After a few false starts, S.F. couple takes the big leap

When Evan Wolkenstein got the “butterfly hug” at the end of his first two dates with Gabi Moskowitz, he thought he was doomed.

The butterfly hug (Wolkenstein’s friend came up with the term) implies an embrace that is “50 percent contact, 50 percent ‘go away,’ ” he says, and it’s demonstrated by the giver lightly patting the other person’s back several times, like butterfly wings in motion.

But on their third date, as they sat eating banh mi sandwiches and sharing a bottle of wine in Dolores Park, Moskowitz realized that this time, things were going to end differently — with a kiss.

“All of a sudden it hit me that I really liked him,” she recalled. “It was ‘Oh, wow. OK. Let’s go with this.’ ”

Evan Wolkenstein and Gabi Moskowitz photo/jennifer bagwell

Moskowitz, 34, who grew up in Santa Rosa and moved to San Francisco in 2005, is the author of two cookbooks, “The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook” and “Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious, Unexpected Recipes,” and has two more in the works. She is also a food blogger (her first cookbook came out of her blog of the same name) and a television producer of the Freeform network’s “Young and Hungry,” a sitcom about a young woman chef in San Francisco, very loosely based on her own life (which happened when the wife of a television executive became a fan of her blog).

Wolkenstein, 42, who grew up in Milwaukee and moved to San Francisco in 2007, is the director of experiential learning at Jewish Community High School of the Bay, as well as a writer, cartoonist and blogger. His blog, “Style for Dorks,” recounts how he helps men “style up” by taking them shopping to improve their wardrobe.

The couple first connected over the dating site “OKCupid” in February 2012, though Moskowitz ignored Wolkenstein’s first attempt. When he tried a second time, she thought, “Who is this guy who is so insistent on meeting me?” She responded, and he sent her the link to an animated D’var Torah he had recorded for G-dcast (now known as BimBam), which made them realize they had common friends, among them G-dcast founder Sarah Lefton.

Six months into their relationship, Moskowitz began thinking Wolkenstein could be her future husband (though it took him a bit longer). When they came home from a weekend away together, she initiated a “where is this going” conversation.

“I had gotten to a point where not having a plan for marriage didn’t fit our relationship anymore,” said Moskowitz. “We had outgrown just being boyfriend and girlfriend.”

“Before Gabi, I was like Edward Scissorhands, living in my little palace, chopping trees into topiaries,” said Wolkenstein, referencing the Tim Burton movie. “But Gabi is the only person who could inspire me to let go of shaping my whole world by myself, and make me willing to not only make a place for another person, but to devote myself to anther person and inspire me to work really hard every day to build the thing that I’m most proud of in the world, which is our relationship.”

“It’s so rare to be fully seen and accepted, and to also want to fully see someone and fully accept them,” said Moskowitz. “Nobody sees and accepts me in my complete self in the way that Evan does.”

For their engagement in June 2015, they picked the date it would happen together.

“It didn’t fit our relationship for him to decide without my input about it,” said Moskowitz. So while they woke up one day knowing it was going to happen, Moskowitz had no idea how. Wolkenstein had planned a weekend away in Gualala, which began with a stop at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, with a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge – one of Moskowitz’s favorite landmarks – where he proposed.

The couple married on July 3 at Kunde Family Winery in Kenwood. They were married by an Orthodox rabbi friend of Wolkenstein’s that he knew from his studies at Pardes Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Wolkenstein drew and hand-lettered their ketubah. Their chuppah, made from a tallit Wolkenstein bought in Jerusalem after their engagement, was held aloft by the Camp Tawonga chuppah poles (Moskowitz is an alum).

Among the toasts delivered at the reception was a slightly off-color one by Moskowitz’s Aunt Randy. It was the same toast that Moskowitz’s late grandfather, known to the family as “Panta,” used to give at every family wedding.

“In Judaism, we get so preoccupied with these abstract ideas of God, but I think there’s something more primal and tribal and deep when you think about your ancestors and them being present,” said Wolkenstein, recalling how he and Moskowitz had stood by photos of their ancestors in their home, before leaving for their engagement weekend.

“We invoke our ancestors a lot,” he continued, “and having Gabi’s grandpa’s speech recited word for word, it could have been the periodic table, the content didn’t matter, but he mouthed those very words, which brought his spirit into the space, and that’s something deeply Jewish and deeply meaningful.”


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Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."