Foodie Friday: The Wedding Edition

Well, you were warned. As I’m celebrating our anniversary month, I thought I’d share some of the details from our wedding last year. And as Fridays are usually all about food here on Under A Glass Sky, I thought I’d tell you all about the yummy food and drinks we had at our reception.

Food and drink, as you’ve probably surmised, is a big deal for me, and my husband too. So when it came to planning our wedding festivities, these two tasks were top of the list. Whilst I totally agree that it’s all about what you want on your wedding day, I also think (having seen hundreds of weddings through my job!) that there is a duty of care to your guests at a wedding too. Adam and I love to host, and really wanted to ensure that all our guests had an amazing time with as little effort and expense on their part as possible.

We knew from early on that we didn’t want a very formal reception with a sit down meal and table plans etc. I had actually planned a wedding years ago where the Bride and Groom had chosen to serve canapés and bowl food so that their guests could circulate and catch up with everyone there, rather than mostly just the people at their table, and it was honestly one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever experienced. This really appealed to us, as we weren’t starting until four o’clock, and with only the reception happening on that day. It also gave us the opportunity to choose LOTS of different dishes (I love having a little bit of lots of things!) and also ensure there was something everyone liked. Ever concerned though about making sure that everyone had enough to eat, we opted to have a few extras too, so that there was basically food on the go for the whole event!

Starting things at four o’clock felt like a great excuse to serve a bit of afternoon tea. It’s often tricky at weddings when people have been travelling all morning to get there…they often don’t get chance to have all their usual meals, so we wanted people to have something right away to line their stomachs! So, first up we circulated finger sandwiches with different traditional fillings, followed by plain and fruit scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream (we had to request they go on in that order, as at our tasting the caterers did it the other way round….Adam looking at me nervously as they served them in the way I don’t like!). We had collected lots of vintage tea stands to serve the tea on, the caterers also using some of their nice slate flats.

Our Wedding: The Menu

To accompany the tea, we decided to serve an arrival cocktail we called ‘Hitchin Lavender G and Tea’….Hitchin (where we held our reception and lived at the time) is famous for its lavender growing, and our amazing mixologist devised this lovely cocktail for us to feature it. They served the ‘tea’ from glass tea pots using dry ice to create a steam effect, then poured the cocktail into mis-matched vintage tea cups that we’d collected from flea markets. It was a lovely alternative start and went beautifully with the food.

DIY Wedding, Lavender 'Tea' Cocktail in vintage china from tea pots with dry ice, reception drink

DIY Wedding, Lavender 'Tea' Cocktail in vintage china from tea pots with dry ice, reception drink

DIY Wedding, Lavender 'Tea' Cocktail in vintage china from tea pots with dry ice, reception drink

Shortly after tea was served, our gorgeous little vintage ice cream van arrived to the playground (our venue used to be a school and is now a museum) for everyone to enjoy a sweet treat. Adam is crazy for ice cream, and someone I worked with told me about the adorable little van local to us. Ice Baby was actually the first thing we booked (yes, even before the venue!) and it was lovely seeing her wonderful owner, Tasha, around town often in the run up to the party.

We chose all our favourite flavours (after much careful taste testing!) including coconut for me, as well as frozen yoghurt which I love too. We were very lucky that the sun shone at the right time so people got to enjoy their ice creams outside whilst playing on the little crazy golf we’d made, and luckily not needing the umbrellas we kept on hand!

Our Wedding: Ice Baby vintage ice cream van Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_422 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_424 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_425 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_428  Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_442 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_447 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_450 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_451

Back inside and we’d set up our Welsh dresser as a sweet shop, filled with naughty things we love (I am a real sweet fiend) such as flying saucers, strawberry laces and sherbet straws. We bought pretty striped bags for people to fill and take away with them, as well as some cute stripey paper cups for people to fill and eat around the room.

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

Then it wasn’t long before the main meal! We began with bite sized canapés, circulated on lovely olive boards and slate flats….we chose sweet pepper and goats cheese tarts, and minted pea blinis for our veggie options, then fish and mushy pea rosti for our fish choice, with miniature burgers and tadpole in the whole (tiny toad in the holes with gravy!) as our meat options. Although bite sized (necessary for chatting and not getting gravy all over your face!) these were pretty filling!

Then for ‘mains’ we served what I call ‘passing plates’….again, we collected LOTS of vintage side plates to serve small, sort of tapas size portions of main dishes. These were designed to be easily eaten with just an oyster fork whilst people were standing, and meant that people could choose the sort of thing they fancied (or, like me and a good few others, have some of everything!). Our vegetarian dishes were vegetable tempura served on jasmine rice, and a pea and ricotta gnocchi. We went for poached salmon tagliatelle as our fish option, and (my favourite) rump steak with chips and bearnaise sauce for our meat dish. After one of each of those I was totally stuffed….although I believe some people (who had probably eaten fewer sweets than me!) managed several more!

Alongside supper, our bar served some amazing wines that a friend of Adam’s family had collected from Germany for us. For white we chose an incredible Bacchus, Spatgurgunder for our red, and a lovely rose Portugieser. Adam also brought across some Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot for those who prefer something bigger too, plus we bought in a couple of mini kegs of some of my favourite ales, and a keg of Adam’s favourite cider!

Then (after we were sure everyone had eaten something!) we opened a full cocktail bar, featuring a short list carefully chosen by us at a lengthy tasting! These went down very well indeed, and many of our guests made it a mission to try each one! We made sure the non-drinkers were well catered for by asking our bar staff to serve all the cocktails as ‘virgin’ on request, and also had a good stock of teas available too.

DIY Wedding Hand Typed Menu displayed in vintage typewriter

DIY Wedding Cocktail Bar

Next up, was the cake. Neither of us were fond of the idea of one big cake, as we like lots of different types, and didn’t really want to go in for the formal cutting bit either. Instead we asked a bunch of friends to make some little individual cakes and sweets for us, so that people could help themselves to as much or as little as they liked, and had a choice of different kinds too. The wonderful Brigitte (who, luckily for us happens to be a pastry chef!) made us a whole host of miniature cakes, including some seriously yummy tiny blueberry muffins. Then Hannah P made her famous chocolate covered cinder toffee, which was very popular! Adam’s Mum made a load of her lovely meringues for us, and we also bought some of the incredible chocolate brownies from our local artisan baker, Quotidian. And last, but perhaps my favourite, were Hannah G’s macaroons….she made lots of different flavours for us, in pretty pastel colours to match our decor, and they were divine!

Being fervently British when it comes to the cheese course, I insisted our cheese ‘cake’ was brought out after puddings, although our guests were able to enjoy them alongside each other as they were all set out at the sweet station. We ordered six tiers of cheese from the wonderful people at Liverpool Cheese Company as I’d heard they were pretty good. Their advice and service was impeccable actually, and the cheese itself (including carefully sourced decorations according to our guidelines) was amazing. From bottom (largest) to top (smallest) we chose Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, Snowdonia Extra Mature Cheddar, Delice Cremiers, Cashel Blue, Somerset Camembert and Capricorn Goat’s cheese. Half of these were regular favourites of mine, but it was lovely to have some that were new to me too, especially as the lovely cheese people sent us samples before hand so we could be sure!

DIY Wedding, tiered cheese course cheese cake with flowers and fruit

DIY Wedding, tiered cheese course cheese cake with flowers and fruit

For alongside the cheese, we made a huge batch of sloe port. We’ve been making sloe gin for a few years now, and after the success of the first batch, started to branch out into port, brandy and even chocolate to use up the gin-soaked berries. This was a great accompaniment, as well as the huge stack of bread we also bought in from Quotidian….although disaster nearly struck when we forgot to collect it all earlier in the day! The shop has usually sold out of bread and so closes by noon, but at 5pm Adam realised we’d forgotten to pop round there, and so we panicked! He decided to try our luck by running round there though (all in his wedding suit finery!) and the lovely owners had left a note on their door to tell us they’d left our order with the bike shop next door! We couldn’t believe our luck, although poor Adam then had a huge, heavy box of baked goods to carry back to the venue! Thankfully Hitchin is pretty small though, and so nobody had to go without bread to put their cheese on!

We sent our guests home with party bags filled with sweets too, and so all in all I think everyone was pretty well fed! We had LOTS of cake and cheese, and even a little bread left over (as well as a huge amount of booze!), but we made a good dent in that on the following day when we had a bunch of friends who’d stayed over nearby round in the afternoon. It was lovely to extend the celebrations, and we didn’t really mind having to eat a lot of cheese and cake for several days after!

We really lucked out on all our suppliers…..we took a LONG time to choose our caterers, How Can We Help You, as before Adam found them we’d really struggled to find a company who could offer what we wanted. The format of the menu was really important to us, and many companies didn’t really understand the concept, then we had to insist that all the meat and dairy were organic too, because of our feelings about animal welfare. They really did do everything that we asked though, and nothing was too much trouble…even when I was being picky about the size of forks, the texture of the sugar snap peas and the order things appeared on the plate…I for one was a very tough client, but they really did meet all our expectations.

Our bar team and mixologists, Liquid Chefs, I’d actually worked with before, so I knew how great they are. It was great to be the end client though this time, rather than hiring them on my client’s behalf, so we very much enjoyed choosing what *we* wanted (not to mention trying out all manner of different options first!).

Thinking about it all is making me rather hungry and thirsty….and keen to do it all again, actually! I’ll have to make do with a sandwich though, so off to the kitchen I go!

Ems x

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Muddling Through: The Manhattan

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Good evening and welcome to my first proper post in ‘Muddling Through’, a beginners guide to cocktails, written by a beginner.

As my introduction said, I’m going to be focussing on classic cocktails (at least for now) and few are more widely known than the Manhattan. This also seemed a rather apt choice as it’s one of Ems’ all time favourite cocktails.

Invented in The Manhattan Club, New York as early as the 1870’s (though it seems no one can say for sure) the drink has changed very little since then. As with the Martini the only real change seems to be a gradual decline in the amount of Vermouth added! That said, with these kinds of drinks there are a great many variations and the Manhattan in particular is popular with bartenders who enjoy injecting a little of their own style into their drinks. For simplicity though I’m going to stick with the most basic. Don’t however let my use of the word ‘basic’ fool you in any way! The Manhattan is a very sophisticated cocktail and when done well is a truly great drink!

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The Manhattan

Ingredients

  • 2 Measures Rye/Bourbon Whisky
  • 1 Measure Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 Dash Bitters

Depending on how sweet you like your drinks you can simply increase or decrease the amount of Vermouth added (I’d suggest increments of 1/4 measures).

Method

  1. Combine the Whisky, Vermouth and Bitters in a mixing glass/cocktail mixer half filled with ice.
  2. Stir together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Yep, that’s it! So if you read my introductory post you should see why I told you to treat yourself to the good stuff! With drinks like this you’ve not got much to cover the taste of poor quality alcohol, so best not to risk it!

Rye is the more traditional Whisky for use in the Manhattan, but as I’ve found American Whisky sparsely stocked in UK supermarkets to say the least (there is so much more to life than Jack Daniels and Jim Beam!) you’re unlikely to find a Rye outside of the Internet, or if you’re lucky a very well stocked off-licence! In which case you will be more than fine with a good Bourbon.

As for Vermouth, if you can find yourself a bottle of Vermouth Rosso you can add an extra level of depth to your Manhattan by adding up to half a measure. Again depending on how much Vermouth you want to add in total and how sweet you want it, you’ll either add it or replace some of your sweet Vermouth with it.

Finally feel free to experiment with different Bitters if you can get hold of any. Orange is good, and I’d also recommend Cherry….lots of Manahattan recipes include burnt peel or a cocktail cherry.

For anyone interested, here’s how I’m currently making my Manhattan at home:

  • 1 Measure Pikesville Straight Rye Whisky
  • 1 Measure Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whisky
  • 1 Measure Cinzano Vermouth
  • 1/4 Measure Vermouth Rosso
  • 5 Drops Cherry Bitters

In all honesty I’m making it this way as I’m not in love with the Pikesville (it’s also my first Rye), so once that’s gone I plan to try another Rye and if I like it may end up making my Manhattans with just that. You never know, which is why it’s good to experiment to find what you like as the flavours and sweetness in a drink like this differ from person to person!

However you end up making your Manhattan, I hope you enjoy it and let me know about your experiences!

Until next time!

Adam

Guest Post: Muddling Through

Adam

Hello. My name is Adam and Emily has asked me here today to talk to you about cocktails. Now, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then we can begin…

Welcome to a little corner of Ems’ site I’ve titled ‘Muddling Through’, a far from expert series of sporadic posts by me, focussing on alcohol and the wonderful art of making cocktails. The idea is for me to share with you drinks and cocktails I prepare here at home, as I slowly develop my skills in Mixology. We thought it might make a nice change to write from the perspective of the learner (as that is very much what I am!) in the hope of making the recipes seem a little more accessible, so I’ll do my best to explain everything as I learn it. It may be the case that you know a thing or two yourself, in which case I would welcome any input and for anyone interested, perhaps we can all learn and get pleasantly inebriated together!

A little background on the origins of my hobby can be found on my own blog ‘Unfamiliar Ceiling‘ where I have posted about a couple of drinks already. However as Ems has been asking me to do a little Boozy section for her for so long, and as I neglect my own blog enough as it is, I thought it might be nice to contribute to her little bit of the internet! I have quite a different style to Ems which will be clear if you read my blog, so I hope these posts fit in nicely here!

And that’s about it really! I hope it proves useful to anyone wanting to make their own cocktails and offers a little something different to what I’m sure are a large number of other blogs and sites (and of course books!) out there essentially providing the same recipes. I’m going to try to make it as simple and transferrable as possible so hopefully it’ll always be as easy to follow as I found it to make!

In terms of drinks, for the moment I’m most definitely a classics man (you’ll see a lot of Martinis from me for sure)! I’ve found that there are a number of benefits to focussing on these drinks. Firstly they often have very few ingredients so if you want to make them, you don’t have to go hunting for liqueurs or fruit and whatnot. What you’ll need should be easily accessible from your local supermarket. Also they’re classics for a reason, so why not start with the best?! Finally they’re full of alcohol, by which I mean you’ll really get to taste the spirits you’re using and get familiar with them. The downside of course is that they can also be the least forgiving because they don’t have large quantities of mixers etc. to hide any flaws!

As for the style of my posts, you’ll find that I probably won’t provide actual quantities for a lot of drinks. I will instead list ingredients in terms of ‘measures’ and the reason for this is twofold. Firstly, there are different size jiggers so you might have a 25/50ml jigger, whereas the next person might have a 1/1.5 fl oz jigger. The other is so that you can easily scale the drinks up to make more by simply scaling up the size of your ‘measure’.

Some advice before we begin (sorry for anyone expecting a recipe from this first post! Patience, young grasshopper! Patience!)….

  • You will need lots of ice. Ice is very much your friend in this endeavour. Love the ice.
  • Freezer space for chilling glasses is also important. If you’re not using ice in the glass, chances are you’ll be serving into a chilled one.
  • Treat yourself to the good stuff. I’m not saying go and buy the most expensive booze out there, not at all and I certainly don’t. Check out what’s well rated (e.g. on the International Spirits Challenge 2013 Awards you’ll see one of ASDA’s own gins is a gold award winner!), or buy yourself that bottle of Vodka/Rum/Bourbon/Gin you tried ages ago and really loved but always thought it was a bit too much and what difference does it really make when it’s with coke/tonic/lemonade anyway? Well, you’re not drinking it with coke any more! Think of it this way: That really nice bottle of gin, from which you will get over a dozen good strong drinks, is the same price as buying less than half as many Gordon’s and tonic at the pub.
  • Enjoy it, but do take it seriously. There’s a reason a Long Island Iced Tea from the American bar at The Savoy is better than one from Cucamara. It’s because the guys at The Savoy really know their shit and don’t have a bottle with ‘Long Island Mix’ on their shelf that they just pour into a glass and top up with coke. Yes you pay for the difference, but the difference is worth it. So at the risk of sounding like a bit of a tosser: if you treat the drinks right, you’ll taste the difference. Mostly my point here is that you really are dealing with recipes, and recipes have precise quantities. You don’t tend to make cakes better by chucking in extra flour or eggs, and the same applies here.

That really is it! I’ll hopefully be back with you very soon with a drink for you all to try! In the mean time I think I’d better start swotting up!

Adam