Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Wrong and a Rice – Part 3 The Reception

Let me write the recap of the reception as my reception self –

Whee! Evelyn looks pretty! OMIGOD there's wine. And it tastes SOOOOO good. My tablemates rock. J is freaking hot. Evelyn looks so pretty! More wine? Mmmkay! God this food is good. Is it appropriate to lick the plate? Champagne? Prosecco? EVEN BETTER! WOOOOO!!!! The Ice Cream Sandwich table is the best EVAH! I think we should make promises to all stay in touch and go drinking like 4EVAH! More wine? Mmmkay! OMIGOD can I bathe in this fig-wine reduction that’s on the pork chop? While we’re at it can I mainline the savory brioche pudding? Why is it I am so tipsy and I’ve only drank one glass of wine? OOOOH! My table is SOO funny. The best man is so funny. SNIFF. Emma said the sweetest thing. WAAAH! HEEEEEEEE. Evelyn's father is singing Elvis’ “It’s Now or Never.” THIS IS THE BEST RECEPTION EVER!!!! OMIGOD. Evelyn’s father is forcing her and Rikel to dance! As he sings “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” I CANNOT BREATHE!!!!! Why did Rikel make fun of Evelyn’s dancing? She and Rikel look sooooooo pretty on the dancing floor. The bartender is the nicest man on Earth. He just gave me the big bottle of Perrier so my liver isn’t permanently damaged by all the wine I’ve been drinking. I just got a hug from the groom’s mother! She’s the nicest lady on earth! I hope she doesn’t notice I am massively buzzed. Another YOOOOOGE bottle of Perrier. Thank you Mr. Bartender! Tomorrow I’ll owe you for my lack of a hangover.

So did anyone get the impression I drank a lot at the reception?

Here’s me recapping as my sober self.

1:00 pm After hitching a ride with the best man and the maid of honor who loathes him, we get to the reception which is going in full swing. I reconnoiter with J who tells me that he and the MC, Karen have everything set. The venue looks perfect. I hope this doesn’t give anything away but the reception was held at The Stained Glass in Evanston. I have to give the folks at The Stained Glass their props because this reception was perfect. The wine chosen was delicious, the service was warm, friendly, and efficient, and the food was once in a lifetime good. Malik, the manager on duty, worked with J and Karen to make sure everything was set and treated me, J, and Karen as folks who would help make the reception the best it could be, as opposed to hindrances and pains in his ass.

1:10 Servers are bringing out tasty nibbles on puff pastry. You can put pretty much anything on puff pastry and it will taste good. I scarf down five of them. Karen reminds everyone to sign the guestbook. The guestbook has holders for Polaroids and people can take a Polaroid and sign the guestbook next to their picture. Can I sing the praises of Karen the MC enough? No I can’t because she is a true rockstar. Her voice is able to be heard above the din of conversation without overpowering it. She’s already setting the tone of this fun frolic of a reception.

1:20 Rikel and Evelyn arrive. 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Could I love them even more? Karen announces the arrival and we all applaud.

1:30 I begin to herd folks into their seats. After there’s a critical mass of people seated, I find my seat at the Ice Cream Sandwich table. I find out that Ice Cream Sandwich is the couple’s “safe word.” It appears that Rikel is an excellent bullshitter who can tell outrageous lies with a straight face. When the phrase Ice Cream Sandwich is uttered, the couple has entered the no bullshit zone. This becomes even more appropriate when we end up being THAT TABLE. You know THAT TABLE. The one where everyone drinks a little to much, yells a little to loudly, and talks a little too dirty. J and I are surrounded by college friends of Evelyn’s and their significant others. We are truly THAT TABLE.

1:45 My wineglass is never empty. This will be a fun afternoon! The sassy server comes to take our order. J in his Southern way has already learned where they found the wine and where she grew up. He also finds out that Malik is from our neck of the woods. Lance, the boyfriend of Accomplished Writer Lady, sasses the sassy server. I order the calamari with gnocchi, the pork chop in a fig-wine reduction with brioche bread pudding, and the crème brulee sampler. J orders the crab cakes with avocado, the duck with polenta and cabbage, and the chocolate bombe.

2:00 Karen starts off the festivities by introducing Ella and Cupcake, the best man who will give their toasts. Our glasses are filled with some amazing prosecco. I am so glad they chose Prosecco which is lighter and fruitier than champagne which I always think has a metallic flavor. Sadly for Ella, Cupcake kills his toast. He talks about his friendship with Rikel and the weird code words Rikel uses. Cupcake talks about the need for no bullshit zones and how he had to declare one after Rikel announced his engagement to Evelyn. I can’t capture how crazy funny and affectionate Cupcake’s toast was but take my word for it, it was memorable. He thanks me for organizing the wedding and I give my best Miss America wave. Ella gives a wonderfully loving and heartfelt speech and everyone’s in tears.

2:10 And then it’s time for Evelyn’s family to give their toasts. Her brothers give these jokey, stream of consciousness toasts. They’re sweet in that awkward family way. And then comes the most awesome thing ever. Evelyn’s father stands up and says he learned to sing Elvis songs so that he could sing them at his daughter’s wedding. With a totally thick Chinese accent he croons Elvis’ It’s Now or Never. The Ice Scream Sandwich table loses its shit. We start screaming as if we are watching the Beatles. And then something awesomer happens. Father Wrong asks the couple to come on the makeshift dance floor (better known as the area in front of the bar) and make his dream come true. Yes, he wants to serenade the bride and groom for their first dance. There wasn’t supposed to be any dancing at the reception but Evelyn and Rikel are trapped. They dance like Fred and Ginger. I get misty watching him move her around the dance floor with gentleness and love. That quickly dissipates as our table screams lustily when Father Wrong sings “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” We give Father Wrong a standing ovation.. Father Rice can only meekly congratulate the couple and thank everyone who traveled to the wedding. It’s hard to top and Chinese Elvis impersonator. Karen asks if anyone else wants to make a toast. There is no way the Ice Scream Sandwich table isn’t all over that. I get the microphone and thank Evelyn for putting all of us in a table together. It’s a testament to the love they have that we’re all here rooting for them. I end my toast by saying that we vow to be the rowdiest table ever and scream “I’m throwing down the gauntlet RIGHT NOW!!!!!”

2:30 The food comes at it is excellent. I simply cannot believe how wonderful the food is. Seriously the best wedding food I have ever eaten and that includes my cousin’s country club wedding that had lobster AND filet mignon. The standout for me is the bread pudding which is completely original. Hearty and delicate at the same time.

3:50 After we have eaten. Karen introduces the traditional Asian tea ceremony. As neither the Bride, nor Karen, nor I were really told what the tea ceremony entails, Karen heroically tries to do color commentary on the proceedings. Evelyn and Rikel also look completely befuddled by what they are supposed to do. Karen does a great job under the circumstances by presenting the parents, uncles and aunts, and Grandpa Wrong. We all cheer for each of them. I am seriously giggling like a hyena and I hear Karen say “The tea ceremony symbolizes respect for the elders and…good luck…and BABIES!” She continues with the babymaking jokes and pretty soon all of the elders are cracking baby making jokes. The baby jokes turn into some kind of baby bidding as each elder predicts more and more babies for the newly minted couple. I grumpily turn to J and say “noone at OUR wedding was auctioning off our fertility!”

4:15 Rikel and Evelyn cut the cake. They give in to the urge to smash it in each other’s faces. Hilarity ensues. The cake is wonderful. Chocolate AND vanilla with a chocolate ganache center. Not too sweet with a light as air buttercream frosting.

4:30 The guestbook SLOOOOWLY gets passed around. Jessie, the groom’s sister, grumbles, “It’s like they’re signing their senior yearbook.” Did I tell you how much I love the Rices?

5:00 The guests file out and J and I take the loot to the bridal suite.

6:45 I am in the hotel Jacuzzi with Rikel’s mother, father, and aunt. They thank me profusely for organizing the wedding as we collectively get all pruny.

8:52 Emma brought KARAOKE REVOLUTION!!!!!!!! I finally break 50,000 singing Time After Time. Oh and the marriage license gets signed in the bridal suite’s bathroom.

10:14 We are shooed out of the room so that the bride and groom and get it on. By which I mean they will get some well deserved rest.

Congratulations, you two crazy kids. The world believes in you.

Monday, April 23, 2007

One Wrong and a Rice - Part 2 The ceremony

Saturday April 21 - Wedding Morning

7:45 I'm so excited that I ended up waking up at 6:00 am. I am already abuzz with activity, checking things off, gathering stuff. At 7:45, I meet with Evelyn and
Emma at the bridal suite to get instructions on transporting the wedding dress. I see it for the first time and gasp. It's seriously beautiful. Champagne silk charmeuse, it's Badgley Michska by way of Donna Karan. A draped cross-cross v-neck with and empire waist that creates a slim and columnar shape that is Hollywood glamour at its most elegant and refined. After giving us instructions on how to handle her Precious,
Evelyn leaves for Elizabeth Arden to do her hair.

8:15 I meet with Rikel to go over all the things he will be transporting. He's tender and kind and wanting to make sure his wife to be is taken care of. Evelyn chose a winner.

10:00 I get to the chapel and go over the logistics with the person in charge of the site. She points out the rooms where the bridal party and groom's party will be sequestered. The chapel is small and intimate. J works on the ribbon that will mark where the families will sit. It keeps falling off but we decided it's more
elegant todrape the ribbon over the pew.

10:30 The photographer comes and he and his wife/assistant are awesome. J chats
up the assistant in that Southern way of his and ends up finding out her and her husband's life story. I go over the shot list with him and he and his wife come up with an order of the wedding photos.

10:45 The mother of the bride and her Aunt Doris arrive. I LOOOOOOVE Aunt Doris. She lives in Gaithersburg and is one of those warm funny ladies who everyone ends up calling Aunt Doris. We had dim sum with her last summer and she schooled us on dim
sum. The mother of the bride will be doing the bride's makeup.

11:00 The groom, officiant, and best man come and I quickly shoo them into
the groom's room. I check to make sure they have the rings and programs. Another person I love? The officiant. He's the brother of the groom and became an officiant through the Church of the Back Cover of Rolling Stone (TM Pauline). He's one of those laid back surfer types who exudes cool. I grab the programs and put them at the entrance. I also have Aunt Doris call the brothers of the bride who should have
been at the chapel at 10:45 since they will be ushering.

11:15 The rest of the groom's family arrives along with the bride's father.
Here's another reason why Evelyn picked a winner - his family rocks. They are warm and funny and totally organized. Everyone is where they are supposed to be and are already thanking me. They give MY in-laws a run for their money in the awesome in-law sweepstakes. And still, the brothers have not arrived.

11:30 The flowers come and I distribute them to the appropriate folks. I see the bride in her dress for the first time and I come close to tears. She's stunning. The dress flatters her perfectly and she looks like a goddess. Sadly though, I come in at the point where she is telling her mother/makeup-artist, "Nature is imperfect and unique Mom!" This is going somewhere great. I scurry out the door to check on the groom and get the wedding party in their their respective rooms. Aunt Doris is calling the brothers who seem to be perpetually 5 minutes away. She tries to calm me down but I will seriously kick some bridal brother ass. I assign J and the Maid of
Honor's brother to usher duty. The Maid of Honor's brother is also awesome and admonishes everyone to turn off their cell phones. At least SOMEONE's brother is responsible.

11:45 The groom asks for a lint brush. I try and get one from the bridal sequestering room and the bride asks me to clear the sequestering room of everyone except for
herself and the maid of honor. In true Asian mother fashion, the mother of the bride decides that 15 minutes before the wedding is the perfect time to bemoan the fact her daughter's eyes are not symmetrical and her eyebrows should betattooed on. The junior bridesmaids, the father of the groom and the mother of the groom all get sent to the groom's room. Evelyn's mother and Aunt Doris get sent to the vestibule. Still waiting
for the brothers and Grandpa Wrong.

11:55 I give the heads up to the groom's party to line up. I escort the junior bridesmaids, father of the groom and mother of the groom to line up at the
vestibule. I ask the mother of the bride for a contingency escort in case the brothers never show up. She conscripts a cousin. By the way, J looks REAAAALLLLY good in his suit and pink tie. I am wearing a yellow and black striped tie.

12:00 pm The prelude music starts playing and I line up the bridal party. No sign of the brothers.

12:10 pm I ask the Jessie and Phil to play one of the prelude songs again to
give some time for the brothers to show. They don't. I promptly say fuck it and line the bridal party up. I give a thumbs up to Jessie and Phil (who at this point have the patience of saints) to play the processional. Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring sounds almost like a lullaby played by the French horn and marimba. The groom's mother and father go down the aisle and the ceremony is under way.

12:15 pm J and I open the doors and Evelyn and her father walk down the aisle. She looks so beautiful and everyone is standing up taking pictures of them like thepaparazzi. Rikel looks dapper in his suit and his brother the officiant looks totally hot. His voice is warm, clear, and projects to the back of the room. He asks everyone to please be seated.

12:25 pm The brothers, uncle, cousin and Grandpa Wrong finally arrive right in the middle of the reading and right before the vows. They are laughing like frat boys who just saw someone throw up on the carpet. Well if you are going to be late. I hold my breath for the exchange of rings. They go easily from junior bridesmaid, to maid of honor/best man to bride/groom. I relax as the hard part is over. I prematurely cheer as the officiant pronounces Evelyn and Rikel man and wife. Everyone else cheers when they are allowed to kiss. It's a good kiss. Sweet, loving, and little sexy. Much
like the couple themselves.

12:30 Recessional. J and I gather the families and have them line up outside the church for a receiving line as Evelyn works on her bustle. While J and nervous about the time a receiving line would take, I remember that our clearness committee
had us do a receiving line and it really made a difference. People need time to say congratulations. The guest themselves form a line for Evelyn and Rikel to walk down so they can bathe in the glow of their guests' good wishes.

12:35 J heads out to the reception to meet with the MC and check on all the
last minute details. I wrangle the families for posed photos. The photographer is friendly, directive and efficient. It's a beautiful, breezy, sunny, day and the combined Wrong Rice family look incredible. I can't stop smiling. Aunt Doris gives me a hug and thanks me for everything.

One Wrong and a Rice - Part 1

Sorry for the lack of posting everyone. I came back from a whirlwind trip that included Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. You'll be happy to know I ate well in all cities. Most of the trip was for work but the tail end of the Chicago trip include my friend Evelyn's wedding to quite possibly the awesomest straight man on Earth Rikel Rice. Evelyn's been a friend of mine way back in the last milenium when we were working for a sexuality nonprofit. We spent as much time talking about lives as urban singles as we did reproductive rights. It's been one of those friendships where we can go years without seeing each other and pick up where we left.

Evelyn did me the immense honor of asking me to be her wedding coordinator. For those of you who have just started reading this blog, I LIIIIIIVEEEEE for weddings. I had a blast at my own and really enjoy making sure everyone has a good time. And you know what? After three weddings, endless fundraisers, two open houses and countless dinner parties, I can throw an event. Not only that, Evelyn is crazy organized with detail spreadsheets and lists out a minute by minute schedule, a list of vendors, a list of the wedding party WITH THEIR CELL PHONES, and the ceremony and reception program.

Thursday, April 19

I just finished my working meeting and am now officially in wedding mode. I take the El from Chinatown to Andersonville where Evelyn lives. I meet up with Evelyn and her maid of honor Ella for lunch. We head over to Evelyn's place to finish the programs. Many Asian sweatshop jokes are made as we painstakingly put together the programs. Richard, Evelyn's dog has taken a distinct dislike to me, barking when I make sudden movements or loud noises. Poor Evelyn has the leash tied around her waist.

We make quick work of the programs and review some wedding stuff before we head over to the W Lakeshore hotel to prep for the bachelorette party. If anyone is looking for the rockstar experience, I highly recommend staying a a W hotel. We got a suite with a lake view and felt royalty. We asked their whatever, whenever service to a lint brush, just 'cause.

We then went to meet up with the bridal party at a Thai restaurant downtown. This week was best behavior week as the maid of honor and I supressed our attention whore ways and Emma, another college friend who is always late arrived on time. While the food was hardly remarkable, the dinner was a blast as folks from Evelyn's college days, days in DC, days in Boston, and current Chicago days all converged. Our comraderie was solified by two rounds of flaming volcanoes and a rousing game of Two Truths and a Lie. After dinner, we settled into the rockstar suite at the W. And this is where the fund gets into high gear. Emma brings karaoke revolution and after downing what feels to two bottles of wine each, we all bust loose on the karaoke. Two things that are surprising. 1. Everyone knows the lyrics to Atlantic Starr's "Always." 2. "Crazy in Love" is really hard to sing. I come OH SO CLOSE to breaking 50,000 points while singing "Time After Time." We have such a good time it's 2:00 pm before I drag myself back to my own hotel.

Friday, April 20

I wake up to the hangover that won't die and drag myself to breakfast at my bed and breakfast near the Convention center. The chef is kind enough not to comment on the fact I look like crap. After breakfast I drag myself to the W and we all figure out how to get to the nail salon. While the ladies are getting thier nails done, I go to a hole in the wall hair place and get my hair cut. We then go to eat qhat is quite possibly the best Middle Eastern food I have ever tasted. Simply called Turkish Restaurant and Bakery we order the cold and hot appetizer samplers. The standouts are their eggplant dips. And there are multiple eggplant dips. We then move into the main courses which consist of lamb pizza on flatbread, a Turkish calzone and skewers of lamb, chicken, and lamb shwarma on rice pilaf. We hang out together and Ella and I take a cab to the wedding hotel. At the very moment we walk in the door, I see J, who came in the night before, downstairs. I am very happy having beeen away for a week. We go to our room and I promptly sleep off the remains of the hangover that will not die. When we wake I talk to the MC of the reception to go over the logistics. Already I know she is kicing ass and taking prisoners. J drops me off at the chapel for the rehearsal that I am running while he does a few errands.

I come a bit early and hang out with the best man while we wait for the rest of the wedding party. The wedding party comes promptly and we start with positioning the wedding party. After many episodes of Whose Wedding is it Anyway? I have found that the first step in doing a rehearsal is making sure everyone in the wedding party knows where they stand. Afterwards we run through the program without music. Rikel is a professionally trained trombonist while his sister Jessie and her husband Phil play the French horn and percussion respectively. Phil will be playing mmarimba for the wedding. The sound has the soothing airy quality of a harp with the percussive quality of a xylophone. While Jessie and Phil warm up, we walk through the program again. Particularly difficult is making sure the junior bridesmaids give the rings to the maid of honor and best man who will then give the rings to the bride and groom. It takes a few tries and a little manhandling of the bride from the wedding coordinator (aka the Queen Bee) but we get it right. At that point, the bride and groom's parents arrive and we practice the processional and recessional. The maid of honor looks uncomfortable with giving her arm to the best man during the recessional. Later we learn she's cultivated an unreasonalbe hatred of the best man owing to the fact that at the engagement party all of the old madies were trying to set up him while ignoring the Ella and all of her fabulousness.

The rehearsal dinner is at Giordano's, a Chicago institution that serves deep dish pizza. Owing to the buffet nature of the meal the pizza is disappointing, having sat out a bit and gotten lukewarm. Even worse is the pasta which is completely overcooked in a tasteless tomato sauce. Nevertheless, the great company and moving toasts more than make up for the mediocre food. J and I get some special time with Evelyn as she drives us back to the hotel. I tell her she's pretty, her husband to be is awesome, and they have planned this wedding to a T. We all go to bed early.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Saravana Palace has 467,000 vegetarian options

Saravana Palace has 467,000 vegetarian options. Seriously.

OK, not really, but let's just say you won't have to search for the errant vegan throwaway item or make a meal out of canned sides resting in their own murky soy juices. The 150+ dishes that they do have offer an astounding variety of Indian yum. Many I've seen in most other Indian restaurants, but I had not heard of most dishes.

Saravana Palace is in a strip mall in Fairfax not too far from the Wegman's. On two recent trips we enjoyed a broad representation of the menu. Service was a bit slow both times and a touch discombobulated the second time, but, in general, just fine. If trickling dishes are bothersome, or if you are in a rush, consider another option.

After multiple visits, I feel safe saying it is hard to go wrong here. A mushroom curry id wonderful, dosas are ambitiously large and tasty, breads come out warm and stuffed as requested.

When in Vienna, this is the go-to. And yes, we think it is worth the trip!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Tempo - I'd probably go again . . .

Last night we were surprised with a last minute invitation to be guests of good freinds at Tempo, a purple restaurant on Duke Street in Alexandria.

The outside of the restaurant was purple in a big way. It was like the one color of purple you could always find on the remainder racks at the Esprit for girls outlet in 1987. I expected some Nagel prints on the inside, but no such luck. It was actually pretty.

The room was open with fresh flowers on the tables, chrome-framed landscapes and other prints on the walls. There were only a few young people in the place, bit it filled up quickly. I felt like I was in South Florida for just a moment.

The menu was standard brunch meets French-Italian. French toast, prosciutto eggs benedict, omelets, etc. for the brunch crowd and a regular menu of pastas, seafood, and meats for the more lunchable set.

Hot rolls and butter arrived after a bit of a wait, a theme that would continue throughout the meal. It did seem like Tempo was slightly understaffed and that those servers who were present were, well, a bit lost. Coffee was only refilled after a reminder and we had to ask a few times for a juice they were bringing. T's meal came with soup or salad and we were told it was coming, but it never did.

Some odd and minor service issues aside, Tempo makes good food at a reasonable price.

T was pleased to see grouper on the menu, a favorite from our trips to Sarasota and Tampa where grouper abounds. It did seem to fit with the scene as well. The grouper was cooked perfectly and dressed with a flavorful beurre blanc that was also very well prepared. Like many of the day's dishes it was served with whipped potatoes piped on the plate. Overall the portion was a bit small, but it was very good.

I shared two dishes with my friend RootBeer. French toast was thick and tasty, if a bit eggy in the middle (hey, I actually like it that way). The berries scattered on top were ripe and tasty. No mushy berry messes here!

We also enjoyed the prosciutto eggs benedict. The hollandaise was delicious and the eggs were just right. I was not familiar with the particular type of prosciutto but it was a nice salty friend to it's english muffin base and the tang of the hollandaise.

The orange juice, in spite of a struggle to get a second glass, was cold and delicious, either freshly-squeezed or a great approximation thereof.

It should be noted that Tempo seems active in the community and, like many area restaurants, supports area nonprofits and other programs. Yea for them!