The Most Special Day back in July 2014

Usually I wouldn’t write about my private life but there was one event so special & beautiful that I just have to write about it. I am talking about my media naranja’s & my wedding last year, on the 18th of July 2014 to be precise. I don’t want to bore you with yet another wedding day story – I just want to share some short inputs & impressions with you regarding the preps for the big day & the celebration itself. I found reading such descriptions quite useful when it came to getting everything planned. In the end every couple is different and has a different approach to how their special day should be like, but it’s still nice to get some input from people that ‘survived it’ successfully. 😉

Before sending out invitations / save the date cards, (that we ordered via Minted.com which offers an amazing wide range of designs, that please all different tastes out there, plus ships to Europe, as well – another great fact about Minted is that you support individual designers with your choice!), we set up a wedding website including all necessary information for our guests (like the wedding day agenda, wedding dinner options, wish list, public transport options, city maps, accommodation / restaurant / cafe / club & bar recommendations, basically whatever kind of information you consider necessary for your guests) via Zankyou.com. This free of charge website offers a variety of helpful applications such as designing a seating plan or sending out update / notification emails to your guests. This saves you some money & time as you won’t need a wedding planner for these things and can centralise all the information via a website.

Speaking about wedding planners, I am sure they make sense if you don’t have much time and can’t be bothered in your spare time to prepare a huge wedding, but in our case – planning a smaller event – we didn’t need a wedding planner in the end. Luckily we both knew what we wanted and it wasn’t too difficult to find the right partners for that purpose after researching a bit on the www.

In Carme Trias we encountered a very talented Barcelona designer. She designed both our stunning wedding dresses according to our personal preferences (and in my case drawings). Check out her small shop in Gràcia, Barcelona by going to Modart or their Facebook account.

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My design

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The Outcome

One thing that gave us a lot of headache were the shoes. We thought so much about that topic and changed our minds that often that we did almost go crazy. And then it occurred to us: do something different and walk through your wedding day in plain & simply stylish comfort. Yes, we ordered custom-made Converse according to our designs and our friends from England luckily got them for us since you can’t place orders except for when you’re located in the UK or the USA (so make sure you know someone in one of those places in order to design your own Converse).

CustomizedConverse

So we also had to get around during our big day – from our stunning prep place (that we found via Airbnb and which is just a perfect option if you need a lot of space in order to get ready separately and to hang out with friends & family before & after the wedding, instead of opting for the rather typical & much more expensive wedding night at a hotel) to the wedding ceremony at the town hall in Gràcia, from there to the photo shoot in the Raval & on Montjuic and then up to the restaurant for reception & dinner.

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One room of our stunningly beautiful & decadent Modernisme style wedding apartment booked via Airbnb

Regarding our means of transport, we were lucky to find Conducir Clásicos, which is a great local company that hooked us up with a super trendy & restored T2 Caravelle van plus driver.

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Our very original T2 Caravelle Wedding Van

We loved being driven around in the Caravelle and it was such a big surprise for our wedding guests – everyone marvelled at it – and it also made a stunning model during the wedding photo shoot which has been provided by our great professional photographers Anna & Gustavo from Nice Tales : Photography – also check out their Facebook page.

Being from a Northern European country, our families expected to greet us with a glass of Cava after the wedding ceremony in Gràcia’s town hall, but one really important fact to know about Spain in general is that it is illegal to drink alcohol publicly on the street. So we needed a convenient solution which consisted in crossing the plaza in front of the town hall and doing an afternoon Pica Pica (which is made of different salty snacks) combined with a glass of Cava in order to keep everyone going (note that temperatures around July can go up to 40ºC here, so people from colder countries really appreciate to get some sugar & drinks in-between ). We found the tasty & vibrant restaurant Amélie which offered just what we needed, and their lovely & talented chef Carlos even did our wedding bouquets & the floral table decoration at the restaurant we had booked for our dinner. The Pica Pica & Cava we had chosen together with enchanting & professional Yasmine and creative chef Carlos was just delicious and I recommend going to Amélie for lunch or dinner – they also host small concerts.

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Delicious Pica Pica at Amélie

We negotiated reception, a dinner menu (which has been put together by us according to our taste) with vegan options, and dance (they provide you with a DJ that will play your choice of music) with the magical & super good restaurant Can Travi Nou (also see their Facebook for updates). We’ve had lunch and dinner there before and owners as well as staff are just incredibly professional & attentive. I highly recommend Can Travi Nou for whatever kind of celebration with friends & family or for official company dinners / events. The food is supreme and meets the expectations of a Catalonian gourmet as well as it provides a delicious insight into fine Catalonian dining to the foreigner.

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Can Travi Nou is a charming & magical old Catalonian Masia (farm house) converted into a supreme restaurant specialised in Catalonian & Mediterranean cuisine

A very special moment for us was when our stunning & delicious wedding cake was delivered by Sibarum cakes & catering (check their Facebook or website for further information and contact). We chose the design and taste together with the amazing mother & daughter team from the Sitges’ based pastry shop and they have been so lovely & professional, so creative & supportive throughout the whole pre-wedding process, that apart from receiving the best wedding cake ever plus some vegan cupcakes (which they all personally delivered!), a friendship has formed, and we highly recommend them whenever you need a cake, other baked treats or catering for your celebrations & events.

Sibarum Wedding Cake

That is one tasty & beautifully stunning wedding cake

Something that is not to be forgotten regarding all the planning for a wedding day are all the other creative preps and decoration tasks that you need to confront & undertake: we translated the wedding ceremony for our no Spanish speaking guests; looked for some personal wedding guest favours (that we found at Del Pot Petit while strolling over the weekend artisan market down at Passeig Joan de Borbó, and which consisted in a beautifully wrapped mini marmalade jar and a miniature bottle of ecological Virgin Olive Oil); got the artistically & beautifully arranged flower bouquets & rustic floral table decoration (that was a perfect fit for the rustic Masia) from Amélie’s chef Carlos; designed, bought and crafted all the other table, candy bar and photo booth deco; chose the music for the DJ set; etc.

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Our personally designed & crafted table decoration

So, of course, in order to be able to come up with all of this you need time, motivation, negotiation skills, a certain amount of creativity and very, very good friends & family members that are willing to go the extra mile with & for you (a big THANK YOU goes out to all our family members & friends that by helping us decorate the tables, doing our hair & make-up [I recommend getting your wedding make-up trial done for free at Sephora] just like the most professional hair & make-up artists do, helping us get dressed, shopping for & making our dinner the night before, guiding guests to the restaurant, helping us transporting back the decoration afterwards in the middle of the night, etc., made our day so much easier – but there’s a lot of input out there and people are generally willing to help, especially when it comes down to a personalised event as a wedding. As I said, I don’t think a wedding planner is always necessary – who knows best what you as a couple want if not you and who could describe what makes your day special better than you!? In the end you’ll have roamed a lot of websites and will have found your personal preferences regarding all what makes your wedding day and you make the decision to get help from outside in form of a wedding planner or to go ahead yourself. It may sometimes seem to you that you’re stuck in the process and in so many things to do that you are about to lose yourself and give in to complete, disastrous pre-wedding despair… In those moments just sit down, have a good tea or latte and enjoy the day – do something completely different. That will help you relax and you’ll be able to focus on the wedding planning at a later moment. As someone who ‘survived’ all the craziness, I am available to provide some further insight into the organisation of our wedding and the according details, and can be contacted through eMail to laravalerablog@gmail.com .

The Healthier Option: Unfried Sweet Potato Fries

Love sweet potato fries? Me, too! Since I had that delicious treat for the first time back in 2010 in NYC, I’ve always preferred them as a side or a snack whenever available. I’m not a huge fan of fried food usually, and I like it healthy so since they are in season over here at the moment, I thought let’s give it a go and bake them in the oven. And the result was oh sooo good! This is yet another super easy recipe and just perfect for a snack or as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 huge sweet potato or basically as many as you like or as many as your baking tray can hold 😉

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fleur de Sel or sea salt

Sweet Potato Fries

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan). Meanwhile peel the sweet potato(es) and cut it into evenly long pieces. Line out your baking tray with parchment paper and spread the sweet potato pieces all over it. Drizzle some Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used a pastry brush to glaze all sweet potato pieces evenly with olive oil) over them and season your fries with salt. If you like the taste you can furthermore season them with freshly ground black pepper.

Cook the fries during 20mins – if finely cut they shouldn’t take longer than that.

Recommendation: Serve them with some BBQ sauce – that is just an unbeatable combination!

Edge Brewing or the Joining the Craft Beer Revolution in Spain

A few months back in sunny August, me and my media naranja went to the weekly scheduled open-door event of local craft beer brewery Edge Brewing (http://edgebrewing.com/). What I didn’t know was that business partners Alan and Scott not only brew original craft beer but that they also brought all their equipment (tanks, etc.) from the States in order to brew original American Ale in the industrial but nevertheless charming Poblenou district of Barcelona. They even get some of their key ingredients imported from the States!

Come Explore

Not being a big beer drinker myself for several reasons, but most of all because I am the person that most likely orders a smooth red wine, preferably a Rioja, going with a delicious mediterranean dinner, I was not sure what to expect. I’ve tasted some craft beers in the past and generally liked them but I wouldn’t order them specifically. Actually I never liked beer before I moved to Spain, but once here I developed a taste for the light Spanish Estrella or Cruzcampo (most likely mixed into a Clara – or as most English speakers call it, a Shandy) which is just so tasty and refreshing sitting in one of the Chiringuitos at the beach in the middle of a hot Spanish summer.

So when we entered the brewery one Friday afternoon, I was more than surprised to find a vibrant and beautifully equipped brewery space laid out in front of me. Strolling through the big entrance we stumbled upon a local food truck offering their delicacies (different food trucks join the Edge Brewing Free Guided Tours of the Brewery & Tasting Events each Friday so make sure to check their Facebook page for the next events: https://www.facebook.com/EdgeBrewingBarcelona?fref=ts). We immediately went for the tasting offer which includes 4 small pints of craft beer of your choice for 5€. Later on you can also go for the usual sized pints but I definitely recommend tasting as many Edge beers as you can.

Blackboard

Alan and his lovely staff will happily explain tastes and types of beers, and will make you feel like home, being amongst people from all different cultures, finding new friends, meeting old ones and exploring craft beer – because this is what it’s all about: explore something new that is not the typical Spanish light beer that you get in every usual bar around here. Make up your mind and taste craft beer and come to a conclusion meaning: like it or dislike it – but try it! So if you like what you drink and as soon as you determined your favourite craft beer you might also want to purchase a re-usable growler and get it filled up for you to take home.

Beer on tab

As said before, I am not a big beer drinker myself but I tried almost all of Edge Brewing’s Craft Beers and even determined my favourite one which is – against all odds since I used to prefer the light Spanish beers – not ‘Aigua de Canaletes’ (the craft beer most similar to a light Spanish beer being an American blonde ale) but the orange Stiletto instead, which is a hearty, earthy warm, mild but strong Saison beer (7.6%).

Edge Beers

For this year’s Halloween, Edge Brewing is offering ‘Buried Alive’ on tap.  So make sure you pass by on Friday, the 31st of Oct. 2014, in order to enjoy this Halloween Special Edition Pumpkin Spiced Ale – I will be there.

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Head Brewer Alan Sheppard carefully incorporates the Roasted Pumpkin into the future pumpkin spiced ale ‘Buried Alive’

The Caravelle & my French Toast Addiction

So living in Barcelona and its barrio Raval definitely made me appreciate good quality and slow food cooked with love, passion and locally available, seasonal & organic, healthy ingredients even more than before and this is why I want to dedicate my first blog post in this category to my favourite Café/ Restaurant Caravelle in Calle Pintor Fortuny, 31 (https://www.facebook.com/CaravelleBCN/timeline – check their Facebook updates for current opening times and events).

We’ve been going there since their opening back in 2012 and it’s our favourite place for Café con Leche and brunch in Barcelona. I’m putting the word ‘brunch’ first since I clearly am a breakfast person – I just love having a good long breakfast/ brunch! But Caravelle’s lunch/ dinner options are more than worth mentioning, too!

Caravelle Café con Leche

Enjoy your Café con Leche while watching locals as well as tourists walking by on their way to the nearby MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona – http://www.macba.cat/en/index).

Australian owner and chef Zim plus his staff never fail to surprise us with new creations on a regular basis and that we are more than happy to sample.

Their menu variety includes both – a lot of internationally influenced dishes as well as the incorporation of local and typically Spanish ingredients – always keeping it fresh, healthy, seasonal and cooked to order. Good things take their time, so be patient and let them work their magic – you won’t be disappointed! Also a definite plus in Barcelona is to be welcomed and looked after by super nice and professional people and Caravelle’s staff is just amazing!

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French Toast with Mango Sauce & White Chocolate Cream, topped off with Oven Roasted Plums & Almonds

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Oven Baked Eggs with Smoked Chorizo, Roasted Tomato, Beans & Lime Coriander Sour Cream

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Caravelle featured their Fried Fish Taco with homemade Pickles, Tomatillo Alioli, Guacamole at the fourth Eat Sreet Barcelona Food Festival Edition (https://www.facebook.com/eatstreetbarcelona) on Oct. 11th.

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Non-alcoholic, homemade Ginger Beer