This weekend, our mom (and also friend and also Food52’s Creative Director) Kristen will be getting married to a cool guy named Mike. They planned their California wedding, from the other coast, in a record 4 months. We wanted to help her out, but she told us to get back to work—so we dreamt up how we’d plan her wedding behind her back (hehe). The food and decorations are where we focused our attention because she definitely thinks she has the best taste in music.
So Kristen, we threw you a wedding fit for the internet—and showered it with tips for making a wedding great. We know you like posts with nuggety takeaways. We love you!
Kristen and I have bonded over many things: trail mix in airports, potato salad by the truckful, and not least among them, roast chicken. Later, we bonded over roasting said chickens over bread—the shmaltzy, slightly soggy result like stuffing that was fit to eat outside the bounds of Thanksgiving, and pleasantly, much lazier to make.
Kristen taught me—as she did many of you—the wonders of roasting a chicken at 500 blazing hot degrees, so for her theoretical wedding feast, that is what I did. Then I threw it on top of a Zuni Café-esque bread salad: that same torn, toasted bread, but this time fancied with pine nuts, greens, and sharp, vinegar-pumped currants. For weddings, we set aside our laze.
But we also make no effort to eat things outside of what we might want every day anyway. If a wedding is supposed to set the tone for a veritably large portion of your life to follow, why set that tone with soulless filet mignon and lobster you might forget the day after? Set it with the foods that make you think of a happy home, and the ones you’ll need to soak up that “one” glass of Champagne you had before the ceremony. Set it with genius roast chicken on top of bread salad. And then hold your glass way up high in the air—you’ve got some toasting to do.
P.S. Kristen, can you give us a chicken check? —Ali and Sarah
If you catch Kristen around 4:30 at our offices, you’ll probably see her carrying her lunch plate around with her, comfort blanket in food form. She might have some leftover chicken, greens, and a nub of bread—but more often it’ll be a plate of boiled potatoes. Cold boiled potatoes topped off with little but a twirl of butter and a shower of salt. These perfect specimens, in Kristen’s eyes, need not be fussed with, which is welcome news on a wedding day—there’s been fussing enough.
I imagine at Kristen’s dream wedding there’d be a plate of buttery boiled potatoes for every few guests at dinner, made wedding-fancy only with some sliced scallions and a pretty vessel. But the real surprise would be the favors as friends and family walk out the door: containers brimming with already chilled little guys, ready for eating for lunch while traveling home the next day. I’m sure she’d ask the caterer to reserve a few plates for her and Mike, too; the less fussy, the better.
If Kristen is an iced latte—her drink of choice, and one that she nurses every day, all morning and afternoon—Mike is a fried egg. But not just any fried egg; I may not know Mike as well as I know Kristen, but I do know that he makes a mean fried egg. You have to heat the oil beyond what you’d consider appropriate for an egg, flip it over briefly, and then flip it back. Kristen says no one can make it exactly like Mike does, or as well. Maybe he’d make it for every guest at the wedding—or just for his plate.
The winky details will make the wedding tangibly personal: Everyone knows Mike is the best at making fried eggs, and that you both are honestly more beer people than wine people and so there is no wine at this wedding.
That flower frog propping up Big K’s place card? It’s winking, too, because there’s a flower frog at her desk to prop up pens. The can-cum-vase isn’t K-specific, and neither are the little tart molds holding the votive candles—but we can imagine her happening upon them around the house and deciding, hey, yeah, that could work (when was the last time I used that little tart pan?).
Dot the event with well-known quirks and it’s like everyone is in on the day, like everyone is getting the wink, like, look, there’s that fried egg situation that Mike’s so particular about—and which we know we didn’t make quite right.
When we were deciding the dessert we’d serve at Kristen’s dream wedding—you know, since ice cream floats are for the midnight snack and cookie cereal is for
the morning 4 P.M. the day after—it took approximately 0 minutes and 0 seconds to reach a consensus.
Blueberry Cream Torte is Kristen’s mom's recipe (but she would make it with a packet of Dream Whip and a can of blueberry pie filling). In Food52’s Baking, Kristen dubbed it—now updated with real cream and fresh blueberries—in her expert and charming way as “a blueberry pie emptied onto a cheesecake.” It’s the kind of dessert that makes you sigh shyly on first taste, that you lean into a little as your muscles relax. All of the elements other desserts offer only in moderation—cookie crust, billowy filling, jammy-sweet fruit—this one piles on in excess. It’s the long hug you didn’t know you needed.
But even if this weren’t the dessert to earn weak knees and save-me-a-pieces, we’d have chosen it anyway: Kristen’s mom made it for her, and Kristen, our editorial team mom, made it for us. (Service-y takeaway 1: Family heirlooms are sometimes edible.)
But there’s more to a wedding than dessert (maybe). Wacky-in-all-the-right-places ranunculus shoot out of glass jars, vintage bottles, and a Red Jacket strawberry juice that Mike just finished, and those are nestled on gauzy, elegant, and unexpected (yet completely appropriate) cheesecloth, straight from the (super)market. (Service-y takeaway 2: Incorporate found objects.)
While Kristen and Mike like beer, there's room for a cocktail, too. In the glasses is our interpretation of the Sis Fizz cocktail (a Gin Fizz with lime in addition to the traditional lemon) from the Brandy Library in Manhattan. As legends go, it was Kristen’s favorite drink at the bar she was supposed to start working at as she started her Food52 internship. She never made it past training, so she never learned how to make it—and that’s why she should’ve had us rascals planning her wedding.
Kristen will tell you that her favorite food is an ice cream float. Whether that’s a real food is a question we won’t explore here—especially since, at her dream wedding, there will be an ice cream float bar where the only flavor available is her favorite: Sprite and Haagen-Dazs Cookies & Cream. Putting the pints right on the bar is “rustic,” so is the garland hand-made of coffee filters with baby’s breath peeking out every few. Put the Sprite in a pitcher, though, if green isn’t part of your color scheme.
Oh, and did you know Kristen is the author of (the New York Times-bestselling, IACP award-winning, very-excellent, life-changing) cookbook Genius Recipes? While the bar’s tiers could be made of vintage cookbooks—or all your and your fiance’s favorite books, or all the Harry Potters—a wedding is nothing if not a moment for self promotion. As Kristen puts it: “hashtag buy my book.”
For Kristen—who can not just cook everything but also manages to find the very best possible ways to do so, every time, often while the rest of the world is sleeping—looking into a bowl of cookie cereal must feel something like the epitome of content. There is only assembly, a cold bowl to cup with one hand, cookies and milk to spoon to your mouth.
Kristen loves cookie cereal, specifically when it’s made with crispy Tate’s chocolate chip cookies. As a part of her dream wedding, we picture this as what she and Mike sit down to (maybe even on the floor, since cookie cereal knows no tablecloth) as newlyweds at home—late afternoon the day after the wedding, lovestruck and sleepy, or the day they’re back from galavanting around Iceland on their honeymoon. Or any way, really.
To make it, you simply wrangle a few Tate’s from the cellophane (you can technically make them yourself, but the whole point of Cookie Cereal is to feed yourself in a manner that feels more like a long exhale than a long spell at the oven) and shower them with cold milk. Wait a minute until soft, or don’t, then spoon the cookies into your mouth in milky hunks.
That cookie wrapper is intentionally getting lost under their couch, the bowl of cookies intentionally too large for two: This is supposed to be Kristen and Mike’s home, not our office! At the end of styling every shot in this series, we “Kristen-ed it up” to make it feel a little more real and relaxed (yes, that’s somehow a Creative Director and New York Times best-selling author’s natural disposition).
Here: The easiest-ever silhouettes were made from a picture of Kristen and Mike goofing off but looking lovingly at each other: We printed the image, cut out their profiles with an X-acto knife, and then xeroxed the piece of paper (now with Kristen and Mike-shaped holes in it) on a copy machine with the lid open. Out came two black silhouettes, trimmed to fit in matching frames. The whole process probably took 30 minutes.
Also mint sprigs—pressed between the pages of a book for a week, then taped to the backing in a frame—served as a homey, food-lover’s botanical. Crumbs on the floor, yawning succulents. This could be home if you’re Cookie Cereal (or Kristen).
All photos taken with joy and mate by James Ransom