Food For Thought
Add flair to your menu with local fare
Words by Mel Paradis
When planning your Teton wedding, forgo the generic reception fare; instead, make the Tetons your guest of honor. What better way to pay tribute to the beautiful location than to make your reception meal a locavore experience for all to remember?
Start off your reception with a bar stocked with libations brewed, fermented, and distilled in Wyoming and Idaho. Grand Teton Brewing Company and Snake River Brewing are the area’s two biggest breweries. Both have been providing locally named staples for almost thirty years. From Jenny Lake Lager to Teton Amber, guests will enjoy tossing back these favorites. Slightly newer to the game, but equally tasty, Wildlife Brewing and Roadhouse Brewing Co. have options for those who want to showcase the smaller local breweries. Finally, if you want to feature a hot, up-and-coming brewery, look no further than Alpine, Wyoming’s Melvin Brewing. Its 2×4 Double IPA won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival, in addition to numerous other awards. Do warn your guests, though, that at 10 percent alcohol by volume, the 2×4 Double IPA packs a punch.
While the Teton region isn’t wine country, your wedding need not be devoid of wines with a Wyoming or Idaho label. Jackson Hole Winery sources their grapes from Sonoma and Napa. The wines are then produced and cellared here in the Tetons. The winery claims that the “cool mountain air preserves the wine’s aromatics through slow fermentation and aging.” See if any oenophiles at your reception can taste the difference. If you want your grapes grown in the Rockies, the Snake River Valley, just outside of Boise, is growing grapes that produce amazing wines. Keep an eye out for the labels Cinder, Split Rail, and Koenig.
If you are planning on a signature cocktail, Idaho and Wyoming have a liquor for most any libation. Justin Simoson, catering and conference service manager at The Wort Hotel, says, “People are getting more into the spirits lately. Of course, the craft beer revolution was real big. Now, the craft distilleries are catching up and putting out some really fantastic products.” Grand Teton Distillery in Driggs, Idaho, recently partnered with actor Channing Tatum to produce Born and Bred, a small-batch vodka made from Idaho potatoes and Teton glacial water. Prefer gin for your martini? Jackson Hole Still Works’ Great Grey Gin has citrus, spice, and floral notes, in addition to the typical juniper. For those who want their rye on the rocks, Wyoming Whiskey sells several options for both whiskey and bourbon, ranging from single malt to private stock. If Manhattans or juleps are your schtick, Grand Teton Distillery’s Colter’s Run Bourbon makes a great base. Hot, summertime weddings call for light and tropical cocktails. Casper, Wyoming’s Backwards Distilling Company’s Sword Swallower Rum is made from organic cane juice that is finished in used tequila barrels. Add some local mint for a refreshing mojito.
The nonalcohol-drinking contingent of your guest list need not miss out on the local flavors. Dust Cutter’s Huckleberry and Peach Tea Lemonades are perfect thirst quenchers for a hot summer day. Toss the giant cans in your cooler alongside bottles of Grand Teton Brewing’s Old Faithful Root Beer and Cream Ale.
Give your guests a taste of what is to come at your reception with your locavore-inspired welcome basket. Ashley Watson of Mountains of Groceries (and Wild Rose: Earth-Friendly Weddings and Events) has been outfitting food events in the Tetons for more than a decade. She recommends preparing your guests for a hike with locally made products such as Wind River Herb’s Outdoor Insect Oil, Tram Bars from Kate’s Real Food, buffalo and elk jerky from Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Company, Trilipiderm sunscreen, and a map of the national parks. “A big part of my focus is to scale down the footprint of weddings,” says Watson, “and buying local is a great way to do that!”
Once everyone has had their first beverage, it is time to showcase foods produced, grown, or raised in the area.
“When designing small weddings, which is my focus, we often source locally as much as possible. A number of caterers and private chefs are happy to design menus that are locally or regionally sourced, and seasonally inspired,” says Virginia Powell Symons of Vibrant Events of Jackson Hole.
“Everyone wants farm-to-table and local when it comes to their wedding menu,” says Kendra Hobson of Simply Grand Weddings and Events. “I often work on ranches where I will say jokingly to the client, ‘You can eat your steak while sitting on the grass they grazed on.’ ”
Scott Steen, executive director of Slow Food in the Tetons, recommends getting the local producers on board early in the planning stages: “Farmers love having commitments before they plant.” He suggests that you work with your wedding planner and caterer to plan out your menu, and then, give the farmer or producer the specifics of what you need, and they can plant or produce it specifically for your wedding.
Options for dairy, vegetables, fruit, and meat all exist within a stone’s throw of the Tetons. Paradise Springs and Larks Meadow farms in Idaho both produce several artisan cheeses made from cow, goat, and sheep’s milk. When looking for vegetables, the options are almost endless depending on the number of mouths you need to feed. Vertical Harvest stands out as a great option that you can even point out to your guests as they tour downtown Jackson: “Hey look, our salad was grown right in that giant greenhouse!” Other Wyoming options include Huidekoper Ranch and Haderlie Farms. Idaho has equally delicious choices, from the original pioneers at Cosmic Apple Gardens and Alpenglow Farm, to more recent additions Snowdrift and Teton Full Circle farms.
With so many ranches in the Tetons, meat options abound. Lockhart Cattle, Mead Ranch, and HD Dunn & Son Angus Ranch all offer grass-fed beef for those who want to serve up delicious steaks. If pasture-raised pork is more your style, check out Robinson Family Farm and Ranch in Star Valley or Larks Meadow Farms, where they feed Berkshire pigs whey from their cheese operation. Lamb is the ideal meat for the late spring wedding. Thistle Brooks Farm in Driggs and Wilson’s Double Diamond Ranch in Alta both raise premium lamb on their small-acreage farms. Finally, if you are wild about serving game meat to your guests, look no further than the Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Company. Their buffalo and elk are pasture-raised in the West and then butchered and processed in Jackson.
“The possibilities for creating menus from locally sourced ingredients have grown at an amazing pace in the last four to six years,” says Bill Boney of Dining In Catering. His Local Mountain Menu showcases the best the area has to offer. If you choose his Grilled Clear Springs Idaho Trout Fillet with Priest Lake Huckleberry-Peppercorn Relish served over Teton Valley Red Quinoa, you will not want to miss eating at your reception.
While not quite as easy as dinner and drinks, dessert does not have to be devoid of local ingredients. In the summer and early fall, many fruits are available in the area. Raspberries, strawberries, apples, and pears can all be added to various sweets. Looking for something different? Huckleberries are a unique fruit foraged only in dry mountain areas, such as the Tetons. Ask your baker to utilize this delicious fruit in the filling of your cake. And don’t forget to caffeinate your guests to keep them dancing into the wee hours. Teton Coffee, Jackson Hole Roasters, Snake River Roasting, Great Northern, and Cowboy Coffee all roast their beans locally.
From opening cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres to the coffee you serve up with dessert, local options exist to tantalize every taste bud. When meeting with your wedding planner and caterer, ask them how you can add local flair to your meal. Showcase the food of the Tetons and make your wedding a locavore event for all to enjoy.
Mel Paradis is a writer, educator, improviser, and server. A native of Chicago, she now resides in Tetonia, Idaho, with her husband and two kiddos. Mel started her writing career with a food column for a local newspaper and has focused heavily on culinary content ever since. Her own Teton wedding was filled with local brews and side dishes made by her friends from their own gardens.