This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 30, 2012.
Danielle Dudeck, 31, and her fiance, Victor DeBoer, 29, fell in love the way a gourmet chef creates a great dish – inspiration struck them, and they made up the recipe as they went.
The San Francisco couple will wed on New Year’s Eve, and Dudeck said food and drink have always played an integral role in their relationship. They met at a bar, they carried on DeBoer’s family tradition of having big Sunday dinners together, and Dudeck’s friends even threw her a cooking-themed bridal shower where guests learned to make different appetizers and desserts.
But before they had traditions, the pair had an untraditional meeting in October 2010. Dudeck had recently moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco for her job on the communications team at Zynga. DeBoer, an industrial real estate agent in Chicago, was on a West Coast road trip with some college buddies. It was a Friday night when the two struck up a conversation in San Francisco’s Tipsy Pig. DeBoer was supposed to fly home Sunday, but he remembers thinking, “I have to see this girl again. I’ll regret not getting to know her.”
He invited her to dinner Sunday night and changed his flight to Monday.
DeBoer had never been to California before, so he got a recommendation for a good restaurant – the Woodhouse Fish Co.
“It happened to be one of my favorites,” Dudeck said. “He always picks the best restaurants.”
Their connection deepened after the first date – and when DeBoer did return to Chicago, he couldn’t stop thinking about Dudeck, a fact he pointed out in the letters he wrote to her. One month later, Dudeck went to visit him for their second date.
The third date came in December when Dudeck had to travel to Paris for work. “Come if you have a passport,” she told DeBoer.
“I didn’t think twice,” he said, “Dani brings out the risk-taker in me.” It was his first trip out of the country.
The following year was filled with cross-country travel as Dudeck and DeBoer tried to see each other every two to three weeks. He flew to San Francisco for New Year’s Eve. They went skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho. He met her mom in San Diego in February, and she met his family over Easter.
“Last year was a big vacation for us,” Dudeck said.
DeBoer made plans to move to San Francisco, and after his going-away party in Chicago in mid-December 2011, he suggested they go shopping for rings. They did, wasting no time. They got their rings the next Monday, and their parents met that Friday.
“Our rings came, and we were engaged,” Dudeck said. “I knew I was going to marry him after the fourth date. It was just a matter of time.”
When it came time for a bridal shower, Dudeck’s Zynga co-workers, Marideth Post and Amy Nichols, had big plans to honor the couple’s love of food and cooking. They invited the party of 12 to a professional kitchen, where chefs from Nosh SF Boutique Catering taught them to prepare hors d’oeuvres like fava bean, pecorino and Meyer lemon bruschetta and Dungeness crab cakes with citrus aioli. They also made fruit tarts for dessert and sampled Napa and Sonoma wines while they cooked.
Nichols’ mother sewed 1950s-style aprons for each guest to wear and take home, and the guests also wrote their best marital advice for the couple on coasters and brought a favorite family recipe to add to Dudeck and DeBoer’s collection.
“I was just blown away,” Dudeck said. “It was jaw-dropping – the most welcoming kitchen I’ve ever seen. It was a magical, beautiful, social, giggly, fun night.”
DeBoer even stopped in to join the cooking crew, donning a pink apron and getting some cooking tips from the chefs.
“He was very grateful to be asked to join,” Dudeck said. “Having him there meant he could see how much these women mean to me.”
DeBoer and Dudeck decided they’d tie the knot in Chicago on New Year’s Eve. The ceremony will take place at St. Michael’s Church, built in 1852, and the reception will be at Cafe Brauer at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The couple chose his-and-hers bars for the reception – champagne for Dudeck, and for DeBoer, a beer bar that will include Anchor Steam varieties, a nod to San Francisco. On New Year’s Day, the couple will host a farewell lunch at a pub – just in time to grab a burger and watch the Rose Bowl.
Dudeck described the wedding as “planning the event of my life with my best friend.”
And true to form, she added, “We want it to feel like a big dinner party.”