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Dinner at Arlecchino

13 Oct

Last week I went out to dinner with some folks to this amazing restaurant in McMurray (Peter’s Township), Arlecchino.  My cousin had invited me here over a year ago but then we ended up cancelling our plans and I’d wanted to go ever since she mentioned it.  This place is in an old, converted school house.  It’s not very big and even on a weeknight I’d probably recommend reservations.

The staff is very courteous and seemed to know when to pay attention and when to leave us alone.  The menu was amazing and the portions are very large.  They get in their meat and produce daily so know everything is fresh.  They also modify the menu each day depending on what they get in I think!

So to start, they bring out a salad for the table to share.  It had roasted beets and many other good things in it and was lightly dressed, it was perfect.  They also bring out their bread and some “holy oil” (which is infused oil for dipping).  After the salad, out came some pasta with a vodka sauce.  They also brought out a hot pepper oil if you want to add that to the pasta.  A little went a long way, but it did add a little kick to the pasta and was really good!

After all of that food, out came our meals.  I really only remember what I got, but I know there was a pork dish, a veal chop and a fish dish around the table, here are some pics of their meals…

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I did get to taste each of these and they were all fantastic.  Everything was very fresh and cooked perfectly.  As for me, I ordered the Cottoletta del Monzu.

IMG_0889This was three pieces of thin veal scallopini finished with fresh mozzarella, colossal lump crab, arugula, and toasted pine nuts.  It was so good, but there were two leftover pieces when I was done.  After the salad and the pasta who could blame me, this was huge!  The flavors in this blended perfectly and there was just enough cheese, not too much as sometimes happens when you go out for Italian.  I loved the addition of the arugula, it added something to the dish that I can’t quite explain, but I think it really brought the crab and the veal together.

And since it was still my birthday week, we got dessert.  We ordered a raspberry Tiramisu.

IMG_0893It was light and fluffy and awesome.  The topping reminded me of a burnt almond torte, it was nice and crunchy.  The filling was so fluffy it was a little like what I assume biting into a cloud would be like 🙂

Overall, I was super impressed with my meal.  This isn’t a place I’d go to all the time, it was pricey, but was also worth the money.  This may be one of my favorite places that I’ve been to since I’ve been back in Pittsburgh though, and I’ve been to some pretty amazing restaurants around town!

Arlecchino Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Park Bruges Restaurant Review

2 Oct

I went to Park Bruges in Highland Park for dinner tonight.  First of all, I love going to the Highland Park area.  There are so many pretty old homes there.  They are all in different states, some have been restored and others are still in a state of neglect, but overall, it’s a very pretty area.  And there are lots of really good restaurants there.  There is a Thai place that I like and E2 is there, which is really one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh and it’s super tiny and cute and run by hipsters.  I love it.

Anyway, on the Park Bruges, which is a french bistro style restaurant.  It  has a sister restaurant called Point Brugge Cafe in Point Breeze also.  My friend Jen and I had been trying to get here for a few months.  We tried one night, but the wait was horribly long for some reason so we ended up eating at E2 that night.  So I was really excited to try it.

I started with a beer, and being October I ordered a pumpkin beer.  I got the Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale.  It wasn’t too heavy on the pumpkin with a very subtle cinnamon and nutmeg flavor and a bit of a hoppy taste to it.  I’m rather sensitive to hops though, so for some of you, it may not seem very hoppy.  I really did enjoy it.

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We’d talked about their frites so many times that I couldn’t wait to try them.  We ordered the Poutine in the Montreal style, which came with Amish cheese curds and gravy.  Seriously, yum.  The fries were thin and crispy and they weren’t too heavy handed with the gravy.  Which was perfect.  Sometimes you get fries with gravy and you can barely taste the fries.  These were done very well and Jen and I enjoyed every last bite.

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For entree’s Jen opted for the Gemelli Pasta with peas, artichokes, asparagus, arugula and lemon herb ricotta.  She also got tofu with it.  It was very fresh and they put nutmeg in it.  Which was surprising and really tasty at the same time.  I had a bite and really liked it.  Jen’s only complaint was that the tofu was an afterthought and wasn’t really tossed with the dish but rather just placed on it.  I get that it’s an option, but I think it would have been better if it had been incorporated differently.  And the bread was so good.  I love a good, crusty piece of french bread.  Especially since I’ve been eating sprouted wheat bread at home lately.

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I really debated about what I should order.  I really wanted the PEI mussels when I arrived, but there was also this scallop dish that sounded good.  I asked our server what she’d suggest and she said that they’d always have the mussels but the scallops wouldn’t be there forever.  So, I went with the scallops with an Israeli couscous salad with roasted eggplant & tomatoes, harissa, tahini-yogurt and roasted cauliflower.  I cleared my plate, it was really good.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, just seared.  The harissa was interesting.  It was very spicy to me and I have a decent tolerance for heat.  I only needed the tiniest bit with each bite.  I was laughing though, my friend Bhavini would have mixed all of it into the dish and probably asked for more!  I liked the balance of it though with the cool yogurt sauce.  It was an interesting little dance in my mouth.  That sounds dirtier than intended.  Get your minds out of the gutter.

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Lastly, and forgive me, I forgot to take a photo, we ordered dessert.  You know, I kept forgetting to take pictures all night.  Jen had to keep reminding me and I still forgot to take a picture of dessert.  They don’t post desert options on the website or the menu for that matter.  I assume this means that they change often.  We ordered a chocolate soufle with a salted caramel cream filling.  WOW.  It was so good.  I mean, salted caramel anything really.  The soufle part was very light as was the filling.  It was the perfect end to a great meal.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal and the atmosphere.  The staff was friendly and attentive without being overbearing.  The location is very cute and the inside is simple and understated.  I said French Bistro style earlier, right?  This is definitely someplace that I would visit again!

Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Ft. Lauderdale Vacation

8 Sep

I went to Ft. Lauderdale for the first time this past weekend to celebrate my friend Jen’s birthday!  I flew in and Jen and another friend Tracy drove down from Orlando.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ft. Lauderdale, I was expecting a little more pretentiousness than I got (and I was happily surprised).  Either way, I knew that I’d have a great time with these two ladies.

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We got there on Thursday afternoon and after checking into our beautiful hotel (the Westin Beach Resort) we headed out the door in search of a very late lunch.  Just out the door to the left, we kind of went in the first place that we found.  It was called the Deck Restaurant and Lounge.  Knowing nothing, we just went there because they had outdoor seating looking at the beach and there were more than 4 people eating there.  It was basically beach bar food.  Fish sandwiches and such.  I got a lobster burger that was really good and Tracy and Jen shared a grilled fish sandwich and a salad.  It was fine, nothing to write home about but someplace that provided what I needed at the time, food and a frosty drink!

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We decided to go to a movie on Thursday night since neither Jen or Tracy had been to see one in a while.  We saw Blue Jasmine.  I’ll do a separate post on it later this week.

On Friday it was beautiful so we got up and after a very nice buffet breakfast at Shula’s (in our hotel) we headed for the beach.  Around 1 or so we decided to head up to the pool for a drink and a snack to tide us over until dinner.  The pool bar/restaurant, Waves, had fun drinks and a bar menu.  We opted to share a quesadilla and I got myself a Miami Vice (part Pina Colada and part strawberry daquiri).

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After the sun hid behind the building, we went upstairs to get ready for our night out.  After an adventure with a new taxi driver and trying to go to a place that our breakfast server had told us about that turned out to be less than great, we found Los Olas Blvd and lots of restaurants.  We really wanted sushi and after the recommended place was a bust we had to search one out.  Luckily, Tracy stopped some locals to ask where to go and they pointed us to Wildeast Asian Bistro.

We had their tempura fried dragon, Korean Tuna, Pineapple Tropic, Volcano and Salmon Cali rolls.  They were all amazing.  I wasn’t sure I’d be all that into the Pineapple one, it had grilled pineapple chunks on top.  It was fantastic.  Of course I forgot to take a picture until we’d already dug in!

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So that is truly, the aftermath.  We really liked everything, it was all super fresh and the service was really good.

After dinner, we went searching for a place to have a drink or two.  The first place we tried had good music, but was so crowded we couldn’t even find a place to stand at the bar (what I refer to as too hot).  The next place had a blues singer and was in this cute little hotel, but we were the youngest people in the bar by about 30 years and there weren’t many people at all.  So after one glass of wine, we left that place (what I’ll refer to as too cold).  We didn’t want to walk too far, and happened upon this lounge/restaurant Voodka.

I’ll call this place just right (after too hot and too cold).  It wasn’t very busy yet (it was still kinda early, before 10 pm).  The decor was very nice, they had candelabra’s at the dinner tables and comfy huge leather couches around tables in the bar area in addition to high tops and bar seats.  We opted for the comfy leather couches!  Our server ended up being one of the bartenders.  He was really fun and recommended some awesome drinks.  We each choose drinks from the cocktail menu for the first round.  They were all really good, I got an Acai berry cocktail (that isn’t on their new menu, they literally changed it today I think).  It was fruity but not too sweet and very refreshing.  Since our server was kinda looking at us funny when I took this picture:

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Tracy told him that I had a food blog.  So he told us that for our next round he’d make us something from the new menu!

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So for the second round he gave me what I think is the Cucumber Ginger Chill.  It was very well done and again was very refreshing.  The cucumber flavor is subtle and goes really well with the lemon and ginger flavors.  I’m not sure which one he gave to Tracy, but it had some great fall flavors.  It just had some warmer flavors in it and was also excellent.

Saturday was our last full day there and it was overcast (boooo).  After another great breakfast at Shula’s, we went shopping then headed home to get ready for dinner at YOLO.  Yet another great meal in a very nice restaurant.  We started with their szechual calamari, which our server said was a house specialty.  It was sweet and spicy and cooked perfectly.  I often find calamari way too chewy, but this was done perfectly.  I remembered to take a picture before we killed the whole plate this time.

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Tracy ordered the salmon and it had this shallot fennel mixture on top that was just amazing with the salmon.  I think it was basically caramelized fennel and shallot.

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Jen ordered the nightly fish special, swordfish with a great tomato sauce and orzo.  It was very light and flavorful.

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I opted for Coriander-Seaweed crusted Tuna.  It was cooked perfectly and served with noodles, kimchi, bok choy in a shitake miso broth.  It was really well done and I loved the presentation.

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The whole meal was just fabulous.  Since this was Jen’s birthday dinner, we debated getting desert there, but we remembered seeing an Italian bakery/gelato place down the road so went in search of that instead.

I unfortunately can’t remember the name of it, but it was about 3-4 blocks down the street (toward the ocean) from YOLO.  I got a caramel gelato to eat there and got this yummy goodness to take back to the room to share.

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It’s tiramisu and a mini canoli.  It’s hard to tell in the picture, but that canoli is about 3 bites, just enough for one bite each.  The tiramisu was really good.  The cake was very light.  As Tracy and Jen pointed out, often tiramisu can feel heavy if the lady fingers have absorbed too much espresso.  I loved the canoli.  I’m not usually a huge canoli fan, but the filling in this was very light, I really enjoyed my one bite!

We had to say goodbye Sunday morning unfortunately.  I saw about 20 other places that I really wanted to try while I was there.  Ft. Lauderdale is definitely a place I’d like to visit again!

Viva Las Vegas

18 Jul

This past weekend I went to Vegas with two of my very good girlfriends to celebrate some birthdays (Kirra and Maura).

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There was a lot of very good food, lots of drinks, some awesome shows and a little gambling.  And no freaking sleep.  I swear to you, they pump oxygen into the hotels there to keep people up and at it.  Between that, the lights and the noise, I pretty much operated on the tiniest bit of sleep the whole time, but it was Vegas 🙂

We got there on Wednesday evening and after checking into our gorgeous hotel, Aria, we got ready for the night!  We went to a restaurant in Aria called Julian Serrano which featured small plates with a Spanish influence.  We decided to all get salads and then share some other small plates.  I got a pretty standard salad that was very good.  Maura ordered this interesting number though, it was so pretty she was almost afraid to dig in.

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That was basically the crouton wrapped around the salad.

Kirra and I shared sea bass with a donostiarra sauce. I’ve never had that sauce before and I can’t even find out exactly what it is online, but it was phenomenal.  We also ordered wild mushroom risotto that was to die for and short ribs.

We then headed next door for some drinks at the Cosmopolitan.  I decided to stick with wine, so nothing fancy there, but one of the girls we met up with got a cosmo that she said was one of the best she’s had.

Around 2 we figured we should try to get some sleep… fail.  You’ll see a pattern soon.

I’m pretty sure we were all up by 8 am even though I laid there trying to will myself back to sleep.  We were meeting 3 other girls there along with some of Kirra’s family.  While Kirra went to have breakfast with her family and gamble a bit, three of us headed down for an early lunch.  Even simple Vegas food I found to be excellent.  I got a panini for lunch with chicken, caramllized onions, pesto, some other stuff I can’t remember and it was awesome.

We then spent the day sitting poolside while I avoided getting burned while sitting on the sun.  Actually, it wasn’t too hot the days I was there.  Don’t get me wrong, the pool felt great, but I once lived in Florida, so I was okay.

After getting my fill of the sun, I went in to try to learn blackjack a little better.  I lost $80 in like 10 minutes.  So very sad.  After that it was time to go and get ready for our big night out.  Chippendale night!

The show was at the Rio so we decided to eat there.  We weren’t sure where we’d end up going to eat but decided that an Italian place named Martorano’s right next to the theater would be good.  It was an interesting experience to say the least.  Part club, part restaurant.  The music was so loud, you couldn’t really hear the people across the table.  They also had a movie playing, Casino, and occasionally they would play the sound from a particular scene.  It was just weird.  The food was really good, but that’s just not my style of dining, it was very distracting. This was the chicken dish that I got, it had a lot of cheese on it as you can see!

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However, once that was over, we got to see some really good looking guys dance and take their clothes off.  Now I’ll be the first to tell you that male strippers are usually super creepy.  These guys were not.  Maybe it’s because Ian Ziering of 90210 fame was in the show.  Maybe it’s because they were all superbly built and hot.  Maybe it’s because there were over 200 screaming women in the room having a good time.  Either way, it was seriously a blast.  And we got to talk to Ian after the show and get a picture with him.  And I got my picture with these two 🙂

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We then went back to our hotel and had some drinks at a lounge.  It was a nice relaxing end to a rather exciting evening.  Maura and I decided we were starving around 2 and went to the 24 hour cafe for some pizza, also very good, especially given the time of day it was.  Then we went to attempt to sleep.  Fail again.

Around 10 on Saturday we just headed straight to the pool to get a good spot.  We just ate pool side and I got an oriental salad that was very refreshing and light, which is what I really wanted.  I also got a ridiculously large and fruity drink.  It was part strawberry daiquiri part pina colada.  It was sweet and silly and awesome.

I was super excited for dinner and the show we were seeing that night.  We went to Jean Georges Steakhouse.  It was fantastic.  I started by sharing a tomato and mozzarella salad that was simple and fantastic at the same time.

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I ordered the 8 oz fillet and had it cooked medium rare.  Jen is cringing right now.  It was like cutting through butter.  I also ordered a side of mashed potatoes with black truffles that I couldn’t finish and felt super sad about.  One of the other people at dinner ordered macaroni and cheese with truffles that was also phenomenal.

After that we went to see a relatively new Cirque du Soleil show, Zarkana.  I pretty much sat through the whole show with my mouth hanging open and my eyes super wide on the edge of my seat.  It was fantastic and we had awesome seats.

We went and had a few drinks and gambled a bit then I decided to play a little electronic roulette.  I turned $20 into $78 and then turned that back into $25.  It’s a talent.  We were all so exhausted that we tried to get to sleep at a decent time and I did manage to sleep from about 2 until 8.

Alas, Sunday was our last day in Vegas and we headed to the airport in a limo courtesy of one of the girls we were there with.

I have to thank Kirra for planning such a great vacation.  I met some awesome people (Amy, Danielle and Missy), saw two great shows, ate some really amazing food and just in general had a great relaxing time away.  This is definitely a trip I’d like to make again.

Industry Public House Review

28 Jun

Earlier this week Jen, her husband and I visited Industry Public House in Lawrenceville. Yet another great Lawrenceville neighborhood restaurant, this one opened in 2012. I’m really kicking myself for not buying a house there. I seriously considered buying a fixer-upper there and am now thinking that I should have bought a place to rent out.

Anyway, Industry Public house is located on Butler Street and is what I’d describe as a gastro-pub. They have an extensive bar menu with an impressive selection of beers on tap and more whiskey than I’d ever know what to do with. I ordered one of their beers, the Industry Copper Ale. It was a great mild beer. I’m not a fan of overly hoppy beers and this one was very minimal on the hops.

On to the food! Their menu features great comfort food, right up my alley. We decided to start with an order of their fries, they come in three different styles: truffle oil and gorgonzola, pot roast with gravy or melted cheddar and bacon. We opted for the pot roast and it was fantastic. It was so good in fact that we were pretty much done with eating them before I remembered to take a picture! So here is the aftermath.

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I ordered the Worker Burgher which had carmelized onions, goat cheese, wild mushrooms, arugala and a herb aioli. I figured when you go to a place with a burger menu like this one, that’s what you should order! I did opt for a side salad rather than fries since we had ordered the pot roast fries as a starter.

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Jen opted to be healthy and ordered a salad and it looked so good. She got the company salad with granny smith apples, gorgonzola, dried cranberries, sliced red onion, candied pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette. It was a good sized salad and Jen said that it was very good. Those flavors go very well together so I’m confident that it was tasty.

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Jen’s husband ordered a cheese and bacon sandwich. He wasn’t overly impressed with it, but the bacon was really good. It was wild boar bacon and I tasted a bit of it. I really expected it to taste very gamey, but it wasn’t that way at all. It was done very well and just smokey enough. It could have been a little more crispy, but it was a thick cut of bacon, so that would explain why it wasn’t.

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I really liked it here, but I’ll freely admit that I haven’t been many places lately that I didn’t like. The service was okay, not extraordinary. This is the kind of place that I would love to come to after work for a beer and a bite to eat with friends. I would definitely recommend Industry as a great casual bar/restaurant and yet another place that I would visit again.

Industry Public House on Urbanspoon

Wedding Weekend

18 Jun

This past weekend I had the honor of being a part of the wedding of one of my best and dearest friends.  Marissa made a gorgeous bride and she and Dean are a beautiful couple.

This was possibly the most fun wedding that I’ve ever attended.  All the little touches that the two of them added made it unique and so very Dean and Marissa.  This included all of the food of course!

It was a weekend of friends, fun and food (and a little drinking, ok a good bit).  It started with the rehearsal dinner of course.  Marissa and Dean rented out a coffee shop in their Orlando neighborhood.  The location was Downtown Credo, a very unique location.  If you are one of my Orlando friends I encourage you to visit the shop and check out their website, they have a great business model focused on making a positive impact, both in Orlando and globally, as opposed to profit.

They had the dinner catered by a local BBQ caterer, Ellie Lou’s Brews and BBQ.  It was simply fantastic.  There were great bbq foods including beans, macaroni and cheese and potato salad, pulled pork and rips  more.

IMG_0625As you can see, I went a little overboard on the mac and cheese, it’s a weakness.  Also, I ate my salad before I took the picture, I was a little hungry.

They are currently looking for a place to set up a permanent restaurant and I sincerely hope that they are able to find one soon so I can have some of this food again during a future visit.

They also had a cake that contained several of their mutual interests including UCF, the Orlando Magic, football, basketball and running!

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The day of the wedding was fantastic and I only cried 2 times during the ceremony!  I have to hand it to Dean and Marissa, they put together a fun wedding party.  Living out-of-town, I hadn’t met any of Dean’s friends before but they were a blast.  One of his buddies figured out that I have a weakness for champagne and made sure my glass was never empty on the ride from the church to the reception.

After some pictures, we arrived at the cocktail hour at the Longwood Community Center.  They had a local food truck, La Empanada, provide the food.  The menu paid homage to Marissa and Dean’s heritage with both Greek and Trinidadian inspired empanadas.

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After our sports themed entrance, we had a speech from the father of the bride and then dinner.  I’ll be honest, I was a little distracted during dinner and while everything that I had was very good, the thing I remember the most were the roasted veggies, they were fantastic.

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On to the most important part of wedding food though… the cake!  I’m a cake snob, and this cake did not disappoint in the least.  It was a cute cake that was simple and fun.  The cake had a great custard and fruit filling.  I could have eaten 3 pieces, no joke.

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There was also a small table of Greek wedding cookies, fudge and baklava.

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After the cake, I attempted to dance all the calories off, though the amount I drank probably didn’t help with breaking even.  But we all had a great time and that is what counts.

I lucked out in that my food extravaganza did not end with the close of the wedding.  Kim, a friend I met through Marissa invited me to her house on Sunday for homemade egg rolls and spring rolls.  This was quite the experience and it was phenomenal.  When I arrived Kim had fried up some of her mom’s homemade pork egg rolls as an appetizer.

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After that, 8 of us sat down to make our spring rolls.  I have eaten these many times, but never made them.  Well, assembled, Kim cooked all of the food for us in advance.  It was all so good and I ate two rolls.

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After the spring rolls, Kim made us mango sticky rice with coconut sauce.

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It was fantastic and if I hadn’t been so full I might have been able to eat all of it!  Kim is also a food blogger over at Eat, Live, Eat More, so check out her site for her recipe’s, I think Kim will be posting the recipes from this session soon!

I have to thank Marissa and Dean for putting together such a lovely weekend.  I know it was a lot of work, but you started the rest of your lives off with a bang and I know you will be a happy couple for many many years to come.  I love you both!!

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