Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Had a Birthday Too

It was a while ago now, on November 1st. In discussing my birthday plans with Shaun I was acting princessy, grouchy that the day wouldn't feel extra special because we weren't going out to dinner to celebrate until some time later. By the actual day, I was thoroughly ashamed of my selfish attitude and lack of perspective. I realized that every day of my everyday life is so stinking good that it's pretty hard to make one day stand out even more. But still, Shaun managed it.

Shaun's folks joined us for dinner. Linda brought bulbs as part of my gift, and braved the mud and drizzle to plant them. She is hardy and kind. Then she hung the packages on the tree to festive effect. Some naughty critters must have come in the night and dug up the snowdrop bulbs, because the next morning I found them all on the ground resting neatly next to the holes they'd been planted in. I guess the bulbs smelled better than they tasted. I re-buried them all and they've been left alone since.

Here's where Shaun working in the same building as Olympic Provisions comes in handy. He brought home charcuterie and cheese plates and mixed me a martini and I was the happiest princess in all the land. Here's what's on the plates: very spicy pickled vegetables, a salcichon salami with paprika, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg (it tasted like Thanksgiving in a sausage), sopressata with oregano, garlic and chili flake, pork liver mousse, pork and pistachio terrine, and, our favorite, pork rillete. The cheeses are Mt. Townsend Creamery Seastack, Casatica di Bufala, Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, Idiazabal, and Valdeon blue. Ridiculous, I know.

I could have made a dinner just of that, but we also had BLT's jazzed up with a spicy remoulade. Linda brought corn from her garden, but I was so distracted by all my treats that I forgot to serve it.

I chose simple BLT's for dinner (which Shaun fixed) so we could spend all our energy on the dessert I'd been planning for months. I first saw the Swedish pre-Lenten pastries called semla or semlor on this blog, and the pictures were so beautiful that I'd been dying to try it ever since. Happily I found a recipe.

We made it a team project...I baked the yeasted cardamom buns while Shaun was at work, and when he got home he did the laborious work of scooping out the insides, mixing the milk-soaked crumbs with marzipan, refilling the buns, and topping them with whipped cream.

O happy birthday. I cannot believe that I am 39.

I went to bed counting my blessings, with more birthday fun to look forward to. Shaun and I waited until the boys had a weekend with the grandmartins and then used a Groupon-type deal for a dinner at Gracie's at the Hotel de Luxe in downtown Portland. The food gets mixed reviews, mostly good, but it is a romantic spot. Also, the restaurant serves drinks from the hotel bar, the rightly renowned Driftwood Room. And it was a really screaming deal.

Here I am, dark and blurry, about to tuck into the best steak I have had in at least five years. Maybe ten. It was everything I want a steak to be.

We had fun wining and dining. Shaun felt compassion for our waiter because he was waiting tables rather than being a movie star. He looked like a cross between Clive Owen and Jon Hamm. He was even named Kai, which I think would do nicely for a movie star these days.

We tried a lot of cocktails with ingredients that were unfamiliar to us. I started with an Old Tom, which had Ransom gin, agwa, Krogstad aquavit, fresh lime juice and barrel-aged bitters, served on the rocks. It was subtle and balanced and unlike any drink I'd had before. Shaun and I both gave it a thumbs up. I also had a drink with pine liquor and a rosemary sprig, and Shaun had a variation on a Sazerac that was very nicely done.

It was slow and almost empty in the restaurant: the mayor's deadline for OWS Portland to clear out of the parks happened to be that night, and the hostess told us that a lot of folks had gotten nervous and canceled their reservations. So the bartender had plenty of time on his hands, and after we'd ordered several of the more adventurous cocktails, he wandered in to chat with us and see how we were enjoying our drinks.

Later he brought us a complimentary dessert-y cocktail. It wasn't something we'd ever order, but a free drink is a gesture that never fails to give me a happy glow.

The aftermath isn't pretty, but the evening was.

No comments: