Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vegas by iPhone

Did anyone else have President's Day off of work or school? We did, and Justin's company took its employees to Las Vegas for the long weekend. I've been catching up with life and sleep since we got back, but for now you can see a glimpse of our trip through my iPhone photos.

"Campfire Delight" cocktail at The Chandelier Bar in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Roasted marshmallows on top!


The Beatles LOVE Cirque Du Soleil show. SO much fun!

Amazing Dale Chihuly glass display at The Bellagio Hotel.

Most romantic spot in Vegas in my opinion.

With my love interest by my side :)

Win some...

Lose some...

Had to sneak a photo of this bride playing the slots. Really, Vegas? Really?

Photos from our real camera and a full trip recap to follow. Hope you all had a nice long weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

I've been known to say that wedding cake is my favorite dessert. I go so far as to judge weddings solely by how good the cake is and I always, always try the wedding cake and groom's cake for the sake of research and fair judgement. I guess you could say that wedding cake is sort of my thing.  So when it came time to choose my own, I knew that not just any cake would do.

Me sneaking around a friend's beautiful wedding cake hoping to get a taste.

I'm actually a wedding cake traditionalist, which means that my favorite wedding cakes have always been the straight up vanilla with buttercream frosting. Sure nuts and fruit fillings are fun and exciting for birthday cakes, but they don't fulfill my "wedding cake" craving. And don't even get me started on fondant. Why would you sacrifice flavor and texture for good looks? I'm all for brides selecting their favorite cake flavor for their own wedding cake, but for me, it has to be the best tasting vanilla I can find with fluffy frosting galore.

I legitimately had a hard time sleeping this Saturday night, because I knew the next day I'd be meeting Amber from Enjoy Cupcakes and tasting flavor options for MY wedding cake. Why a cupcake bakery for my wedding cake, you ask? Well there's a story, of course. As I've mentioned before, the first "couples trip" Justin and I ever took together was to Los Olivos. A couple's first trip together is one of those big relationship milestones, so I'll always remember the amazing time we had exploring the wine country together. Our first stop on that trip was to Saarloos & Sons, where we enjoyed a wine tasting with a flight of minis from Enjoy Cupcakes paired to our wines. The cupcakes blew us away and we completely demolished them.

Fast forward a few years and we're planning a wedding in Los Olivos. From online research I knew that Amber had baked plenty of two tier wedding cakes for brides in the area so I quickly got in touch to set up a tasting. I'm all about weddings being a reflection of the couple's life together, so I was thrilled to head back to the Saarloos & Sons tasting room, where Justin and I had such a memorable time when we were falling in love, to bring a piece of that to our wedding.

Besides being a complete joy to talk to, the amazing thing about Amber at Enjoy Cupcakes is that she's this sort of flavor magician. It seems like she makes a bajillion flavors! Almost any cupcake flavor she makes translates to cake, so the options are out of this world. Being the traditionalist that I am, I asked Amber to make the most Vanilla-y wedding cake for me and something with Oreos and chocolate for Justin's groom's cake (his request). What she gave us a taste of this weekend

It was love at first bite on both the Triple Vanilla (yes TRIPLE) and the Chocolate Oreo concoction for the groom's cake. Since not everyone is so vanilla or chocolate, we tasted a variety of other flavors to offer an assortment of mini cupcakes at our wedding as well. Our guests will have no shortage of sugar, I can assure you. We tasted flavors from Caramel Corn to Cherry Cobbler to Chocolate Syrah, each one more interesting than we could have hoped for.

We brought my bestie along to be the flavor tie-breaker and she provided the lovely photography as well. She was paid in cupcakes, of course :)

I'm more excited than ever about my wedding day because these deliciously moist and beautiful cakes and cupcakes await me! And now comes the part where I share what I learned through this wedding task:

1. Know your priorities. Is it most important to you that your cake look a certain way, taste amazing or feed a crowd on a low budget? By booking with Enjoy Cupcakes, I chose flavor and variety as my priorities. Their cakes are beautiful in a perfectly understated way, but they don't have the resources to make more than a two-tier cake. What I lose in design, I make up for in the flexibility to select from a 22 page list of flavors and the option to supplement my small cakes with mini cupcakes in a variety of flavors. There's no reason you can't have design, flavor and variety, but remember that having it all comes at a cost.
2. Do your research. Transporting a wedding cake is a logistical challenge, and sometimes ordering your cake from a baker outside of the city where your wedding will be comes with additional costs as well. Unless you are loyal to a specific baker, I suggest reading reviews and calling bakeries in the city where your wedding will be held so the cake is only traveling a short distance, sometimes at no charge, with less risk of being damaged in commute. Some bakeries do not deliver, in which case you should factor in the cost of a delivery service for an intricate cake or have someone you trust pick it up if it's small enough.
3. Taste the cake! Besides being one of the most fun tasks to share with your future spouse, tasting flavor options is really important. You should both love what you're serving to your special guests at the wedding. Whether that's pies, cake balls, cupcakes or cheesecake, when what you serve is a reflection of what you and your fiance love, it will add a special touch to your day and give you yet another thing to look forward to.
4. Find pictures of cakes you love. Knowing that Enjoy could only do a two-tier cake, I scoured the internet for pictures of small wedding cakes that I loved to share the images with Amber. Providing her with samples at the tasting helped her understand my vision so we could select a style together. She provided helpful hints for ensuring a beautiful display, like selecting at least one flavor of cupcake with a bright colored topping to bring a pop of color next to the white wedding cake and brown groom's cake.
5. To save or not to save? You'll be asked if you plan to save the top tier of the cake for your one year anniversary. Since our cakes are small, we decided not to. Amber offers small three inch cakes so we can have our wedding cake replicated in a mini size in a year to enjoy fresh cake instead of frozen.

I better go now. I'm going through cake withdrawals.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Belgian Beauties

I'll admit it, I'm a total procrastinator. If I don't have a deadline to get something done, odds are it will go unfinished until the mood strikes me. So when I received a waffle maker as an engagement gift in December, it took me until February to get around to deciding if it was the waffle maker I wanted or if I should register for a smaller one. I had to ponder this carefully for months, with the waffle maker untouched in its box, until this weekend when I determined that the Waring Pro Belgian Waffle Maker I received was going to meet our waffle needs just fine. Isn't she a beauty?

This waffle maker was the source of much confusion for me at Christmas, actually. I mentioned to you that my family doesn't exchange gifts, so I was pleasantly surprised when my dad handed me a large wrapped box on Christmas day. I tore open the wrapping to find this waffle maker inside. I have always wanted one, but did find it odd that my dad would get me one for Christmas, especially since we weren't doing gifts. Then I heard my mom say, "Where did that come from? A colleague of ours gave us the same kind of waffle maker to give you and Justin as an engagement gift." Only it wasn't the same kind, it was the exact same waffle maker that my dad had wrapped in Christmas paper to trick me. Sneaky dad...

Justin was beside himself when I told him I was bringing home a waffle maker so as you can imagine, he was overjoyed when I finally decided to open the box and bust out some waffles. I wanted to christen the Belgian waffle maker with true Belgian yeasted waffles, which Waring Pro kindly provided a recipe for.

I learned a very valuable lesson while making my first waffles at home. Don't make Belgian waffles when hungry. There are many steps involved, including letting yeast dissolve in warm water for ten minutes, beating egg whites until your arms fall off and then letting the batter rise for an HOUR before you actually place any batter on an iron and have waffles in your tummy. I was chugging coffee to hold me over and rueing the day I needed such a fancy authentic breakfast. After an hour wait, it was finally time to put our new kitchen appliance to the test.

The Waring Pro delivered beautifully. The machine beeps when your waffle is ready, making it totally foolproof. You can also control the browning, so the result is perfectly golden and crispy waffles that release from the iron with ease. 

Despite all the work that went into preparing this breakfast, it turned out to be one of those rare and cherished mornings with my fiance, where there is nowhere we have to be, nothing we have to do, and we're free to just sip coffee, chat, laugh and play with the pups while we wait for batter to rise. Since we started wedding planning, it seems like there's always something to do. A weekend that doesn't involve tackling some wedding task is a rare luxury, and it's the little things like Justin's schoolboy giddiness over making and eating homemade waffles that make me look forward to spending every morning with him from here on out.

You can look forward to many more waffle trials by us in the future, including recipes that don't require rising and flavored waffles galore. The possibilities are endless!