Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrating 30 with a few of my favourite things

I turned 30 in February and decided to celebrate with a few of my favourite things. Mostly I wanted an excuse to have a dessert table! As a sucker for all things French, it was easy to draw inspiration from Marie Antoinette and her supposed cry to "let them eat cake". Planning the little touches of an event is half the fun and I've been keen to share them, it's just taken me awhile. So here we go...

An invitation totally sets the scene for any bash, so I knew there was only one designer for the job. My super talented cousin Amy of Saint Gertrude Design and Letterpress totally got the look I was going for. She nailed the design first time with a decadent, vintage typography cake. Apart from having to edit my own schoolgirl French (or at least try to), it was ready to print. Amy used a gorgeous aqua on white cotton card and printed my initials and address on the back of a pale pink envelope. Heart Saint Gertrude.

The invitation reads:

Bon Anniversaire Ellise
Please join me to enjoy
a few of my favourite things
Gateaux, fromage, vin, et toi!
18 Fevrier 2012
Elceed Cafe
610 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Respondez s’il vous plait: 10 Fevrier 2012
0428 000 000 (Ellise) or 0407 000 000 (Justin) 

The 'piece de resistance' - my Elceed dessert table with birthday cake centrepiece made by my mum and mum-in-law. 

For the venue I chose Elceed, a favourite cafe in North Melbourne. I wanted to start the party in the late afternoon to suit the 'high tea' style menu, and Elceed provided the perfect backdrop with the natural afternoon sun that filters into their back room and courtyard. The whitewashed walls were the perfect neutral backdrop needed for the dessert table to shine and the location is central (convenient for guests) but leaning west (so I can claim it as my stomping ground). Most importantly though, the Elceed team were willing to hold a private evening function (not what they normally do) and create a customised menu with both desserts and finger food in a slightly French vein. Here is what we decided on and then devoured:

Rosewater meringues with Persian fairy floss
Profiteroles with mocha cream
Lavender cupcakes
Pistachio cupcakes
Raspberry custard tarts (and variations with blueberries and kiwi fruit)
Chocolate coated strawberries
Vanilla bean cupcakes with white chocolate icing decorated with a mix of amazing, large roses and white chocolate shoes and handbags (a very kind and delicious gift from my talented workmate Mish).

French cheese platters
Mini chicken and mushroom pies
Mini Leek and Meredith's goats cheese tarts
Garlic prawn baguettes

Poached chicken, chive and mayonnaise sandwiches
Cucumber sandwiches
Salmon and cream cheese crepes
Ham and cheese croissants

My friend Sally used the fonts from the invitation to make labels for all the food printed on a mix of pink and aqua paper. Not sure why but I love cute labels on plates of food! 

Sadly, I did not get photos of the savouries (the night flew by) but all the guests shared happy food memories well after the event. Hannah, Bill and the Elceed team did an amazing job and worked so hard to serve everyone. Anyone with a dietary requirement was made to feel like a king or queen with special food delivered to them. With both sweet and savoury options, there weren't any of the food shortages that you sometimes find at a finger food function. In fact, we sent lots of guests home with little bags of cake that we couldn't possibly fit in.

Speaking of cake, I had seen this beautiful two-tier pale pink cake with a white silhouette motif online and couldn't take my mind off it even when I was quoted several hundred dollars for it. I kept staring at it longingly on the Pinterest board I created for the party (click here to view the board with all my inspiration pics) until it finally dawned on me that I knew two excellent bakers who might just agree to the challenge - my mum and mum-in-law! Even though they live almost two hours away from us, a couple of years ago they happened to move only ten minutes apart. Perfect for a joint cake challenge. My mother in law iced and decorate many a fruit cake for weddings back in Birchip but never enjoyed making the actual cake. My mum, on the other hand, is less decorator more baker, so it was the perfect combo. Most importantly, they agreed to the challenge. My mum whipped up a large and a small round white chocolate mud cake, iced them with white chocolate ganache (the icing alone contained 1kg of chocolate!) and delivered them to my MIL who covered them perfectly in fondant icing and  piped the little dots all around the bottom of each layer and around the white circle that the silhouette attached to. My mum took a piece of the pink fondant icing and cut out it into the shape of my silhouette using a photo as a guide. It looked wonderful and created the perfect centrepiece for my dessert take. Both the icing and the cake tasted amazing for days (I LOVE that sickly fondant icing!).

So much food, you must be thinking, didn't the guests need something to wash everything down? Indeed they did. As a welcome drink, I made a version of one of my favourite cocktails, the French martini served in Elceed's glass jars. From memory, I think I used 30ml Chambord raspberry liquor per drink with 15ml vodka and 120ml pineapple juice (much more juice than normal but safer to serve, more palatable and less expensive). Each drink was topped with frozen raspberries and served with with Emerald + Ella striped pink paper straws. I love these straws and was thrilled to have an excuse to buy these online and use.

After the welcome drink,  the drink options were:

 Grandin Methode Traditionnelle Brut (coz it's French and a nice, affordable sparkling)
Toi Toi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (coz they make the best Sauv in NZ, it was recommended by the wine guy in Dan Murphy's and 'toi toi' sounds French!)
Kronenbourg 1664 lager (coz it's French and the Mister approved)
Pipsqueak Cider (coz I like it)
San Pellegrino sparkling natural mineral water (again, coz I like it)

The French beer Kronenbourg is not hugely popular here in Australia so lucky the Mister is up for adventures of the beer finding variety. Most bottle shops, including big ones like Dan Murphy's and First Choice, only had one or two boxes/slabs in stock, so even with a smallish guest list of about 50 people it took us a couple of trips over a few weekends just to buy the beer! Speaking of the guest list, we have huge extended families and with limited space and budget, I had to make the tough decision to only invite immediate family and some friends.

But back to the drinks, the service was so good that in the next few days I was hearing from everyone how it great it was that the staff remembered what they were drinking and made sure they always had what they wanted.

You may just be able to make out in the photo below that I tried to dress the part in a pink dress. I found pink satin shoes to match with a black peep toe. Over the toe is a little raised netting feature so I made a fascinator for my hair with a piece of black netting from Lincraft. I had a fantastic night as you would expect when surrounded by all my favourite things. As is usually the case with a celebration, the day after the party was equally fun, devouring leftover food, opening presents (so many divine cookbooks) and generally enjoying the company of family and friends from out of town. My heart was really singing in true Charles Whyte style. For me, turning 30 was about embracing what I love and doing things in life that make me happy. I think the party achieved that - it's just trying to do what I love every day that is a little harder at times. 

Finally, I mustered up all my (very limited) design skills to create this 'Merci beaucoup' thank you note. I've tried to give them out as I've seen people but somehow this year is just slipping through my fingers so there are a few outstanding. If any of my lovely guests are reading this and thinking 'where's mine?' I am very sorry. I love you! Thanks for sharing my special celebration. You make the days between the celebrations better too! If you helped me in any way, hopefully I've mentioned you above and/or you know how much that means to me. Thank you to Nina, my darling, crazy, little sister who travelled from Brisbane for the occasion (not sure if she will read this but I forgot to thank her on the night and she is my only favourite sister so I must show her the love). Lastly, thank you for reading if you made it this far! Celebrate birthdays! And eat cake for breakfast! Xxx

Crafty Confessions

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