I turned thirty this weekend, which is kind of a big deal, but not really. I wasn’t too concerned about entering a new decade, but it always feels just a little different when your actual birthday rolls around. Thirty, as it turns out, is pretty awesome. My wonderful friends, family and boyfriend made the entire weekend feel special and fun. We ate a lot of really good food, we drank some good drinks and I photographed most of it on my new and now fully functional camera.
When I got home from work on Friday there was a package from my brother waiting on the doorstep, and thirty minutes later the UPS man delivered my new camera lens. As soon as I attached the lens to the camera, the error message that’s been plaguing me for the last week disappeared. Hooray! An upgraded camera that I can finally use! Why did it take me so long to stop spending money on completely unnecessary things at Target to save for a nice camera?
The package from my brother contained a selection of smoked meat and fish from Flying Fish Company (here he is standing in the doorway!) – an awesome birthday gift. I’ve tasted a few kinds of their smoked fish before, and it’s all been awesome, but I’m especially excited to try the lamb bacon and fresh wasabi. Don’t you wish that your brother was a fishmonger who also slings quality meat and US-grown wasabi?
Before digging into the goods from my brother we had other smoked fish to take care of. I’d brought back a tub of smoked trout dip from New Pi in Iowa City last week, and we snacked on it with pita crackers while deciding on Friday dinner plans. It’s so hard to stop eating it once you start. Must be the cream cheese.
We reluctantly put a lid on the trout dip, and Matt picked up dinner from Cossetta’s while I started cleaning in preparation for the brunch that we were hosting the following morning.
Instead of having a regular birthday cake this year, I made mini cupcakes. I usually spend a week or two daydreaming about what kind of cake I want and searching for recipes, but I had too much other stuff on my plate this year to give the cake that much thought. I made what came to mind first, which was the best birthday cake from Smitten Kitchen. I wouldn’t call it the best, but it was good. Instead of the chocolate sour cream frosting that was paired with the cake recipe, I made chocolate buttercream frosting from More from Magnolia. Again, it was good but not the best. It’s pretty hard to beat last year’s strawberry cake.
Birthday breakfast #1 (a.k.a. fuel to get me through party prep): Earl Grey tea and a mini cupcake
I don’t like to make a big deal of my birthday, but since it was a big one I thought it would be a good year for a proper celebration. I considered trying to get some friends together and going out for drinks, but I have a hard time staying awake past 10PM and don’t get that excited about going out anymore, so I opted for a birthday brunch. It was such a good choice. We still got our celebratory drinks thanks to the bloody mary bar, we were graced with the presence of an adorable baby thanks to us not actually being at a bar, and I was able to share my obsession with ham-and-cheese-stuffed waffles by making and obscene amount of them for our guests (I’m so grateful for friends who are willing to take home leftovers). We now have a supply of champagne large enough to keep us celebrating for quite some time and a fresh bottle of whiskey to encourage my consumption of Luxardo cherries. Thanks, friends! I am lucky to have you.
Spinach egg bake. // Eight eggs + 16oz. cottage cheese + a bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry + a few roasted red peppers, chopped + a tablespoon or so of fresh dill + 1/2 tsp salt + pepper // Beat the eggs. Stir everything together in a big bowl. Pour into a butter baking dish. Dot with pieces of goat cheese (I used a garlic + herb goat cheese) and lightly press them down so they’re mostly submerged. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, until the eggs are set.
Fruit salad: grapefruit, cara cara oranges, mango, blueberries, raspberries and fresh mint
Bloody mary bar: green olives, dill pickles, pickled okra, peperoncini, Neuske’s beef sausage sticks, string cheese, celery, and an assortment of hot sauces
I made the bloody mary mix the night before and loosely followed this recipe. I made 3-4 times the recipe, used a lot more horseradish and hot sauce than the recipe said, and I also added celery salt and garlic powder. I thought it turned out really well, but I am also a sucker for anything with so many garnishes.
For my birthday dinner, Matt and I went to Heartland in downtown St. Paul. It’d been well over a year since our last visit, and as I recall we loved all of the starters on that visit, but we were pretty underwhelmed by our entrées. With all of the wonderful restaurants in the Twin Cities, it’s easy to move on from a not-so-great restaurant experience, but due to waiting until the last minute to make a reservation and having somewhat limited options, we decided to give it another shot. I briefly regretted my choice when we were seated under a vent pumping out cold air with enough force to to blow our menus around, but once we got drinks and started eating, I got over the chill. Everything that we had to eat was great – a frisée salad with pear, walnuts and blue cheese; slices of lamb braunschweiger with sauerkraut and rye toasts; Matt’s strip steak; my cassoulet; the ricotta-potato purée with venison pastrami (possibly my favorite bites) and a caramel glazed vanilla cheesecake. Oh, and the fennel sourdough rolls that were the day’s bread – fantastic. Aside from the loud-talking bozos a few tables away that were regaling women twice their age with tales of dining in Napa, it was a great dinner. Thanks, Matt!
Fresh waffles are the best, but leftovers that require a fraction of the work are a close second.
Matt came through on the bread book that I’d requested for my birthday, but I was too tired after dinner on Saturday to decide on a recipe and prepare ingredients for an overnight rest. I really wanted to make bread, though, and I finally got around to making a loaf of Irish soda bread at 5PM on Sunday. I used the recipe for rye soda bread in Super Natural Every Day but used a combination of corn, whole wheat and all-purpose flours instead of rye and all-purpose. It came together quickly, which is exactly what I was looking for, but I would probably try this alternative before making the same recipe again.
After a day of snacking on party leftovers, the only thing that sounded good for dinner was a salad. This one had herb spring mix, avocado, goat cheese, smoked steelhead from my brother, sunflower seeds, white balsamic and lemon juice. I chased it with a mini cupcake. The end.