Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brid(al shower)zilla

In December, I found out my best friend was getting married, my first thoughts were of detail-oriented questions and squeals and congratulations.  But at a very close second was, "can I throw a shower?  PLEASE?!"

Being the great friend she is, she didn't put up much of a fight. 

This was my first shower, and as I may have indicated before, I go a little crazy when it comes to events and entertaining.  My ideas, which get stuck rigidly in my mind as required absolutes, are usually a combination of unique, hard-to-find, time-consuming, labor-intensive and expensive.  Typically calling around to five stores in the Portland metro area to find one stupid detail (chocolate turkeys at Thanksgiving, merlot-colored tissue paper for my wedding, in this case - chocolate seashells for the beach-themed shower).  Inevitably hardly anyone even notices said detail, but in my head, the day would have been ruined without it.  This may classify as, oh, I don't know.  Psychotic.  But as tiring and maddening as it looks and feels, I love it.  I could not, and would not, have it any other way. 

This was all infinitely easier when I didn't have a job.  It was actually during this time that I turned my food-and-presentation fanaticism semi-pro.  I did several private dinners for a rich couple in Stafford that loved to entertain and didn't like to leave their house, and catered a dentist office's grand opening.  I'd make my sprawling lists in my groupie-esque Food Network notepad, travel to five different stores for five different categories of ingredients (Costco, Trader Joe's, Fred Meyer, Whole Foods and the local produce stand), color-code bags according to course and plate design, craft remarkably reliable timelines as guides - my abundance of time and untapped energy more than supplied the resources I needed to pull it off.

The difference now is that I have a full-time, complicated and brain-demanding job.  Not the kind that allows you to sneak in an errant thought about when you should start marinating the ceviche, let alone jot down a quick list of what you'll need for the salsa.  So when Friday came around, I found myself in a zombie haze at Bridgeport Village, with no notes in hand to guide me.  I had made one for Matt, who'd graciously volunteered to take over the Safeway run for me.  Uhhh.... well, I had to go to Crate and Barrel to get two extra appetizer-sized spoons for the cucumber salad that was going to be served in miniature martini glasses, because I only had four spoons and six glasses and... yeah.  I needed to go get those chocolate seashells from the chocolate shop.  What?  No white chocolate?  I was really hoping they'd be white.  Seashells are white.  Oh well, I guess they'll work.  Yes, I'll try a sample.  I need to remember to pick up balloons and tie them to the tree as the party-house marker.  That'll have to happen tomorrow. Well, they're brown, but they taste good.  A HONEYDEW MELON COSTS $7 AT WHOLE FOODS!?  Bastards.  I hope I'm not forgetting anything.  This has to be all the produce I need. 

First thing I did when I got home, after realizing I had forgotten a tomato, chips for the dip, rolls for the sliders and napkins, was start the cupcakes.  My plan was to make Martha Stewart's homemade lemon cupcakes with buttercream icing, topping them with the chocolate shells and an icing-sugar scheme to mimic an ocean. 

However.

In a frantic phone call to my mother moments before leaving the office, I begged the question, "do you think it would be horrible if I (deep breath) used a cake mix for the cupcakes?"

"NO," she insisted, a little too far away to stage a physical intervention.  "It's OK to cut a couple corners on the things nobody is going to notice.  Nobody is going to notice cupcake mix." 

So, instead of carefully measuring out baking soda and flour and two types of sugar and extracts into my Kitchen Aid at 8:30, I was putting eggs and vegetable oil into abhorrent yellow powder, betraying all my airs of authenticity.  Terrible, dirty cheating. 

I didn't cheat making the ceviche, but I did want to throw my fucking mandoline out the window by the time I was done.  I also mixed up the base for the hot shrimp and artichoke dip, but due to a very sticky jar of artichokes, had to wait and finish until today. 

At about 10:30, after frosting, sprinkling, sea-frosting and chocolate-seashelling a dozen cupcakes, I stood back to admire my work.

They look like turds on a beach. 

Dear god.  Hopefully nobody WOULD notice the cupcakes. 

This morning, after a run over to Safeway to pick up those missing pieces of the puzzle (but still forgetting balloons, a detail that no one ended up caring about again, as everyone found the place just fine), I started hardcore food prep.  I had the foresight to clean and decorate the house earlier in the week with the mountains of shells and sand borrowed from my mom (hmm, I wonder where this all comes from??), so it was down-and-dirty kitchen time.  Got the artichokes finally open, put together the cold cucumber salad, mixed together the dill mayo for the salmon sliders, prepped and baked the fish, cored, peeled and chopped the highway-robbery honeydew and lesser-offender pineapple, pureed all of the fruits for bellinis. 

I felt like a challenger on Iron Chef, moving in a trance from one task to the next, with one eye on the clock and another on the burner.  When Heather arrived early to hang out before the crowd arrived, I could barely form a sentence.  Everything was going smoothly and ahead of schedule, but it was so... consuming.  By the time it was all out and ready to go, and everyone began to arrive, I felt like a terrible hostess.  All the food and drinks were there, in the presentations I'd conceived and insisted upon, but my brain was still in the scallops. 

Hopefully whimsical plating could make up for my lack of entertaining cognizence. 

A Japanese-style cucumber salad with red onion and rice vinegar.  I actually got the adorable little martini glasses at my bridal shower, and this was the coolest use I've put them to yet.  Well, the second use.  And it was cooler than the first.  Anyway, whoever tells you you've registered for something stupid and impractical, just wait a few years.  THEN YOU'LL BE LAUGHING!!  Bwahahahah.

 The scallop ceviche, served in seashells on a bed of "sand" that's actually breadcrumbs and a little sea salt for sand sparkle.  People actually did notice this not-so-difficult detail, which was a warm fuzzy feeling of awesome success.  With the fresh tomato-and-tomatillo salsa, they were light and fresh.  Great for this post-lunch not-exactly-mealtime. 

Salmon sliders, being served on a salmon-shaped plate.  This was another (supposedly!) impractical registry item that is now idespensible!  Matt doesn't eat fish, so I've been waiting quite a while to let this thing shine.  These may have been a hint too heavy, since we weren't having a luncheon.  Next time, I may do less substantial sushi rolls instead.

Yes, next time I throw a seafood-centric bridal shower at 2:00 on a Saturday.  I will definitely do the sushi instead.


As the first-bite barrier was broken, it became exactly what it was supposed to be - cheesy games, dirty jokes about corkscrews, present porn and toasts to a girl we love finding love.  Because, as I forgot in the haze of crackers and glassware, it's not about that.  It's about the bride!  And we could be just as happy for her over a bowl of Velveeta Con Queso and Ritz.  Which is what Rachael Ray would have done. 

4 comments:

  1. Your spread looked absolutely wonderful! I loved the seashell theme you incorporated in everything! Greg loves how you always have your cat in the pictures, too! I will have to try your bread crumb / sea salt mixture for sand..I have always used rock salt when I serve baked oysters rockefeller.. Great ideas, Tabitha! I am learning so much from you! :)

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  2. Ha! I don't mean to have my cat in the pictures - she just insists on squeezing her ass in! You'll have to give me some tips on oysters. I have never, ever cooked/shucked/bought an oyster.

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  3. Yumm! Looks fantastic! Love the decorations too! Hmmm...wonder where I can go to get a nice summer shell/decoration collection like that :-)

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  4. "They look like turds on a beach." I know this probably wasn't what you wanted people to remember about your entry, but I lol'd so hard I choked on my lunch.

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