2012 has been a very busy year for the Roscoe family. First the Ewing and I celebrated our civil partnership on Leap Day, with a small, but perfectly formed, city wedding, with a ceremony at Westminster Register Office followed by a reception at Vinoteca in Marylebone. Then my sister, Emily and her fiancé Rob travelled to Italy from their home in Oz for a larger, but no less lovely, August Tuscan wedding. This time we celebrated with a ceremony at Siena Town Hall, followed by a reception at a vineyard just outside the city.
It was never my intention to write about either day. (It may come as a surprise to those who know me, but I didn't take a single photo all day at my own wedding. Rather unusual for someone who has a camera firmly planted in their hand at all times.) But when my sister visited a fortnight before her big day, she rather caught me out by asking 'you will be doing a blog about the wedding feast, won't you?'
And so it started me thinking; how nice to write something about our totally different, but equally memorable, wedding feasts. Food friends and family all coming together to celebrate two such special occasions; the perfect opportunity to write about the very best days, and very best meals of my life.
Our wedding feast was held in the private wine cellar at Vinoteca. An intimate and cosy venue that provide the perfect backdrop for our festivities.
To prepare our feast we were lucky enough to have the services of Will Leigh, who arrived as head chef at Vinoteca Marylebone via stints with greats such as Rowley Leigh, Jeremy Lee and Paul Rankin. Will proved to be not just a skilled chef, but a generous host; tolerating our visits to the small private kitchen, which we could see from our table, and answering our questions with good humour. We even shared a drink with him off duty, after bumping into him at a Soho pub later in the evening.
Another advantage of choosing Vinoteca was their carefully selected wine list, featuring a selection of hand picked bottles from all around the globe. Deciding what to drink certainly proved a bit of a challenge; in the end we decided to pick the wine based on memories that were special to us.
To start was a Jansz NV Brut Cuvee (Tasmania, Yarra Valley & South Australia). Chosen to toast absent family and friends who were sadly in Australia for the big day, and as a reminder of our Antipodean trip for my 30th birthday.
Main - 2010 Rueda Verdejo ‘Cuatro Rayas’, Agricola Castellana (Castilla y Leon)/2010 Rioja Vendimia, Bodegas Palacios Remondo (Rioja). We picked two Spanish wines for the suckling pig; chosen for absent friends in Spain, and memories of times we all spent together the previous summer in Madrid.
Desert/cheese - Tawny Port, Casa Santa Eufemia (Douro, Portugal). And finally a Portugese number, in remembrance of our visit to Porto and all the wonderful ports we sampled while there. This was the first proper holiday the Ewing and I went on, and still one of the loveliest I can remember.
Toasts and speeches out the way, starters were a selection of platters to share; goat's cheese and fennel salad, potted shrimp with wheaten bread, and a selection of Spanish cured meats and olives. Despite all the excitement, I managed to get around to sample all of these, and all were excellent. The sweet, creamy shrimps being particularly memorable.
It was great having sharing dishes; not only can you pick and chose exactly what, and how much, you want to eat, but sharing and passing things around also helps create a very friendly and sociable atmosphere (a few glasses of fizz helps, too). And while the flavours were certainly bolder than the usual 'soup or pâté, chicken or fish', options we needn't have worried; everybody got stuck in and all plates were returned to the kitchen wiped clean.
The Pièce de résistance. This was one of the two suckling pigs prepared for the feast and it would be hard not to be wowed by such a magnificent spectacle. Even those who preferred not to look their dinner in the eye gave little gasps when these appeared from the kitchen. Although we were given the option of carving these ourselves, I rather sensibly suggested that the kitchen would be a far safer place for any theatrics involving sharp knives.
For such a special occasion these made the perfect centre piece, and what's more they tasted incredible too. The skin glossy skin was a great mixture between chew and crackle, the meat served in sweet, succulent shreds that really did seem to melt in clouds of porky loveliness. All the rich fat was nicely cut through with a tart apple sauce and the bitterness of some perfectly cooked purple sprouting broccoli. Much praise for their spuds too; not usually a roastie fan, these were truly brilliant, and it is my regret that I could only manage a couple.
Time to cut the cake! (The photographer had gone by this point, so thanks to our lovely friend Kam for the photo.) As you will probably be only too well aware the Ewing is a confirmed chocoholic. Not a 'ooh, I quite fancy a bit of chocolate right now', girly chocoholic, but a full scale, 'God help you if you stand between me and the last one in the box' chocoholic. Which at least made choosing what type of cake to have whole lot easier.
As we were off to Paris the next day we didn't want a multi-tiered or overly fancy. Just the largest amount of chocolate in the smallest amount of cake. Luckily, when speaking to the venue while planning, a suggestion of Will's 'garbage cake' was made. Named for the fact that everything is chucked in the bowl together, rather than any detritus it may contain, this was the perfect confection for the cocoa-loving bride.
Two gloriously dense truffle-type cakes, accompanied by bowls of billowy whipped cream, it went down a treat. Even after the richness of the courses before, Grandad happily polished off two large portions. High praise indeed.
Sadly I didn't get to ask what all the different types of cheese were on our Neal's Yard cheeseboard; happily one of the cheeses was the magnificent Tunworth. This was a cow's milk cheese from Hampshire, made in the Camembert mould, with lovely nutty, mushroomy notes. Unknown to me until the wedding, it has now become a firm favourite. A truly lovely cheese and a great find. Other cheeses included a Innes log and a spiky Strathdon Blue, as well as a few more, equally tasty, unidentified specimens.
By this time eating had become rather a struggle (although the port was still going down rather well), meaning much of the cheese was left uneaten. Fortunately the remnants, along with the other leftovers, were carefully packaged up for us to take home.
Waking up two days later in Paris (after a solid thirteen hours sleep), we finally had chance to reflect on the most perfect of days. Incredible friends, fabulous venue, delicious food and drink, and the most beautiful bride in the world (well, that's what the Ewing said...). And, as if it could get any better, we still had the rest of the cheese and chocolate cake to enjoy for breakfast in bed. Wonderful times, wonderful memories.
And now for something completely different; Em and Rob's wedding was held in the beautiful Villa Divole, in the hills surrounding Siena. It was impossible not to be charmed by the stunning vistas and sun dappled vineyards that stretched out all around us. It was also lovely being reunited with friends and family. Although there may be an ocean or two between us now, it is still very special when everyone is reunited, especially when I get to see my dad and little sister again.
Food has always been very important in our family, and I knew that Emily and Rob had paid as much care and attention as Fay and I had to make sure their wedding feast was spectacular. Even before the big day itself we enjoyed a wonderful barbecue in the rose garden, featuring delights such as Parmigiana di Melanzane; beautifully fresh swordfish and tuna; and fabulous grilled meats including local rabbit and pork. I was certainly looking forward to the following day's festivities.
A confession - excitement (and possibly prosecco) meant that I completely missed taking photos of the first two courses of the wedding feast. No matter, as I did manage to get a few snaps of the gorgeous little morsels served as an aperitivi before the main event. Upturned wine barrels and trestle tables groaning under then weight of typical Tuscan tidbits. Sheltered from the fierce heat of the day we were soon tucking in.
An unfortunate malfunction on the 'oldies' bus on the way back meant that the younger members of the party had free reign at these when we returned from the ceremony in Siena (as well as the first go at the prosecco bar). And it didn't take long to make some serious inroads into the grub, despite the veritable feast that was waiting later.
Highlights were the smoky, salty kebabs, that were impossible to eat elegantly, but tasted so good; the perfectly ripe pomodoro and local olive oil on the bruschetta; and some beautifully crisp and greasless zucchini fritti. These piping hot sticks of moreishness made a great contrast with cold glasses of prosecco.
The wedding feast menu. Everything on the tables was gorgeous; from the little bags of sugared almonds to the personally written notes to each wedding guest. It was truly a beautiful setting.
After enjoying a plate of Tuscan antipasti, including fabulous chicken liver bruschetta and selection of salamis; and a plate of pretty much perfect pappardelle al cinghiale (with a wild boar ragu) we moved on to the risotto course. Here the rice was served with zucchini and a giant prawn, as well as a slightly incongruous slice of star fruit. Belts were beginning to be loosened at this point and I had to concede defeat, fearing a blowout before the big event.
Luckily I did manage to hold back as the next course was stunning. The terrible photo above cannot do justice to the most wonderful Tuscan beef and crispy potatoes that came next. I have seldom eaten beef so wonderful, the flavour lasting long after I had chased the last drops of sauce around the plate.
Wines served came from the estate; fabulous Chianti Classico, a rose made of a 85% Sangiovese blend, and a white comprising of a Trebbiano, Malvasia and Chardonnay mix, all harvested by hand.
By now even the gluttons amongst us were faltering, and so time to move up to the terrace for a magnificent croquembouche and a cheese wedding cake, complete with a groom with a ball and chain cake topper.
I'm afraid memories after this became a little hazy, coinciding around the time the Jägermeister was cracked open. My friend, Beth, seems to be the only one who actually ate any profiteroles, and apparently they were great (she ate three portions, which must say something). The rest of the cheese was served up at a dinner in the wine cellar the next day, and was certainly worth waiting for.
To very different sisters, two very different days. But what remained the same was the overwhelming love and support of both family and friends for both couples. The most delicious feast in the world would taste of nothing without people there to experience it with us. I'm not normally given to sentimentality, but at moments like these I really appreciate how very lucky I am.
Halfway through Emily and Rob's first dance, when we all broke onto the dance floor to join them, I finally got to ask Emily, 'is this the best day of your life?' Hearing the affirmative answer made me feel overjoyed that both of us had experienced such wonderful happiness at our weddings. It is a truly special feeling, and even better when it you have someone to share it with.
I now have a lovely brother to go with my lovely sister, as well as the most beautiful and perfect wife I could ever wish for. I think I can say on behalf of us all, a huge thank you to everyone who made both of these days happen. Here's to a very bright future.