A few months ago I showed you a glimpse into our wedding day, compiled from cell phone photos we’d managed to gather from friends and family. Then on Christmas Eve we received a package from our photographers with all of our photos. It was quite the early Christmas present, and I’d be remiss in letting 2014 come to a quiet close without sharing them with you. Looking back at these photos, what really strikes me are all of the moments that I simply don’t remember — or, frankly, wasn’t there for. It looks like quite a party! As with many weddings, I suppose, we were pulled aside for photos every now and again and were trying to make sure to talk to each of our guests, many who’d traveled quite a long ways to come to Whidbey Island to help us celebrate. So there were dance-offs, cocktail circles and polaroid sessions that we just never saw … until these photos. I’ve loved flipping through and looking at that golden September sunshine, all of our friends and family eating cake, dancing, meeting one another, drinking cocktails. Yes, there’s a cocktail we must discuss here, too.
So first, the ceremony: There was a big, beautiful tree in the backyard of the main house where we decided to hold the ceremony. We set up vintage slatted chairs all along the grass, and printed programs that looked like old Southern fans.
The main house at Jenne Farm is really what sold us on the venue in the first place. While it’s firmly planted in the Pacific Northwest, it has a real Southern charm with its wrap around porch and beautiful old staircase, moldings and lace curtains.
Despite the busy gathering outside, I’m so grateful that there were quiet moments for us to steal, too.
Instead of a guestbook, we had Sam’s old typewriters and asked people to type a little something on notepapers. I found these sweet, small Polaroid cameras and we left them around so our guests could take photos of themselves or the surroundings. We were so, so grateful to have them after the wedding as we waited for the more official photos from the wedding photographers.
The table! We’d both thought so long and hard about the table — I wanted one very long farm table on the side of the main house, and I felt pretty particular about the flowers (lots of wild white flowers mixed in with loose, romantic peach roses and local greenery).
The venue had an old lace runner and beautiful white milk glass vases for the flowers. Sam designed our menus, and I found really beautiful vintage china. I want to rewind and have another meal here.
Once everyone was seated, mingling, snacking and drinking I kept looking down the long table and telling myself to remember this. I’d get goosebumps realizing this was the only time all of these people would be seated at a big table in the Pacific Northwest eating fried green tomatoes, creamy polenta and fall-off-the-bone pork together. The only time.
Choosing the food, cocktails and cake was one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning for me. We both love Southern food and felt like it was in keeping with the feel of the house and the barn. One of our favorite cafes in town makes a mean Southern layer cake, so instead of a more traditional wedding cake we opted for coconut cake, lemon cake and a chocolatey caramel cake. I have a few regrets from our wedding day and one was not eating enough cake. We’ve frozen a small version of the coconut cake to eat on our one year anniversary and it takes all of the willpower I have not to sneak it out on occasion and cut off a small slice.
In addition to the food and cake, the cocktails played a big role in the pre-ceremony and dance party. Sam and I both really love good, strong cocktails and do a lot of experimenting at home. We’d visited our friend Niah at Essex about a month before the wedding to brainstorm ideas and he helped us come up with this one, a really special bright, slightly citrusy rye-based cocktail. Niah pre-mixed these a few days before the wedding so the bartender would just have to pour them in cups with ice and … BOY were they strong. I recall expressing deep concern for the older folks, wondering if they’d make it to cake cutting. Perhaps this explains the memorable dance party. Maybe you can create one (the cocktail and the dance party) in your own living room?
In case you’re curious as to who helped us pull this off:
Venue & Coordination: Jenne Farm // Food: Ciao Thyme Catering // Photography: One Love Photo // Cakes: The Wandering Goose // Vintage Dish Rental: Seattle Farm Tables // Flowers: Jenne Farm // Signage, Menus, Favors, Design: Neversink
This cocktail is named after a beautiful lake in Seattle with a 3-mile (or so) walking path. In the fall, it’s the best for spotting changing leaves; in the summer, the whole city comes to linger, read, sunbathe, and swim. When we were first dating, Sam lived in a bungalow a block from the lake and we walked many a lake lap through all of the various seasons.
Place a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, and add all cocktail ingredients. Shake well. Serve over ice.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.