Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lauren's birthday dinner at the Flea St. Cafe

For an early birthday this year, I surprised Lauren with dinner at the Flea St. Cafe in Menlo park.

The first time we went there some years ago, I was mainly drawn by the name.  Something that sounded so similar to Fleet Street had to be good, right?  When we arrived, the simple but classy presentation, the attentive wait staff, and the delicious California/American dishes really blew us away.

Since it's a "special-occasion" sort of spot and not a place we were going back to every weekend, I had sadly almost forgotten about Flea St., but when I started looking around for Lauren's birthday dinner this year, it popped back into my mind.  And I'm glad it did!  We enjoyed some cocktails -- Lauren had something with a lot of sage(?!) that was as tasty as it was unique.  The starters and salads were all very good as well (asparagus+garlic soup, artisan cheeses, beet salad, strawberry salad), and our main courses [pictured above] were wonderful (filet mignon for me, vegetarian tableau for Lauren).  Great service as always; they even brought a little candle out with dessert for Lauren's birthday.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Centerpieces Part 2: Lauren's Mock-Ups!

This weekend I worked on mocking up possible centerpieces for the wedding, to see if my ideas could actually work out well in reality.  Trader Joe's was having a sale where the beautiful, vibrant, giant orchids that I would love to have in our wedding were on sale for $10 per branch, a ridiculously low price considering that Koolau Farmers quoted Grammy $30 per branch.

Based on the ideas in the previous post, here's the first centerpiece I created:

This is a small centerpiece, only 5" tall, and would sit on the cocktail tables.  I used pebbles instead of sand and (I think) 3" circular bowl.  I bought the pebbles and the vases at Michael's.  This bowl cost $1, and one bag of "river pebbles," which was able to spread to all the vases in this post, was $3.30.

Based on previous ideas, I also tried submerging an orchid completely inside a hurricane vase:

But I have to admit not liking this one so much.  It looked a bit like a head floating in a jar (?!).

Then I went on to try the centerpieces for the tables.  First I took a 8.75" high cylinder vase filled with the river pebbles to hold up the orchid stalk.  Note that I had to remove about half the blossoms from the bottom of the stalk in order to create this effect:

It is a simple design.  I like the starkness of the elements and the simplicity of the lines.  I am concerned about the height of the piece (14" tall) that would prevent people from talking across the table.  I am also concerned that this centerpiece is so simple, that it would just look like a flower in a vase.

So here's my personal favorite:

I like that it looks like there's more thought to it; it clearly uses the "orchid and sand" imagery; there are more elements.  Problems include: the flowers tend to fall out; Will said (and I agree) the layer of sand is monochromatic and less interesting to look at.  Will also said that this centerpiece might be too small to carry a round table seating 8, and I also agree.  Perhaps if there were loose orchids around the bottom to cover some of the monochrome sand and make it look larger?  I really want to go somewhere with a table of correct dimensions and see what it looks like.

I also learned: we can't just take sand off of the beach and throw it into a vase.  Apparently in fresh floral arrangements, you need to use only sterilized sand, or the flowers will die or something.  

Here's what Asa Flowers said:
I always have concerns when family wants to do the centerpieces.  First its not that simple, to get all the materials together and set up a work room at the hotel.  Second, it puts a strain on the person doing this since they are not in their element and familiar with the process.  Third, guest should be there to enjoy your special moment with you.
The basic ideas here are OK.  I think firstly, beach sand should not be used, we have pure white silica sand which is beautiful and pristine.  We would do this by having the glass cubes with an insert to hold the flowers, Like a cube within a cube idea so the sand does not get wet.  A cluster of Pink Cymbidium Orchids can be placed within, giving it a crisp, clean look without seeing any of the mechanics.  A nice clean contemporary look.
 6" x 4" x 7" Glass Cube Vase, lined inside with Pure White Silica Sand, filled with Pink Cymbidium Orchids (built inside a plastic insert, can be taken) (Vase and Sand on loan). $165.00
This was very helpful, and I'll continue to price out options.  FYI, here's a pic of all of the centerpieces I put together, against a tape measure:

Mom, Will, Gram, Ellen - thoughts?!    Love, Lauren

P.S. I just found this other idea that I LOVE:

Here are some websites with pretty good prices:
  •, $13 per stem, Purple and White Phalaenopsis Orchids - Ten Stems Cut Orchid Flowers
  •, Spray Cymbidiums Stems, $21 per stem
  •, Cymbidium Orchid wedding flowers, $22 per stem

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Late Valentine's Day in Tiburon

This was Lauren's year to plan a Valentine's Day surprise, and in early February she was clearly very pleased with what she'd cooked up.  Sadly, we had to put off our February plans until now, but it was worth the wait!

Lauren booked us a room in the lovely Water's Edge Hotel in Tiburon.  Tiburon holds a warm place in our hearts, as it was the place where I proposed to Lauren last July.  In fact, after dropping our bags at the hotel in the morning, our first stop was Old St. Hilary's church, where we got engaged last year.

Well, Old St. Hilary's was almost our first stop.  It turns out that this part of Tiburon is composed solely of quaint little shops.  I would have had to tie Lauren to the mast to keep her from making a few detours on the way...

Lauren was very restrained in her shopping, and so without too much delay we started the 20-minute walk to Old St. Hilary's in earnest.  Just before reaching the church, we ran across a family of deer snacking on some neighborhood foliage:

The church itself was just as stark and beautiful as I remembered, and fittingly enough, a wedding was just about to start.

After the short walk back to town, we stopped at Sam's for some tasty, simple lunch.  Right next to the hotel, and right next to the harbor.  Great view, nice, simple vibe.  The picture doesn't do it justice:

By this point, our room was ready.  We checked in and found ourselves with a view of the same harbor and of some dramatic hillside homes opposite.  Nice hotel, attentive staff, unbeatable location.

We spent the afternoon in a local coffeeshop reading a statistics textbook and fighting to keep up with The Economist (me), and journaling and wedding-planning between sips of hot chocolate (Lauren).

As for the evening, Lauren had made dinner reservations at The Caprice restaurant, just a five minute walk from our hotel through a shoreline park.  Winds were gusty with a smattering of rain, but we were well-bundled, and the weather did some amazing things to the bay.

The restaurant itself had an unbeatable location on a rock outcropping in the bay, and they took full advantage  of it with lots of seats by LOTS of windows.  Here's Lauren about to enjoy her appetizer:

...and here's the view from our table, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  Amazing!

The service was impeccable.  My food was excellent.  Lauren's was on the salty side but still very good.

Then a walk back to town for some coffee and dessert at an Italian restaurant (profiteroles with plenty of ice cream; whoa!)...

...where these earnest folks were playing the white man's blues:

Then, we finally shared a bottle of wine outside overlooking the bay (well, half a glass -- it was really cold out there).

A great Valentine's Day trip all around.  A few extra months' anticipation just made it all the more enjoyable.  Thanks again, honey.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Flowers! Centerpieces!

So I'm looking at Asa Flowers, who are the folks that will be doing our wedding (as soon as I get around to contacting them ... also assuming that we have enough in the budget -- they're pretty high-end), and I looked at some of the stuff that they do.

Here's an example of a table with flowers on the napkins and small centerpieces from Asa Flowers' website.  Mom, Dad, Gram, and Auntie Lena are on the Centerpieces Committee, hurray!  I think this is along the lines of what I would like to do.  I like the concept of adding a flower to the napkin, and would have to coordinate with Four Seasons to figure out which (free) napkin setting they are using (because I'll bet we would be charged for napkin rings), and how to add the menu, program, bookmark to the place setting.  I'm guessing most of the paper would be under the napkin.

Here's a closeup of the plate setting.  I also need to check with Four Seasons to make sure I know what our colors are!  I think I chose last time I was there, but can't remember (because it was also the tasting time, and that whole trip is one delicious blur, mostly because they brought out about 4 or 5 tastings of wine ... whew!)

The other alternative that I just thought of, that would be a lot easier, would be to just throw loose orchids on the table.  That's what we'll do - duh.

For the actual centerpieces themselves, I know I want something with a base, and that has flowers coming out the top.  Here's again a design on the Asa Flowers website:

There are even orchids in the second floral vase down.

I really want to stick to the "sand and orchid" theme, so I think the bottom of the vase would be sand, and the top would be orchids.  Here's a website with square vases that we could use.  What I like about the above is that it's simple and possibly easier to transport.  Note that our tables will be round, not long.

Here's a second idea for centerpieces:


What I like about this is the additional light, the single orchid, the ease of putting it together.  This could end up a more economic option.  Those orchids look great!  I like the set of three.  We would use LED lights instead of real candles.

Finally, here's the Asa Flowers decorating for the cocktail tables.  It looks like "fishbowl" vases with a bit of sand on the bottom, and loose orchids on top of the sand, inside the bowl.  I really like this look but worry that it will be too easy to break?

Finally, here's a pic of a grooms-person-button-thing:

So cute.  However, this may be moot as hopefully I can convince Will to wear a maile and pikake lei (the "seaweed thing").