn’t all ripe, she’ll do a jam filling, and also loves lemons in early spring as they “hint to summer.” Strawberries are best in summer, while raspberries and blackberries can go through October. For fall weddings, she turns to warmer flavors like salted caramel pumpkin, and will make a mousse if couples insist on berries that aren’t in season.

Flatley also works closely with her clients on special orders, be it a boating theme or a gluten-free cake. Another trend is non-traditional cakes such as croquembouches (a French dessert featuring pastry puffs piled into a tower and bound with threads of caramel) or millefoglies (a multi-layered cream cake) that still have that wow factor but break tradition for less-traditional brides. 

But the biggest trend of all? Trying to keep all the guests happy with multiple cakes and flavors. Guess her own four cakes weren’t so crazy after all! 

Not everyone, however, wants a proper cake at their wedding — or only a proper cake. The wedding cupcake trend has definitely waned, but the wedding doughnut trend is huge, be it a doughnut wall, a doughnut platter or a doughnut cake. 

North Fork farm stands are filled with cider doughnuts (think Wickham Fruit Farm’s acclaimed doughnuts), but the success of North Fork Doughnut Co. (aka NoFoDoCo) attests to the demand for customizable iced wedding doughnuts.

“We have weddings booked for the next two years!” said Jimmy Lyons, who owns NoFoDoCo with his wife, Kelly, and uses her mother’s recipes. “We’ve only been open a year and we’ve done 50 to 100 weddings so far.”

NoFoDoCo’s doughnut walls include anywhere from 30 to 65 doughnuts, which can serve as the main dessert or as a parting gift for guests. 

“We just did a wedding where guests grabbed doughnuts as party favors off the walls as they were exiting, but we’re noticing that doughnuts are replacing wedding cakes altogether in many cases,” said Lyons. 

NoFoDoCo’s tiered doughnut towers comprise 30 to 150 doughnuts, and they can also create a giant two-foot-wide iced doughnut to cut into when the time comes. 

“We make everything from scratch, so it’s all custom,” Lyons said. “We’ll match the icing to the wedding’s color scheme, use edible flowers and get really creative.” Bonus? Wedding doughnuts are less expensive than a wedding cake. 

Another hot wedding trend for the North Fork is a pie bar. Couples are setting out a variety of pies that give a nod to local farm stands and the region’s bounty of farm-fresh berries and fruit. This casual — yet still delicious — approach works particularly well for a rustic barn or vineyard wedding. 

Cookie platters also provide variety and allow pastry chefs to flex their creative muscles. Lombardi’s Love Lane Market sets edible flowers into cookies that are dramatic and capture the flower farm mood. 

Passed desserts, which bypass a formal cake-cutting ceremony and seated dessert, are an increasingly popular way to keep the party going. 

Liz Werkmeister, event coordinator for Plated Simply, said, “We’ll do a passed dessert like fruit skewers and fun assorted dessert shooters in shot glasses. This way, people can keep dancing while they eat. We don’t want the dessert to interrupt the fun!” 

Grace & Grit also gets creative with passed desserts, like its popular “milk and cookies” combo, featuring a cookie stack on top of a shot of milk. 

“The newest crop of couples wants to do things differently!” said Samantha Payne-Markel, director of sales.