Uniting Burlington's Best
Cheese, beer, farms, and a lot of hard work—these are just some of the subjects we’ve touched on in State 14. They all speak to what’s loved about Vermont and its many communities. But we have yet to shine a light on a subject that has everything to do with love and Vermont—weddings.
Who doesn’t adore a Green Mountain marriage ceremony? Weddings are one of the state’s biggest industries, perhaps because all of the necessary components are here: the food and drink, the picture-perfect scenery (if country is your thing), and the talent to pull it off. These all add up to the promise of a great celebration, even when Vermont weather is a gamble—which it always is.
So when I caught wind that Hen of the Wood chef Jordan Ware was to marry Dana Parseliti in a harvest-timed gathering at the Intervale Center—a 360-acre campus of farmland and the beating heart of Burlington’s farm-to-fork culture—I wondered what fine fare would grace their celebration board. Much like the 2007 book “My Last Supper” by author Melanie Dunea that let’s one play foodie voyeur on the world’s greatest chefs as they describe what they’d eat for their final meal, Jordan and Dana’s wedding provoked a similar culinary curiosity in me. And I know I’m not the only home cook who eats this sort of stuff up.
Locals, foodies, and gastronomes know Jordan as the rising-star chef who recently was a semifinalist for the James Beard Outstanding Chef Award. Dana is known in the Burlington restaurant circuit and currently works as assistant general manager at Honey Road, newly opened in July. The pair has their fingers on the pulse of the local food scene, and Jordan is gaining recognition on a national level, as well. But his friends and family characterize him as a hardworking, humble sort... a Vermont-style celebrity chef, you might say. “If you met him on the street and asked him what he does, his reply is likely to be ‘I cook,’” says Bonnie Butler, Jordan’s mother. “If you got him talking, you would hear all about the food and farmers and people of Vermont.” Indeed, I wanted to get him talking… about the wedding menu, because who wouldn’t have loved to be a fly on the wall at the Intervale on August 26th or better yet a hungry guest at the wedding table.
Just days before the much-anticipated wedding, Jordan took time out of his busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Thanks to the photographs by Adam Agnew, we can see that the weather cooperated, the food was fabulous, and love won the day… picture perfect, as it were.
When you and Dana first started dreaming up your wedding, what was your vision?
We both are close with our families so we wanted it be about them. We are also fortunate to be a part of a great community here in Vermont and wanted to include pieces of that community into everything.
How will the food be served?
Dinner is going to be served family style and if the weather is good, on one long table.
What’s on the menu?
August is a great time of year for Vermont. Everything is out. So we are going with fresh greens, corn, peppers, LaPlatte brisket, and a really incredible seafood appetizer. For dessert we’ll have a naked cake with berries. We really wanted to eat things that we want to eat and enjoy every day. Simple, local, fresh, and delicious.
What will you be drinking?
Wine and beer. Zero Gravity is a must, we love everything the brewery is about. We’ll serve their Green State Lager. As far as the wine goes, being in the restaurant business we were fortunate to be able to choose our wine carefully.
Who will be involved in creating the feast?
Chef Frank Pace from the Great Northern was an easy choice for the food. He has been great throughout the whole process. We couldn't imagine using anyone else for a couple reasons, but the main reason is we know it’s going to be delicious. There’s also Ethan Wood and the whole crew at Wood Mountain Fish.… We consider them to be part of our team at Hen of the Wood, so using his product is a must.
When it comes to producers, we really wanted to use Intervale farms like Half Pint and Pitchfork. We’ll also have Laplatte beef, Conants corn, and Aquavitea Kombucha. Andrew LeStourgeon and Amanda Wildermuth at Monarch and the Milkweed are making our naked cake. The berries on the cake are from Full Belly Farm—a new, local farm that’s crushing it. Meredith Clayton of Clayton Florals will be doing the flowers. She is the underground florist of all the restaurants in town. The D.J.s name is Local Dork— two guys I know through the restaurant and a great choice because all they do is vinyl. It’s been a great experience to know going into this that we will be able to enjoy all the food and wine, the music—everything—because we trust the people involved.
Is it difficult as a chef to let go and let someone else execute the food?
What is so great about Frank is that he is very flexible—he’s just a great dude. Exactly the kind of person we want to be a part of this. So I trust him completely. If we were dealing with a random caterer, it probably would be difficult but not with Frank.
How does Vermont, as your community, come into play with the wedding plans?
I think Vermont is a special place and the restaurant community in Burlington is amazing. We are under the radar on a national level but there are some very hardworking folks and amazing food happening in Vermont. I am proud to be a part of it and fortunate to be able to share our day, that’s all about this food community, with everyone—our friends and our families.
A big congratulations to Jordan and Dana on their Vermont wedding.