Monday, April 20, 2009

Leaving for Las Vegas

MGM Grand, Las Vegas

Mexico City
June 8th, 2008

I woke up in the morning and saw Jeni next to me staring at her hand. As she turned her palm, shiny rays of light reflected off of it, and I could see her smile fluctuating from small to big. Last night, was a very special and emotional moment for us. It was her birthday, and also the day I got down on one knee, hands out and head up... asking for her hand in marriage. In a matter of 2.5 years, we went from strangers, food blog acquaintances, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend to fiance/fiancee. When we got back to Los Angeles, we experienced a total high that could only be felt when you know you've found the one for yourself. But then, we were faced with the daunting task of planning our wedding. I prayed for this day for a long time, but I dreaded the emotional/physical aspect of it. I did not want to see how Bridezilla she could get, nor did she want to see Groomzilla.

We decided that we would not be puppeteered by our parents. My mom being very traditional Chinese, and Jeni's mom being very traditional Vietnamese, we were worried that we would have to celebrate our union at some Chinese banquet restaurant. We did not want to see the red walls, dragon decor or hear the tinkering of chopsticks against the glasses on our special night. It just wasn't us. We definitely wanted to celebrate with our friends and family but we didn't want to start our life together with a 5-digit debt - that's ludicrous. We started looking at galleries in Chinatown and they were just too small. Then we checked out this place North of Chinatown called The Marvimon House, which was simply awesome. It had a New York feel to it, large enough to hold our party and great ambiance. Problem was, the package did not include catering, bartending, valet nor DJ. The thought of the costs was getting to be nauseating and this is exactly what makes/breaks a marriage before it even happens. But we reminded each other that we had to be true to ourselves and make the best out of what we could afford.

On the drive back home, we were quiet. It was obvious that we were depressed and that we would have to give in to a place like Marvimon and spend a good decade of our lives paying off something society has MADE you believe is the right thing to do. Everytime you're at the market, you're stuck in front of a magazine rack of bridal magazines. It was at that moment in the car when things would turn around for us.

Me: "J?"
Jeni: "Yes."

Me: "Let's not do it this way."

Jeni: "What are we going to do?"
I paused, ready for her to turn away in dissatisfaction.
Me: "Vegas. Come on. Just us and our family. And we'll have a small reception with our friends when we get back."

Jeni: "Our friends will be bummed."

Me: "No they won't, it's what we want."

Instead of getting high-fived on the face, Jeni's face glowed with a smile and I knew it was meant to be. Hey, her mom did it that way, no way she could contest. We told our parents the same night and they were stoked for us, especially for not having to fork out mass amounts of money for a 10-hour day.

No no no, not in a casino with a singing Elvis and red carpet. Let me tell you how easy this was. We looked around a few casinos and found MGM to offer the best packages and was highly regarded on The Knot, a site for bridezillas of all shapes and sizes. Ok done. Where do we eat? Well, MGM has some of the most gourmet restaurants on the Strip including Joel Robuchon. Not surprisingly, this was the toughest part of our decision to get married in Vegas. We settled on Craft Steak since we had heard a lot of good things about it – plus we're fans of Collicchio's simple and homey style of cooking. And within a week, everything was set. We did all of this without getting into a single argument.

On Thanksgiving, instead of heading over to my aunt's for the 25th consecutive gravy fest, we were driving on the I-15 towards Las Vegas. My mom rode with us, Jeni's family in another car and my dad/sister/nephew in another car. This would also be the first time our parents would meet one another, so there was a bit of nervousness. But everything went smoothly and a few hours later, we found ourselves filling out forms in a sterile courthouse in Nevada. Good 'ol MGM included a limo driver that would take us to apply for the marriage certificate. What was funny was that there were NO PENS, only pencils with erasers on them. I guess people do realize things as their filling out the forms... like how drunk they really are. But we didn't use the eraser once.

Las Vegas Courthouse

Las Vegas Courthouse

This lady behind the counter was NOT happy about working on Gravy Day. We paid our $50 and we were out of there... halfway married. We hugged our parents and headed back to the casino for dinner. We didn't end up staying too late because tomorrow would be the big day.

Las Vegas Courthouse

Breakfast at Bouchon, Las Vegas

Besides the fact that this was our wedding day, Las Vegas is always an excuse to do things you wouldn't normally do. Drink till 8 am, hit on a 20 in Black Jack, or like spend $100+ on BREAKFAST. Only one thing came to mind for breakfast, the lovely Bouchon by Thomas Keller. I've eaten here at least 3 times and have never been unsatisfied. Cheers. I started with some white wine and a mimosa for Jeni.

Bouchon, Las Vegas

Oysters - Bouchon, Las Vegas

Various Oysters
Cheers. I started with some white wine and a mimosa for Jeni. By the time these guys came out, I think we were already happy due to zero food in our stomach. But nothing a few Malpeques and Kumamotos couldn't do for you.

Seared Scallops with Mornay Sauce

Seared Scallops with Mornay Sauce
I wish seared scallops would just grow on trees. It'd make life a lot easier for me if I could simply pluck these tasty bastards and place them in a bucket for later consumption. These were served with a mornay sauce which is made of heavy cream, gruyere cheese and parmesan cheese. This is fabulous.

Bacon - Bouchon, Las Vegas

Thomas Keller's Bacon
Most places when you ask for a side of bacon will give you 3 measly pieces. Not Mr. Keller though. At $5-6 you're going to get what you're paying for... a plate of crisp pieces. These were fried beautifully but flat on taste. That's ok Mr. Keller, no need to flog yourself.

Sourdough Waffles & Bananas - Bouchon, Las Vegas

Sourdough Pancakes
Oh my. Sourdough + Pancakes = one happy, buzzed bride. I don't know what else to say but these are just done perfectly.

We staggered out of Bouchon with a nice buzz and jolly belly. While Jeni went to get ready at the salon downstairs, I went down to the tables and played some tables. When I gamble, there's no point in thinking about how I would play a hand... I might as well just walk up to the tables, give them mymoney and say "Thank you, that was a lot of fun." And walk away.

Our Announcement

It was now 3 pm, with under two hours before our ceremony would take place downstairs. There was one thing we didn't do before leaving for Las Vegas... informing our friends. As a surprise, we sent everyone announcement cards a day before we left. We laughed at the various reactions people would have but again, this is what we wanted to do. And they would be more than happy for us. And slowly, the texts and facebook comments started rolling in haha.

"Very sneaky."
"So you guys, to do this."
"I would so be there in Vegas right now."

Jeni Dress

Jeni Veil

Its customary for the groom to not see the bride all day, but someone had to photograph her getting ready. I could tell she was excited yet relaxed – we were both very happy. 4:30 pm, we headed down to meet our families.

My Nephew & Me

And here is my second love of my life, standing in at 3' something and 40+ pounds, my nephew Taylor. He was dressed adorably in a shirt, vest and pants. He had no idea what we were doing and seemed to be more involved with his pack of chocolate Pocky.

There was a total of 10 people there, in a room that could hold 60. I admit, it was very plain, but nothing could be more special than having our parents and siblings there. I spoke with the officiant for a few minutes about the procedure and took my place at the front of the altar. I looked at my family, and they smiled back in approval for everything we had chosen to do. And suddenly, the music started to play. I could see two silhouettes behind the frosted doors as they opened. There was Jeni with her arm locked with her dads. She immediately turned red and started to cry as her dad kissed her on the cheek. I took her hand and wiped her tear away as we faced the offficiant.

I really can't remember what was said or what we had to repeat, but I just remembered how beautiful she looked. I do remember hearing... "you may kiss the bride". Within 15 minutes, we were done. It was easy and most importantly, special to us. We headed up back to the room with the family and popped some champagne.

Craft Steak, Las Vegas

Besides staying at the hotel we would have the ceremony in, why not make it even easier by selecting a restaurant from their fancy list of places to dine at. We choose Craft Steak because it had the best price and offered a family-style meal.

Prosciutto - Craft Steak, Las Vegas

Grilled Shrimp - Craft Steak, Las Vegas

Oven Roasted Chicken - Craft Steak, Las Vegas

Shitake Mushrooms - Craft Steak, Las Vegas

Roasted Carrots - Craft Steak, Las Vegas

Braised Beef - Craft Steak, Las Vegas

Beef Tenderloin - Craft Steak, Las Vegas

Yes, the food was simple and tasty as it looked. Everyone enjoyed the meal.

just married

To this day, I still would not change the way we did things. It was our night and we made a promise to do as we pleased. And everything went well. I can't tell you how many of my guys friends now hate me and envy an understanding wife like Jeni. Wedding in Las Vegas. The End.

Back in Los Angeles, we now had only two months to plan our wedding party because we wanted it to happen right after our Honeymoon in Brazil and Argentina. Good things happen when you let creativity flow in. With the help of Jeni's brother, Jeremy, the three of us began collaborating on our own... not with some gallery owner who got a money boner when you said the "w" word. He knew a friend who ran a small design shop in Chinatown who referred us to Remy's On Temple, a quaint gallery in Filipinotown/Echo Park. The place had everything we wanted, space, back area and an ambiance that matched our taste for an urban lifestyle. Not to mention, within our budget. Done.

Now what do we eat? The gallery space was meant for standing and walking, not sit-down tables. To stay true to what we loved, and what everyone else loved, we decided to hire a taco lady. We tried Taco Arizas, where we had our first date, the popular Taco Zone on Alvarado/Sunset and even a random taco shop. But I had remembered my coworker hiring a place in Highland Park called My Taco. We went there for a tasting and the daughter of the family was very impressive. She had printed us a folder with an estimate and had her t's crossed and i's dotted. The food, of course, was done super well. The recipes are from her parents and brother, who is now a line cook at one of our favorite restaurants in Glendale, Palate. Done.

To cut down on costs, I designed the invitations, Jeremy would DJ and Jeni would take care of any decorations. I had also finished taking some motion design classes and this came in time for creating a slideshow. Done.

For decorations, she used her invaluable skills from working at Sanrio in high school to come up with cute things I could never even conjure up. Since it was a gallery, we needed to have some art work up but at the time, the curator only had this creepy series on dolls that have undergone some Frankenstein surgery. We were creeped out. And again, we decided to showcase what Jeni and I were about... food. We simply printed out our favorites and spent a night glueing/cutting them up. Done.

Photography? No problem. I remembered that my coworker, who also has a food blog, had a great eye. Check out her posting on visiting Cuba. Done.

On the day of the wedding party, we got up early to do final decorations in the gallery. I hung up the photos, Jeremy set up his turntables and Jeni ran around like a crazy bride cussing out everyone. Just kidding, she was calm as ever. And before we knew it, it was 8 pm – time to party.

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

The After Party at Remy's on Temple

I can't tell you how fast time passes by. You have an average of 2 mins to chat with people and it's exhausting. I think I ate one taco the whole night. After the party was over, Jeni, Jeremy and I headed over to Ruen Pair in Thai Town for some noodle remedying. We were all exhausted from a long week of running around. But the three of us made things happen and its exactly what we wanted. A successful party with no debt. Done. Thanks for reading. Brazil and Argentina are coming up soon.

Read Jeni's posting on our wedding.

Remy's On Temple
2126 W. Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 484-2884
Contact: Jonathan

My Taco (Highland Park)
6300 York Blvd. Suite 4
Los Angeles, CA 90042
(323) 256-2698
Contact: Vanessa


H. C. said...

So familiar (from reading the events in separate posts on Jeni's blog) yet so different because it's your take. And of course, I didn't mind revisiting all those gorgeous food and party photos!

Here's to many more happy and delicious memories in your future!

Pandalicious said...

such a beautiful entry.. *tears*

and the food look delish as usual!

Daily Gluttony said...

you guys don't listen--stop making me cry!!! every time i read/hear about your beautiful nupitals, tears start welling up.

i know i sound like the nosey, pushy chinese auntie by saying this but now that you guys are married, cha-chob needs more little friends to play with . *hint-hint* hahaha, just kidding!

Oishii Eats said...

From the day you proposed to the day we partied in Echo Park...there is nothing I would ever change about how we got married.

No debt baby!!! High five.

Tricerapops said...

i think i've shared this story with a number of friends and co-workers, it's THAT good. while i will never forget (nor change) anything about my wedding day - i have to say that the taco bar was pretty genius. in times of mass consumption and material excess, it's great to read a story like yours and marvel at a couple who broke bread to start and ended up taking the plunge together in great fashion.

also, being vietnamse myself - i know the pressures of traditional weddings, etc. - so the fact that you went against the grain is even better. cheers again to you both.

EatTravelEat said...

Amazing photo loaded post! This is familiar to me from reading Jeni's blog, but it is a very different feeling reading your take on it. Photos seem to be different too (?).

Can't wait to read the upcoming posts on Brazil and Argentina!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

H.C. and EatTravelEat, yeah I'm 4 months late on the posting but I'm hoping the different perspective makes it worth reading. Thanks for stopping by.

Pandalicious, thank you.

DailyGluttony & Mother of Baby ChaChob, haha. You are going to be hinting everytime right?!

OE, no debt!!! high-5!!!

Tricerapops, Jeni and I are flattered that you've shared it with people. We've always done things differently, so our wedding day shouldn't be an exception. When we were at MGM looking at our photos, we actually did not want any of the shots b/c they were so cheesy and overdone. The saleswoman was offended haha. I still wouldn't mind the banquet food though – so good.

Anonymous said...

Cute!! Loved reading your story.... it is clear you guys are very in tune with each other and very well-suited. I LOVE that you did what the two of you wanted vs. what parents wanted, friends needed, societal norms, etc, etc. Good for you and it sounds like it was a fun, special event. I wish I knew you guys cause I know we'd get along well. Cheers!!

Aji De Mani said...

i almost cried. you guys are so fun! this is such a great idea.

julie said...

You've just filled my cuteness quota for the year. You two crazy kids in love... just adorable.


Fabulous. Just wonderful. Mazel tov!

Kathleen (One Tree Past The Fence) said...

After over ten years of photographing weddings, finally a couple who gets it.

Its not a Broadway production, it's not about the wedding that will put you into debt right out of the gate, its about the marriage.

Great story man, great story.

Anonymous said...

you and jeni are the cutest couple in the world. no joke. you guys got happiness and food! that's the way to go. :)

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Sheilamia, thank you for the kind words. i'd love to relive that party one more time just so i can freaking eat more tacos and drink delicious belgian beer.

Aji de Mani, what does your name mean? Thank you., thank you.

Slave of Cheese, thank you.

Kathleen, exactly our thoughts. Thank you for stopping by.

Immaeatchu, thanks Yoony!

One Food Guy said...

What a perfect wedding! Oysters, seared scallops, steak, tacos, a bride in chuck taylors, pocky, PERFECT!

Food of love!

Little Miss Contrary said...

I just discovered your blog via TasteSpotting--and I can't stop reading it! You are an amazing food blogger and story-teller. And congratulations to you and your beautiful wife!

WeezerMonkey said...

I don't even know you guys, but I love you guys together. :)

Pepsi Monster said...

Dude, I love the photo of having you and Jeni holding up the signed forms.

You acted like it's no big deal while Jeni looked terrified of holding it up. LOL!!!

Anonymous said...


That is so sweet. I wish you both a healthy, happy, and lasting relationship where you help each other grow and support each other through everything. You are both such an inspiration :)

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