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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winter Wonderland, Part 1

Well, winter has finally come to Southern Ontario, so I thought it only fitting to have the last post of 2011 be a look back at a gorgeous 3-day winter wedding weekend we planned last April at the Chateau Lake Louise in the middle of Banff National Park. However, this post isn't about the wedding itself at all, but about the skating party we threw on the Friday afternoon -- a quintessentially Canadian event, if ever there was one...

Every guest received a Wedding Scarf that we asked them to wear throughout the weekend. We thought this was a good idea to a) keep people warm and b) to help them identify themselves to one another in a very large hotel... And it worked! Strangers met strangers and new friendships were formed, just because of the reversible houndstooth/plaid scarves! I was thrilled to see everyone turn up to skate on the frozen lake, proudly sporting their new wedding attire...

When planning for this skating party, one of the things I really struggled with was what kind of music to play, mostly because of the magnitude and majesty of the setting. Whatever we played had to have some kind of presence and drama. So I decided that it could only be opera... however, not snobby, elitist opera, but easily recognizable arias. Not being any kind of expert, I snooped around on iTunes and found "The 66 Most Beautiful Opera Arias." It couldn't have been easier -- the selection was perfection. Yes, with the click of one button, iTunes made me look like a GENIUS (not to mention a true aficionado).

We set up 4 massive speakers, turned them towards the lake and pressed 'play' on the trusty iPod...

Holy Crap.

I tell you, I have seen a lot of cool things over the course of my career, but listening to that big, bold, beautiful music booming out of those speakers while watching the little specks (relative to the size of the mountains, of course) glide around on the ice was one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed. And so simple, really. Dramatic Music + Stunning Setting = Overwhelmingly Profound Experience.

I love this photo, taken by the man who so expertly captured the mood out there, Michael Greenberg of Phototerra Studio. This guest, wearing a vintage Toronto Maple Leafs sweater (and wedding scarf, of course!), lost in the music and the moment...

We served lots of yummy things out there, including hot cocoa, coffee and tea. We stuck custom labels on the cups with the tag line "To Warm Your Tummy." (FYI, in case you're wondering, the sticker on the bag with the scarves for each guest read: "To Keep You Warm and Cosy.")

We had our own little wedding crasher! He was everywhere! Michael even managed to catch him mid-flight, overseeing the guests twirling around the lake below him; take a look at the next shot and the dire warning on the signpost:

Winter Wonderland, Part 2

Another classic Michael Greenberg shot: this is Ian, our bartender, essentially wedged into a snow drift with some snowmen to keep him company. And to think I was worried there might not be any snow left at the beginning of April. Ha!

But back to this photo. At first, our guests only were drinking the hot stuff, shown in the post above, but once the skating ended, Ian got a whole lot busier and a whole new party started at the base of the Victoria Glacier...

A cutthroat game of hockey took place a little ways away from the recreational skaters. Oh yeah, baby: Canada vs. USA.

Am proud to report the trophy did not go to the visiting team...

My bride and groom... showing everyone how it's done.

And what would a party in the Canadian Rockies be without a little homegrown brew? Molson Canadian and a local beers Big Rock from Calgary and Kokanee from B.C. were on offer.

Finally, this last photo is one of my favourites from the whole weekend. We had everyone drop their skates outside the Poppy Brasserie before going inside for a yummy dinner of fondues, sauerkraut, strudel and any other stereotypical alpine/mountain-y dish we could think of! And, in case you're wondering, the soundtrack for the first 45 minutes of the dinner was none other than... Swiss yodeling! Yodel-leh-hee-hoo.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Just a Little Flower Arrangement...

Now that the latest WedLuxe magazine has finally hit the stands, we are thrilled to share some tid bits from Shelby and Graeme's gorgeous wedding at the Royal Ontario Museum last June.

I don't think the photo needs a whole lot of explanation, but I did have Sarah and Gabi go and stand next to the arrangement, just so we could demonstrate the full effect of it's massiveness! Now, before you go wondering if they're both vertically-challenged, the answer is a resounding no! They are each 5'8" and they're in slight heels... See what I mean?

This was the first thing guests saw when they arrived. For the evening program, we flipped things around a little; cocktail hour was first (here in the Rotunda with this arrangement towering over everyone's heads), followed by the ceremony and then straight into dinner and dancing.

To read more about this wedding, you can pick up an issue while it's hot off the press at newsstands now or click here to read the online version.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The View from Grand Cru

Written by Gabi Slaninova

In October, we helped coordinate an event for the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival. The concept for Grand Cru is a fantastic one: to unite esteemed chefs with sought-after wine producers, philanthropists, business leaders and scientists for an unforgettable evening of fine wines and glorious cuisine... all to raise money for the University Health Network. This year, there were 27 separate dinner parties going on on the same night around Toronto, all held and hosted in private homes. We were lucky enough to be a part of the party that showcased the talent of Chef Michael White (of Marea in New York City fame) and the wines from the 600-year old Antinori family vineyards. This particular post is about those amazing wines that night...

As we were setting up for the event, the bartender brought me a crate of wine and asked if I had a crowbar to open it. He wasn't kidding! There were 7 separate wines that night and each one came with its own challenging packaging. Check out the layers of protection on this bottle of Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2004:

First, the outer cardboard packaging, with layers of branded Antinori tape. Once you cut through that, you got to 2 wooden boxes, each with a lovely gold latch.

Once you got that open, you were finally presented with the wine. However, we weren't home free yet, as there was a collar- like device that slid into the grooves of the box to prevent any movement whatsoever.

Once we got through all the bottles of Brunello, we got to the pièce-de résistance -- the 2004 Tignanello. We looked around for the handy golden latch, but no luck. Each box was fully nailed down and this time, we really did need that crowbar!

At a loss, I went to the kitchen to ask to borrow a sharp knife, but Chef White's right-hand-man, Chef PJ Calapa, showed me a whole new trick: he came out and slowly pried the box open with a kitchen spoon! Who knew??? But, thanks to PJ, the guests were able to enjoy the Tignanello that was expertly paired later that night with Chef White's scrumptious bolognese. And I'll know to add a kitchen spoon to my Emergency Kit for all future Grand Cru parties!
Thank you to Kelly Fischstein for the first and last photos. What an amazing evening to have met and worked with you for the first time!

Grand Cru, Too

Here are some decor shots from the same Grand Cru party, courtesy of photographer Kelly Fischstein. Event designer Bill Fulghum created a sexy, sophisticated environment worthy of the world-class food and wine that would be served to the 32 lucky guests.

Advanced Tent provided a sleek black tent, which Bill softened with shimmery taupe drape at both ends and specially-focused lighting. The 3 chandeliers from Contemporary Furniture Rentals were especially significant -- the wooden arms are held together with metal ribs, re-purposed from antique wine barrels.

Lastly, a better view of the lovely flowers in seasonal colours, provided by Emblem. Roses, peonies, dahlias and cymbiduim orchids all worked together to provide the pop needed in an all-black tent.

My favourite comment of the night came from our host, who exclaimed (about 10 times): "I can't believe this used to be my backyard!" Talk about a transformation...

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Veuve From Here

Take a look at what I stumbled upon on my annual trip to Art Basel Miami last week: a Clicq' Up Lounge! At first we thought it was a mirage, after a full day of wandering through art exhibits and installations... but no. It was real. There, in a parking lot in Miami's sensational Design District stood a makeshift Veuve Clicquot lounge. Can you imagine our squeals of delight?

Yes, that's a refurbished Airstream trailer, serving crisp, cold and thirst-quenching glasses of The Veuve. Needless to say, it only took one glass of the magic elixer to re-energize and send us back on our merry way. And people wonder why I love Miami??? Champagne Parking Lots!