Sunday, February 27, 2011

Villa Valenti Restaurant & Wedding Catering Review

Being a wedding disc jockey by trade, people ask me from time to time, what I recommend for venues and catering. They all seem to want homestyle quality with down-to-earth prices and good people who pay attention to fine detail. I think Villa Valenti’s could be the right answer for your wedding.

The restaurant is fantastic and their catering is, too. If you really want the Italian wedding feel for your reception, or are just looking for the right place for your rehearsal dinner, I would definitely give them a call. And the best thing about booking Villa Valenti is you are not going in blind. You can check them out any day of the week.

The Albany area’s premier Italian restaurant, bar none, is Villa Valenti’s in on West Sand Lake Road in Wynantskill. The Villa Valenti Restaurant has spent over 50 years perfecting a home-style experience for their huge list of regular clientele. The atmosphere is perfect to bring your special someone out for a great dining experience. Just on the outskirts of Troy, NY, you get a nice woodsy country backdrop, without the drive. Inside, the comfy booths and tables, a classy and friendly bar, and their small banquet room fit for fifty make Valenti’s a place you will want to go back to again and again.

The service is phenomenal. Drinks are always full and the staff checks on you regularly. One of the waitresses has been there so long, like almost twenty years, and she says she feels like she is part of the Valenti’s family. This restaurant has a way of doing that. They start you off with their signature “well-worth-the-carbs” warm baked oven rolls and home-made Italian bread sticks with a savory garlic olive oil dip.

After you decide on an appetizer like tender Braciole, zesty brushetta or mouth-watering fried calamari, you have to also remember that Villa Valenti’s salad bar is waiting in the wings. Save room. Valenti’s famous salad bar, with fresh garden ingredients, pasta salads, and my favorite sautéed mushrooms, is meal-worthy in itself.

Known for their prize-winning homemade sauce (now available at select grocers like Hannaford), you also have to save space in your stomach for pasta. Their pasta selection includes their patented own Angel Hair pasta made on the premises, as well as delectable Fettucini, Linguine, Tortellini, Cavatelli Satchitine, and Gnocchi.

Are you hungry? We haven’t even discussed the massive menu. The choices are endless. Whether you are in the mood for a great chicken eggplant, or veal parm, the best Rollatini on earth, or a hearty lasagna that can’t be beat, Villa Valenti’s serves all the Italian traditions at mastery level and beyond. And that’s not all, Valenti’s also has a great seafood selection, a huge veal dish selection, and arguably the best prime rib in the Capital District, weighing in at a whopping 20 ounces of scrumptiousness.

I have never been very good at physics. The dessert is great I hear, but to be honest, with the enormous dinner portions and salad bar, I never get to even think about trying their Sicilian Canoli, Tiramisu, or a slice of homemade cheesecake. Maybe one day.

We go there every chance we get. It really is an enjoyable experience everytime and can also be a lot of fun.

They have a neat little birthday promotion where you get a free meal during the week with the purchase of another meal! Now tell me, who does something in today's economy like this anymore?!

Without hesitation I recommend Villa Valenti. Two thumbs up. "Molto Bene!"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Irish Theme Wedding Ideas, Traditions & Song List

With Saint Patrick's sneaking up on us, an Irish theme wedding is a perfect way to make your wedding stick out and me memorable to all the guests attending.

An Irish Theme Wedding additionally celebrates your heritage and Irish culture, and is a great way to start your marriage.

There are many things you can incorporate into your special day. Irish traditions can be fused into your decor, ceremony, clothing, food and also reception activities.

First off, the look of the reception hall is everything. When you purchase decorations, it s easy to go with anything Saint Patrick’s day, but I would stay away from the over-the-top cartoony stuff. You can get away with some of it, perhaps at the reception, if you absolutely want to go with leprechans and pots of gold, but you really shouldn’t have them at the ceremony. Those type of decorations can make your wedding look cheap.

CELTIC WEDDING TRADITIONSThe traditional Irish Wedding Bell - A hand held Irish Wedding bell is sounded by the new husband immediately after the ceremony. This bell is not forgotten and left behind at the ceremony as a decoration, however. It accompanies the new couple to their home as a momento of their vows. In fact, whenevertheir is an argument, it is supposed to be rung to remind the couple of their wedding vows. For a modern Irish wedding. small bells could be distributed to your guests to ring after the ceremony, much like the throwing of rice.

Gun Fire – If you really want to start your married life out wth a bang, another Celtic tradition is for rifles to be fired to announce that the couple as man and wife.

The Lucky Horseshoe - The brides bouquet can hold a horseshoe inside it, as tradition. Just make sure to remove it before the flower toss. Some women also sew a small horseshoe into the hem of their wedding dress in Irish weddings.

CLOTHINGThe Harvest Knot – Many years ago, the men of Ireland gave their brides-to-be an accessory called harvest knots which were weavings of straw. Usually, a Harvest Knot is trimmed with flowers and worn in their hair or around your neck. You can put a harvest knot also in the flower bouquet along with the lucky horseshoe to symbolize Irish pride.

Adding Irish Lace - A great way add Irish to your wedding attire is to mix in some Irish lace. Authentic Irish Lace is always loaded with intricate patterns and great quality. You can add lace to the veil to really bring the Irish out.

FOODThe Dinner – The way that the wedding guests would feast in celebration, back in old Ireland was to have a potluck meal hosted at the bride’s family’s house. Traditional Irish dishes include coddle, stew soda, Irish bread, and of course everyone loves corn beef and cabbage.

The Wedding Cake - The Irish wedding cake is typically a heavy fruit cake with white icing. Tradition says that one of the bride’s sisters or bridesmaids is actually the one to cut and serve it. But they location of the actual cut is the strangest part of this cake cutting custom. Tradition actually has the bride seated while the groomsmen held the cake over her head while her sister or best friend cut it.

MUSICIrish Bag Pipes - Rock out at your ceremony or for your introduction into the reception hall with the belting melody of the Irish pipes. Although bagpipes have Celtic roots, they are often today played by the Scottish. However, with a little research, you can find a real Irish uillean piper play at your wedding.

Celtic music can be played wherever appropriate during the ceremony and reception, as there are many varieties. I particularly recommend Celtic harp music for the ceremony for the atmosphere it sets. There are many CDs on Amazon, if you are not having a live band or musician.

Reception Dancing - Learn and perform a real Irish jig to traditional Irish music at the reception. The actual steps of Irish folkdances are called ceilidh.

Here is a good playlist of must hear Irish songs for your wedding reception:
Andres Segovia – Henry Purcell
A 12 Year Old Irish Girl In All Of Us – Flogging Molly
A Walk in Irish Rain – Irish Descendants
Ave Maria (Schubert) – The Irish Tenors
Barrett’s Privateers – Irish Descendants
Black Velvet Band – Irish Rovers
Catch The Wind (Folk) – Irish Descendants
Come on Eileen Dexie’s – Midnight Runners
Danny Boy – The Irish Tenors
Dublin in the Rare Old Times - Three Irish Tenors
Farewell To Nova Scotia – Irish Rovers
Give Ireland Back To The Irish – Paul McCartney
Haste to The Wedding (Celtic) - The Corrs
I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen – Three Irish Tenors
Irish Heartbeat – Van Morrison & The Chieftans
Irish Jig – Various Artists
Irish Medley – Dixie Chicks
Jump Around – House of Pain
Mother Machree – John Gary
Old Irish Blessing - Sprague Choir
Peg O My Heart - Jerry Vale
Riverdance Soundtrack - Irish Diddy
Shipping Off To Boston – Dropkick Murphies
The Biplane Evermore - Irish Rovers
The Irish Washerwoman – Celtic Bagpipes
Tim Finnegan’s Wake – Celtic Connection
Toora-Loora-Looral Three – Irish Tenors
Traditional Irish Folk Song – Dennis Leary
Unicorn - Irish Rovers
Waltzing Matilda – The Irish Rovers
Wasn’t that a party – Irish Rovers
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling – Bing Crosby
Wild Irish Rose – Country George Jones

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Lithuanian Love Coin Wedding Tradition

I was the wedding disc jockey for a young couple of Lithuanian descent, about a month ago in Albany, NY, I can understand why their guests decided to shower them with money, because they were good people, but something just seemed a little odd. The cash gifts were not in cards at the gift table, but rather people showering the dance floor ...with coins!

As the first dance came to an end, the wedding party began to pour loads of silver dollars, quarters, and some smaller coins, around the dance floor corners. When the newlyweds finally made their exit, the guests hopped to it. They frantically picked up the coins and ran them over, one-by-one to a tall clear vase on the head table. Eventually, one person found and raised a specially marked coin in the air and demanded his dance with the bride.

I did my research and learned that the Lithuanian love coin wedding tradition idea originated from a 1500's Lithuanian town legend that would later resurface as a fad in the 1800's. Here is what our Disc Jockeys at could find about the original story that transformed into the wedding tradition we have today:

Back in a small Lithuanian village in the 1500's, a young man did not have enough money to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. At that point with their country involved in one of the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars, most men didn't have much money and had to be creative. What this man chose to do to profess his undying love, was to provide his bride-to-be with a personalized gift. He took a coin and spent many hours cleaning it, sanding it, and overall, turning it into a piece of beautiful art. When he was finished, one side now had a beautiful dove and both of their initials. When he presented this treasure to his lady and proposed, she of course said "yes." But the ceremony was, unfortunately, not to happen anytime soon. Soon after the proposal, the man was drafted off to war and would not able to first marry his true love for another ten years.

In the meantime, she waited and waited. As a symbol of their love, she treasured the coin and kissed it every night before bed, awaiting his return. One night, however, thieves broke into her house and stole her few valuables and put the coin in a bag. The girl awoke the next morning and was heartbroken.

Finally after ten years, the man returned to his home town as a hero. He found that his bride-to-be had waited eagerly and was very elated with his return, but very sad to confess the loss of the coin he had made for her. The man comforted her and decided to waste no more time. They planned their wedding for the weekend. The next day, the entire village passed word of the news. Come the weekend, it seemed that everybody came to what would have been a small wedding ceremony to show thanks to the man who fought so bravely for them for many years.

The guests felt badly, however, when no rings were exchanged during the ceremony and realized that the couple had no money. They learned that the wife had recently been robbed and decided to do something about it.

Between the ceremony and the reception, the villagers ran home. When they returned to the reception, they brought with them lots of food and presents in thanks to their war hero. When word got out during the first dance that their precious love coin had been stolen less than a year before his return, the villagers emptied their pockets and coin jugs onto the floor as gifts to the new husband and wife and everyone searched for the love coin, to see if the coin had since been re-circulated.

In the end the coin was, in fact, found and the couple lived happily ever after.

Today, some Lituaninas re-live this beautiful love story, in memory of this couple and the good people of the village. The guests bring loads of silver dollars, half dollars and quarters to weddings and throw them all over the dance floor. One of the coins is marked with bride and groom's initials. At the end of the first dance, the wedding party collect all of the coins for the newly weds and fill a clear vase, and the lucky person who finds the "love coin" gets a special dance immediately with either the bride or groom for their find.

LOVE COINS - If you are considering doing this tradition at your reception, you can make your very own Lituanian love coin, buy a hobo nickel, or you can try to find a vintage one with their initials on it. There are many vintage ones on! Check it out!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Asian-Fusion, Japanese & Chinese Theme Wedding

Over the weekend at the Holiday Inn in Albany, I was the disc jockey for a real fun, high-end, Asian-fusion Themed Sweet Sixteen Party. The party was formal, and also much like an Japanese-American themed Wedding I did recently, so I thought I would throw down some ideas to help others who are thinking about a theme for their special event.

Anyhow, it could be difficult and limiting to isolate your event to just Chinese or Japanese culture, since they themselves draw from so many inspirations. The modern Japanese writing system itself uses three main scripts, and one of them, Kanji, is basically made up entirely from Chinese characters/letters. Since here in the west, we often group eastern ideas and cultures together, it may be interesting to have an Asian-Fusion Theme, so you can incorporate all the fun.

It’s okay to be different. The birthday girl at the party I did was an African-American. If you love sushi and/or Chinese food and have a huge passion for the East, who says that you can’t have an Asian-themed wedding? If you are thinking of changing things up a bit for your wedding, it doesn’t matter if the bride or groom has Oriental roots or not, it really doesn’t matter. America is about diversity. How many theme parties have you been to where the hosts actually fit the mold in their daily lives, anyhow?

For the actually wedding ceremony, there are many different eastern traditions that can easily be researched. One interesting one has the bride and groom entering the room from opposite sides and symbolically walking together. Guests then wave paper streamers over the couple's heads for purification to keep evil spirits at away. After exchanging vows, the bride and groom each drink a symbolic glass of sake. Finally, they trade glasses nine times to symbolize their new bond.

BRIDE DRESS- Typically, a bride in Japan wears a white silk kimono that can cost over $20,000, but you can get something much cheaper here in the states, or even have something made. The fun part for the bride in Japan is that she gets to act like Lady Gaga at an award ceremony all night. Normally, the Japanese bride changes into up to five different kimonos throughout the wedding day.

Japanese brides often wear a traditional Japanese wig as part of their regalia. These wigs are very fancy and decorated in golden barrettes, pearls, and beautiful artificial flowers,

GROOM CLOTHING- On the other side of the ying yang, a Japanese groom wears all black. A “haori” on the top and a “hakama” on the bottom are the official terms of the traditional matrimonial garb.

DRESS CODE - The wedding party also dresses in kimonos, usually in a color chosen by the bride. Depending on the atmosphere you are looking for, you may want to encourage fun eastern attire from the guests as well. Warning… be forewarned that Uncle Charlie could probably show up as a ninja.

The reception is where you can really pull in the Asian-Fusion theme. There are so many options with this that there is no excuse if you fall short.

ARRIVAL – Though I will admit I have not seen this, coming in pulled on a hand-pulled rikshaw would kick some major bonsai!

DECORATIONS – There are so many options. Bonsai Tree centerpieces, Shoji paper lanterns with Japanese script, Chinese paper parasols, Lucky bamboo plants, Fancy sushi trays and dipping dishes, Cherry Blossoms, paper wall room dividers, hanging oil lanterns. Mini Sandy Zen gardens with tiny rakes. Polished river stones can act as paperweights for napkins.

PRINTING – For the invitations, print custom invitations on Japanese Fine artisan papers and make sure to include some Chinese or Japanese letters. You could also print programs on paper fans!

FAVORS - In Japan, a nickel is a beautiful cheap coin that has a hole in it. It is said to be good luck to wear this coin as a charm on a necklace. Therefore, why not give out Good Luck Japanese Nickel Necklaces? Also, every place setting could have a Lucky Red Takeout Box & Japanese Chopsticks, and Origami. You could also go with a keepsake Porcelain Chinese Takeout Box , Longevity Chopsticks in Silk Pouches, or even Personalized Japanese Wood Chopsticks. Also, fortune cookie with pre-printed fortunes, customized by the bride and groom would be a great hit!

DRINKS - Bowls of edamame beans at the bar, Sake, Wasabe Brew, green tea, or mango sodas.

APPETISERS – Sushi, sashimi, a full raw bar spread, dim sum, shrimp tempura, spring rolls, teriyaki or yakimore sticks and noodles dishes.

MAIN COURSE – Don’t even get me started.

No matter what you do, a theme wedding is the way to go. No one will forget! ...And do not be afraid to play Carl Douglas' "Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting" and The Vapors song "I'm Turning Japanese." You know you want to!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Karaoke at Your Wedding - Things to Think About

If you have a wedding coming up, you want it to be memorable. There are many different things you can do to make this happen, however, if you are looking at karaoke there are many things to think about.

If you are considering karaoke as an option for your wedding reception because your DJ offers it, you are most likely the type of bride and groom that really want a party-feel and really want your guests to have fun. You probably want to start of your marriage with something memorable. However, as Spidey once said, "with karaoke comes great responsibility." (- Or something like that.)

First off, if karaoke is you key attraction and agreed on by both the bride and groom, make sure your DJ has karaoke experience. This means a regular karaoke gig, with somekind of buzz, locally. While it is hard to exactly explain what it is that makes a DJ good at karaoke, in the eyes of his or her karaoke patrons, it probably has to with a combination of personality, organization and fast pacing.

Personality. It is something your karaoke DJ either has, or doesn't have. There are no lessons for this attribute. You cannot learn this. The only way to really judge this, however is to see them in living color. Ask to see them playing karaoke music at a public venue. The reason they may also get booked for a lot of weddings and sweet 16 birthday parties is by having potential customers come to public gigs and test them first. If they invite you, do it! You can see them in action, unannounced, uncensored and unknown. Then you can judge for yourself, without watching an edited video of only their best moments.

How do you know, if what you are seeing will translate well for you? They should be funny and fun and keep the party going, but not a spotlight hog themselves. (Some karaoke DJ's are unbooked musicians looking for an outlet to shine. Your wedding is not the place for this.) You don't need them to get on the mic and attempt stand up comedy. Your guests want to hear music, not speeches, but a little bit of quick mic work in the appropriate places after or before a strategic song can be classic. They should mix party DJ success with their karaoke, then they will do a great job at both for your reception.

Timing is everything. No dead air, is important. When it happens - PEOPLE CRINGE! Have you ever been on a dance floor and there is a space between songs? What do the dancers do? They either freeze and stand there like deer in headlights, or go and sit back in their seats. BOTH OF THESE OUTCOMES ARE NOT GOOD! Watch the DJ try their hardest to keep everything moving and leave no room to sleep for the karaoke audience.

Once you have chosen the right DJ who also has karaoke, consider these precautions.

1) SCHEDULED KARAOKE TIME - Timing is everything! I recommend only the last hour of the event, so your wedding reception does not become a karaoke concert. Not everyone likes karaoke, so limit it to either scheduled performances by a few key players, or open up say the very last hour. If you open it up for the entire reception, it will not be special and will become more annoying than anything else.

2) SET LIMITS - Do not allow multiple songs by one guest. Maybe one or two, but you do not want your wedding reception to become a crazy huge karaoke jam staring only one or two key players.

3) SCAN SONG SELECTION - Make sure your DJ runs all the songs by you, if they could be considered questionable. Some songs out there have ridiculous amounts of adult content and just are not right for a wedding. (HINT - if there is cursing, or a song by the 2 Live Crew, beware!)

So that's it. Karaoke can really be a blast, but be careful. If you are, it can really add to the final flavor and make it a great night for everyone!