Brides and Pickles, a Welcome Affair

Whenever a wedding is around, food is in order. Extravagant or intimate, indoors, or out, there’s always a generous supply of food at weddings. Food is what makes a celebration a celebration, after all. Weddings, in particular, rely upon good food, real food, food that is meaningful and maybe even symbolic. That’s why the job of wedding planning can be such a tough one; to roll love and harmony, quality and symbolism into one meal is really no piece of cake. So naturally, many brides look to the experts. And around here, the experts are ready and waiting.

Down the winding, narrow streets of the FarmCoast, Dan George of Smoke and Pickles parks his smoker, a 3-chamber cooking machine. While the name doesn’t exude anything entirely regal, the smoker is extraordinary in its duties. It’s a charcoal-black contraption that prepares feasts on site, retaining flavor and freshness by smoking, barbecuing, and grilling, if need be, all at once. Weddings that hire Smoke and Pickles can be spotted from down the road. People watch starry-eyed and salivating as the smoker pulls in, a fragrant white cloud signaling the makings of a feast.

Behind the triumphant veil of smoke and rich flavors is a modest team of talented food experts carrying with them an authentic attitude of abundance, celebration, and elegance coupled with real “foodie” enthusiasm and a small touch of humor.  “It takes a Coastal Village” is their motto, because Smoke and Pickles is a cooperative effort. Each member has their own role operating the “engine,” as they refer to themselves, drawing on their unique personal histories and the support of the robust FarmCoast food community. There’s Dan, proprietor and Pickle Man, his wife Chris who can often be found playing the fiddle and performing “quality control;” theres Mark, the light-hearted Grill Master, snow-border, and long-time chef, and Kristen the Sourcer, Expediter, modern Forager of sorts, ensuring the arrival and preparation of exceptional quality. Not to mention Sally, the event planner, and the catering staff. Bustling around as behind-the-scenes guests, this group creates a visible sense of harmony to the work of preparing and serving food. Their cadence with each other is the result of a long stream of steady practice, knowledge, and sincere effort to capture moments, and foods, at their best.

Perhaps the most splendid attribute of the group is their resourcefulness. All the food prepared by Smoke and Pickles arrives from local farms and providers within a 20 mile radius. Famous herbs from Eva’s garden, crisp organic veggies picked the day of, or oysters straight from the bay. “We keep things whole as late in the game as we can to keep things as fresh as possible,” says Dan. Nothing is pre-packaged or prepared; the team reaps the sweet benefits of knowing every farmer around by name.

When it comes to the menu choices, Dan treats them like he treats his food, with reverence, compassion, and wisdom. Artistically-composed menus reflect such worldly cuisines such as Coastal New England (of course our favorite), Southern Barbecue, Vegetarian, Latin American or Middle Eastern fare and, although heavily influenced by the Bride and Groom’s palate, are always guided by seasonal farm offerings during that time of year (or week or day), and most always involve giant loves of bread. Dan endeavors to maximize flavors through contrast with pairings like… melons and mint, littlenecks and sausage, whole wood-grilled bass or salmon or chicken or steak, roasted lamb, long and slow barbecued pork, rhubarb relish, freshly chopped parsley and basil…and other sophisticated, mouth-watering combinations. Smoke and Pickles has a vision beyond simply feeding crowds, and that’s honoring glorious “rights of passage,” providing meals fit for kings and queens, brides and grooms, or people who just love food.

Details are another seductive part of the package. In addition to hand-carved wooden cutting boards and whispy flower bouquets, full-service event planning, from the initial planning stages to last-minute details, is included in the service. Sally Huntington holds this all together as a vital liaison between the brides and grooms and the Smoke and Pickles staff. Expert organizer and conceptual guru, Sally joined Dan in the beginning of his pickling adventure with a savvy business background and the necessary patience for making things go as smoothly as possible.

So where do the pickles come in? They’re in the heart of the close-knit company, what started it all, and always, colorfully adorning the appetizer table. Dan George was once  a lawyer, and –at what happened to be just the right time– asked his friend Chis Schlesinger, then chef at The Back Eddy, if he could help out in the kitchen. Days later, Dan was crowned “pickle chef” at The Back Eddy for no particular reason other than perhaps, now chef-extrodinaire Schlesinger knew it was a stroke of genius. “No one had heard of a pickle chef,” says Dan, including himself. Dan became a pickle master, dunking his hands and elbows into the history of pickles, the traditions, and oh, the flavors. He went on to attract attention from food writers around New England and co-wrote a pickling cookbook called Quick Pickles-Easy Recipes with Big Flavors. The profound influence of pickles and pickling on Dan infused this idea for the now famous team of roving caterers, striking down wedding-food stereotypes, and breathing life, creativity, and pickles into the industry.

Smoke and Pickles is the way of fresh, good food and heartfelt hospitality, the way homegrown catering should be. A slice of modern tradition, at your service.

To contact Smoke and Pickles, please visit their website at www.smokeandpickles.com. To see more photos of their events visit us on Flicker!


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