restaurants, restaurants everywhere and not a drop to eat

This is what comes up if you Google "New York City food"

Weddings are a multi-headed beast. An awesome beast that can make you homemade pasta, drive stick shift and do your taxes, but, sometimes, a beast nonetheless. Once you start planning, you realize it's not just the date, venue and dress that you have to lock down, but lots of other things like room blocks and party favors and where to find 300 all-white puppies to gift to your guests. Not that I'm complaining (I mean, I LIVE for this, obviously), but it can feel like you're one of those circus performers spinning 100 plates when all the deadlines start to converge.

The current item on my checklist I'm tackling are the OTHER venues we need to book: rehearsal dinner and morning-after brunch. I know a lot of brides will eschew one or the other, but we have so many family members coming not just from across the country, but across the globe, that I really do want to spend as much time as possible with our nearest and dearest.

The problem when you both have fairly ginormous families? Who are your nearest and dearest? At this point, I know there will be people that we have to leave not only off our invite list for the wedding, but for these auxiliary events too. Let me take the time to say now that this is nothing personal: we just can't have three weddings. Well, except for a few of you, where it really is personal. Kidding. KIDDING.

Even after coming up with lists of guests with which we're reasonably happy, they're still pretty big numbers. Big enough that a fair amount of our favorite restaurants just laughed into the phone when I told them what kind of space we were looking for. But, onward and upward.

Artichoke Pizza, mon amour.

Our original plan was to host our rehearsal dinner at my favorite pizza spot, Artichoke, but the vacillation on the part of their events team (and I quote: "Would you maybe have your dinner at Avenue instead?") is making me a little nervous that two weeks before the wedding I'm gonna get a call saying that Jay Z has rented out the space for Baby Blue's 67th-week birthday but we're welcome to use the benches outside.

So, new plan: a private dining room so we don't have to shell out for a buy out and maybe, if we're lucky, a place that has already hosted a rehearsal dinner before. Insider tip: go with private dining rooms whenever possible. Buying out the restaurant means literally paying them as much as they would make if the restaurant were open, plus whatever number they want to throw on top of that. 

Asellina!

My top choice as of now is the very fun and centrally located Asellina. I will erase from my memory that it's inside the same hotel that hosted the Kardashians (for a few horrific months in the lives of celebrity journalists everywhere). Also! They have meatballs, which, if you know me, is a somewhat non-negotiable menu item.

As for our brunch: originally I was DEAD SET on the idea of having some crazy, molecular gastronomy event where we flew in Rene Redzepi and snorted lines of hay ash while individually cooking organic duck eggs. Mike, ever the voice of reason, tactfully reminded me that most guests will probably just want some a muffin and coffee before slogging out of Manhattan. I will admit there was resistance at first, but I have since come around to his point of view. Is this a first? Perhaps. As much as I want, sometimes manically so, for every part of the wedding "experience" to be unforgettable, it is always wise to keep reality in at least the background of your mind.

The National

That being said, there are plenty of fun places in NYC that hosts somewhat more digestible (no pun intended) brunches that won't send non-foodies running. Our final pick? The National at the Benjamin Hotel in Midtown. For the gastronomes: the chef is silver fox Geoffrey Zakarian, who won The Next Iron Chef. For the pancake ... nomes: you can pronounce every dish on the menu and it tastes good.

Anyone have any great suggestions for other rehearsal dinner spaces? Leave them in the comments!

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