February 26, 2008

An Alternative to Cupcakes

Posted in Desserts, Food and Beverage at 8:26 pm by Jess

Many readers and writers of wedding blogs post about the desire to do a cupcake buffet, and the fear that it is overdone and out-dated. I do think that if you like the idea – if it makes you happy and excited  then do it. Absolutely. The day is not (only) about showing your up-to-dateness with current trends. It is fundamentally about having the most fun and the most sentiment possible.

That said, maybe there are some alternatives out there to cupcakes. The mini-tart is one.  One of the reasons that cupcakes were and ARE so great is that most people do not want a heavy dessert after a large meal. We recently did a test-run of Jon’s Vanilla Bean Cheesecake and we have now nixed it from our DIY dessert buffet because people overwhelmingly said that it was too much after a real meal.  Instead, we are doing a light wedding cake coupled with an assortment of miniature tarts. Ours will be fruit tarts, but there are many, many creative options for individual tarts out there. Here are a few for your perusal!

Wild Blueberry Mini Tarts 

Individual Lemon Meringue Tarts 

Raspberry Pistachio Chocolate Ganache Tarts

Caramel Hazelnut Mini Tarts (for the indulgent types!)

Mini Key Lime Cheesecake: Not actually a “tart” but a cool replacement for people keen on doing cheesecake.

Key Lime Tart with Fresh Meringue and Carambola Sauce from Conroy Catering in Pennsylvania

Take these recipes to your caterer and see what he or she can do!

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February 25, 2008

Finding the Red Wine, Part II

Posted in Food and Beverage at 11:15 pm by Jess

Where last I left off we had just downed six bottles of wine along with Pasta Bolognese (and Jon’s Vanilla Bean Cheesecake. Did I forget to mention that part last time? I meant to. I’m in denial about the second piece.)

The two wines that we chose were bought at different locations. Jon’s father agreed to call up the Gas Station (yep, you read right) where we found our Argentinian Malbec. The station happens to have a small grocery store attached to it. Apparently his father was able to order six cases. I am so relieved, as we had bought the very last bottle for the tasting.

I am also relieved that we don’t have to drive out there ourselves. Every time we go I am reminded as to why I love Geneva, even if I am bored stiff or hating on Geneva half the time. When we go to this particular gas station everyone we see is in some form of parka and mud-stained work pants and has the horrible, overgrown, vein-ridden, bulbous nose that is a direct result of extreme alcoholism.  (This is not everyone in the town, but a fair amount. It’s why Neuchatel region gets the stereotype of “paysan” meaning Farmer to the Genevoise.) I don’t mean to be judgmental but when I see them I think, HOW did I spend a year living among these people? They are alcoholics, heavy ones, who start around 10 a.m. on the local Chasselas white wine. They have missing teeth, four pack a day habits and fat spilling over their overalls. And yet, when I see it, it puts things in perspective. There was a good reason I got fat and addicted to blogging last year!

But I digress.

Today we went to the large grocery store to buy the Rioja and a few other DIY necessities like Kraft Paper and Napkins. In the wine section we were greeted by an attendant who had the WORST breath I have ever smelled. Jon warned me, right as I walked up to him: “This guy has the worst breath. I can’t breath!”

“Don’t be so dramatic Jon,” I replied.

Then the man walked back around the corner with the cardboard cases for us. He was just slightly taller than me and it just so happened that his mouth was just in line with my nostrils. There were only five cartons of the wine on site, and we needed to order two more of the same year. Suddenly the man cackled, “Oh, that is not possible!” (why he was laughing is just another intricacy to life here) and I was nearly bowled off my feet by his breath.

“Oh Fuck” I said out loud. The man didn’t bat an eyelash, as he didn’t speak English. Jon started giggling outloud, and then the man started laughing even harder, thinking that we were all part of his little inside joke about why it was so funny that we could not order the wine in the same year, thus expelling an even stronger wave of noxious fumes into my face.

I turned and ran for the produce aisle.

We finally were able to order the last two cartons, after hearing the grocery store man’s work schedule for the next week. He ordered us to come on Friday when he would be working, so as not to miss him. At the checkout we met a great surprise: Today marked a one week sale, 20% off all wine if buying over six bottles. Quelle Chance!!

So, we saved 100 dollars on the wine! I guess it was worth meeting this man’s breath for that, though I am not sure I can do it twice.  I’m either getting the Flu or throwing out my back Thursday night. Don’t tell Jon.

February 18, 2008

Choosing the Red Wine

Posted in Dinner Reception, Food and Beverage at 4:48 pm by Jess

Sunday evening Jon and I nestled around the dining table at his parents with a homemade pasta bolognese and six bottles of red wine. Yep, six. One, two, three, four, five, six.

Actually, we were conducting an experiment. Our caterer is allowing us to choose and bring our own wines for dinner, WITHOUT the cork fee! Jon and I have already chosen the two white wines for our wedding reception, and now it was time to choose the red. Thus, with myself as the server (and DD), we held a “degustation à l’aveugle” or blind taste test.

The room was very quiet as the three of them went to work. They would sniff deeply into the glass, hold the glasses up to the hanging light over the table, jot notes, take a first, tentative sip, jot more notes, and finally a larger gulp to swirl around the mouth with a piece of baguette. At one point I reached over, grabbed Jon’s glass and took a sip. Instantly I frowned, and made the “this is horrid” face.  “Don’t do that!” he barked in all seriousness, “You’ll influence me!”

I also played along, with very small portions. When we had all tasted all six we shared our rankings and discussed them. This is definitely an exercise for Europeans. I am not sure that Americans could ever reach the level of nonchalance that I witnessed as Jon and his parents discussed each wine. Wine is their culture. Whether they notice it or not, they have been raised with a verbiage, knowledge, and jargon of wine that flows effortlessly – one that would usually make an American sound pretentious and silly. When they described their written notes I heard words like “notes,”  “color,” “roundness,” “maturity,” “integrity” and “length.”  One wine was deemed best initial taste, but did not have the longevity for a meal with filet de boeuf. The specificity with which they labeled each wine’s taste, and region, was astounding. They however did not seem find it at all surprising that they had all three, without sharing, noted red cherries in the same bottle. There was a slight dispute as to whether it was red cherries jam, or black cherries, which left me shaking my head in wonder. Meanwhile, my vocal notes read “flat and dirty socks” and “Disgusting, makes me cough,” and “nothing to say. boring.”   On the other hand, I was extremely proud to discover that I had picked the same top two, and same least favorite as Jon and his mother. Even more, I had written notes that were identical to some of their own, such as “Same taste as glass 1, but without the acidity.” I drink red wine maybe once every six months, and I drink wine period maybe once a month, so I was shocked and pleased to see how close my responses were to theirs. So, does that mean that all this “wine connoisseur” business is a bit of b.s.

Jon’s parents suggested that we choose and offer two reds at the dinner. This is a great idea, since we are also offering a very sweet and a very dry white at the beginning of the meal. This will give people a choice between reds, depending on their entrée of meat or fish. Generally one would drink white with a fish, but in Europe the white always comes first with the appetizer and then it is stopped. Then, red is eaten with the main course. In the end we chose an Argentinian Malbec, but it will possibly require bribing the owner of the small gas station where we found one bottle to buy a half dozen cases.  We also chose a Spanish Rioja that we found at the grocery store. Now it is just a matter of purchasing them and then figuring out where to store seventy bottles until June!