Hello everyone! I’m back after a loooooong hiatus. I can explain, folks, I can explain. Since my last post on Switzerland in March, I’ve traversed the Italian peninsula, returned to the U.S. after being gone for a year and a half, gotten married, had a honeymoon, found a new home (a cottage on the quaintest street in the U.S.), attempted to get used to a new last name, searched for jobs, procrastinated on my dissertation, and ate so much darned good food that I have as much material for this blog as my tired fingers are willing to type. So here’s my plan of attack over the next few weeks. I’ll give you some wedding highlights in this post, then go back in time and take you through my trip through Northern and Central Italy before returning to the U.S. to recount stories of catfishin’ and ramp cookin’ in Ohio and tales of the freshest seafood and Latino specialties I’ve been enjoying here in Florida. That should bring us up to the present moment, so stick around friends, and you will hear tales of love and lust, disappointment and envy, happiness and sorrow.... all as they relate to food, of course.
But first things first. Let me just tell you that my wedding included the sunniest day ever to grace Saint Augustine and the most rocking party anyone has ever had, in any time or any place. Ever. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, I’ve heard P.Diddy’s white parties are pretty sweet and those Greco-Roman parties thrown by Enron execs a few years back looked kinda fun, but nevertheless my reception was AWESOME. The food was spectacular… but more on that in a second.
We decided to have the Big Day in Saint Augustine, Florida. Phil grew up just north of the city and took me there the first time he brought me to meet his parents seven years ago, so the place has a special spot in our hearts. Plus, it’s one of the prettiest towns along the East coast in my opinion, with a history dating back to its founding in 1565 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro Menendez de Avilés. Because of the city’s Spanish colonial heritage and local Flagler College, Saint Augustine has a very bohemian European vibe, with narrow cobblestone streets and vibrant arts and culinary scenes (which you will read more about if you continue following this blog over the next month or so). I’ll condense the day into about thirty photos, which you have to understand is borderline impossible considering there are about 2,000 perfect shots to choose from. All of these photos were taken by photographer Nikki McEneaney, who did such a superb job and blended right in with my family and friends, never missing a shot and truly capturing the essence of our personalities and the specialness of the day. Thank you so much, Nikki!
The ceremony took place at the Oldest House and Gardens in the historic downtown. You really can’t find a prettier garden for such an important occasion. One of the biggest draws is the old live oak which shades most of the site and formed the centerpiece of our ceremony.
Local violinist Kyle Wehner provided music for the ceremony and I highly recommend him. We got an infinite number of compliments from guests about how his haunting, romantic tunes perfectly fit the setting and the tone of the day.
I also highly recommend my Daddy. He’s pretty cool.
Reverend Dr. Gabe Goodman, the father of one of the groomsmen and long-time friend of Phil’s family, officiated the ceremony and broke out into song partway through.
The garden was in colorful bloom.
Sealing the deal.
The Oldest House and Gardens has a bajillion little spots that make perfect photo backdrops. There are bells…
Gates out of which we could pretend to walk…
Benches upon which we could sit…
Quiet spots in which we could meditate…
And an oak forest in which I could strike cheesy wedding over-the-shoulder poses.
I must share this priceless photo taken with my flower girl Paisley and her wedding Barbie doll. Too cute!
And my parents leaning in for the kiss.
The flowers were arranged by Flowers by Shirley and oh me oh my they were much more than I dreamed! Boy did they exceed my expectations. I requested that our florist Barry provide a just-picked-from-the-garden feel and somehow incorporate herbs into the arrangements since as most of you know I am slightly obsessed with food and cooking and herb gardens. Barry went over and above his job, truly showing passion for his craft by searching out fresh bay leaves, rosemary and oregano which lightly scented the bouquets and arrangements with the comforting scents of my favorite spots – the garden, and the kitchen.
My bouquet made me sooooo happy!
After the ceremony we were whisked away in an antique Model A that drove us through the streets of historic St. Augustine, where we received cheers and congrats from total strangers. Someone – a perfect stranger – even gave us a $50 bill!! How’s that for Southern generosity and spirit!
The reception was held at the Casa Monica, a sumptuous hotel in the most picturesque square of St. Augustine. The Casa Monica was built in 1888.
Casa Monica shares a fountained square with the Lightner Museum…
And intricate Flagler College.
I must say that the Casa Monica also far exceeded my expectations and turned the day into a dream. I chose the wedding venues from the other side of the world while living in Australia last year. The Casa’s informative and well-designed website attracted me to the place, but photos just can’t compare to seeing it in person. And event specialists Erin P. and Megan C. were such a pleasure to work with, meeting all of our requests with a smile. The initial cocktail hour was in a lavish narrow room next to the Flagler Ballroom. I loved the low lighting and patterns created on the ceiling and walls by the opulent light fixtures.
Staff passed a variety of hors d’oeuvres, such as tomato and mozzarella bruschetta with basil oil.
For gifts, I self-published a cookbook full of recipes that reminded me of each of my guests for one reason or another. Each recipe was accompanied by a story about the dish, whether it was taken from a dinner party hosted by Phil and me in Boston or in Japan, a family recipe passed down over the decades, or an exotic dish shared with friends in a faraway place. Also given to guests were seashell-shaped chocolates in Florida-themed flavors such as key lime or orange from the local Whetstone Chocolates, and saltwater taffy from a candy shop on St. George Street.
Before the dinner service I was shocked and amazed when we received a telegram from our dear friends Jackie and Bob all the way from Australia!!!!! What a treat. Who the heck sends telegrams nowadays!!!!!
I went completely crazy and made the desserts for the reception the week before the wedding. I wanted to have one dessert that represented each of the places Phil and I have lived over the past ten or so years, and that would have been impossibly expensive to request of a local baker. So, with my mom and grandma, I baked lamingtons from Australia…
And hazelnut dark chocolate brownies representative of the U.S.A.
I picked up sugared olive oil crispbreads with almonds from Spain and accompanied them with dulce de leche from Argentina…
And provided Swiss chocolates and truffles.
Pocky represented our time spent in Japan…
Lastly, we alerted guests to the fact that they could request Irish coffee from the bar if they so desired. The desserts were very meaningful and personal and I thank Meghan from the Casa for allowing me to cater them myself and for displaying them so elegantly.
Phil and I had a blast with our wedding dance. Local band The Committee performed their version of Taj Mahal’s “Lovin’ in my Baby’s Eyes” and entertained guests for the rest of the night.
We absolutely loved the toasts given by our friends and family.