From Sarah Petryk, founder of Adore Weddings LV/Poconos and Allium Floral Design & Event Styling:
Friends, first, how are YOU doing? Are you thriving? Are you surviving? Are your hiding under your covers, watching movies? Please know that all of us at Adore are with you. Know that we are sending you comfort and love in this time of so much uncertainly.
Honestly, I bounce back and forth on a daily (fine, hourly) basis. I am trying to be kind to myself. I’m trying to slow down, not to force myself to accomplish it all in what so many keep touting as the ultimate gift of time. I’m trying to put one foot in front of the other. Some days it’s a R-E-A-L-L-Y slow shuffle and other days it’s a sprint. I know you feel this way too!
Personally, I’m also getting ready to embrace smaller, more intimate events. The truth is, I’ve always loved them. Special dinner parties, where we talk long into the night and enjoy a delicious meal served with so much thoughtfulness. Epic/hilarious dance parties with friends (who may or may not dance as badly as I do). Birthday celebrations with loved ones. This list goes on.
Last year micro weddings were a hot commodity. It felt like every styled shoot and article that came out talked about this trend. And here we are in a pandemic world, wondering breathlessly what weddings might look like for the next few months/year plus, and suddenly those micro weddings feel so timely. We feel for our couples who need to reschedule. Those who are looking at how they can pare down their guest list, who are trying to plan for their future wedding, but feel hesitant to make decisions. We all feel like we have so much information and yet so little information. We sit waiting to hear. Can I gather with a group of 25, of 50? Will we all have to sit in little family groups 6 feet apart? Will we wear masks? Will we have our temperatures taken? We all have so many questions. While waiting for guidelines from our states, wedding professionals everywhere are energetically reimagining our industry, preparing to make events happen for our couples the moment those guidelines are released.
I think it’s likely that for a while, special events, including weddings, WILL need to be smaller and more intimate. My floral design company is already partnering with a number of different venues and wedding planners to create packages for these smaller “micro” weddings. But just because the guest count may be smaller, doesn’t mean the wedding is any less meaningful. If anything this smaller group truly represents “your people”, your family and friends who love you the most, who stand by you through thick and thin. From there you might choose to loop in your larger community of loved ones online or by sharing your video after the event. I am so excited about what the possibilities might be and how many incredibly beautiful and intimate weddings we will have the opportunity to be a part of this year.
Thinking about these smaller weddings, it felt timely to share this gem from late last fall. My friend and amazing celebrant, Alisa Tongg, loves a good dinner party and an opportunity to pause and celebrate special moments in life. She posted early in the fall, asking who might want to come together to celebrate a dinner focused on the bounty of the land (The Hunter / Gather Dinner). From there we imagined what this outdoor celebration might look like. And, as an added twist, did a styled shoot that showcased what this event might look like if it was also a wedding. I even got to collaborate that day with my friend and fellow designer, Joe Moussa, Owner of JHM Event Group. Our friend Will Croasdale was about to open his historic property up for hosting small events, so we were fortunate to be able to share this meal on his beautiful property, Sanctuary at Giant’s Foot.
Please enjoy this lovely piece about the dinner written by Emily Kovach as featured on the Bacon & Lox blog. Everyone who participated truly brought so much to the “table”. This Hunter Gather Dinner was actually one of the last events of that size that I got to participate in. So it feels extra special to me now and I am delighted to be able to share it with you here.
Featured Adore Vendors in this Hunter Gather Dinner and Microwedding Inspiration
A Love Letter to the Land: The Bacon and Lox Society’s Hunter Gather Dinner
“Where’s the moon?” someone asked, as 25 guests draped wool blankets over their laps and settled in for an outdoor dinner on a frigid late-fall evening.
Everyone craned their necks around, looking for that familiar face in the sky, as it was the unofficial guest of honor of the evening. This event, dubbed the Hunter Gather dinner, was specifically organized for December 12, a lovely symmetrical date that also fell on the last full moon of the decade.
“There it is!” another person exclaimed, and pointed to the spindly top of a nearby tree, naked of its leaves. Peeking over the tops of the branches, the moon glowed bright, a quiet guardian over the party below.
That party consisted of members of the Bacon & Lox Society, a group of artists and photographers, artisans and makers, and small business owners that make up the congregation for Alisa Tongg, a spiritual but non-religious certified Life-Cycle celebrant based in Northeastern, Pa. In addition to her work guiding others through rites of passage, like marriage and funerals, she helps to organize occasional events for the Society, often in unexpected places and under unusual conditions. For instance, each summer, she plans a huge group dinner in a creek, and she’s also hosted a gathering on a frozen lake.
Tonight, on the coldest night of the year so far, Tongg gathered her people for a meal to celebrate stewardship and being responsible, and being of the land and living off it.
Soon after moving to Pennsylvania from Hawaii in the early 2000s, Tongg learned of the strong tradition of deer hunting in the state. Although that norm was unfamiliar to her, something in it resonated.
“Even though I’ve never been deer hunting myself, I’ve been interested in this annual ritual, way of life, and a way to forge strong social bonds,” she says. “A few years ago my family officially became citizens of Cherokee Nation, and I’ve always appreciated the philosophy of using all the parts of the animal, if one was to eat meat. When we were forming this event, that value was definitely top of mind.”
After a cocktail hour, some rousing rounds of axe-throwing, and a heartfelt sing-along to the song “Lean on Me” led by filmmaker Christian Lopez, the dinner began with all of the attendees gathered in a circle. Tongg, clad in a floor-length white fur coat, shared a story of watching her neighbor responsibly manage the ash trees on his property, which were suffering a blight that is, in fact, sweeping across Pennsylvania and destroying many ash trees. The neighbor cut many of his trees down, inoculating some, and carving up by hand and hatchet an especially huge one that had fallen between their properties.
“I could tell that the work was satisfying to him, there was a sense of accomplishment, pride and neighborly kindness when he and his son brought a truckload of firewood over and filled my wood pile,” she remembered. “Because of this experience, I knew we were going to have a wood splitting station at our gathering and invite our attendees to chop wood, then add it to the bonfire for the benefit of all of our warmth.”
She also read a poem, “The Butchering” by Rick Bass, that she felt helped to capture the themes of dedication, responsibility and stewardship. She emphasized two lines from the poem that seemed to hold extra meaning on that night:
“This is what you’ll be doing today, and the meat, the work of the day, will last all year if you use it right, for the best meals, the meals of ceremony and greatest gratitude. You want to do a good job. You want to do a job that in some way acknowledges the finality of the decision you made earlier in the hunt.”
“The deer vanishing, eventually, into the future. The deer vanishing, eventually, into you.”
After joining hands and sharing in the Quaker tradition of “passing the heartbeat” (sending a hand squeeze and intentions of love and gratitude around the circle), the Society sat down around a grand round table that Tongg’s friend Will Croasdale built earlier that week.
Croasdale is a hunter, custom builder, beekeeper, and master gardener, whose beautiful wooded property, Sanctuary at Giant’s Foot, served as the venue for the dinner. According to Croasdale, this piece of land, hugged by the babbling Cherry Creek, was known a few hundred years ago as the Giant’s Foot “Freak of Nature”. The view from the oft-traveled road above showed the creek cutting a distinct boot shape into the land, and many postcards and paintings were made of the landmark.
“The property is a truly beautiful place with many unique variations as we change through the seasons,” Croasdale says. “It was originally owned by my family, purchased we believe from William Penn’s brother. Several years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to purchase the property back from a long time owner, and it now connects to a larger piece of the original family property.”
Croasdale was also responsible for the deer on the menu that night, which he harvested with a bow and arrow just a few weeks prior from a hunting perch on his property. In fact, he shot the deer more or less where the table was set up, under a looming and ancient oak tree.
The meal was a spectacular affair. As with all Bacon & Lox Society gatherings, this was not a ticketed event. The congregation each brought forth gifts to contribute, gifts that represented their passions, and each was invited to sit and enjoy the feast together. Every person involved brought their A-game: Chippy White Table, an events rentals company based in Tunkhannock, PA, brought vintage and modern furniture for an outdoor lounge, as well as glassware and flatware. Fox and Finch Vintage Rentals supplied the chairs around the table, which looked plucked from a cozy library and a cool granny’s living room. Tinys Bottle Shop from Philadelphia brought natural wines from California and Chile, handpicked to pair with the venison-based dishes served that evening. Philly-based artist Karina Puente brought hand-painted enamel mugs depicting a series of moments of a deer running through time and on the property. And Madeline Isabella, a photographer from Lancaster/Philadelphia, was there to capture every detail and moment throughout the night.
The floral arrangements and centerpiece of the table were true masterworks by Lehigh Valley-based designer and event stylist Sarah Petryk of Allium Floral Design. The cascading, textural, fully organic-feeling sculpture, complete with deer skulls and antlers on loan from Petryk’s brother, was her response to the many “country-themed” weddings she’s designed (think mason jars and wooden slabs).
“I wanted to figure out a way to include the more rustic components, but still keep it elegant and modern,” Petryk says. “We used wood elements in the chargers and the chairs and the handmade table. But the lines were round, cleaner, instead of those rough hewn slabs.”
The flowers were chosen to withstand the freezing temperatures, and were a mix of silk blooms from her new line (Allium Everlasting), along with fresh Salal, magnolia leaves, and dried and sun-bleached bamboo saved from last winter. The impressive scale of the centerpiece was necessary to balance the massive size of the table-in-the-round, and dozens of candles and chandeliers hung from the tree helped to layer in light and texture for the post-sunset darkness. Additional textural elements, like wood chargers, velvet napkins, velvet pillows and blankets, helped lend warmth to each place setting. Clover Event. Co. from Philadelphia and Joe from JHM also helped with the planning and styling.
A connection to land via sustainable practices was also on full display. Hanging from the generous branches of the oak tree were five chandeliers powered by a silent and clean generator called a Goal Zero Battery, and the lumber used to build the base of the table in the round was repurposed from a staircase. The food, from the first bite to the last also took inspiration from the seasons, the land, and scraps of food that are usually tossed aside.
The deer that Croasdale hunted was processed and butchered by himself and his friend Aaron Hennet, and was then put into the hands of Chef Brandon Grimila, who first got connected to the Bacon & Lox Society through one of the previous Creek Dinners. Formerly of the Milford, PA restaurant 403 Broad, Grimila now lives and works in Brooklyn at The William Vale. His father was a hunter, and Grimila’s connection to eating and cooking venison is strong. He says these sorts of events are what makes him want to be a chef.
“Cooking outdoors, for a chef, is rad: It’s primal, it’s raw and it’s not easy,” Grimila notes. “You control fire if you know how to work with it … but you don’t really control it, and that’s wild. Cooking this way really forces me to consider every detail and think on my feet.”
His intention for his impressive menu at the Hunter Gather dinner, was to create “An Exploration of Venison,” as explained in the stunning mini book menus by Rabbit Rabbit Crew, a Philly-based design house. Each little book was bound with scraps of soft leather pulled from Rabbit Rabbit founder Nicole Hutnyk’s personal collection of leather pieces gifted to her over the years.
Finished on an open fire stove (which Croasdale built with the help of a friend who’s a goldsmith) and served family style, the Society was treated to impossibly savory venison ragu with Brooklyn Pasta, local kale and mushrooms, and imperial stout; rich venison stew, with new potatoes, red wine and charred cabbage; backstrap, as tender as the finest filet mignon, with celery root, cranberry mostarda, black truffle jus and sage; and side of skillet potatoes, delicata squash with farro and charred cabbage carbonara.
The guests exclaimed with delight as the steaming dishes were passed around and around. The lap blankets, food, wine and conversation helping to allay the steadily falling temperatures and numbness in the toes. Each bite truly was a revelation of what venison can be, when cooked with care and creativity: a gift from, and an expression of, the land.
After the dishes’ third and fourth trips around the table, everyone had their fill. The last bites of the night were from Anna J. Fitting, a pastry chef from New York City, currently working on the opening of Jook Sing, a dim sum cocktail bar in Williamsburg. After years working in high-end hotels and restaurants in Manhattan, and seeing the staggering amount of food waste in the industry, Fitting was inspired to create her own style of zero-waste cooking and baking. She shared her philosophy with the group, and then served a trio of desserts, made with scraps and bits that would normally be thrown away.
“I wanted to build a dessert of familiar holiday flavors that would work well with the deep flavors of venison, hemp, farrow and wheat berry, with which Brandon was working,” Fitting said. “As always, I used as many upcycled ingredients as possible in the recipes: orange and banana peel, dry and wet spent grain and aquafaba [the liquid in a can of chickpeas].”
She also gave guests a small takeaway box of upcycled treats, like a chocolate tea cake made with banana peels and stout, shortbread made with bambara (a groundnut flour) and a fudgy blondie made with the runoff from sourdough starter.
After the meal, the guests gathered around a bonfire, sipping amaro and rubbing their hands for warmth. By this time, the moon was high overhead, smaller than during its first spotting, but no less clear and bright. Its aural glow and shape seemed to echo the themes of the night: connection, community and the sacred cycles of the Earth.
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Featured Adore Vendors in Hunter / Gather Dinner and Microwedding Inspiration
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Additional Vendors in Hunter / Gather Dinner and Microwedding Inspiration
|| Producer and Concepting: Bacon and Lox Society || Venue: Sanctuary at Giants Foot || Photography: Madeline Isabella || Film: Dearly Beloved Weddings || Chef: Brandon Grimila || Pastry Chef: Anna J. Fitting || Libations: Tiny Bottle Shop / The Lunar Inn || Custom Builder: Abundat Inc. || Menus and Digital Invitation: Rabbit Rabbit Crew || Furniture and Lounge Rentals: Chippy White Table || Custom Painted Enamelware Mugs: Karina Puente Arts || Additional Day of Design: JHM Event Group and Clover Event Co. || Musical Coordination: Charae Theory || Heaters Courtesy of: Promise Ridge || Custom Fire Kitchen: Abundat Inc. and Gold Welding ||
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