Santa Monica, CA 90404
Pros: Great atmosphere, meal overall a “B”
Cons: Scammed us out of at least $2000 (cake and bar tab), did not deliver contracted items (tableware, head chef present at the event, menu and seating chart in timely manner), did not return phone calls, unprofessional night of event (drunk bartender, arguing with groom over bill at reception), wine and cake service spotty.
We searched long for a reception site which was capable of serving excellent food within our budget—not easy! We found LA Farm as they seemed to meet all of our requirements; serving excellent food at a fair price, experience hosting parties and weddings—reserving Sat. nights for events.
After a couple of great lunches, French eclectic (an amazing chicken pot pie), we met with the owner Jean Pierre Pieny and the restaurant manager to discuss hosting our wedding reception. They were cordial, but a little demanding (e.g. you may not bring in a cake, you may not bring in your own liquor, etc.). Actually, I was impressed somewhat by their strict rules, it seemed to indicate they knew how to throw a party. We agreed on a price ($85 per person for a four course meal, appetizers during cocktail hour, custom made wedding cake for desert, taxes and tip, the bar was not included), and put down a $2,800 deposit for which we were told “…we won’t cash that check until the day of the party.” (It was, in fact, cashed shortly after this.)
Months went by while we planned the rest of our wedding. About 5-6 weeks before the event, we called Jean Pierre at LA Farm to confirm the final arrangements (actual number of guests, the flavor of the cake, the menu choices) and were told “…today is my last day, I have sold the restaurant, don’t worry everything will be exactly the same.” Needless to say, we were concerned.
We spent the next few *weeks* trying to get in touch with the new owner, Garon Millic of Divino Brentwood fame. Each time we called, Garon was busy, would call back, etc. etc. But time was passing, the reception date approaching, and we had to finalize the menu and cake. When the groom finally was able to meet the owner face to face, he initially was very cordial, going over a totally new menu (no longer French eclectic, it was now Mediterranean). Then we started talking price, and I reminded Garon that the agreement we made with this restaurant months ago was $85 per person all inclusive. He became agitated, claiming he could not make money, not believing that a meal of this type could be served for this price (although Jean Pierre apparently could, this price was on the LA Farm website). At the question of “…what type of cake will you be making…” he flipped, shouted “…you’ll have a cake, fine…” shook my hand rudely, turned his back and moved on to another customer. This was 2 weeks before the reception. As if the bride and groom had no other matters to be concerned with now we have an angry chef, and no idea what kind of cake will be served.
As a gesture of good will, and to ensure we had a good cake, we immediately found a bakery (Rosebud cakes, excellent cake and service) and arranged for them to make us a cake for 80 guests which came to about $500. We then informed LA Farm they no longer had to make dessert and hoped that would help with their bottom line. There was no return gesture of appreciation, but at this point, we figured we had done all we could. The wedding was about 1 week away.
Four days before the event, we still did not have seating arrangement from LA Farm, despite multiple requests. We had to finalize the arrangement and get the seating cards to the printer so the groom had to go to restaurant on the Mon evening before the Sat event, walk into the empty restaurant from the back, kitchen entrance to find the manager and ask for the seating chart. The manager had a chart in her hand, but it was for a generic seating arrangement for a dinner party of about 100 utilizing both dining rooms. Apparently forgotten was the fact that our party was for 80 people, and we wanted everyone in one room, with the second room setup for a DJ and dance floor.
On the night of our wedding reception, chef/owner Goran Milic was not present. We were specifically told he would be present to cook and/or assure the quality of the meal. This was very disappointing and we feel deceptive as how could the quality of the meal be assured without the chef present?
The setting was great, wonderful lighting, temperature was perfect. The tableware was not what we were shown originally (beautiful/formal/ornate “bird” pattern plates) to mismatched, simple white restaurant plates. Very disappointing, although only the bride, groom, and the mother of the bride noticed (as we were the only ones who knew what plates should have been used).
As for the rest of the event:
• There were four hors d'œuvres served during cocktail hour as expected: a creamy tomato soup, fried cheese balls, baked crepes served in a carrot sauce, and eggplant stuffed with cheese. All were quite good. Portions were not very generous (the groom was only able to get two of the four appetizers, and when he asked for a serving of the other two, was told there was none left).
• The first course was a mediocre spinach salad with tomatoes, goat cheese and pine nuts.
• The second course was a great scallop dish with cauliflower sauce colored/flavored with spinach. Generous portion, excellent taste. Vegetarian option was warm dish of tomatoes and cheese served on some type of artisan toast (seemed like a nice option).
• The third course was a mediocre cake-like polenta dish with gorgonzola and walnut sauce.
• The main course was a nice chicken breast stuffed with cheese and mushrooms (very moist, very tasty) with very good mashed potatoes and well cooked/seasoned swiss chard. Vegetarian option was pasta (looked like puttanesca) which seemed like the kind of dish you could get for $10 at any Italian restaurant. We were a little disappointed with this vegetarian option, not a good value for an $85 meal.
Wine service was mixed (the bride and groom had to flag down a waiter in order to get their first service of wine). Wine was nothing special, but satisfactory.
Meal service was fine. Cake cutting was also done professionally. Several people commented that they never got cake, although we had plenty, while others claimed their slice of cake was served, then quickly removed from their table before they had a chance to eat it (we were all dancing). No cake slices were provided to the bride and grooms table nor was their coffee served to the bride and groom. LA Farm saved the top (3rd) tier of the cake and it was waiting for the bride and groom (just out on the bar, no box or anything) when the party ended. This was thoughtful in a way, although unfortunate as we actually wanted all of the cake served.
A problem arose near the end of the party, regarding the bar tab. LA Farm was instructed *multiple times* by the bride and groom before the party date that there was to be a host bar for cocktail hour from 5-6PM (estimated by us to be about $1,500 at ~65 drinkers). We also instructed LA Farm *multiple times* prior to event that after cocktail hour the bar was to be transitioned to a no-host bar (wine and beer was included in dinner service). Near end of evening, as best man was trying to settle bills with the restaurant, LA Farm indicated we were responsible for a bar tab which had been open for the entire night. The groom had to be summoned to argue with the staff over their mistake (e.g. leaving the bar open all night). During this discussion, the bartender could not produce an itemized list of drinks purchased, but instead pulled out a sheet of paper (or was it a cocktail napkin?) on which he had made “hash marks” denoting drinks of different types. The groom asked what was total, and initially was told $40,000 by bartender. Dismayed I asked two more times, until finally the number came to “$4,000” (later other guests reported bar tender appeared drunk during the event which could explain this gross mathematical error). The groom settled with the staff at $3,000 in order to avoid a scene and return to his reception. Then, 15 minutes later, the manager stopped the groom and indicated there was problem with the bar tab and demanded further payment. The groom had to argue again with the staff, and the manager who was involved in all of the pre-party planning claimed “…we’ve never done a bar in this way before.” If that was the case, then why was that not communicated to us before the party? The argument continued until again all parties agreed upon the $3,000 figure. The reception was still in progress all this time!
Given Goran Milic had complained to bride and groom that the $85 menu agreed upon with the original owner (Jean Pierre Pieny) would cause him to lose money, the bride and groom concluded LA Farm intentionally kept the bar open, and ran up the bar tab to make up for their perceived loss. Of course we have no proof of this conclusion.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
I chose Renee based on drunkenknitter's review below and also after interviewing several florists. She showed me her designs, many of which are beautiful and innovative and was able to quote me a reasonable price, which was important to my budget. In hindsight, I think Renee works best with brides who don't have a lot of their own ideas for the flowers. And, I didn't think I DID have a lot of ideas! I found her frustrating to work with due to her poor organizational skills. It seemed like every time we spoke, I was repeating to her all the same things we had gone over before...it was like she took all these notes and then just threw them away or something. I found myself saying, "Remember? I said NO ORCHIDS. NO scattered rose petals. Remember?" So, after LOTS of conversations and passing the invoice back and forth, I thought we had it all straightened out. BUT on my wedding day, I had some disappointments. She definitely works with the flowers that are available, and this is how she works within your budget. So, if you have your heart set on a particular flower, don't use Renee. I didn't want roses in bouquet, I wanted some other kind of orange flower, but I ended up with terra cotta roses. I wanted orange renunculas and burgundy gerberas for the reception arrangement and in the mock-up the colors were reversed. She said it was based on availability and she would try...well, you guessed it, I got the reverse on the big day. This is not that big of a deal. What was more disheartening was looking down from the choir loft at my church flowers, which were supposed to be mainly cream-colored with a touch of orange, burgundy, or eggplant and seeing no cream at all. What I saw were brightly colored arrangments of orange, burgundy, etc., just like what I had specified for the reception. She did get the colors right for the reception, also, but what was scattered EVERYWHERE??? Rose petals. And I must have said it three or four times, NO ROSE PETALS. To be fair, lots of people said the flowers were beautiful and one person even asked for her name. But, it just wasn't what I had specifically asked for and in my opinion, she should have delivered what the customer wanted.
One of the first things that I liked about Nicki was her price ($215 for hair and make-up and this included the trial!). The next thing I liked about Nicki was her professionalism, punctuality, etc. Nicki's background is in television and movies, so she can create whatever look you want. I was a little nervous after the trial (that's why you MUST do a trial) because there were things we wanted to change, like the lipstick color and placement of my up-do. BUT on the day-of, I looked AMAZING. I could not have been happier with the natural yet gorgeous look Nicki created for me. And my hair was a perfect up-do of medium sized barrel rolled curls. My head never hurt the whole evening and not one hair fell out of place (hard to do with hair as fine and slippery as mine!). She armed with with a make-up repair kit, but I never needed it, not even lipstick touch-up! She used an amazing waterproofing system and it worked, I tell you. I got so many compliments on my appearance and truly felt beautiful all night long. The proof is in the pictures, though, and the pictures are fantastic!!! Thanks, Nicki, for making me beautiful!
Suzanne Mapes was my favorite vendor to work with. Her fees were fair (about $3000 for the total package). Best of all, she was the ONLY vendor that I did not have to chase down. She actually called ME before the wedding to touch base and tell me what we needed to do. It was so refreshing. My wedding was on 11/10/07 and I hired her for a full 8 hour day that ended up extending into 9 hours. I booked her well in advance, so was surprised when she showed up 5 months pregnant. It didn't slow her down a bit, she never complained, and was completely professional. I got my proof book 3 weeks later and was amazed by some of the shots. She clearly has a strength with candid shots and these, by far, capture the spirit of the day. There is one of me laughing during the ceremony that could be in a magazine. And many others of similar quality. The formal shots are well, hmmm, boring. But, I don't know how anyone could do them much better. I guess though if the formal group shots are really important to you, then you might look for someone who specializes in this. It was clear to me that Suzanne is more about the candid moments. But this is what I love about her work. I look forward to getting my completed album from her, but I am sure, based on the quality of the pictures, that it will be fantastic.
My wedding was on 11/10/07 at L.A. Farm in Santa Monica (I do not recommend this reception site). I DO recommend Tom from California Sounds as my DJ. I had concerns about my venue and the management there, which I conveyed to Tom and he did a great job of putting me at ease before the event and also of handling everything the day of. Before the event, I gave him my "play" list of about 5 songs and all five of them were played. My guests made requests throughout the evening and he honored them. Once, a request cleared the dance floor and he simply faded it out and started another song. Other than this song, Tom kept my reception dancing!!! Everyone had a great time and I spend the last 2 hours of my reception on the dance floor! The only slow songs he played were the first and last dances (I recommend this). He didn't have my first choice for my last dance song, but immediately had an alternate that was also one of my favorites and it worked out just fine. All around a great vendor to work with, fees were reasonable (I think we paid about $900 for a full 6 hour event), he was pleasant, NOT CHEESY, professional, and easy-going.