It tastes so nice I might marry him twice….
Mike and I have been engaged for a year now, and my wedding planning and progress to date has been less than impressive. After an initial flurry of activity, flow charts, budgets and vendor investigation, I hit the wall. Subconsciously I must have been thinking, “I’ve got over 16 months. That’s PLENTY of time!” Which, of course, rapidly progressed into, “I have 9 months. Uh, LOTS of time!” We are now at the stage of, “I have….5 months? That’s not a lot of time….”
Event planning is really not my forté. At work, I’m planning a BBQ right now for almost 1000 people and I manage to shrug, delegate what I can and plow through the rest. This wee little party for 120-150 people, however, seems debilitating and daunting.
Right now I feel like I’m under water. There simply are not enough hours in the day between a hectic work schedule, personal obligations and a social life, which is honestly ho-hum, but lately feels suffocatingly busy. This weekend alone we attended two birthday parties, one “meet the baby” afternoon (pure joy. She was almost as angelic as her mother, who literally looks like a Madonna right now), and a housewarming party. My garden is over grown with weeds, I have no clean underwear to wear to work tomorrow, and every time I try to stop and take a deep breath I can feel it all spinning around in my head.
You don’t have an officiant, Tina. Maybe you want to find someone to actually marry you at your wedding……
No transportation for the big day? That’s okay. I’m sure that your bridesmaids are looking forward to walking 25 kilometers in heels to the venue……
Rings. Huh. Who needs rings? You already have *one*, right? Two just sounds greedy…….
I picked a venue, photographer, dress and DJ before falling off the wagon. Now the devil is most certainly in the details, and at this rate our bombonnieres are going to be Post-Its and dry erase markers that I frantically scavenge from work the day before we get hitched.
“Thank you for the Bic pen, Tina. You know that a medium point nib has always been my favorite….”
What’s even worse is that for the few decisions I’ve made, I’ve started second guessing Every. Single. One. I know that this is *OUR* wedding, and what’s important is that we have a wedding that speaks to who we are and what we want, but I can’t help the constant worry about whether others will enjoy it as much as we do.
I love my incredibly ostentatious centerpieces with their billowing ostrich feathers, flowers and palm fronds, but are they just a little bit too chav? Well, yes, but that’s why I love them so much. Are people going to judge and mock my centerpieces? Most certainly, and I know that, but they’re exactly what I want and at least the people who know me well will only sigh and say, “Oh jeez, those are SO Tina….” I want a cake made out of wheels of cheese. To hell with the Picky Priscillas that will undoubtedly condemn me for my lack of fondant. We have a dessert and a late night sweets buffet, so an impromptu sugar fix requirement can certainly be accommodated. But do I worry about the twitterings of “What, they couldn’t even be bothered to get a wedding cake”? Yes, I do. I think that there is a little bridal gremlin sitting on my shoulder in a tulle petticoat and tiara, whispering, “Wrong……you’re WRONG……wrong choice, about everything. Just WRONG……”
We went for our food tasting on Thursday afternoon, which was intended to be a nice, easy, stress free vacation day. I mean, finally we’re into the FUN stuff, right? I’m all about the food, and I can think of nothing more relaxing and enjoyable than sampling a four course meal over the course of a few hours. What I found, however, was that our table for 2 was actually set for 3 and the little Bridal Gremlin sat licking her chops and pointedly adjusting a veil that I swore I wouldn’t wear.
There is only one area that the gremlin and I seem to agree on, and that would be the…ahem….flexibility of a budget. We’re paying for this wedding ourselves, and Mike has been very forthright with just one demand: we will not go into debt for this wedding. We will have a lovely wedding that we can afford, and there is no need to compete with the glamorous weddings that we’ve been to in the last few years which were paid for by happy, wealthy and doting parents. Without fail I nod my agreement to his wise words as sagely as possible, but on the inside I’m really thinking, “Well, maybe a LITTLE bit in debt, right? Just a little bit can’t hurt….ooh, we can upgrade our napkins? AWESOME!” The Bridal Gremlin squeals with glee.
And with that, the stage is set for our afternoon. My apologies for the poor quality of the pictures, half of which were taken on my phone. The rest were taken on an ancient digital hand-held that was flashing the “BATTERY LOW!!!” warning before we even began.
Let the tasting begin……
Our hilariously amicable server started by pouring us our choice of the red or white house wine that would be served during the meal. Within seconds, this had officially become known as Upgrade One. When you’re at the average wedding you don’t exactly expect to be served a fine vintage at the table, and I understand that. We have been to many weddings, and the quality of wine has varied from ‘yes please, another glass’ to backyard plonk. However, I do have certain expectations that need to be met. The red wine was….serviceable, or competent at best. The white wine was not particularly palatable, so we had to have an awkward conversation with our event coordinator where Mike tried to be surreptitious about his eye rolling as I casually investigated the additional cost to select a wine that we enjoyed.
“Well, we take out the cost of our house wine from the total price, then we add in the cost of your wine plus our mark up, because, you know….mark ups……” and her voice trailed off. That’s fine. Mark up our wine, because I want to be able to drink it.
We sipped away and munched on a mixed breadbasket with a sundried tomato and olive tapenade on the side . Our waitress casually mentioned that if we preferred something instead of the tapenade, they could probably accommodate a change. Ahem. Did you just say, “Option to upgrade”? My brain started ticking into overdrive. Could I serve event-venue-quality hummus to my Lebanese aunties? Would the venue maybe be so kind as to make my favorite spread (a dip of roasted red pepper with feta and walnuts) if I passed on a recipe? We’re still working on that one……
Now then, after less than 2 minutes and already 2 upgrades, let’s move on to our meal! We had selected two salads that we wanted to try. The first one was a baby spinach and hearts of Boston lettuce with marinated green and white asparagus in a kiwi mandarin vinaigrette. The salad was feasible. I could definitely taste the kiwi and mandarin in the vinaigrette (Mike is physically impervious to the flavor of kiwi, so it came as no surprise that he found it bland), but the pickled asparagus were overwhelming and the clementines were canned rather than supremed. Yes, I can be fussy sometimes. It also just didn’t look pretty, and I like pretty things. This was the kind of salad that earns a “Thank You For Participating!” ribbon at the catering-a-thon.
Our second choice was a riff on classic caesar salad, because it seems that caesar always fares the best at large gatherings. Whole romaine leaves were drizzled with a thin and flavorful homemade casear dressing and a balsamic reduction, topped with a perfectly crispy pesto crouton and shaved salty Grana Padano cheese. It was flavorful but light, aesthetically pleasing, and likely much more of a crowd favorite than the spinach salad. So, despite my general aversion to creamy dressings, this caesar salad impostor was our first choice.
For the second course, we started with ricotta filled fazoletti in a pistachio cream sauce. I rarely get an alfredo-type sauce on my pasta because it generally just tastes kind of mild and fatty. Hey, we all have our little snippy judgments and preferences, and that’s one of mine. In this case, the cream sauce was rich, sweet and delicious, but still blander than I would prefer. The pistachio was almost like an afterthought, where if you squinted and sucked on your teeth really hard you might know that it was there. It’s not that it wasn’t good, but rather that I wanted something better.
The sure winner for the pasta course was a tender heart shaped agnolotti filled with earthy, sweet butternut squash filling in a roasted red pepper cream sauce. The sauce was buttery, rich and absolutely decadent but lightened up with the ripely bitter-sweet taste of roasted red peppers. Also, the bi-colored pasta itself was just so very twee with a layer of beet pasta on top and wheat pasta on the bottom. In fact, just thinking about how delicious this pasta was makes me want to eat it again. And again. Starting today, if possible.
Our first few decisions were fairly straight forward, but then we hit the entree and it was a stalemate. I simply could not narrow myself down to two choices, particularly when all 10-12 looked so unbearably good, so I settled on a conservative three and immediately became paralyzed by the options.
The first was a boneless Cornish hen, marinated in white wine, garlic, lemon and thyme. It was roasted to perfection and served with a goat cheese and lemon pan sauce, with a side of scalloped yellow and sweet potatoes and a julienned vegetable medley. My biggest pet peeve with Cornish hen is that you do such an awful lot of work for very little meat, but the boneless birds were juicy, meaty, succulent, and absolutely one of the most delicately but insistently flavored poultry dishes that I’ve tried. The lemony goat cheese pan sauce? Tangy and divine.
But then the Bridal Gremlin perked up to put in her two cents:
- Only cheap people serve chicken, you know.
- Oh good, a glorified Chicken Supreme, because I’ve never had THAT before at a wedding.
- How very….BROWN of you.
Our second choice was a nice fat veal chop served in a citrus demi glaze. The veal was perfectly cooked to a nice pink and juicy medium, which is more than I would cook it for myself but just about right for a mixed crowd. The presentation was simple but the sauce was inspired; bright and citrusy without being overwhelming. On the side was a carrot puree, rosemary roasted potatoes and haricot verts. If this dish was sold at a local restaurant, we could easily eat there twice a week.
Mike took a bite and closed his eyes, gurgled a deep sigh of utter contentment, and then just sat…..and stared….and glanced quickly at me before grudgingly saying, “So I guess you want to try some, huh?”
- Do your parents eat veal? No. Do your friends eat veal? No. Good choice, Tina. I’m sure this will be very popular….BABY COW KILLER.
- I like to spruce myself up and don an elegant dress whilst enjoying sophisticated company. And then, obviously, I’m more than willing to pick up entree to gnaw flesh off the bone. Nothing says elegance like carnivorous behavior!
- You like your meat bloody and barely grilled. Other people like their meat gray and steaming. Do you care to reconsider this dish, which is surely going to offend or repulse at least 50% of your guests?
But it was just so delicious……..
Our third and final option was the Chef’s Mixed Grill. The mix was a portion of filet mignon, crusted with pepper and thyme before being seared to perfection, a succulent lamb chop, and a breast of chicken supreme. The ambiguous “accompanying sauce” tasted to me like a rich and deep Port demi. The beef was tender and richly flavorful, cooked to a perfect medium. Don’t let the terrible picture deceive you, because the lamb was pink and delightful. Even the chicken breast, which is always my least favorite item on the plate, was perfectly cooked and oozing glossy juices when we dove in. The best thing about this dish is that there is a little bit of something for everyone. If you don’t like beef or lamb, you have a whole chicken breast to contend with. It would truly be impossible to leave this entree hungry, which I think of as a plus.
- Three meats, huh? That’s three times the likelihood of failure. Making a single dish is one thing, but when there are 150 of them do you really think they’ll all turn out so well? You’re in for dry beef, rubbery chicken, or chewy lamb, my friend. And you know that I’m right, because you’ve been there before.
- Please, Tina. Is this kind of an entree really necessary? Don’t try so hard. You’re embarrassing yourself.
- If there are three meats, maybe there should be three sauces. Just sayin’…..(cheapo).……
I have no idea which entree we’re going to go with. For god’s sake, I even reached out to Twitter during the tasting for some feedback! All three entrees were absolutely fantastic, but all three entrees hold an equally possible risk of complete and utter failure to please the crowd.
At least the dessert was a difficult choice, but one that we managed to negotiate between ourselves fairly well. The first option was Petite Gateaux St. Honore, a wee puff pastry ring filled with fresh custard and whipped cream before getting topped with two small profiteroles which had a delectably crunchy caramelized sugar crown, and served with a strawberry coulis and some fresh fruit.
- Yeah, I got nuthin’.
The second dessert was our ‘gimme’, if you will; a deep, dark chocolate cheesecake with a whiff of Grand Marnier and a tender dark chocolate shortbread crust. This has the words “Crowd Pleaser” written all over it. Rich, decadent, but not too sweet, this is a dessert that very few (if any) people would object to.
- Good for you! You selected this dessert from the Dufflet line at the grocery store, right? Perfect. It will go swimmingly with the crowd pleasing caesar and inoffensive pasta dish.
The Bridal Gremlin has a good point, and although the cheesecake was delicious, I’m a choux pastry kind of girl. Petite Gateaux it is. Oh, and good news! We can upgrade our coffee service to cappucino and espresso if we like, or have a signature specialty coffee at the end (the Bridal Gremlin is giddy with the possibilities, damn her anyway).
After the entree I have a few more food decisions to work out, including the hors d’s and composition of our late night antipasto buffet. However, at least I can safely say that I feel confident in our venue’s ability to provide, and there is absolutely no possibility of anyone stopping by McDonald’s on their way home because they didn’t have enough to eat. So we don’t have an officiant, transportation, rings, bombonnieres, printed invitations, hair and makeup or a honeymoon. At least we won’t be hungry!