Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Vegan Treats Wedding Cupcake Tasting Extravaganza of 2008


Alright. I'm sick - have a nasty sinus infection, mmm yummy. But I had already arranged for Vegan Treats to be bringing me a box of tasting cupcakes today. Seeing as they're in Pennsylvania and had baked special goods for me, what was I to do but trudge into the city with my sick-ass self and make it happen?

Ahh, but before the cupcakes, you need backstory.

In case you don't know about them, Vegan Treats is this amazing little bakery outside of Philadelphia (in a tiny town called Bethlehem, to be precise). They do very well in the New York market, supplying all sorts of delicious cakes (and donuts too!) to vegetarian restaurants and delis across Manhattan. Ages ago I'd figured out that they also do big fancy event cakes... like the cakes one tends to see at weddings. So when we decided it was time to start finding our baker, of course they sprung to mind. While several bakeries around the area will make a vegan wedding cake, our first choice would be to support an all-vegan business. But, of course, the cakes would have to be up to par.

So it was that one Friday not long ago, I sent off an email inquiring as to whether a tasting for wedding cakes could be done in the city, or if we would need to make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. (Sadly, their website has been new-site-coming-soon'd for approximately forever; otherwise I might have been able to glean this information from it.) A response came quickly - that Saturday, actually - from a nice guy who'll we'll call M. He sounded pretty together, and let me know several things: that their wedding cakes are the same recipes as the cakes they sell to the shops around the city; that they could send a set of tasting cupcakes to me with one of their normal Tuesday NYC shipments; that a standard tasting set would include vanilla, chocolate, lemon, coconut, and red velvet.

I wrote back to M that Sunday telling him it all sounded great, and asking the following: 1. if we could do cupcakes on Tuesday, the 30th; 2. if frosting flavors are intrinsically linked to cake flavors or if combinations are flexible; and 3. if there was an almond flavored cake we could try.

By Wednesday, I still hadn't heard back from him. Now, I don't think it's unreasonable of me to expect a response within one or two business days when we're talking about business transactions; I've got standards. Also, at that point I was still under some sort of delusion that I might be employed by this week, so I was a bit stressed about figuring out if we were doing the cupcake thing the following Tuesday, and if so at what time I might be able to meet up with the delivery truck. I sent a short, polite email saying that I just wanted to make sure M had gotten my Sunday email, and that as I was sure this is a busy time for them if they needed to do the cupcakes another week that was fine, just to let me know.

I heard back late the next night; M said that they needed my phone number to give to the delivery guy, but that otherwise it should be a go. Sadly, no answers to my questions about the cakes.

On the following Saturday, the 27th, I received an email from him saying that my cupcakes were already baked, so they'd definitely be on Tuesday's shipment. I can't say I was thrilled to hear that my cupcakes would be three days old when I got them, but so it goes. He further informed me that he had "no idea of time frames or anything to do with the deliveries", and that if I needed any more info about how to meet up with the driver I'd need to call the bakery. He was pretty sure that the driver would call me about an hour before he was ready to meet me. So, basically, I needed to just be in the city on Tuesday, at the ready.

So at this point I'm thinking, really? We're talking about me special ordering a cake from you people that will easily cost between $400 and $500, and this is all the professionalism you can muster? I want to believe that certainly for the actual delivery of a wedding cake, theoretically on the wedding day, they're a little more together - but who knows? While I sorely wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, a late or otherwise errant wedding cake delivery is not something I want to be dealing with on a day that will be stressful no matter what. I need any vendors that I'm shelling out for to be as on top of their shit as I would be if I was doing that job - a tall order, to be sure, but that's why they're getting paid.

OK. So. Tuesday rolls around, and of course my plans for the day are smashed because I'm sick in bed. I spend the morning trying to get my doc to call in some antibiotics for me, which eventually works but not without serious pains - my insurance won't cover a visit, and I can't swing the $250 out of pocket right now, especially when I know damn well that he'll spend three minutes talking to me and then tell me what I already know and hand me the prescription that he could have just called in anyway. But that's a whole other story, isn't it?

Point being that at 1:20 pm I was still in bed, and I got a call. And it was the Vegan Treats truck driver, saying that he'd be by Curly's Vegetarian Lunch (a place I'd mentioned as a possible rendezvous spot) in about an hour, and would that work for me? Why sure, why not. So I hauled my sick ass outta bed, and because the train gods were with me today I actually made it down there about 20 minutes before he did. He was on time, and very pleasant, and not the stoned dread-headed hippy I'd heard rumored to be their delivery guy.

Having successfully retrieved my cupcaketastings, I couldn't help myself from immediately looking in the box. After the lack of detail imparted from fractured emailing, I wasn't even sure that they'd be iced. Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the box and came face to face with these miniature sugary perfections:



Of course I wouldn't eat them until I got home to Jonathan, and what with my condition and all I hadn't actually eaten anything yet anyway, and cupcakes were probably not the right way to start. Transporting them home, I was desperately afraid the entire time of smooshing them - I'm so good at destroying pretty things. So I gingerly held the little box close to my chest from 14th street all the way back up to Astoria.

* * *

Fastforward six hours. I've had a nap. Jon has come home from work, and he's had a nap too. I have eaten a large bowl of spicy thai soup with noodles, and am feeling a good bit more human. Knowing that the cupcakes are already three days old (and trying not to be at all grossed out by that), we know we must eat them tonight.

* * *

First up: Red velvet. And while the presentation was beautiful, the cake was slightly lackluster. It sure was red, but where was the flavor? Jon claimed that it was slightly dry, which I didn't fully agree with but accredited to the three-day-old-ness. Anyway, we're both from the south, and I myself make a damn good vegan red velvet cupcake; it's going to be pretty hard to pull a red velvet over on either one of us.

* * *

Second in line: Coconut. The cake was significantly more flavorful, having a distinct coconuteyness all its own apart from the coconut frosting with coconut shreds. Again Jon cried dryness; he's one that likes to eat his cake separate from the icing, and claims that these cakes depend on the fat of the (extremely sugary) topping to carry them, which just doesn't work out with his eating scheme at all. I of course agree that the cake should be able to stand on its own, without frosty embellishment.

* * *

Number three: Vanilla with vanilla. This little golden cake was topped with an impressive frosting beehive that for some reason struck me as having an imperial air. Unfortunately, it fit more into the "bland, boring" sort of definition of vanilla rather than the "seed pod of an exotic orchid" variety - the cake was cake flavored, the frosting was frosting/butter flavored. Sweet and tasty, but nothing like the melt-in-your-mouth delectable that we're all dreaming of in a wedding cake.

* * *

Last but possibly most: Chocolate with chocolate mousse. By far the most impressive presentation, I took the most pictures of this bad boy. Chocolate cakelet with a scoop of chocolate mousse on top, that covered in chocolate ganache and topped with a pretty little chunk of gold flecked chocolate - a death by chocolate situation to be sure. Much like their "peanut butter bomb" cake, though, it's more like death by sugar: we all know I have a massive sweet tooth, but man, that mousse could put anyone over the edge.

* * *

So yeah, four cupcakes, despite the fact that I was originally told of five flavors and had requested a sixth. No lemon, no almond. Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.

And so, what to make of our first vegan cake-tasting venture? Well. I truly appreciate the effort that went into the presentation of the cupcakes for us. They were absolutely stunningly beautiful. I do wish that the communication had been more clear and timely, and that the delivery had been better organized; the lassez-faire attitude just doesn't work for me when it comes to major wedding considerations. As for the cakes themselves, when I originally contacted Vegan Treats I knew what their restaurant cakes were like. I was hoping, though, that they had something maybe a bit more refined for their event cakes. Alas, it is not so.

The end verdict? I'm happy that Vegan Treats does so well in the city. Their cakes are delicious and awesome, and a slice of one is just right after a breakfast burrito at Curly's. But in this case they just don't hit the mark. As much as I'd love to give them my business, it's important to me to have a truly gourmet wedding cake that will blow our guests away - not one that simply looks beautiful on the outside, but tastes like something we baked ourselves.

One possibility that did occur to me though: did you see how beautiful those cupcakes were? Perhaps, perhaps, instead of a groom's cake, beautiful mini cupcakes? Just a thought. A cakelet kind of thought. Cakelets, cakelets, everywhere... I think I'm delirious from sugar. Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Love Knot? Not!

Alright. It seems that the temporary insanity has passed. I am no longer in love with the Vera Wang Love Knot line, largely because I saw it in person. Yesterday we took a trip into that bastion of all things overpriced - Macy's - and there they were, front and center and everywhere else. As with the pictures on the internet, in person I quite liked their overall form. But those bows? Ugh! the worst. Not metal, not fabric or twine - somewheres in between or on the edge, and not a good liminal space, no no. Plus, Jon hated them of course.

We saw a few things that were cute, and a lot of things that were ugly. And I mean like woah. We decided on a purchase, even - Vera Wang again, her Duchesse champagne flutes. But alas, every one they had was on the floor, and do you ever really want to buy the floor model? At full price, no less? We left frustrated. As I told Jon on the train later, I knew that Macy's wouldn't really have anything for us. But if they don't, who does? Where does the "alternative" couple go when they decide they do want just a little bit of crystal after all?

Why, the internet of course! We'd already been poking around to get an idea of shapes and designs that we might like. And since the design we found at Macy's that we would have purchased was Vera Wang for Wedgewood, for chrissake, I didn't think it would exactly be hard to find on the world wide intarwebdotnet. Right-o I was. But we didn't go with that one after all.

While at Macy's, we had stumbled upon a cluster of Lenox crystal, a big name of course but one that somehow hadn't come up in my searches. They have a line where the champagne flutes are teeny tiny - four ounces, to be precise. In the store, Jon picked one up and liked it so much that he took a picture with is i-phone, eventually referring to it as "pretty tight". (That looks stupid typed, but it's cute when he says it.) Well, he originally liked the Encore, and I originally liked the Firelight. When later that night I showed him pictures, he too liked the Firelight.

And so, harmoniously, miraculously, we actually found champagne flutes that we both really kind of love. Go figure.

We ended up getting them from a website called mytableware.com; it seems like a pretty good website, with a surprisingly wide array of crystal and stuff. Of course I haven't received the shipment yet, so if I receive two mismatched chipped glasses I'll let you know. But I've got high hopes based on website presentation, and the two confirmation emails I've received in the past 12 hours.

The cake knife and server were infinitely more easy - in a vast internetted sea of organdy ribbons and carved hearts and calla lilies and cut crystal, the Mikasa Wavelength set cut right through with its sleek lines and plain silverness. Plus, it was on sale on Amazon with free shipping. Done and done.

But who knows - perhaps one day I'll regret not going with the his and hers cowboy hats that we found on e-bay...

And so, yes, 18 months before the wedding, I've ordered both the champagne flutes and the cake knife and server. We've got this theory that whatever can be taken care of now should be. And this is a time when I don't actually mean "me" I when I say "we"; it's truly both of us. Jonathan knows all too well how I get when there's a lot to do with a deadline (effective but insane), plus we're into the idea of spreading out the spending. The next purchase will probably be our wedding bands, and I'm pretty psyched about that. It's actually his idea to buy them now, if you can believe it.

Tomorrow, I head into the city to intercept the Vegan Treats truck and retrieve my cake-taste-cupcakes... and of course that will be a blog post unto itself.

Right now I'm sick and it sucks and I'm getting in bed, because writing this post done wore me out.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oh yes we did.

So the other week I'm on the Martha Stewart website downloading templates, right? (I know, I know. Shut up.) And Jon looks over my shoulder and he's all, "We should get matches. That would be cool. Matchboxes though. And not like that," referring to the pastel colored boxes on the screen with some loopy design printed on them. Well OK then. The boy wants a wedding favor, and that favor is matches. Matchboxes, to be specific.

Well then a week or so later I'm on TheKnot.com (look, we're just not going to have this discussion every time, OK? I've lost my mind, the internet is my enabler, end of story.), and I see personalized matchboxes on sale. So naturally I check it out. And they're reasonably priced, and the design options aren't too bad. So I just go on through the form and choose a silly little image, and put in our names (both won't fit with "and" in between, so I have to use an ampersand, which I think will be fine because he likes ampersands), and choose the serif font because we're not using a modern sans-serif anywhere, and the script is, well, script. I do everything but press "order", because I don't do that kind of thing without showing him first. He does give half a rat's ass about these things, and after all this was the thing he said he wanted.

So he gets home that evening, and I'm all, "Hey, we gotta talk about personalized matchboxes!" And he's all, "Why would we EVER need to talk about personalized matchboxes," laughing. And I'm like, "Because you wanted them, and I found them on sale." Magic words. So without coming over to me or looking at my computer, he says, ok, they should be silver with black writing. And my jaw drops a little, because of course that's exactly what I picked out. And then I make him come over and look, and he likes the font, and he likes the ampersand, and he can even live with the silly little image. (Aww, it's like we're meant to be or something.)

Anyway, they got ordered. And yesterday after my hellish employment-related adventure in midtown which I refuse to think about again until next Wednesday, I went to my studio and found that they had arrived. I'm voting cutest thing ever. And the best part is, you can use them to set stuff on fire. :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

So... have I lost my mind entirely?

Because I'm sort of in love with things designed by Vera Wang. Is it, like, some sort of chemical problem? Am I responding to subliminal messages on TheKnot.com? One really has to wonder. The problem goes like this:




I see these and instead of being all *barf* cough *gag* cough *what bourgeois bullshit*, I'm all, oh, yeah, totally, we could get a B etched in the flutes.


So really. I'm asking you. Up the meds? Or just give in to the fact that talented designers are at work and I have no power to resist? I take some solace in the fact that while I really love the overall clean line and form, the little bows irk me and I wish they weren't there.

Interestingly enough, price wise these really aren't bad. The champagne flutes are about half as much as, say, a set of Waterford crystal ones would be.

But then, like, who have I become that I spent two hours tonight looking at Waterford crystal champagne flutes? To my credit, I also looked at the ones at CB2, which are quite cute and top out at $4.99. I seriously doubt that we'll end up with Waterford or anything like it.

It's really, really, really easy to see how weddings even in cheap towns top $25k. So many little things. It's insanity.

There are other contenders in the champagne-flutes-and-cake-servers category, but I'll refrain from listing all of them here.

It's after 2am. My Jon still isn't home. I hate the busy season.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Planning, heritage, crises, et cetera.

*It's been happening like this. I want to talk about it. He doesn't want to talk about it. So I slip in comments here and there about this and that. The result? I feel like we never talk about it, he feels like we always talk about it. No good. So we came up with a seemingly perfect solution: once a week, a "wedding meeting". I'd save it up instead of doling it out in bite-sized portions, and he'd actually give his attention to it; thus he'd feel involved and not just carped at and I'd be placated by his attentiveness. Good right?

Well it work splendidly the first week. It lasted forever though, because it was the first week. So many things to discuss! So many things to show him! But I knew it wouldn't stay like that. And by the end of it the unthinkable had occurred: I no longer even wanted to talk about the wedding. So. Mission accomplished. But then. The following Sunday I was laid out - in no condition to have a meeting or do anything else, for that matter, other than lay in bed. No meeting, frustrated me. This week? Repeat. Not quite as bad, but bad nonetheless. I finally pulled myself together around 6pm, but seeing as he had to work tonight I wondered if it was too late. He said that it was fine, so we headed out to the coffee shop. Any illusion of having his time or attention quickly evaporated though; he was at best humoring me and at worst putting up with me - answering my questions with as few words as possible, barely looking at various bits of stationery and pictures of cakes, and so forth. The third time he tried to sneak a look at the list of things I wanted to talk about, I just gave up.

On the way home, after a bit of fighting of course, he admitted that he was trying to rush me. Said that he was afraid it would take hours and hours like last time. But no, we were actually about 20 minutes from being done, and all he had to do was not be a jerk. But oh well. Work has got him too stressed out. He's there now, which so sucks. I knew it was too late for us to talk about it all, but I just wanted to so badly. I hate it when my crippled days prevent me from doing things that I've planned to do all week. Talk about frustrating.

*I've just this evening realized that my wedding will be taking place during lent. Am I particularly Catholic? No. Is it even a religious ceremony? No. So... why do I care? Um. I can't really answer that. All I can really tell you is that it's officially bugging the crap out of me.

*Still no progress on where to have the rehearsal dinner. New York is so easy and so hard all at the same time. Of course we want to do it at a vegan place... but where can we take our families? So many restaurants here are simply too small to parade 12 or 16 people into. Take for instance Pukk, the vegetarian Thai place. We'd have to rent the entire restaurant just to fit the party into it, and even then half of their chairs (the neon green plastic ones) really aren't big enough for anyone over 90 pounds to sit on. I can't sit on those damn things, so I know my Aunt JoAnn can't. Know what I mean?

There's Lan Cafe, the vegan Vietnamese place. We ate there yesterday, and I'm sort of in love with the idea of doing it there actually. Again, we'd have to rent the entire place, but if we did we'd be perfectly comfortable. A few pretty cushions and candles would spruce up the place just fine. The main problem there is... well... a language barrier. The only people who work there are the proprietors. They're wonderful, extremely hardworking people. But honestly, they barely know enough English to respond to questions about menu items. Setting up a private party would require a translator. Which I'm considering, because their food is amazing, and I would love to give them the business. Anybody speak Vietnamese?

Again, a year and a half to figure this out.

*I've been trying to research Sicilian wedding traditions. Weddings are one of those occasions that make you really ache for some kind of solid culture or family heritage. Which I don't have, but I can pretend. My mother's father's lineage from Contessa Entellina is by far the most trackable portion of my blood, so I'll run with it. My coloring supports it at least, and I also have this funny two-ring eye color thing going on that's supposedly a Contessa trait. So. I found this amazing site that lists the lineage of families from Contessa and my grandpa is totally there, plus his five brothers and sisters, and they have him married to my grandma and all - it's really kind of cool.

Anyway, other than the lineage, the internet is telling me dick about Sicilian wedding traditions. And actually, there probably just weren't many. They weren't very affluent is the basic situation. A wedding was a feast day, your parents arranged it, you did it in a church, on a Sunday, the end. The one good piece of news? I'm totally vindicated in having Jordan Almonds (bomboniera). I was going with the whole "it was my grandma's favorite candy" thing, and now I've got this too: apparently in Sicily sometimes they were served instead of wedding cake. Ha. Of course, there will be no tulle.

*My Great Great Great Grandmother was named Viola. God help my first daughter.

*I've gotten in touch with Vegan Treats about their wedding cakes. With any luck, the cupcakes are a-comin...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Invited!

So a while back I designed potential invitations. I really liked them, and Jon really liked them, and they're totally different than most of what you see out there. So what else do we need really?

Lately I've been debating as to how to make them exist in physical reality. Get a polymer plate made, take another letterpress class at SVA, and print them myself? Very pricey, with debatable results. Get a stamp made? Somewhat pricey for what it is, and very very debatable results. Have them silkscreened? Much less hands on, and not a process I know that much about; also possibly a bit pricey.

So I arrived at: Just print them out on my own damn home printer? After running through the realities of the options, I'd actually decided to just print them myself at home. They looked good, not great, but good doing it this way, and really who am I trying to impress? Our moms will think they're beautiful no matter what we do, and apparently you heathens just throw these things away anyway.

Well, I was alright with that. But there was a little bug at the back of my head saying, will you really be happy with that? And my instinctive answer was, repeatedly, no. No but it's fine, no but who cares, no but it's not a big deal. But then I thought, wait a minute. I'm not doing much that's very fancy for this wedding. My dress will almost definitely come in at under $500. I'm not getting flowers, and I'm barely decorating. I'm not getting makeup done, lord knows, and I probably won't even have my hair done. I deserve to splurge somewhere, don't I? And isn't paper the most logical place for me to do it?

So I started poking around etsy for people that do letterpress. Because I'm in love with letterpress (because I've done it before, not because it's some new trend, which I didn't realize until recently). All the big houses do it now - William Arthur and the like - but even if I was willing to give them my money (which I'm not), they probably wouldn't print my design. No, to do it at all meant to find people, real human beings, who do letterpress for the love of it and would be willing to get a polymer plate made of my design and print from there.

Well, it didn't take long to stumble upon Paper Stories Letterpress out of Chicago. I wrote to them last night, and they'd written back by the time I got up this morning. They said that the job sounded "simple enough", and even gave me a price quote. After a few back-and-forths with them this morning, I've decided that I love them. Jon agrees, and we're totally going this route.

I'll still print the announcements myself (probably), and the programs and the save the dates and the rehearsal dinner invites and everything else. But this is my indulgence: real letterpressed invitations, of my own design. They'll use paper that's cotton rag, some of it recycled, ink that's synthetic which they feel is most eco-friendly, and do it all using renewable energy sources. They have a whole page on their site about their eco-decisions. Like I said, I love them.

So I'm excited. Yes, I know that the wedding is still a year and a half away and it's a bit early to be ordering invitations. I don't care. Saving some catastrophic event, the venue isn't going to change, so what difference does it make? (Ahh, now I've gone and cursed myself. Oh well. We knew I was gonna do it sometime.)

Next mission to tackle: the dress...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back on the horse.

OK. I'm in wedding planning mode again. I've got a new ceremony setup in mind that would make it pretty much impossible to have more than one attendant each. Perfect right? I think so... just as long as it will work as far as the furniture is concerned, which I don't have the proper measurements to determine just as of yet.

There are still a million details to work out. I still have a year and a half, so that should be alright. We've been trying to figure where in the space we want each part of the evening to play out, and how; trying to design table and chair arrangements and such. That should be hammered out before I talk to caterers - I want to go in with a very clear vision of what I want, so as not to get blindsided into craziness. Soon I might schedule a cake tasting... because I want to taste some damn cake. And I'm thinking about going on a dress hunt. For most other things, it's still too early.

I have lingering feelings that it's a little bit insane to have a wedding, and that it's really something that other people do, and I'm worrying about who won't bother to show up. But I guess I'm going to have to suck it up. I want to do this thing, when it comes down to it, and it would break both mothers' hearts not to at this point. Especially Jonathan's; he's an only child, and with any luck this will be his only marriage. So. Suck it up I shall. I'll throw a pretty party, and between the importance of the event and the people who do show up and appreciate it all, I should be able to ignore any other nonsense. Right?