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The best thing I ever ate… this month.

Hello Friends, I hope you are all enjoying this mild summer. Did you take a vacation?  This summer, I was more than lucky to take a trip with my in-laws across the sea to Berlin.  This was MAJOR!  Most summer vacations involve trips to the beach or my parent’s house in NJ.

Berlin had so many sights to see, cool neighborhoods to check out, and some fantastic people, but one truly memorable event was the special dinner we had to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday.  I thought I would share with you many images of this deliciousness.  Just looking at them, the flavors all came rushing back.  Oh my goodness. Yum. Eating at a place like this, with a fixed menu is not for people that are afraid to try new things or get squirmy when people mention offal. You have to be open to what the chef has prepared.  Try it. You’ll like it.

We opted for the four course “summer menu” which started with this gorgeous array of little appetizers – spicy nuts, shrimp with a gorgeous gelee, pork belly carpaccio… from here I’ll list the courses as they were on our custom printed menus.  Look at this!

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First Course – PEA: green melon / lime
cream chiboust & shelled young peas, green melon pickled in lime juice, sirup from green thai chili, ginger jelly, mint meringue & fresh lime paring, galangal.  It’s like a painting.

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Second Course – CODFISH: lemon / lettuce
codfish, beurre blanc from lemon with cream, lemon grass & lemon leaf and green chili pickled in fish sauce as well as roasted basmati rice, lettuce in lemon dressing (two separate plates to mix bites as you like – and yes my own personal orchid plant on the corner)

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Third Course – VEAL: celery / jalapeno stewed cheek of veal in veal foot-jalapeno jus, rolls of apple, celery, celery cream and shiso, celery-apple juice, dim sum veal head (again, two small plates, the veal was spicy, the apple rolls helped to cool each bite)

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Fourth Course – Calpico: raspberry / rhubarb
cream, sorbet & fresh raspberry, rhubarb stock, mousse of calpico (Calpico or Calpis is a common flavor profile in Japan)

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And as if that wasn’t enough, they followed up with some little delicious dessert bites of chocolate, orange and raspberry done three ways; white chocolate infused with orange (everyone got their own set of mini tongs), orange fondant over ice cream with fresh raspberry on top, orange tuile with raspberry sorbet… I think!

dessert

So if you ever find yourself in Berlin, with some pretty euro to spend, consider getting a reservation at restaurant Tim Raue.  The chef is a native of Berlin. This is only one of his venues, but restaurant Tim Raue has a focus on Asian flavors.  Though the portions were small, they each held bites of perfection and we were full at the end. Beyond the food flavors, the details of the china, the presentation, the attentive staff, even the way the tables were custom made to hold the perfectly starched table cloth (check out their website)… everything was impeccable.  If you find yourself in Berlin, you will not be disappointed!  – Mindy


#7 – Drum Roll Please… The Dress.

Not so fast… stop reading now if you are expecting to catch a glimpse of arguably the most touted part of a wedding – the dress.  Unfortunately for my guests, the big reveal will be June 20th, 2015, right around 4 o’clock pm.  However, I thought it would be useful for those of you who may be newly engaged or soon to be engaged, to share what I learned during the dress shopping process.  And I’m going to tell you up front – it’s not at all like you envisioned when your Barbie got married….

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10 Things I’ve Learned About Wedding Dress Shopping

1) The Myth of Dress Shopping – It’s NOT an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress”: I will admit to watching endless episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” and “I Found the Gown” with my Saturday/Sunday morning coffee… And even though a lot of professionals will tell you the “this is the one!” moment is a myth perpetuated by such shows, I was so excited for my own “Say Yes to the Dress” moment that I went shopping just five days after getting engaged!  Boy was I knocked off my feet.  Even though I went into the shop knowing I wouldn’t leave with a dress, the pressure of having an opinion (and trying to gauge what my mom and sister thought) was overwhelming.  I wish I could say I came home from that first visit glowing, but truthfully I was so exhausted I needed a nap.  My shopping visits over the next months were just as exhausting, though I will admit I did finally have my “this is the one” moment. Bottom line: Be prepared to be frustrated, stressed and overwhelmed and let the experience run it’s course.  I still believe everyone gets their moment.

photo 1-Dress shopping just 5 days after getting engaged!-

2) Knowledge is Power: After that first overwhelming experience, I knew the key to my success was to arm myself with as much knowledge as possible.  I credit theknot.com and their amazing directory of designers.  I was able to go through and see not only what styles I was interested in, but also what designers I liked.  I then weeded out the ones which were out of my price range, found out what shops in my area carried the designers I liked and went from there.  I’ve gone dress shopping now 6 times and at 4 different stores (Miss Ruby, Chryssie’s Bridal, Manhattan Bridal and of course the famous Vows Bridal Outlet), all of which offered an amazing selection and even more amazing customer service!  With the help of the associates at the stores and my friends and family, I was able to fine tune exactly which style and designer I liked the most.

3) A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned: With all that “Say Yes to the Dress” watching, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you need to spend thousands of dollars on a dress.  And I am here to tell you – as a fellow dress enthusiast – it’s very easy to find a dress you love that’s well within your budget.  Believe it or not, “The average price of a wedding dress is $1,355” according to a recent survey in Brides.com. Use your resources to find designers within your price range, find the stores that carry them, and do not try on a dress that is outside your budget… Which brings me to my next point…

4) DO NOT TRY ON A DRESS THAT IS OUTSIDE YOUR BUDGET:  I wrote that in caps for a reason.  It’s undoubtedly the worst thing you can do…In my opinion anyway.  Yes, there is a chance that you could try on a dress, outside your budget, and end up hating it.  But we all know the reality is that you probably will love it – and then you’re in trouble.  If you really have your heart set on a specific dress or designer that you cannot afford, try finding a sample that the store will sell you off the rack, or find a store like VOWS (From the popular TV show “I Found the Gown”).  Vows scours stores all around the US for designer samples – from Lazaro and Monique Lhuillier to Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta – they then purchase them on sale, fix them up and resell them at a discounted rate.  Definitely worth a visit if you are in the Boston area – though be sure to make an appointment in advance!

5) Keep Calm and Carry On:  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the craziness when a sales associate tells you they can give you a discount if you buy the dress today. Or at a store like Vows, where dresses are off the rack, you risk losing the dress altogether if you leave the store without it.  I found myself really struggling with putting a deposit down on a dress at Vows to essentially hold it for 5 days while I thought about it.  I left the store, grabbed some lunch, took a deep breath and realized that if someone else bought that dress I wouldn’t be devastated – that was my answer. My advice…don’t make a monetary move unless you can’t live without the dress…I ended up not getting any of the dresses I almost put a deposit down on at Vows.

6) The Extra’s: Don’t forget to add in any likely alterations and accessories.  Most brides need shapewear (which isn’t cheap), shoes, and a veil or headpiece.  Either have these items built into your budget separately or include them in your dress number. Most likely you will need some sort of alterations, even if it’s just a bustle.  Keep in mind that some dresses will require more alterations than others.

7) That’s Classified:  Keep that dress under wraps!  I know it’s hard – I wanted to show off my dress to just about every stranger I ran into.  But the more people I told, the less special my dress started to feel.  Leave the big reveal for the big day… good things come to those who wait!

8) Sit IN it for Awhile and Sit on it for Awhile Literally, sit in the dress.  Walk around in it, jump up and down in it, and sit in it.  Is it comfortable?  You’re going be wearing it for 8+ hours so it better be!  Then sit on it… the decision that is.  I technically found my dress 2 ½ months ago but only recently made my decision that it was definitely the one. Unless you are under a time crunch there is nothing wrong with sitting on your decision for a while.  It gave me time to really envision the dress with our wedding and with a clearer head I felt more confident in my decision. Plus, if you have more than a year before your wedding, you also risk finding another dress you love even more!

9) Does it Match?: I personally had a tough time making a decision on a dress because of my extreme appreciation for all dresses.  I loved almost everything I tried on because I love everything about weddings!  The decision was made easier by reminding myself that the dress needed to fit with the rest of our wedding.  And while I think there are brides who can pull off any dress in any environment, I think most of us agree that the design of the dress worn for an art gallery wedding is much different from the one a bride wears for a beach wedding.

photo 3-My most recent shopping trip with my Mom and Sister-

10) Make sure it’s YOU: In the end, there were two dresses left.  There was the dress I had always envisioned myself wearing.  A very traditional look I had dreamed of and dressed my Barbie in.   But then there was the one I had envisioned in the last 6 months since being engaged… The one that matched everything else in our wedding… The one that gave me butterflies… The one that was the most like ME.  And while it’s hard to describe what this means without giving away what it looks like – everyone will know what I’m talking about when they see it next June…

…It’s the one. 

That’s all for this month!  Tune in next month for more wedding planning adventures!


After the party… let’s party?

Recently, AE Partner, Christine Altieri, and one of our brides, Liz, (Hi Liz!) were quoted in the Boston Globe style section commenting on wedding after parties.  Which leads us to continue the conversation – Are After Parties worth it?

After Parties are the new excuse for brides and grooms to continue the celebration into the wee hours of the night (ahem… morning).  For some, I’d say it’s truly worth it.  When else will you have this kind of love and attention from close family and friends?  When else will you have a chance to party like this?  Graduation? (nah, that’s expected) Baby? (Duh, you have a baby! Stay home!)  Major birthday milestone? Okay, maybe that last one, but it’s unlikely all of your nearest and dearest will make it to the festivities.  Yes, a wedding is an important part of your life and those closest to you make an effort to be there – and an After Party, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

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Wedding dress still on, bowtie askew… It’s totally worth it if you have a smaller group of close friends and family and you head somewhere for some post wedding drinks, snacks and chatter.  I’d recommend the Hawthorne for this! Actually, I did go there after my wedding and there were two other brides wandering around in their dresses as well.  We all hugged.  Dressed down to comfy clothes… It’s totally worth it to go sit around a bonfire and make s’mores and mellow out with your peeps. Within Boston itself, I’m not sure you’ll find a bonfire, but I do know the Chatham Bars Inn offers one.  Hair a mess, weren’t you wearing a tie?…  It’s totally worth it to head back to a friend’s suite with your BFFs to drink the last of the champagne and muse upon the times ‘before you were married’.

After Parties aren’t just for weddings anymore.   Now fundraisers and galas are hosting APs as well.  Sometimes it’s to keep the fun, lively atmosphere going and sometimes it’s to introduce a new set of future donors. It’s an easy way to get them in, excited about the cause, introduced to some key people and they get to have fun.  We’ve found the most successful fundraising/non-profit/gala APs have an existing young professional group that they can invite.  Typically this group is invited to arrive as the program and seated dinner that the bigger patrons have paid for is winding down.  Their ticket price is lower and includes dessert, drinks (up to the organization if it’s 2, unlimited drinks, or perhaps you switch to a wine and beer bar) – and of course dancing with the band or DJ alongside the other guests.  It’s a great way to bring some new energy to the room, to the group, to the cause!

To read the Globe article about Wedding APs – follow this link!
Many thanks to Liz Linder Photography for the bonfire AP photo taken in Truro last September.