Monday, October 17, 2005

A Nice Day for a French Wedding.

Le Gourmand et La Gourmande

photograph/picture piece montee composed of les petits choux You know that saying Three times a Bridesmaid, never a Bride? Well, let me ask you a question about this curse. Does it mean once you have been a bridesmaid three times, it doesn't matter how many times you are a bridesmaid thereafter, you still aren't in with a chance of ever getting hitched? Or does it mean once you are honoured with this important task for a fourth time, the curse is lifted and your future as a spinster is no longer assured?
When my French friend Del asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding to Fred's ex-roomate, I was really touched. I didn't expect the invitation and I think I shed a tear or two. (I am so soppy). As the bride planned to be dressed in glorious colour, she asked her bridesmaids to dress in white or pale colours. photograph / picture the wedding charcuterie plate with pate and saucisson created by Polly Legendre from Taking my role seriously, I hired a seamstress to copy my favourite black dress in white. Working with the seamstress turned out to be a nightmare. Worst of all, she kept delaying the delivery, eventually turning up with it at 10.00 am on the day of the wedding. And guess what - it was a $400 piece of rubbish. Not only had she sewn it with the sheen on the outside when I had specifically requested for it to be matte, the plunging neckline was puckered and gaping, endangering the modesty of my breasts. photograph / picture a sweetcorn blini catered by Polly Legendre from I think she left it so late because she knew she hadn't done a great job. Perhaps she thought by leaving it to the last minute I would have to accept it and, well, I did. Stupid me. She gave me $50 off the price but that didn't really make any difference to the fact I still paid someone $275 to ruin $120 worth of perfectly good material.
All was not lost, I had about an hour to spare before my hair appointment so I dashed to Macy's. I was planning to buy a brooch that I could use to attach a huge white scarf and therefore cover up the more unacceptable upper sections of the dress.
photograph / picture braised beef catered by Polly Legendre from But when I arrived, I couldn't resist sneaking a peek on the fashion floor. I scanned the aisles super fast looking for splashes of white amongst the bright palette of Autumn shades. I was about to give up when I spotted the most beautiful, perfect, heavenly, off white, romantic fairy-fantasy skirt at the far end of the floor. By the time I arrived at the wedding a couple of hours later I had a whole, new bridesmaid outfit. Phew! That was cutting it fine.photograph / picture brie cheese catered by Polly Legendre from
So, just how do the French do a wedding? This marriage took place in a cool warehouse space in central San Francisco, so perhaps it was not totally, typically French. But the Bride and Groom, who planned the entire party together in just a few short months, are both Francais so the infuence was definitely on display. The groom, in particular, is a Gourmand and so I was looking forward to seeing what food and drink would be on offer. photograph / picture a vegetable dish catered by Polly Legendre from
The happy couple chose a caterer called Polly Legendre who runs a company called La Gourmande. Based in the East Bay, and buying most of her produce from the Berkeley Bowl, Polly lived in France for 9 years and was the first American to graduate from the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française. She speaks fluent French and it is no surprise she was chosen for this particular wedding.photograph / picture a homemade duck rilette catered by Polly Legendre from The food was great. Shortly after the ceremony had finished, the servers started to bring trays full of canapes as everyone mingled over their glasses of champagne. Little cucumbers with wasabi cream and tobiko, prosciutto-wrapped figs and tiny tomato tartlettes were all welcomed by the hungry guests. Later on in the evening we were treated to a full buffet of French-influenced fare. photograph / picture a homemade fish terrine catered by Polly Legendre from Marinated shrimps, fish terrine, salmon, cheeses, green beans, braised beef, little pancakes, saucisson ail, pate and best of all, an amazing duck rilette. The rillette was super delicious, rich and fatty. The groom later told me he thought Polly had used white port in the recipe. At least, I think that is what he said. Whatever it was, it was fantastic. The best rillette I have tasted in the US. Maybe I'll see if Polly will let me have the recipe.photograph / picture desserts, sweets, petites choux catered by Polly Legendre from
The traditional French wedding cake (pictured at the top of this post), is my favourite part of the ceremony. Having suffered so many rich fruit cakes with tooth-breaking white icing at British weddings over the years which I don't like, the mountain of petits choux, piped with fresh cream or custard, and coated with crispy caramel that the French celebrate with, is much more my style. It's great - every time you want another one, you just go and pop another one off the ever-decreasing mountain. Polly also made some tiny chocolate tarts and truffles which had a subtle, unusual flavour. Polly told me she used Chai Tea to add flavour. Even though I am not too hot on chai, it worked really well with the dark chocolate, believe me.
photograph / picture french wedding cake, made from petits choux  catered by Polly Legendre from You might think that would be it, but not only did I forget to mention the limitless, never ending supply of French Champagne that lasted all night, I have to tell you about the onion soup. Fred always told me that French Onion Soup is traditionally eaten at French weddings, in the wee hours of the morning, when everyone is a little worse for wear. It's true and it's a brilliant idea. Just when you are feeling a little tired and jaded, along comes a savoury, steaming, hot bowl of onion soup topped with gooey, melting cheese. It gives you a little pick-me-up, so, long may the good times continue...

PS. I would like to thank the bride and groom for letting me play such an important role in their wedding. Please join me in congratulating them and wishing them the happiest of futures together. S&D, love you both. Thank you for the great party, Bisous X.

Archive Alert! On this date in 2004 we were at one of our perennial favourites, Ti Couz.

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A Nice Day for a French Wedding.


  • At 17/10/05 10:31, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It gratifies me somehow to read that you are "soppy." I am a big boo-hooer myself, and I never underestimate people who admit to sentimentality, especially if they've been brought up in the Land of the Stiff Upper Lip.

  • At 17/10/05 10:37, Blogger Ced said…

    Great post! How can a French wedding not make you soppy, especially if you peel the onions for the soup.

    Polly made the piece montee as well, or they got it from somewhere else?

  • At 17/10/05 11:46, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    P.S. Love the skirt. And that priceless dance pose.

  • At 17/10/05 16:52, Blogger Delphine said…

    You were absolutely pretty, it was an honor to have you as a bridemaid .

    I can't believe I was so moved I couldn't eat.

    Thanks for the beautiful post

  • At 17/10/05 20:14, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    sam, how come i can't see your pic? i'm just seeing pics of the glorious food.... glad to hear you found a suitable dress at the last minute -- had a similar dilemma myself just 2 wkends ago when little bro got married (tho' i wasn't a bridesmaid, thank goodness)... thanks for the tidbit of info about hubby's and my favorite soup -- it's always been special for us because we had some on our first date, and now i have one more reason to prepare it on our anniversary.

  • At 17/10/05 20:41, Blogger Rose said…

    that cake of petit choux looks and sounds incredible. fresh dough and cream, what could be better?

    That skirt sam is beautiful.

  • At 17/10/05 22:48, Blogger Sam said…

    what a novelty. I left work earlier than I have been these last few weeks and found that my internet access was actually orking at home for a change. At last I can answer my comments.

    Tana - I don't need much excuse to cry. The news, movies and weddings - they all make me wail. Even dumb stupid movies. It's kind of embarassing sometimes. When my friend Karen got married about 10 years ago in Bristol, at a registry office, I was silently sobbing in the corner. The bride turned round and noticed me. So instead of leaving me be, she announced really loudly so the whole 100 or so people in the room could hear: "Oh look, Sammy's crying". That set me off even more. Every head turned sympathetically in my direction. Oooh, I was embarassed.

    Ced - I didn't need onions to get me going, though I agree, that is another thing that can make me cry, its true. I am going tohave to check if polly made the montee too. I would hazard a guess yes. It tasted different to the last one I had. I am pretty certain it was cream and not custard, but it was so dark, it was hard to see. I think that was the first comment you ever left on my blog, Ced!

    Farmgirl - Priceless. Agreed. I should charge for people to see that! (It was after about 5 glasses of champagne)

    Mrs Del. De rien! And you were an absolutely beautiful bride. My seamstress problems were nothing compared to the bride's, but that is another story.

    Stef - well it is meant to be a food blog! I didn't think people would really want to see that picture on the main page. But I have no idea why you can't see it. sorry!

    Rose - I have always fancied making one of those cakes. One day. Maybe a rose flavour one based on the dessert I had at Laduree in Paris. It could be your namesake!

  • At 18/10/05 09:36, Blogger Ced said…

    woaw, it's been a year!

  • At 18/10/05 09:49, Blogger Sam said…

    that's not a year - that's 14 months, ced!
    I know its a cliche but time is really flyin'!

  • At 18/10/05 16:09, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    great wedding it seems - we ordered the same type of wedding cake for our registry office wedding here in london... from patisserie valerie. beautiful.
    eating soup in the early hours of the day after is also traditional in austria - although ours is what we call a goulash-soup, similar to the Hungarian Gulyas - a tomato-based, pimento/parpika-heavy soupd with potatoes and meat, perfect to prevent/cure a hangover!

  • At 18/10/05 21:38, Blogger Alice said…


    This is a LOVELY post! And the food looks great! And your skirt is beautiful! And you should return the dress to the seamstress and demand her to give you back the fabric!

  • At 19/10/05 11:16, Blogger Catherine said…

    Grrr, seamstress bitch! All that for nothing! But the skirt was heavenly.

  • At 24/10/05 07:31, Blogger Fiji Fred said…

    Johanna - i didn't realise Patisserie valerie did them too. I have wasted a lot of my life's calories on Patisserie Valerie!

    Alice and Catherine - my mum reckons I should name the nasty seamstress and shame her publicly on my blogs, but, well, there is nothing I can do now. It's all over and I won out in the end by having a good excuse to buy that gorgeous skirt!


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