Fondue!

My brother Mark is getting married in a few weeks, capping off a wedding season that has seen our attendance at or involvement in six weddings, two showers, and one reception since May, all but two of those occurring out of state.

Guests of Honor

In my experience, bridal showers are painful as often as they are enjoyable. My sister and I were determined that the shower we cohosted for Mark and Evonne would be different. First of all, no games – especially no games involving toilet paper. Second, it would be a couples’ shower. And third, there would be good food.

Two kinds of cheese fondue and savory snacks – the acorn squash fondue was the biggest hit and yielded nearly twice what we expected, while the Dubliner fondue separated in the saucepan and never quite came back together.

Acorn Squash Fondue

Savory Snacks

Chocolate fondue, sweets and spiked cider. The chocolate fondue was an unmitigated success, and the pound cake was polished off by the end of Sunday’s breakfast. The cider didn’t survive the evening.

The Full Spread

Sweet Snacks

Laughter and party crashers:

Laughing Shane

Party Snacker

A lovely time was had by all.

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0826 Cake and Snacks

I’ll be honest with you: it is difficult to remain disciplined in your healthy eating when you encounter something like this:

Wedding Cake #5

That’s a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, made for us by my boss, and served with chocolate and also vanilla ice cream at a small party in our honor.  I tried to be virtuous.  I really did.  I cut myself a “one-nut piece” and spooned out some vanilla ice cream.  And then a little more of each.  And then maybe I ate one of those curly chocolate bells – just the bell, not the cake underneath it.  And then we went to Dominick’s with a few people.  And then we had a snack dinner.

0530 Notes on a Cookout

When we were planning our wedding, we realized that no matter where we had it, more than half of our friends and family would have to travel to be there.  We were also doing all the wedding budgeting and planning ourselves, so we talked to our families, who agreed to host reception/parties in our home towns.  We left it up to our families – the event could be as large or small, complicated or simple as they wanted – and so we found ourselves in the Cleveland Metroparks this afternoon, having a cookout with friends and most of Shane’s family.

Here are a few things we learned about throwing parties today:

  1. It is difficult to have a party at a place without a street address!  We realized at the last minute that we had the wrong name for the picnic area, which resulted in a lot of panic and confusion.  Somehow everyone made it, though, as did a few other friends who saw Shane’s signs and just stopped by.
  2. No matter how well you plan, there will still be unexpected problems.  Like the two groups that were already using our rented park shelter – one for what appeared to be a family reunion, the other for a small memorial picnic for a friend.  Everyone was very understanding, but I still felt pretty bad about kicking them out.  We scored a totally hot grill, though, so all’s well that ends well.
  3. My asbestos hands from Aroma paid off, as I found myself manning the grill armed primarily with a couple of plastic forks.  I made it work, though, and we had grilled asparagus and zucchini, burgers, sausages, and veggie burgers.
  4. Everyone likes chocolate cake.  For reals.

After the initial stress, though, we had a really lovely afternoon with cake and bocce, talking and playing on the swings, beer and still more grilling.  By the end of the day, we were totally sacked out, and barely managed to stay awake for a quick dinner at the Beer Engine for Spaceman Orin on the eve of his 21st birthday.

0417 Wedding Dinner OMG

So hey guys? We got married!  I’ll save the whole story for later, as I feel you need to see the photos to understand how damned cold it was, so for now, let’s focus on the food.

0417 Wedding Dinner!

After we very nearly froze our married asses off on the beach makin’ it legal, we shared a really excellent dinner at Mia + Grace with a selection of our nearest and dearest.  I owe a great big thank you to Jamie and her staff for getting us in early and plying us with bottomless cups of coffee, desperately needed to warm our icy little hands.  I wish I’d gotten more photos of dinner, but I didn’t, so I’ll do my best to give you a flavor:

First, we shared several plates of local cheeses, preserves, and crackers.  Slices of cumin-studded leyden, a black-pepper rolled ball of chevre, a wedge of brie, and a creamy Gouda-esque cheese whose name I’ve forgotten.  Cubes of berry (elderberry? blackberry? both?) geleé.  A smear of quince preserves.  Small bites of honeycomb in the center of the plate.  Peppery homemade crackers.

I had the flattened chicken (pictured above) for my entree – Shane enjoyed the pecan-crusted trout, and the vegetarians among us had handmade cavatelli.  My chicken was pounded flat, dredged and fried, and topped with a Gorgonzola cream sauce, candied lemon zest, and red onion jam, all of which arrived atop a flavorful mash of sweet potatoes and carrots.  I shared half of my chicken with my brother so that I could eat all of the veg – and the cake coming after.  A fantastic combination of savory, sweet, and tart.

The trout was served atop vegetables and black rice, and surrounded by a orange-rosemary butter sauce.  Shane’s uncle was disappointed that he couldn’t get lemon or tartar sauce, but that didn’t stop him – or anyone else – from digging in and thoroughly enjoying a moist and flavorful piece of fish.  We had pre-ordered, and my dad seemed to regret not getting the fish once he heard the full description.  I don’t blame him.

Neither of us had the pasta, so I can’t give you the full scoop – but when Shane had it two months ago, the sauce was warm and rich, and the pasta fresh and delicious.   Everything on the plate was made in-house, and the dish was entirely vegan, though not when served with the Italian sausage (as on the menu).

I really couldn’t believe that anyone had room for dessert, but we managed to put away slices of the most dense and wonderful carrot cake I’ve had in a very long time – the one thing I’d been firm about when we were picking our menu.  The cream cheese frosting was thick but not overwhelming, and the layers of cake were full of nuts, fruit, and chewy carrot.  I wish we’d split a slice so that we could’ve had more for later – but alas, we’ll just have to pay Mia + Grace another visit for more.

On the whole, a wonderful meal in good company, and one that proved that New American cuisine can make happy even the pickiest palate.