Monthly Archives: May 2012

Follow that Cake…..

I am about to embark on my big project for the week – make a birthday cake for my nephew’s first birthday party on Saturday. 

Theme: Thomas the Tank Engine.

Size: 12 X 16

Step one – bake the cake layers

If you’d like to follow this expedition with me, successes & fiascos logged, please follow my facebook posts with pictures and all.  Just hit the like button below the post title and you’ll receive the updates as I go along.

Enjoy and wish me luck!
Swati

A Nostalgic Birthday

Friday was my birthday!  I am somewhat in denial of my age.  Not because the number scares me or from a fear of getting old, but more because I just plain don’t feel my age……on most days.  I believe most readers of this blog know my age and so there is no need to divulge. 
Growing up I never much celebrated my birthday.  They just weren’t a big deal.  My mother would make a cake, a round of “Happy Birthdays” with a gift of whatever my parents could afford,  or once in a while I’d have a few friends over for a “party”, but seriously no big deal.  Nothing compared to the way they are celebrated today or even remotely close.  A part of the reason I suppose was that my birthday always fell on the same weekend as Mother’s Day and also one day before my parents’ anniversary.  A big part of it was that my parents were financially stuggling to survive for most of my childhood and birthdays were more of a nuisance than a celebration.  So anyone who is born in my generation on any other holiday understands that all three were celebrated together. 
My ex-husband believed even less in celebrating birthdays than I did, so most years I was lucky if I got a card. Oh yes, for my 30th I was taken to dinner at Windows on the World at the top of the World Trade Center. Guess who did the planning? Life experiences have pretty much taught me not to have too many expectations in terms of birthdays or anything else for that matter.  If I want to celebrate I plan it on my own and have a great time – Like two years ago when I dragged a couple of friends skiing with me at Mt Hood because I happened to be there and the trails were open.  I think they have forgiven me now.   Now don’t go feeling sorry for me….it’s just reality and I’m a big girl and perfectly ok with it.
This past Tuesday I got an email invitation for dinner from a friend which didn’t say much more than provide the date, pick up & drop off time and stated that the restaurant would not be disclosed.  On Thursday evening I was picked up promptly at 7pm. Turns out it was supposed to be 6pm as reservations were for 7pm but NEVER look a gift horse in the mouth!!  Especially when that gift horse spent hours in traffic to make it all happen.  We began our drive into New York City.  One hour later we walked into one of my favorite restaurants of all time – One if by Land, Two if by Sea on Barrow Street. 
It’s strange that I would call it one of my favorites as the last time I’d been there was 1988.  Prior to that I frequented it for special occasions etc., but for some reason I just hadn’t made it back there since.  I always intended to and I suppose it was never in the cards for me to go until now.  What makes this restaurant special is the ambiance as soon as you walk in and there’s something to the place that makes you feel at home.  It is set in an old carriage house and has great lighting with fireplaces throughout.  It is an extremely quiet and romantic setting yet not pretentious as so many other restaurants can be.   I had always had great memories of this place and they all came flooding back.  I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect place to celebrate my birthday if I had picked it myself.
Dinner was great!  I ordered the Crispy Pork Belly which came with Korean radish and a spicy chili sauce and the Beef Wellington.  My friend had the Foie Gras with toast and Rabbit a al Porchetta (Rabbit loin stuffed with pork).  Our amuse was pickled beets with crème fraiche & micro herbs.  The food was delicious and the service well executed.  We sat in their upstairs room which is a bit quieter and allowed for conversation.  Our wine of choice for the evening was a Silverado St George Vineyard Merlot 2007 and paired well with the food once it opened up a bit.  We rounded of our meal with a trio of sorbets & some fried cheesecake for dessert.  The sorbets were delicious, the fried cheesecake I would pass on as it just didn’t work for me.

The evening ended fairly late and we both had to work the next day.  I was thrilled that someone had not only planned something for my birthday, but had taken me to a restaurant that was calling to me for so many years.  I just wasn’t listening. 
Moral of the story is if you’re always expecting something you can’t possibly be surprised!!  I suppose surprises can be good or bad.  Sometimes the surprises are the good kind and possibly transport you to another time making you forget about the bad ones!
Happy Birthday to you all – whenever it may fall in the year to come!
Note:  If you comment on my posts please do not provide names of anyone other than yourself if you choose to do so.  Thank you!!!

International Tapas Night!!

As winter comes to a close and another ski season has sadly ended, the warm weather inspires me to entertain.  I love to entertain at home, and it is quite possibly the only reason I don’t sell my house and keep paying those high taxes.  This past weekend I invited a few local friends over for a theme party to celebrate Cinco de Mayo sans the kiddies.  In reality I had no idea it was Cinco de Mayo when I planned it, I just saw it as May 5th.
The theme: International Tapas!  Looking at my guest list, I realized that I had a representation of at least eight countries of origin so it was a natural choice.  Plus the concept allowed me to ask each guest to bring a dish to represent their country and reduce the amount of cooking I would need to do.  As the weeks went on my Cuban, Paraguayan & French guests dropped off.  That still left us with five countries: Italy, China, Malaysia, Mexico and India.  The rule was to bring a dish that can be eaten on a small plate.  I chose to also represent Spain, a must for tapas.
The final menu was a fantastic combination of tastes.  Here’s what we wound up with (I’m putting these in the order in which guest arrived so as not to slight anyone):
Vegetable Pakodas – courtesy of S – these were tasty little morsels of eggplant, onions, & potatoes fried in a chickpea flour batter
Paneer Masala – courtesy of R & C this dish was brought complete with its own little serving bowls and was delicious.  I typically don’t like paneer (which is a fresh cheese) but I ate my entire bowl full.
Malaysian Ladok – courtesy of W & L there were two versions of this – one with pork and a vegetarian version with taro & water chestnuts.  Each filling was wrapped with soy bean curd sheets and deep fried.  Absolutely delicious and I’m still enjoying the leftovers.
Marinated Eggplant & Arancini – courtesy of M & R the eggplant my friend makes is something I request often from her.  It is always a big hit with the crowd.  Such a simple yet delicious creation!  Arancini (fried rice balls) are one of my favorite guilty pleasures in the carb world.  My friend made them stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto.  Fantastic!!
Pan fried Dumplings – courtesy of D & M a big hats off for the dumplings from my friend who had surgery three days before the party, told me she would not be able to come and would send her husband alone.  Lo & behold she showed up at the last minute, crutches & all and stayed till the very end.  In all my mentions above I led off with the intial of the person who actually did the cooking.  However in this case I believe I may have it wrong. J  A big thank you for the effort to join us!! And the dumplings were great!!
To my friends’ wonderful efforts I added:
Spicy Lamb meatballs w/ cucumber yogurt sauce – To ground lamb I added spices, garlic & ginger paste, sautéed onions, mint chutney, chilies, cilantro, salt, egg & breadcrumbs.  Panfry and reheat in the oven.
Batata Wadas these are a popular street food in Mumbai typically served on burger buns with a spicy garlic chutney.  They are made by boiling potatoes, chopping them into small cubes then add sautéed onions with kefir lime leaves, green chillies, turmeric, mustard seeds, salt & lime juice.  Mix it all up, roll into balls & deep fry them in a batter of chickpea flour with spices.
Shrimp with garlic & thyme Shrimp marinated in garlic, thyme, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, lemon juice & olive oil then baked for 8 minutes in a 450 degree oven.
Chorizo w/ peppers & onion  this one was my least favorite of the evening as I cooked the chorizo too long and it dried out while the peppers and onions nearly disappeared from overcooking.  Will have to revise the cooking method next time around.  Hey, they can’t all be winners!!
Roasted Tomatillo & Chipotle Salsa (recipe from Rick Bayless) with tortilla chips rounded out the menu
Conversations of the evening went in very interesting directions with many that likely shouldn’t be mentioned on a family blog.  We managed to have two spilled drinks (a sure sign of a good party) and lots of laughs!

To wash it all down were pitchers of Mango Mojitos made with my home grown mint and lots of wine of course.  We even managed to do our own little 750 vs Magnum tasting which was enlightening to all who tried it.  The final sign of a good party came after all had gone home and I opened the refrigerator to pour myself a glass of water when all of a sudden my very large wine opener which sits on top came tumbling down on my head and lay in pieces on the floor.  It was time for bed!!!
What a fun night with great friends!! I can’t wait to plan the next shindig………….
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