Farm to Fork to Happily Ever After

Two local chefs paired their passion for food with their love for each other, resulting in a stylish farm wedding with a meal to remember.

Dresses can be stunning, flowers can be first-rate, and the right music can make an evening—but let’s face it, as the guest at a wedding, what the couple is going to feed you is essential to how much you’ll enjoy the day. So when two chefs get together, fall in love and decide to get hitched, that’s one wedding guests won’t want to miss.

Laurel Somerville and James Gunderson, who met while working in the kitchens of Broder’s Pasta Bar and Cucina Italiana, didn’t overlook a single culinary detail when planning their September 2011 wedding at Star Thrower Sheep Farm in Glencoe.

“I was pretty relaxed about a lot of aspects [of the wedding], but the food we obsessed over,” says Laurel, who began working at Broder’s in 2006 and is now sous-chef at the Pasta Bar. James, who has spent most of his working life at Broder’s and currently occupies the role of sous-chef in the Cucina Italiana, wasn’t as concerned with what was served as making sure that it was done well.

“Everyone’s been to a wedding where there’s been god-awful food,” James says, and he didn’t want that wedding to be his.

To start, the bride and groom chose a site that had plenty of delicious ingredients for the taking right on the premises: a working farm. It began with Laurel’s idyllic vision of a farm wedding, and for James, the desire for an “authentic” wedding. They had seen a few barns, but most of them felt staged for events and not at all like a functional barn. Then their boss, Molly Broder, connected them with Deborah and Scott Pikovsky, the owners of Star Thrower Sheep Farm, and drove them out for a meeting on a frigid January evening.

What they expected to be a one-hour appointment turned into an hours-long encounter, tasting sheep’s milk cheeses and helping make yogurt, meeting the animals, chatting with the Pikovskys—and even then, they had to pry themselves away when it was time to call it a night. James and Laurel instantly felt comfortable, and knew they’d found the right venue for their wedding.

Prep Work
As a couple brought together by their love of food, it’s no surprise that they screened several caterers.

In the first few interviews, they discovered that most of the caterers weren’t especially confident about executing a meal at a site where food preparation equipment involved little more than a hose with running water. But when they met with Minneapolis-based Fabulous Catering, everything seemed easy, and after a couple of tastings, the deal was done.

“We gave them hell, but they were really great,” says Laurel. Having food prepared fresh that day was important to the couple, so the caterers agreed to work with rented grills and cook with pans on the grills as needed.

Dinner Party
As James and Laurel put together the meal for their big day, they knew they wanted to tie in the farm’s products as much as they could, with every element of the meal meaningful and deliberate. Farm-raised lamb would be the centerpiece at the event. The first course, ground lamb and sweet-corn potstickers, was inspired by the potstickers the couple had eaten the night they got engaged.

People enjoyed these and other hors d’oeuvres while sipping prosecco, wine and beer (served out of growlers from St. Paul-based Flat Earth Brewery) during the tented cocktail reception. Guests could freely roam the pastures before sitting down to dinner, perhaps even catching a glimpse of the sheep being milked.

The rest of the harvest-inspired meal was served family-style inside the barn at three long community tables, accommodating roughly 160 guests. “We wanted it to be a wedding, but also a really great celebration meal with everyone we loved,” says Laurel.

A salad of roasted beets, local spinach, pecans and Star Thrower’s raw milk camembert was followed by a main course of lamb two ways—whole roasted lamb and a Moroccan tagine made with the stew cuts, complemented by a hazelnut and mint pesto, fig barbecue sauce, Israeli couscous salad and roasted seasonal vegetables.

For two fellow cheese-lovers married on a farm that produces its own line of cheeses, the cheese course that followed was inevitable, featuring Star Thrower’s aged farmstead tomme and blue cheeses, with fresh figs, roasted garlic and local honey.

Setting the Scene
Even non-edible elements were influenced by the couple’s interest in all things food. Candle centerpieces on the tables were worked into arrangements using dried split peas. Sally Berry, lead consultant and florist at wedding coordination company Mother of the Bride, designed bouquets using as many edible items as possible, like fresh herbs, fiddlehead ferns and decorative kale, with Star Thrower’s hand-spun sheep’s-wool yarn binding the bouquets and boutonnières.

Photographer Erica Loeks had an assistant who specializes in food photography, and to the bride’s delight, captured images of the food that rival the wedding shots in their beauty.

The favors, an array of jams and spreads that the couple canned themselves, gave new meaning to the expression “labor of love.” Putting together 180 jars of jams and pickles was a summer-long project (particularly because it was all done in their house with no air conditioning). Flavors ranged from apricot blackcurrant jam to apple cider butter to a spiced tomato jam—the selection so tantalizing that they were smuggled out by the fistful, despite the sign posted that kindly asked each guest to take just one.

For the Love
The jam project was symbolic for Laurel and James—a romantic tale of hard work, chemistry and culinary inspiration, often unfolding from behind a counter as they prepared food. While there may be a few discrepancies in how they recount their first date (she says it was a Mason Jennings concert, while he recalls being invited over to her place to play chess), there’s no doubt this couple can work together tirelessly and come out on the other side enamored with each other.

A Wedding Recipe
Venue: Star Thrower Farm | Catering: Fabulous Catering | Photography: Erica Loeks Photography | Wedding planning and flowers: Mother of the Bride | Rentals: Après Party and Tent Rental | Bridal gown: The Wedding Shoppe | Bridal hair & makeup: The Hair District | Groom’s apparel: JoS. A. Bank and Savvi Formalwear | Invitations: Epitome Papers | Cake: Clara Piveral, friend of couple

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