“That’s a lot of money for a one night stand.” Stacey and I were hosting a family dinner when my future in-laws, who were both born in southern China and sometimes let malapropisms slip, responded to the projected budget for our wedding food. Eugene often tells the story of when he and Sandra were married in 1965…for $1,000…and apparently fed hundreds of people…going uphill…both ways…in a blizzard. We lifted their jaws off the table and explained that the damage would be far worse if Stacey and I didn’t already have experience producing food events. Meaning we both knew where to trim unnecessary elements while maintaining quality, and also knew people who wouldn’t drain our bank accounts by charging a wedding tax. Still, they made it clear the food better be good, and we better have enough of it. After all, family members would be descending on L.A. from across California, and we didn’t want to stain the family with everlasting shame.
Stacey and I seriously considered only two caterers, and we ultimately went with Heirloom LA, run by Matthew Poley and Tara Maxey, both of whom I’d known since my Silver Lake days. They handle big events on a weekly basis, and with over 300 invites (Stacey has a big family) and a venue that required a full kitchen build-out, so we felt good about our choice.
On the afternoon of November 22, 2014, people filed into 440 Seaton, an industrial space in the DTLA Arts District with a photogenic three-story atrium in the middle. Servers greeted guests with passed apps like spiced chicken & waffles and mini corn dogs. Stacey and I enjoy sharing food, so we opted for family-style table service. Since Poley is such a skilled pasta maker, we ordered butternut squash agnolotti with saba vinaigrette. We selected Prime ribeye cap…because ribeye. Bonus: our steak came with my favorite root vegetable, Jerusalem artichokes. We also loaded up on seasonal salad, sides, and chicken with lemon Aleppo pepper vinaigrette. Wedding chicken can be about as exciting as watching a worm cross the sidewalk after a storm. Thankfully, Stacey and I specified dark meat, served on the bone, with crispy skin. Even Stacey’s Uncle Louie, a man with strong opinions, couldn’t believe how good the chicken tasted.
We filled out the rest of the food and drink roster by hiring more people we’ve connected with over the years. Stacey and I had a grand vision for a blowout dessert buffet. She’d been on a two-month wedding diet that eliminated carbs and sugar, and our wedding signaled her triumphant return to the sweet world. I’m just a run-of-the-mill glutton, but didn’t need convincing to tear into 20 feet of fully-loaded tables . We opted for donuts from Blinkie’s Donut Emporium, an old school vendor in Woodland Hills. Quenelle chef-owner John Park supplied his outrageous chocolate cake, ice cream bars, and cookies. Stacey grew up near Pasadena, and her childhood pie of choice came from Pie ‘N Burger. We rounded up to herd of their apple pies for nostalgia’s sake, and since they’re so good.
Stacey and I planned to have a formal cake-cutting, but 20 minutes before the designated time, our wedding coordinator, Christy, informed us that people were crowding the dessert buffet and might riot like English football fans if we didn’t do something. Stacey and I cut the cake like somebody hit Fast Forward and opened the floodgates. People descended on the cakes, cookies, donuts and ice cream bars, which were all pretty much wiped out within 30 minutes.
For drinks, we turned to Eagle Rock Brewery, who poured their first beers during my very first food event, a bike tour through Highland Park and Glassell Park. For spirits, we relied on Simon Ford of The 86 Co., a great person who we’d both worked with in the past. Kip Barnes from Los Angeles Ale Works poured craft sodas.
After DJ Bryan Davidson played the last song of the night, Stacey and I took several trays of leftover food back to the Ace Hotel, which is where we were staying. We shared chicken thighs and farro salad with close friends before passing out. The hotel staff even got to enjoy a whole cake, since it was too big to refrigerate and would have gone to waste. Stacey’s parents, who I still haven’t figured out whether to address as Sandra and Eugene, or Mom and Dad, also scored a box of Blinkie’s donuts. Sadly, a misguided family member who will remain nameless mysteriously tossed the box in the trash before Eugene could finally get his hands on a black-and-white donut. In happier news, people on both sides of the aisle conceded that they got enough food, and that it was some of the best wedding food they’d experienced. We made sure Eugene got a black-and-white donut from Blinkie’s for Christmas. It was fun to work with my wife Stacey to gather some of our favorite L.A. tastes and share them with the people that mattered most to us. Now, on our first anniversary, we’re closer than ever, and not just when it comes to food. I can’t wait to see what our next year brings.