photo by bruno

Ten Years of Todd Events

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photo courtesy of todd events

We were delighted for an opportunity to be part of a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Todd Events, a world class wedding planner and one of the most creative people we know. We first met Todd last year working on a wedding in Oklahoma City, which involved some of the most exciting wines and spectacular entertainment we’ve seen – we knew this was going to be grand occasion.

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For this event, to be held on the top floors of Neiman Marcus’s flagship store in Downtown Dallas we wanted to work with some exotic produce, as well as show what a state of the art party can look like. Naturally we wanted to get to Dallas early to source our ingredients as local and seasonal as possible. While building the ingredients for the cocktails we experienced some difficulty finding the rum brands we needed. We were incredibly fortunate to run into Benjamin Melin-Jones, just sitting at the bar of The Standard Pour. Ben is the fourth-generation descended of the Clément family and Managing Director of Rhum Clément in the USA (recently merged with Rhum J.M, one of the spirits we were utilizing). Continue reading →

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An Afternoon Party in Malibu

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We were delighted to show off our Non Alcoholic cocktails at a beach house in Malibu this summer. While we are always happy to create cocktails given direction, our best work always comes from when we are trusted to interpret the season through our drinks, as was the case this afternoon. We were told, “Oh just make whatever you like, I’m sure the drinks will be great.”

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This Summer meant Persian Mulberries and limes, Meyer Lemons, Ginger, and fresh Lavender from Santa Ynez. We found some beautiful purple Amaranth leaves to blanket the table.  Continue reading →

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Anvi and Tom @ Hummingbird Nest Ranch

Anvi and Tom chose one of the best venues in the Los Angeles area for their wedding in Hummingbird Nest Ranch. I love this venue because it allows for quite a bit of flexibility, has plenty of space, and is completely beautiful.

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The wedding had a certain cinematic quality; Gather Events and Occasions did a fantastic job of styling and coordinating. Tom looked overjoyed riding a white Arabian horse to the ceremony, his friends and family cheering and singing along side him.

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We decided to do some non-alcoholic cocktails to start off the afternoon as A&T elected to do two ceremonies honoring both their heritages. The Chai Tea was definitely the most popular; we wanted a little more kick in this tea and elected to use a custom blend of assam and lapsang souchong teas, garnished with shaved cinnamon and star anise.

Tom wanted to do something simple that would appease his cocktail drinking friends coming into town from Boston area, but he wanted it to have a certain LA flair.

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We came up with a The Lucky Fez, a riff on an old fashioned and a drink we’ve enjoyed so much it’s become one of our signature this summer. A house made spiced syrup with all spice, green cardamom, brown cardamom, black pepper, and juniper was the base of the cocktail with Bulleit Rye and citrus. Continue reading →

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Steve and Leslie @ Stone Manor – Malibu

I love working with clients that I really like as people, with great energy – folks that will remain lifelong friends.

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Steve and Leslie were aware that they were going to have some guests from Italy, and so they were open to trying Italian wine. I am always overjoyed when I get the chance to work with some of my contacts in the Italian wine world to bring some really unique and delicious wines to the table. Italian wines are very drinkable, affordable, and give us the opportunity to think outside the traditional wedding wine box of Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc.

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We were happy to provide some education to the wedding party during the event about the selections that Steve and Leslie went with. They day was warm with a good breeze, it could not have been more perfect.

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Il Borghetto Montigiano, a wine made from Sangiovese and crafted in the classic style ( as well as bottled in the non traditional Burgundy shaped bottle) fermented in open topped cement tanks. This wine was a great option for Pinot Noir drinkers as the wine retains all the freshness and essence of the fruit.

The second red was Marchione Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ( A varietal near to my heart after my recent trip to Abruzzo ) coming  from Abruzzo, one of Italy’s most mountainous regions with the Apennine peaks reaching up to 9000 feet above sea level.

Continue reading →

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A Gather Event: Palm Springs Wedding

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In the continuing partnership (read: love affair ) with the smart ladies of Gather Events and Occasions, red clay was asked to shoot photography for an intimate wedding in Palm Springs.

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Upon arrival here, I immediately noticed that the choice to go with pie instead of a cake had been made, something I was skeptical about until I tasted the rhubarb – simply delicious.

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The atmosphere at this wedding was very casual and relaxed, which allowed several great shots of the bride in her preparations, as well as the groom in his pondering. The thematic design by Gather featured roses and eucalyptus, giving the air a nice aroma as the sun fell slowly over the mountains. Beautiful sage bundles adorned every guest napkin, as well as antique glassware and fine linen napkins.

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Always happy to oblige, I also did the pre-ceremony beverages ( Wild Brentwood Eucalyptus Water & Lemongrass Lemonade ) as well as the bar snacks ( Candied Pecans, Roasted Cashews and Pumpkin Seeds & Artisanal Olives). While there were over 100 final pictures, here are some of my favorites. 

Check out some past events with Gather Events (Here, Here, Here, and Here!)

Off to a Castle in Enotria

Ever since I began my discovery of Italian wine, through great mentors like Dr. Jeremy Parzen and Jeff Morgenthal I continually heard the mantra, “You have to go, you won’t really understand the wine until you see the vine.” Thanks to Mariana Nedic of IEEM I am finally going to take a quick trip to the land of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. 

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I’m most excited to see what foods are paired with these wines in their native settings. Christine Hoffman, one of my fellow sommeliers at Terroni in Los Angeles recently mentioned to me that it wasn’t until a trip to the Pieropan winery in Verona, where she was given shaved artichoke paired with Soave Classico from the La Rocca vineyard that she really understood the essence of the wine. Stories like this are things sommeliers love to throw around with guests, friends, and at tables. I am eager to build some of my own stories – and I intend to do just that, with a trip to the Masciarelli Winery at Castello di Semivicoli. Will it be truffles, saffron, cheese, pastries, or something altogether unexpected? I can’t wait to find out. 

I always delight in selling Montepulciano from Marina Cvetic – I love pronouncing her last name at the table, as it’s pronunciation mirrors the inflection of my own slavic surname. Masciarelli first came on my radar as a Slow Wine which for me is an important tool in discerning wineries that are adhering to natural winemaking techniques, highlighting indigenous varietals, and using organics wherever possible. Wine drinkers in Los Angeles have become increasingly interested, and prefer wines of this pedigree. Image

The generous fruit, structure, and craftsmanship of these wines always ensures a pleasing experience with every cork pull. I’m also hoping to taste some older vintages of Iskra (Spark in Croatian) sourced from nearby Teramo, to the north of Chieti. I have read that the village of San Martino, a small village in the Chieti province is known for a secret gun powder recipe made from the remains of vine stocks, which allowed townsfolk to resist the assault of Napoleonic troops desiring to conquer the town. I am so lucky to have Joanie Karapetian, one of the most hardworking and dynamic people in the wine business in Los Angeles today as my guide and traveling companion. I’m sure we will be climbing the high peaks of the nearby Abruzzi Appennines, with a bellies full of noble juice in no time!

Mention: Mutual Trading Company Magazine

Mutual Trading Company, the largest importer of Japanese products in the U.S recently did a feature on some cocktails I created for their product expo in Los Angeles. 

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Given MTC’s incredibly extensive catalog of Shochu I was able to taste and select some of my favorite products in rice, sweet potato, barley, and buckwheat Shochu. I wanted not only to highlight Japanese flavors, but I wanted to work with flavors that are actually available in Southern California. I found some beautiful mini kabocha squash, and fresh shiso which got things going.

I particularly appreciated the Iichiko Silhouette (Japan’s Best Selling Shochu –  iichiko is a term from the Oita dialect of Japanese meaning “fine” or “good”), a 60% polish barley shochu which is excellent on the rocks. Also enjoyed the single distillation, brown sugar based Jougo Kokuto from Amami Oshima Shuzo Distillery – which has a beautiful nose and smooth finish.

A decidedly red clay take on the cocktails, with organic farmers market ingredients and hand crafted mixers.

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‘Dreams of Jiro’, with ginger, maple syrup, and guava was the most popular cocktail of the event. Everyone kept walking over to the booth curious to find out what the smell was that was filling the air. I often find that people have a love hate relationship with Guava – here it was definetly love. 

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special thanks to Toshio Ueno, Somm and Master Sake Sommelier MTC