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wedding sites and bites

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though this is slightly out of the realm of usual chowhound topic boundaries, i thought i'd throw this one out to everyone: does anyone have any personal recommendations for memorable/wonderful wedding sites, e.g. Beaulieu Gardens?

i'm planning for an upcoming wedding next fall and have been looking at various locations without much luck. any insights or advice would be incredibly helpful!

also, if you have any catering or cake bakery recommendations, please forward those on as well. thanks!

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  1. We had our wedding banquet at Harbor Village, a Chinese restaurant at the Embarcadero. The food was great, but the service was awful and the prices were unreasonable. They nickel and dime you on everything they can.

    Cake tasting was one of the most fun parts of planning the wedding. We went to several different places: Victoria Pastry, I Love Chocolate, Katrina Roselle in Rockridge, the Sweet Stop in J-town, Marjolaine French Pastries in San Jose, and Aki's Bakery in San Jose.

    Our favorite was Katrina Roselle. They had a cake that was called something like Almond Vanilla. It was made with almond pound cake. It was the best cake I ever had. However, we went with Victoria Pastry because it was a little cheaper and they didn't charge for delivery. We had a different flavor for each cake tier: Princess, Mocha, Lemon custard, zaballone (I don't know how to spell that). It ended being the wrong choice, though...the cake was very dry and soggy at the same time.

    4 Replies
    1. re: macky

      Renaissance Pastry in Santa Rosa.

      A friend had them do their wedding cake last June. It was amazing. Huge pieces and great flavor. It was just a basic white cake with lemon filling, but it tasted like real scratch cake with lemon filling, not the mix stuff with the artificial flavoring. Real buttercream frosting as well.

      Worth the trip to check out. I think they have a full pastry shop too.

      Try the local chamber of commerce for places to get married or stay. They usually have a massive list of places.

      Good luck!

      1. re: John Galt

        Thanks for the advice! Any more suggestions would be sooo welcome.

        Also, for anyone considering Katrina Rozelle as their bakery of choice for a wedding or party, I have to throw out a warning. I recently threw a surprise birthday party for my fiancé at Ton Kiang and ordered a cream cheese pound cake with lemon curd and raspberries from Katrina Rozelle. The party was amazingly fun but sadly, the cake was less than exceptional. It was incredibly dry...so dry that it was actually crumbling in places. Additionally, the order was taken incorrectly, and we ended up with a cake with NO raspberries though it was clearly specified and noted. All around very disappointing (especially with 50 guests).

        To add insult to injury, when I called Katrina Rozelle to bring attention to the situation, I received an unbelievably insulting letter of response. I was told that a) I didn't know how to place an order for a cake b) I didn't know how to care (defrost) a cake c) I probably hadn't tasted their cakes before and therefore didn't have a clue what I was talking about d) I was lying and was just trying to get a refund.

        Actually, my fiancé and I had previously ordered at least 5 cakes from the bakery and were well acquainted with both the quality and the care associated with these cakes. To be honest, we were more than happy with the Katrina Rozelle's products before the incident and were actually considering using the bakery for our wedding. After this incident and the affirming comments of several other friends regarding the declining quality of the bakery, we have decided not to patronize Katrina Rozelle any longer.

        I have sent a letter of reply to Katrina Rozelle Topp regarding her inadequate response and have predictably, not received any answer. Any business worth their salt would take responsibility for their mistakes and their products rather than insult their customers.

        Just a warning for those in the market for cakes... Sorry about the diatribe!

        1. re: Virginia

          In the course of work I see a lot of wedding cakes. I've been pretty impressed by the cakes from perfect endings. I don't know anything about their pricing or how they are to deal with but they can do some very impressive work. I believe they are a SF business...don't know their phone number.

          1. re: Virginia
            JB Leibovitch

            I had a similar experience, on a smaller scale. We ordered a very simple cake for my daughter's 2nd birthday, and we were very specific on the color (purple) and one other detail that escapes me--I think it had something to do with the ballons that Winnie the Pooh was holding! The cake tasted just fine, but the color was white. Someone at the Katrina Rozelle bakery in Oakland tried to convince me that the frosting was indeed purple (a very LIGHT purple) and that I should have chosen Lavender instead! Well, my 2 year-old thought it was white, I thought it was white, and I offered to show them pictures and video. In the end, they offered me a small refund or a larger credit towards future purchases. I chose the refund. I do not think the product is bad, but I just don't want to go through that level of hassle again OVER A CAKE.

      2. a
        Alexandra Eisler

        The Albion River Inn is a lovely site with excellent food and a full bar if you are interested in an afternoon wedding.

        The Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg makes superb cakes. The dining room was almost SILENT as our guests concentrated on the cake; there was not a crumb left to take on the honeymoon...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Alexandra Eisler

          I used Katrina Roselle for my wedding about ten years ago.

          The quality was fine, and there was no problem with the order, but I do recall that they had a very superior attitude about what we were ordering.

          Specificaly, I wanted a pound cake with mousse filling, which they had as a standard item with white chocolate icing, but we wanted Italian mereingue (sp?) instead. I had to be very assertive in the face of the bakery's insistence that I didn't know what I was talking about. They also sold us a larger cake than we really needed.

          As it turned out, the cake was just what we wanted. In hindsight, however, if I could have found a plce with just as good cake and much less attitude, I would have gone elsewhere.

        2. Just went to a late morning/early afternoon wedding there last month and it was a nice setting. You can't linger though, as the hourly rates in the late afternoon are steep.

          1. Check out Divine Gluttony (divinegluttony.com). The owner was a pastry chef at various SF restaurants and has now started her own business. Although I haven't tried any of her wedding cakes, her other cakes are very good. (She's a friend of mine, so I may be a little biased, but she really is good.)

            1. I just got married in the montclair women's club this spring (they are located in Oakland Hills). They have a really beautiful hall. They don't have much of an outdoors though.

              I went cheap on my cake, I went with sugar bowl bakery. They do a decent cake for the price. The fresh strawberry filling is very good.

              1. Congratulations! I had a great time planning our wedding two years ago. We looked all over the Bay Area, but really wanted to get married in San Francisco. We eventually found the perfect location: we got married in the Presidio Chapel (small, intimate, mission-style) and held our reception a short walk away at the fabulous Golden Gate Club. It was absolutely beautiful and on a more pragmatic level, convenient as there was plenty of free parking and guests only needed to park once. We received many compliments on our caterer, but even more on our fun, whimsically decorated cake (colorful polka dots, flowers, harlequin designs made of marzipan). But it didn't just look good; in fact, the top layer of the cake even tasted great a year layer after we defrosted it for our anniversary. I'm not sure if either the caterer or pastry chef is still around, but both are definitely worth checking out: Arguello Catering (415) 822-3710; Cake & Company (Linda Imlay, pastry chef) (415) 346-0989. And if they're not, be sure to take advantage of all the free tastings you can get... Good luck with your search.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chita

                  Thanks so much for everyone's feedback. This has been incredibly helpful- much, much better than just scanning through generic guides and magazines. I will definitely look into these recommendations. Thanks again!

                2. Here's a few more.

                  Yosemite - in the meadow, schedule of organized activities for 3 days with family and friends

                  Del Monte Lodge, Pebble Beach - very formal sit-down dinner

                  Monterey Bay Aquarium - if you love to scuba dive, you can get married in front of the kelp forest tank

                  Pasatiempo Country Club

                  Byington Winery, Santa Cruz Mountains

                  Allied Arts Guild, Menlo Park - lovely flower garden for outdoor ceremony framed by giant delphiniums, small courtyard added acoustical complexity for the lone piper, dining room is a bit run down

                  Thomas Fogarty Winery, Woodside

                  Half Moon Bay airport - instead of walking down the aisle, bride and groom flew in by private plane from opposite directions with their respective wedding parties. Bride was so nervous, she had her co-pilot fly instead of taking the controls herself. Reception and dancing at a nearby local restaurant.

                  B&B with incredible rose garden, HMB - somewhat claustrophic for the size of crowd, would be really special for under 80 guests.

                  Haas-Lilienthal House, San Francisco - good for stand up reception with food stations, valet parking a must.

                  Bay-to-Breakers race - my cousin Donna's wedding was reported in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. Ceremony during the race with bridal party and groomsmen running alongside in centipedes.

                  SF Opera House - cousin Rulan's ceremony was in a large reception room. Only about 2 dozen chairs for the elders, standing room only for the rest. Short civil ceremony. Champagne and cookies (auntie made about 1,000 tiny cookies!) on the spot - the fastest I've had a glass of bubbly after the "I do's". Dinner and dancing for 200 at Yank Sing, Battery St.

                  Harbor Village, SF - my sister had an intimate dinner for 30 in a private dining room, preceded by a short and sweet ceremony on site. I provided the wines as my gift - Scharffenberger (now Pacific Echo) Cremant, Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from a now defunct brand, and Camus XO - to accompany the Cantonese banquet.

                  Greens, SF - book it for the Fourth of July and time the ceremony for the start of fireworks. I missed this one but heard it was spectacular.

                  Fort Mason, SF - lots of choices of different size rooms, small fire house to pavillion, and moderately priced. Keep in mind these are mostly unheated spaces with cement floors (hard on the feet for dancing). Club house has bay views. Lots of parking and shuttled lots for overflow.

                  Presidio Club, SF - as Chita described. Beautiful views, convenient parking.

                  Plump Jack, SF - private room in the back for up to 40. Memorable New Year's eve party for 8, dinner and dancing between courses.

                  Hog Island Oysters, Tomales Bay

                  Landmark Vineyards, Kenwood - attractive outdoor and indoor spaces, good size changing room for the bride.

                  Kunde Vineyards, Kenwood - in the caves

                  Madrona Manor, Healdsburg - better food at this reception than my recent experiences in the dining room. Ceremony on the lawn, bridal flowers from the Manor's gardens.

                  Niebaum-Coppola Vineyards, Rutherford

                  Beaulieu Gardens, St. Helena - be sure to plan for congestion on Hwy 29 mid-valley

                  Clos Pegase, Calistoga - more caves