poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


J & B’s Wedding on Orcas Island

Third and final wedding post of 2010!

How we met: B and I worked in the same lab at Berkeley for almost a year. Being the social guy that he is, B invited me to many happy hours and baseball games, which I sincerely appreciated as I was new to Berkeley. Last summer, I went to visit J & B in Seattle. They were wonderful hosts!

How they met: Somewhat scandalously, B was J’s Graduate Student Instructor (that’s a fancy way of saying teaching assistant) for a biology class at Berkeley. After grades were turned in, they started dating. Like the other two weddings I wrote about this year, J & B also endured a lot of time apart before they were able to be together. First, it was cross-country, with J getting her masters in Baltimore and B in grad school at Berkeley. Then, J got a job in Ethiopia and B moved to Seattle. They were finally reunited when J moved back to the States to be with B in Seattle.

How I would describe the couple: Anyone who has ever met J & B know that they are so funny and fun to be around (yes those are two separate things). J & B have their own language, and if you hang around them long enough, you start speaking like them… which sounds pretty ridiculous if they are not around. J & B also love food and incredible values, like the $1.50 hot dog + soda deal at Costco.

About the wedding: Held on beautiful Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, Washington, there was a weekend full of festivities including bachelor/bachelorette parties, a welcome dinner, and of course, the wedding itself. The whole weekend was a blast and I was super impressed with how well-organized everything was.

First up: bachelorette party! There was a pre-dinner cocktail party given by the bridesmaids. J’s friend K made an awesome pink frosted cake in the shape of a phallus (not pictured). Then we headed to dinner at New Leaf Cafe. I thought it was excellent and reasonably priced — I definitely recommend it!

Dungeness crab cakes with ginger-pear butter and Habanero cream. Not just pretty, but damn good as well!

SB tries the shoestring truffle fries. (This photo made me realize that SB always gets a robotic, glazed look whenever I take a picture of her eating.)

Grilled swordfish, I think, with pesto, vegetables on a bed of wild rice.

A bunch of us shared a slice of the delicious carrot cake

The next evening was the welcome dinner. On the menu: individual grilled pizzas from Pizza da Rock, salads made by B’s mom, my friend K, and yours truly, and for dessert, B’s mom made a watermelon and blueberry salad to accompany the six pies that J bought all the way from Grand Central Bakery in Seattle. I have to admit, I was really nervous when J asked me to make a salad for 50 people, but it turned out great (if I do say so myself). I made a green salad with slices of orange and avocado. K made a Greek-influenced cucumber and tomato salad, and B’s mom made two dishes: a beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts on a bed of arugula and a quinoa tabouleh with olives.

Pizza assembly line

Pizza, up close and personal.

Sisters who eat pizza together, stay together?

Salad table!

The beautiful beet salad made by B's mom.

yummy pies

The wedding ceremony, held on the picturesque grounds of the Inn at Ship Bay, was beautiful. I especially liked their personalized vows, which were both hilarious and touching. J & B also had a traditional Korean wedding ceremony.

The happy couple in traditional Korean wedding garb. I was impressed they managed to find wedding clothes to fit B (aka ginormous white guy).

After cocktails and hors d’oeuvre, we sat down to dinner. About the menu, B says that, “Geddes, the owner of the Inn at Ship Bay, is also the head chef. We basically told him what we wanted the main ingredients to be for the dinner and he went with that.” It was definitely the most interesting reception food I’ve ever had, in that all of the dishes were very unique and tasty.

Summer vegetable salad with citrus dressing and crispy Reggiano.

Kamilche Seafarms mussels

My entrée: scallops and lemon mint couscous with artichoke aioli. The scallops were cooked perfectly.

The other entrée: pork chop with potato puree, bing cherries, and herbs.

Plum crostada with ginger ice cream

After dinner, there was a dance party. Here is one of my favorite photos of the evening:

The mother of the bride gets her groove on.

Congrats J & B!


E&B’s Brilliant DIY Wedding

The happy couple, just married, with their dog Izzy. (Photo credit: John Waire)

How we met: E and I met in grad school. She and I bonded during one of those strange but wonderful evenings where crazy things happened. Let’s just say there was a cold tub involved (no nudity though, I swear!). My most memorable experience with E was when we drove across the country during my move to California. We spent almost every minute of every day together for 5 days, and yet we never came close to driving each other crazy. One thing that was solidified during our road trip was that we’re food twins — we’ll go to a restaurant and order the same exact dish without previous consultation. We’ve since discovered that we’re also music and movie twins.  Netflix says that we’re 89% similar, which is pretty frickin’ similar! Despite the physical distance between us over the past 5+ years, she has stayed one of my best friends, partially because we maintain an insane emailing rate of several hundred a year. (Thanks Gmail for keeping track of our email threads!)

How they met: B & E met after college at the University of Pittsburgh, where they were both working in labs. They hit it off right away: on their first date, they discovered that they both wanted to go to Belize, which they did the following year. In 2002, they moved down to Chapel Hill, NC where E eventually earned her PhD in Biology. In 2004, they embarked on a long-distance relationship as B moved to Baltimore to pursue his DDS/PhD. Finally, they were reunited in 2008, when E moved up to Baltimore. With their sweet dog Izzy and their wonderfully self-renovated row house, they were finally ready to take the next step towards marriage and a family.

How I would describe the couple: As I said during my toast at their rehearsal dinner, E & B complement each other very well. Both are very intelligent and have an easy-going, no-nonsense approach to life. They’re both stubborn and love to debate, but they also know when to compromise.

About the wedding: Like E & B, the wedding was laid-back and no-nonsense. But before I tell you about the wedding, I want to write about the rehearsal dinner. We returned to my favorite Baltimore restaurant, The Brewer’s Art. Dinner was absolutely amazing. We each had the choice of several appetizers and entrees, as well as many delicious wines and  in-house beers.  I had the Caesar salad and fried halibut. Luckily, my tablemates allowed me to photograph their meals before digging in.

A delicious beer from The Brewer's Art

Chevre and strawberries with butter lettuce, pistachios, and vanilla-tarragon vinaigrette

My fantastic Caesar salad, topped with anchovy and parmesan crisp

My Utz (potato chip)-encrusted halibut, atop green garlic mashed potatoes. Served with baby clams, in a caper brown butter sauce.

Grilled shrimp. I don't recall what was underneath that pile of spring peas, but I'm sure it was tasty.

Steak frites

Dessert: tres leches cake and a flourless chocolate cake (I think). It was so delicious but I was too stuffed at this point to eat anymore.

OK, back to the wedding! E is probably my most creative, crafty friend. I’m always in awe of her ability to make beautiful bags, quilts, and photo albums out of scraps of fabric and paper. That’s why I wasn’t at all surprised that she applied her crafty skills to her wedding. Here’s a list of the things that E&B made for their wedding, including some things contributed by friends and family:

  1. All of the bouquets and centerpieces.
  2. Giant tissue paper flowers for decorating the park, site of the ceremony.
  3. Table number signs (handwriting by yours truly).
  4. Personalized place card holders made out of champagne corks by E’s dad and step-dad, which doubled as wedding favors.
  5. Napkin ties.
  6. Cake(!) by bridesmaid ST.
  7. A whole table full of homemade cookies, courtesy of the bride’s mother’s side of the family. It’s a delicious tradition.
  8. From the bride’s dad’s side of the family, another yummy tradition: brandy slush! Strongly brewed tea, some OJ concentrate, lemon juice, tons of sugar, and about 50% peach brandy.
  9. The amazing transformation of the Lithuanian Hall from drab to fab (ha, I made a rhyme!).
  10. A great playlist on DJ iPod.
  11. The bridesmaid dresses were custom made by Amanda Archer via Etsy. (Amanda isn’t a personal friend, but these dresses definitely added to the uniqueness of the wedding.)
  12. For our bridesmaid gifts, E made us matching clutches. Ever the practical person, she also included a Baggu shopping bag inside for everyday use.

There were probably more things, but I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head.

I got this red velvet cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake as a special wedding day treat for the bride. It was my duty as her bridesmaid to make sure she was fed and happy!

ST putting the finishing touches on her homemade wedding cake. Doesn't it look amazing?!

Me and my fellow bridesmaids (thoroughly) enjoying our brandy slush. So refreshing on a hot summer day! (Photo credit: NK)

The food was great too! Dinner was catered by Water for Chocolate. The menu, as sent to me by the bride, was:

Appetizers: pigs in a blanket, marinated grilled veggies, artichoke dip and focaccia
Main dishes: prime rib, crab cakes, and roasted pear and gorgonzola risotto
Sides: green beans and roasted red potatoes
Dessert: ST’s cake and the cookie table
Drinks: 10 cases of wine — 5 each red and white. As E wrote, “This was WAY too much.  Twice as much as we needed for 120 people. Luckily, B learned to love wine on our honeymoon. Also, 2 kegs of beer which was perfect but only because of the after-party.”

My dinner plate: roasted potatoes, green beans, crab cakes, and grilled veggies.

The amazing dessert spread. Made with love by family & friends.

The bride and groom after successfully cutting the cake and feeding it to each other.

The reception seemed to zip right by, and before we knew it, it was time to leave the Lithuanian Hall. Luckily, E & B’s friends, who own a building just a few doors down, invited us all over for an after party. We each grabbed a couple of bottles and a plate of cookies and headed over, where we hung out with the bride and groom for what was left of the lovely summer evening.

The after-party spread.

E & B hired an amazing photographer named John Waire. I loved the photojournalistic quality of his photos. Unfortunately, the images I posted here are low resolution, but I think you get the idea.

Photo credit: John Waire

Happy 3 month-a-versary, E & B!


S&J’s Wedding Celebration

So, as I was saying from the last post, I went to Maryland in March for EF’s bachelorette party and to celebrate SM’s wedding. People often say to me, “Geez Jen, you’re always going to so many weddings!” In fact, I don’t think I go to more weddings than my peers; it’s just that my friends happen to live far and wide. So I guess from an outside perspective, it might seem like I make a lot of wedding-related treks.

The thing is, I wouldn’t miss these weddings for anything. If I have the resources (time, money) then I’ll go. Sure, there’s often an added incentive (“Wait, you want me to go to Hawaii? Twist my arm why dontcha?”), but more importantly, these are my closest friends and the wedding day is one of the most important in their lives. Also, it goes without saying that my friends’ weddings, while very diverse in style and execution, were all a lot of fun. And who doesn’t like fun?

So, in March, I went to the wedding of SM and her beloved JS. Here’s a brief synopsis:

How we met: Friends for almost 20 years, SM and I cemented our bond throughout high school in the geekiest ways possible: band, theater, and quiz bowl. We kept in touch for the next 15 years, even as life took us to diverse locations such as Philadelphia, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Honduras, and Sacramento (her) and Chapel Hill and Berkeley (me).

How they met: SM and JS met during grad school in Albuquerque. They dated for a while, broke up but stayed friends, flirted with the idea of getting together for years, and finally decided to get back together around November 2008. SM credits me with encouraging her to get back together with JS. I don’t particularly recall this, but I’ll take whatever credit I can get!

How I would describe the couple: Physically, SM and JS could not be more different. She is petite, blond with striking blue eyes, and has pale, freckled skin. He is dark and broad-shouldered. Personality-wise, they could not be better matched. Both S&J love to laugh; they definitely have a certain joie de vivre that is evident to anyone who spends time with them.

Their wedding: The ceremony was held at the church where SM’s family are members, and the reception was at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Woodend, MD. It was a really lovely space, an old estate filled with original Audubon drawings. Did I mention that we spotted about 4-5 deer in the woods during the reception? (No, we didn’t eat them.)

Following dinner, there was lots of dancing. S&J are avid salsa dancers. I was super impressed with their moves! Originally from Columbia, J had a small group of his family there (the rest were denied visas, unfortunately). Despite the language barrier, I had a lot of fun dancing and laughing with them.

To start: a delicious Caesar salad with a glass of red wine.

Dinner: Beef tenderloin, tilapia topped with crabmeat, green beans amandine, and roasted potatoes.

Dessert: wedding cake that was spongy and moist, filled with fresh fruit.

The Father-Daughter dance. This is one of my favorites from the wedding.

Another favorite photo of the bride and groom dancing. I think it captures the joy of the moment.

The next morning, we were treated to an authentic Honduran lunch at Al Carbón in Rockville. We had a choice of wood-fired beef or chicken, which came on a platter with beans, rice, and salad. It was really delicious. I got the chicken, which was expertly marinated in spices including lime, cilantro, garlic, and many others I couldn’t identify. Another bonus: Al Carbón is close enough to my sister’s house that I’m definitely planning to revisit this cute little restaurant.

Lunch at Al Carbon. The chicken was the highlight for me.

Congrats to the lovely couple!