Pizza & Pasta at DeFazio’s

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It’s probably not a good idea to let me order for a table when I’m at DeFazio’s. There’s a good chance I’ll over order. Between 8 or so of us, we split a chicken pesto antipasto salad (SO good). For $11.95, this was great for a group and super satisfying.

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They had a special of white pizza with cherry tomatoes and balsamic glaze. So much yum. I can’t get enough of that delicious crust – so poofy, tender, and flavorful.
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And a clam pizza. So good, check out that charring on the edge!
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Pesto linguine ($12.95). How can you not love pesto + anything? So good.
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Spinach and garlic linguine ($12.95). Yum.
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Fettuccine Rosario ($12.95) was the only clunker. The sauce was good, but the fettuccine was a little undercooked and clumpy.

There was also a gluten-free pizza tossed in there. For 8 people this was a bit too much food, but super awesome to try so many different things. I think part of the charm of DeFazio’s is their inconsistencies. Today the pizzas were perfect, but the fettuccine was a bit hard. But the service is always friendly, warm, and welcoming.

 

Giovanni Rana Pastas & Sauces – Review & Giveaway


Giovanni Rana pasta and sauces

Giovanni Rana sent me some pastas and sauces to try that they are selling in local supermarkets. You can find them at ShopRite in the Albany/Capitol Region area. I’ve tucked into a few of these products, and so far, I’m digging them. Giovanni Rana is also going to give one reader 4 pastas and one sauce to try! See the many ways I’ve eaten their products below, or skip to the end to see how to enter.DSCF5243 The artichoke ravioli go for $4.99 for 12 oz, which is a pretty fair deal for them. The ravioli skins were pliable, and fairly thin, although they still had a decent tooth to the texture. If you roll your own pasta, imagine this on the 2nd or 3rd from thinnest setting. There was also a noticeable semolina flavor from the pasta, too.

Albany John had made some of his own marinara sauce, so that’s the sauce you see above. The artichoke flavors came out quite well – the filling itself didn’t disintegrate into the sauce when I cut into them with a fork, but it wasn’t super firm or dry, either. They also were easy to boil and none of them broke while cooking.

Giovanni Rana ravioli The next ravioli I tried were the Cheese Forte, which was a sharp cheese blend of cheeses (including parm reg). It went well with Albany John’s smoked salmon cream sauce (cream sauce cheat: he dissolves a bit of cream cheese with chicken broth so it’s a little tangy, but not too rich as a sauce base).

The cheese was pretty pronounced and sharp, held up well to the strong flavors of Albany John’s sauce. I’m really digging the ravioli as an alternative to homemade ravioli. I like this Giovanni Rana ravioli over other refrigerated pastas like Buitoni (which is  thicker/tougher-skinned and the fillings are dryer in comparison). It’s not the same as my homemade ravioli, but I’d probably pick up a baggie if it were late and I was in OMG-need-ravioli-now mode, because it’s pretty close.

Giovanni Rana fettuciniThe pesto sauce has been my favorite so far! What is not to love about pesto in the winter? It’s rich, but also bright! Albany John mixed some sweet onions and garlic with the pesto and tossed it with their Fettuccine, which, okay, I was really jealous about because this is the thickness and width that I want my homemade pasta to be, but for some reason I just can’t get it like this.

The pesto sauce is going to be the sauce one lucky reader gets to try! (And you have to tell me what you thought 😉 ) For some reason I kept thinking that this would make an awesome/impressive kind of Valentine’s day dinner if you didn’t want to go out to eat, weren’t the most confident in your kitchen skills, but wanted something satisfying for you and your dinner date. Wow, that is kind of oddly specific. Or maybe pesto just makes me all sorts of mushy and romantic.

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Okay, so you know what the marinara sauce is good for? Can you guess? It’s another one of my loves.

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Yes, pizza! Haha! Shape this baby into a heart and now you’ve got my Valentine’s day attention. I made Kenji’s Foolproof Pan Pizza dough from the Pizza Lab at Serious Eats, and I totally forgot to make a pizza sauce! Ahhh! And Albany John is not as much a fan of white pizzas as I am. I was scouring my pantries and fridge to see what I could come up with in a pinch, and… sweet! I was gonna repurpose this marinara sauce! It’s got sun-dried tomatoes in the sauce, so there’s a little sweetness in there, and since it’s in a plastic container there’s no tinniness to it. It’s a bit on the thick side, so if I were going to use it with pasta, I’d probably reserve some of the cooking water to thin it out a bit.

The dough above is in a 10″ cast iron pan, and I used about 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce.

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It was a kalamata olive pizza kind of night in our house. DSCF5300

Baked! The sauce was a nice supporting character in the pizza play that went into my mouth. Overall, I think I’m not so much a pan-pizza kind of gal, preferring thin crusts over thick and poofy ones, although this one was not the least bit dense, even though I subbed in about a half cup of whole wheat flour. DSCF5308
Interior shot of the pizza – the hole structure in the dough made for a soft and pliable crust. The bottom of the crust crisped up nicely. Cooked in a cast iron, this was like a grown up Pizza Hut pie. I think it would be even better rolled out thinly and tossed on a stone, though, if you’re more into thin crusts like I am.

So, would you like to try some of Giovanni Rana’s pastas and a pesto sauce? If so, why don’t you leave a comment and tell me what your plans are for Valentine’s day.
I’ll start: Going to an anti-Valentine’s day celebration of some sort: show your love every day, not just one day a year!

(US entries only, comments close Wednesday, February 6th)

Petta’s

I’m trying to search out more restaurants in Schenectady, so Albany John and I went dinner at Petta’s in Schenectady with Phairhead & Sexy Beast. Yay date night!
Don’t even ask me how many slices of bread I had. Ok, I had 6. Tasty stuff. The service was great – our waiter was friendly and knew his stuff. The decor itself is 50s recreation room. Kitchy.
Dinners come with salad or soup. I got the chicken soup to start, which was a bit heavy on the grease. Probably wouldn’t get it again.
Albany John went with a salad, which had comically large slices of celery, but was overall a nice starter salad because everything else was bite-sized.
For dinner I ordered the veal cutlet sorrentino. Great fry-job on the eggplant. The bottom was veal cutlet, and the top were thin eggplant slices. I wasn’t so crazy about the sauce – it was a little sharp for me and had some metallic finish going on. I got a side of linguine – s’okay.

Albany John got veal oreganata with a ton of sliced mushrooms. Loved those mushrooms. It was okay, too.
Sexy Beast got the prime rib – this was the SMALL 12 oz steak. GET THE STEAKS, GET THE STEAKS, GET THE STEAKS. This was perfectly cooked (med rare as requested) and so deliciously savory. Soft & buttery. The au jus was perfect – incredibly savory – not at all watery or weak. This was a beefy dish in every sense of the word. Phairhead and I stole Sexy Beast’s cast off fat bits (who throws those away?!)
Phairhead got the lasagna – I’m glad I didn’t. Fennel all up in that sausage! But good for a fennel lover.

I’m probably going to pass on the pasta dishes at Petta’s the next time I go, but I am ALL OVER that steak section!

Mezza Note – Guilderland Restaurant Week

Daniel B., Crunchy Chelle, and I went out to Mezza Note for their restaurant week menu. Yes, I’m again way late to the party since Guilderland Restaurant Week is so long gone. First off, Crunchy Chelle is so fun to meet in person! And her and Daniel B. are so nice to put up with my late-arriving self.

Bread + olive oil & vinegar. Nom. Really good. And olive tapenade! I want a bucket of it. So good.
I went with the Chestnut & Winter Squash Gnocchi with buttery sage sauce for my primi dish. It was ok, but a poor selection on my part. It was well executed, but I am just not a sweet appetizer kind of gal. The Profussor ordered the exact same dishes that I did. I’m assuming this was so one of my errant forks didn’t find its way onto his plate like it usually does (which, as you can imagine, he loves).

Our waiter, who really reminded me of a young Christopher Walken, noted my lightly-nibbled plate and apologized for me not liking it. It was nice, I suppose.

Albany John got the meatball soup. The meatballs were a little tough, but they were small, so it’s not too surprising. The flavors were great, though. Hearty and well-rounded.
And now my pictures sux0rz. Sorry. Chelle got the Saratoga chips with cheese crumbles.
For his salad course, Albany John got the mixed green salad. S’okay.
I got the Caesar salad, which was really well-dressed (light), and came with anchovies! Yum! So good!
Albany John’s main was the Siciliana. Rigatoni with spicy sausage and eggplant in pomodoro sauce. I thought this would be boring, but the flavors were fun and played off of each other well. Warm & hearty without being greasy & heavy.
Chelle got a rabbit pasta, although she thought it didn’t taste discernibly rabbity.
Profuss & I got the Trota Picatta atop lemon risotto. While I’m not a risotto fan, I do love trout. I actually enjoyed some of this risotto, and ate a good 1/3 of it! The trout was perfectly cooked.
Although, just being a teensy bit picky, the skin wasn’t crispy, and a textural difference would have been quite enjoyable. However, fish skin in any form is enjoyable by yours truly, so even soggy fish skin is quite welcome in my book.
Our waiter told us that the tiramisu was made in-house by the owner and was really worth trying. The creamy parts were light & tasty, but this was more of a tiramisu cake than a true tiramisu. The layers were fluffy cake-like layers (if they weren’t cake) and only lightly sprinkled with liqueur. It was kind of like angel food cake with tiramisu cream. Not something I’d get again if I were hankering for tiramisu.

The service was enjoyable, but I’m not sure if the food was enough to draw me back at non-restaurant week prices.

Daniel B. and I were still a bit hungry after we left, so we went to TCBY for fro-yo. I picked white chocolate, which was really chemically-tasting and artificial. My topping choices weren’t much better. Def stick with the original/unflavored yogurt flavor, or a sorbet.

Forno Bistro

Forno Bistro is an Italian-American restaurant in Saratoga Springs, NY. Don’t go there hungry. The bar is nice, though. I’d go back for drinks at the bar.


They’re a step up from Olive Garden and chain restaurants, but after my dinner tonight, I don’t really see myself wanting to go back again. I went with a few other folks. The pleasant was that they split our checks without us asking. They added in an auto grat. The service wasn’t terrible, but our server actively stayed away from our table and took a while to refill drinks – seemed more interested in padding the bill. One of our dining companions also had a food allergy, mentioned it to the server, and the dish came out with the problem food still on it. Who’s expo-ing? They gave the diner a little bit of sorbet while waiting for the requested dish to come out, but our server pretty much disappeared after that. I’d just rather have a server interested in my dining experience instead of how much their 18% auto grat is going to be.
The server also pushed signing up for their free dining club card and mentioned we’d get 10% off of all of our bills that night. We didn’t see anything off of our receipts when we paid, and when we asked out of curiosity the server mentioned that it was money that would go back on the dining card to be used as dining points at Forno at a later date. This was kind of annoying because being told we’d receive 10% off of our meals is way different than “10% of your meal is going to be added to this card that you can use eventually when you dine here and spend enough money”. It’s just a matter of goodwill – if your servers are telling diners one thing to get bonuses because they had people sign up for the dining card (I’m not sure if that’s the case at Forno, but in many other models, this is commonplace), and diners find out what they were told wasn’t exactly correct, it doesn’t exactly leave a stellar impression of your business. Do you want people to leave thinking “Wow, that was a great night!” or “That was nice, but…”

Ok, so, on to food:
Bread – there was one slice of bread per diner. They have olive oil and vinegar at the table, which was tasty, but I could have used more bread. Further requests for bread were ignored.Which was kind of a bummer, because my main would have benefitted with some bread. The bread itself wasn’t too bad. One of those par-cooked loaves that the kitchen finishes. In my FOH days, I quite enjoyed snacking on those types of bread.


I got an eggplant parm ($15). I like eggplant parmesan when I dine out because it is a royal pain to make at home – so much frying and THEN baking. The eggplant came in a rectangular dish (Il Forno has a fire oven they bake a lot of their food stuffs in). It was okay, but the eggplant parm I make at home is better. The eggplant slices were unbreaded and the whole dish was uniformly smooth and one texture. Mozzarella cheese, eggplant… it was all one mushy texture. I went to dinner hungry, and left not really full.

Albany John got a fra diavolo dish which was not at all spicy. It was okay as a pasta dish, but a few flakes of chili would have been nice. Something to add some heat to a diavolo dish.

Oh, so I liked the bartenders because they had a pretty humorous personality. I saw a liquor I liked and asked for them for a cocktail using it. That was met with the equivalent of a “Hunh, wuh? Um, okay…”, so I pretty much just looked at their bar and was like “Okay, add this, this, this, this, this, and this” because if I’m going to pay for a drink, I want it to be a tasty one and not a science experiment. But the bartender played it off well and was like “Hey, special drink I just came up with for you.” when he gave it to me. It made me smile. I’m glad I could think up a tasty drink on the fly, but my mixologist days are over. Sometimes it’s nice to just stop in a bar and be like “I like XYZ. Work your magic and do something with that.”


So. Overall, not a bad night, but just a “Meh Saratoga Yuppie” dining experience. I think I’mma have to check out some of Phairhead’s rockin’ Italian joints in Schenectady.

Saratoga Wine, Food, & Ferrari Festival 2011

Yesterday I went to the Saratoga Wine, Food, & Ferrari Festival. I attended last year as part of a live blogging to do. This year was a lovely day to attend – great weather.
Albany John was wonderful enough to accompany me to take all of these great photos.

Albany John got a kick out of seeing a little red set of luggage come out of the boot of one of the vintage cars.

This was my favorite table – truffle cheese! So good, even Albany John liked it! And it turns out that Daniel B. sort of had a connection with the owners!
Hudson Valley Whiskey. Here’s one of the very nice owners adding a touch of water to my single malt whiskey.
Putnam’s chef making sure everything was all set with their dish before the masses came. ‘Twas a lovely pork loin seared right there, with a side of baked beans and a lovely reduction.
Oh, there was also wine. Lots and lots of wine. You pick up a glass when you first walk in, and then refill it and rinse it out throughout the day.
One of the chefs at Prime’s table. Their presentation was one of the best, if not the best, of the whole event. They are really into their details, and it shows.
Salad toppings mise. I believe this was at Maestro’s table. This was Jacob & Anthony’s American Grille, part of Marrello Restaurants & Catering.
Salads – all done! Great combo – roasted golden beets are always a win for me.

Back to Putnam’s table for dessert. An apple tart with caramel sauce and whipped cream. Both toppings made by them. That caramel was so rich and moreish. Mmm.

Ducky, duck, duck, duck! Duck with apple shreds, and it looks like a bit of brie. These tasted great, but the bread was a little tough/oily by the time it reached my mouth. I think a little bowl of the other ingredients sans bread would have been even more spectacular.

Smoked salmon cakes from Sperry’s table. Lots of shmoozing going on at this table. SWFF2011 was a great time for people watching.

Marche had shrimp and grits. I loved the grits. Shrimp were a little gummy.
Dessert cups from Jacob & Anthony’s table. Loved the presentation. The long sticks in the cups are actually spoons.
Albany John came up to me at one point and says:
“The artichokes at Chianti’s are THE BEST thing I’ve eaten here. Have you tried them?”

They were awesome. Not too oily, and quite fresh. Mmm, grilled artichokes.

Veal shortrib over celeriac puree at the Prime table.
But their shell pasta with arugula pesto was the real standout. SO refreshing and filling and tasty! I was lucky enough to meet Doc Sconz in the flesh, and I think this would fit the Slow Food movement’s “cheap & good” category quite well.
And then we saw this. Porchetta. It looked kind of like a gigantic porky empanada. It was being slow roasted by the folks from Chianti for the after party.
I was so happy to be going to the after party. Evidently such porky wonderfulness is stuffed with herbs and let to sit and have the flavors mingle for a few days. Then they cover it with skin and bake or roast it on a spit.
By 4:30 it was time to bid my porky love a goodbye and kick it around Saratoga for a few hours before the after party Aperitivo at 7 pm.
When we came back, we were greeted with quite the array of food. Meat cup. MEAT CUP! The prosciutto was great.
Grilled veggies – asparagus was so good!
Grilled chicken – so moist & juicy!
They were roasting potatoes on the grill. Albany John says he does not like the color composition of this picture, but really liked getting the salt sprinkling action.
SHRIMP. Grilled and large. YAS PLZ.

Okay, so I know it was a wine festival, but the most favorite and delicious thing I tried all night was Cabin Fever maple whiskey. I’m usually not a whiskey gal (I lean more on the bourbon side), but oh, this was like a deliciously maple-y nectar of yum.

AND THEN IT WAS TIME TO CUT INTO THE PORK ON A SPIT!
And they gave some samples to the people crowded around the pork. Such a thing of glory.
I love you, oh crispy, crackly pork skin. So perfect and good.

Shortrib Ragu

Beef Shortrib Ragu’ll cure your winter blues. And if you don’t have winter blues, it’ll make you feel as cozy as a bug. Definitely stick-to-ya-ribs stuff.

I popped 2-3 lbs of beef shortibs into a crock pot with some diced onions, whole cloves of garlic (like, a head in total – garlic cooks up so sweet and mellow. It’s hard to believe it’s so bracing raw) several cans of tomatoes, and some oregano and fresh basil.

Later in the day, I made whole wheat pappardelle.
1 C semolina Flour
2/3 C whole wheat flour

1/3 C AP or Bread flour (I only had high-gluten bread flour on hand)
2 whole eggs
1/4 c olive oil
a few T of water.

Mix them all together, adding some water here and there if the dough is tough and crumbly. Then let it sit for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Crock pot! Ugly picture! My shortribs weren’t falling apart and dissolving into nothingness after being crock potted for hours on end, so Albany John shredded ’em for me. Worked like a charm.

I also remembered I had some hard cheese rinds (parmesan, romano) in the freezer, and tossed those in for good measure. A delicious tip I gleaned from the Profussor. So chewy and melty, and cheesey, and probably not good for you.

The beef shortrib ragu I was gunning for had morphed into something more like a stew. Either way, it was great over pasta, mashed potatoes, and rice. 2.5 lbs of beef short ribs is also kind of a lot for two people (even with bones), so we’ve been happily picking away at this for a few days.

Oh, and that pappardelle was awesome. I figured it would have that dreaded “Whole Wheat Bite”. You know – like when you eat it and all you taste is heaviness, brown, and meh?
There was a bit of bounce to the noodles, and they just had a subtle nutty-wheat flavor to them, along with speckles of color. I am so making these again. Totally not boring whole wheat papardelle noodles. Oh, and they were only pappardelle because I used that roller to cut them out with. These could have easily been whole wheat linguine/fettucine noodles, too. Or spaghetti. Or ravioli.

Via Fresca & The Ruck – A Day of Tasty Things


I met up with Daniel B. for lunch at Via Fresca the other day. I was having one of those days where I just could not get full and was perma-hungry, so I was all “DAAAAN! LUUUUNNNCCHH! PAAHHHLEEAASSEEE!”. He kindly obliged, and you can see him checking in on Yelp or AoA or somesuch like that.

We split a meatball sub and a broccoli rabe & provalone panini. He declared the meatballs the best he’s had in Albany. They were veal (ahh, love!) and very tender. Not the least bit dense. Slathered in a good amount of sauce and mozzarella cheese. Even the sub was nicely toasted.

The broccoli rabe panini was not my favorite out of all of their paninis, but Dan also declared a fondness for it as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was perfectly executed, but oh man how can a plain ol’ veggie panini compare to their meatier and heftier ones? (Geeze, can you tell I was in eat-like-a-monster mode?)

I love, love, love their breads. Always so fresh, with just the right amount of soft innard and crusty exterior. It kills me when people in Guilderland pass up Via Fresca for subs. Usually, they think it’s too “fancy”, but I try to convince them that it’s okay, yes, “fancy” if you mean “good ingredients, but price-wise, it’s not bad either. They’re around $7.50 for most sandwiches, and the size of my freaking arm.

Mini cannoli are $1.55 each. I had two and could have probably eaten an entire sleeve more. So creamy and good, and cannoli are filled to order. Love it.
Lunch would have been somewhere in the $20 range, but I had an Entertainment coupon to use up ($7 off, yeah!), so it was only around $13 total for us.

Monday and Wednesday nights at The Ruck are wing nights. And by golly, nothing follows a lunch at Via Fresca like wings at The Ruck for dinner. $0.40 wings, or $4 orders of 10 wings that usually cost $7. Almost half-price! And the drink prices aren’t bad either. Happy hour runs 5-7, and then Wing Night starts following happy hour.


It was busy when we went, because who can resist the call of cheap, delicious wings? An order each of BBQ and medium. The medium wings still have a good amount of kick to them, but I managed to make my way through a good amount of them.
I can definitely see the allure of medium AND BBQ sauce on a wing together.

And guess what? I think I came close to eating 10 whole wings! I love wings, but I tend to bitch out pretty early and get full when I order them out. But Albany John loves it because he knows that if I get wings, it means he gets wings, too.

I can’t put my tastebuds just on it, but their house-made blue cheese dressing has some non-traditional seasonings in it. Or maybe lots of mayo. At times it tastes vaguely like there’s a hint of Ranch dressing in there. I don’t know. I’m a ranch-hater, so whenver I think I taste ranch in it, I’ll just focus on the blue.

OCNY Wedding

Sistah woke me up with a phone call on Saturday morning.

“Yo, when are you getting here?”

“Why the fuck are you calling me this early?”

“What are you talking about? When are you leaving?”

“Oh, shit. Sorry. I thought it was a half hour earlier than it was. Never mind. I’m getting ready. I’ll be there by like 1:30.”

And there began my graceful trek to my homeland down state for my girlfriend’s wedding reception. Thank god for Sistah calling me and waking my ass up. It figures the one time I’d oversleep would be on the same day I had to be down state for a reception. I’m sure drinks the night before at Ryan’s Wake did nothing to help (man, on another note, I hadn’t been out to a bar in a WHILE before that).

The bride and groom were married in a small ceremony just about a month ago. I went down for the bachelorette party, and man, this is the way to do a wedding. Seriously, if anyone wants me to be there for their hen night and reception, I’m totally down.

The reception was super casual, and held in a local fire house. I was expecting a moderately casual affair, but her family is full-blooded Italian and there was a spread of food and drinks the likes of which made me want to flip cartwheels.


Oooh, tasty salad and tortellini in creamy ham sauce.

Dear. Goodness. Two trays of everything. And everything was AMAZING. I was expecting your usual deli spread of so-so sauced and cheesed foods for a party and was happily surprised with what tasted like home cooking.

DO YOU SEE THE SIZE OF THAT SANDWICH???? It was huge. Ham, sweet cappicola, prosciutto, hot cappy, greenery. Oh my gosh, that was the sandwich of my dreams. Albany John had trouble eating his in whole bite, but said I looked like a snake eating prey. Mouth, make room. Sandwich comin’ at ya!

And that fava bean salad? Ohhh, that fava bean salad.

Best of all was the cheesy slurry of sauce. I thought it was eggplant parm, but no… eggplant rollatini. I am in need of eggplant rollatini now. Like, in a bad way. Ricotta, sauce, eggplant, mozzarella. Yes, sign me right the F up.

Oh, dudes, and there were meatballs that were super soft and fluffy. Totally awesome balls of meat. Not too heavy or anything, but still meaty.


Her grandfather MADE THIS CAKE. Like, just the night before, he made the cake. Are you kidding me? He used to work in a bakery, but still – how much love was this? Poppy made the cake for his granddaughter’s wedding? Better than anything you can buy.


Her family was a trip. They totally lived up to the huge Italian family stereotype. She wasn’t kidding. Before she was like “Yeah, this is going to be like 90% my family. I have a ton.” Her hubby is in the military, so he had a handful of friends and his mom come, and the rest were pretty much her family.
Her mom was in frantic Mother of the Bride mode, making sure everything was perfect. And then after her mom would organize and straighten food that was already perfect, her grandparents would walk past and do another straightening.


They also had matching beer coozies. Super cute.


Cake cutting time! I was really looking forward to this one. They had a cute and short speech. The groom initially thanked everyone for joining them in their “captivity”. Haha, whoops, he meant “join in their festivities”.

They smashed cake in their faces. Girlie looked like a smurf when he was done. Haha. Don’t think you can out cake-smush a guy in the military!

Needless to say, grandpa’s wedding cake was awesome. Tender and moist at the same time, and the pastry custard fillings were also a smash.