When we decided to write this story about creating a clean wedding menu, we quickly came to the realization that there are a million definitions out there as to what “clean eating” means. So, we turned to our favorite chic (and realistic) nutritionist Carolyn Brown MS RD, who works with Foodtrainers, a private practice in NYC. Her goal is to help her clients live a healthy life, without losing their social lives: an ideology we can get behind.
What does clean eating mean to Brown? She says, steer clear of processed foods and packaged goods that contain preservatives. Eat as organically and close to the source as possible. Use fresh, plant-based ingredients, spices and herbs, and grass-fed and pasture-raised meats and wild fish. When she puts it like that, it feels pretty doable, even for a wedding reception. If you want to have a clean wedding menu, turn to Brown's dream lineup as inspiration (don't worry: her picks would even satisfy our devilish, Dorito-loving souls).
For passed hors d'oeuvres, she starts with an expansive raw bar and huge plates of colorful crudité paired with “every dip under the sun.” As nibbles, she'd also provide local, grass-fed cheese, nut cheese (for her vegan pals), and plenty of prosciutto. Seated appetizers would be vegetable-heavy, with zucchini pizzas and abundant salads. For protein: all the poke and ceviche possible.
For entrees, Brown foregoes the traditional options and keeps things simple: wild salmon in a simple lemon, white wine, and butter sauce, along with seasonable vegetables and quinoa. She also suggests a cauliflower-rice paella, which we would be very down to try (and then maybe add regular rice, too).
Just because it's a clean wedding, Brown doesn't believe in skipping out on dessert. You can still have something sweet and light, like chocolate-covered strawberries, a coconut ice cream bar, and if you want a cake or pie, try to find one that is free of gluten and refined sugars.
And what about drinks? We were getting a little nervous that our nutritionist buddy was going to skimp out on the spirits, which we require as wedding guests. But no fear, she suggests plenty of Champagne at the beginning of the meal, followed by spicy margaritas (made from scratch, of course) and “kombuchatinis” (which are exactly what they sound like).
If you're looking for more drink inspo, let us direct you to BluePrint. You might know them for offering pre-wedding cleanses to get you and your bridesmaids feeling fit and healthy. But even if you're not into cleansing, BluePrint has a ton of options for the health-minded drinker.
For something bright, zippy, and good for your immune system, try a cocktail made from the Lemon Yay (lemon, cayenne, agave) juice, coconut milk, and tequila. BluePrint also offers energy teas, kombucha drinks, and vinegar tonics that could get mixed with your favorite spirit to make something flavorful and free of added sugars. Our tip? You can also freeze these and make a tasty and boozy ice pop or granita. And, should you have guests that want to forgo the booze aspect (why, though?) the BluePrint juice combos are wonderful bases for mocktails as well.
While Brown admits that she has never actually attended a clean wedding—maybe we're starting a trend here?—she has attended countless clean events in NYC. Her go-tos for clean food are Dan Kluger and Tricia Williams of Foodmatters.
Dan Kluger may sound familiar-he once ran ABC Kitchen and now he is at the helm of Loring Place. Brown's take on Kluger's food: “It's veggie-heavy but beautiful food that doesn't seem healthy in a traditional sense.” The good news: Kluger will cater. Take his own wedding as inspiration for your menu: he served a buffet brimming with salads and vegetables, along with a whole roasted pig, grilled quail, lamb chops, and steamed halibut. His pastry friends provided cookies, and his mom made the cake (aww).
“If you don't like tomato seeds, they will make sure there are no tomato seeds in your tomato,” says Brown of Foodmatters, which is known for its “healthy haute” cuisine. When asked what her dream wedding dish would be, Chef Williams says: a vanilla bean-rubbed North Fork quail with early-summer blistered cherries.
If this is clean eating, then put us on your guest list.