Twelfth Annual Birthday Dinner

Trying to shoehorn an extended essay into 140-character tweets is a pain, the threading is a nightmare and it’s impermanent. If only there was some other medium better suited to the purpose…

Oh, what’s this? *blows dust of WordPress*

How is it possible that I haven’t posted anything here for a little over a year? It’s not that I haven’t been cooking  – I’ve made a lot of new dishes. It’s a copout, but life got incredibly busy and interesting (in the Chinese proverb sense), leaving me with little time to devote to this blog. So it’s time to start up again, and what better occasion that the annual birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed?

I knew it was coming – it happens at the same time every year – but I was still surprised when two weeks before the dinner I still had no idea of what to cook. She Who tried to be helpful: “Don’t cook anything complicated.” (As if I would ever follow that advice.) Rather than struggle with a unifying theme for the menu progression, I chose a series of dishes that I knew she had enjoyed in other settings. I was able to do a lot of advance prep and minimized the a la minute cooking to make the timing work better. Here’s what I came up with:


We started with an update of the classic Negroni: equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. I infused the mix with lemon and orange peel, raspberries, and slice of grapefruit.


Our guests were served a small sealed mason jar, which, when opened revealed this:

From the bottom up: pommes purée (Joel Robuchon recipe, 33% butter by weight), crispy maiitake mushrooms, sous vide poached egg, and crispy duck skin. Served with a 2012 Peter Lauer Riesling. (This was the signature dish at West Bridge restaurant in Cambridge, where She Who made repeated attempts to steal bites of my serving after she finished hers.)


Grilled brined asparagus with preserved lemon aioli and toasted almonds. Served with a 2016 grüner veltliner.


Truth in advertising: This photo is of a version of the dish I prepared previously. My plating for this dinner was so embarrassingly amateurish that I won’t let anyone see it. I served the same sous vide and seared ribeye with shiitake mushroom marmalade and beef jus, but swapped out the squash and bone marrow for sautéed fiddleheads (which had just come into season). Served with a 2008 Ravenswood Dickerson Zinfandel.


No photo of this palate cleansing cocktail, but it was a mix of citron vodka and prosecco topped with a scoop of lemon coconut saffron sorbet – a boozy ice cream float.


When I brought this to the table I received nods of recognition from three of our guests, who had seen this dessert when I first made it 33 years earlier. It’s bombe au trois chocolats, a Julia Child recipe for a chocolate brownie shell filled with chocolate mousse and glazed with chocolate ganache. My updated version added blood orange reduction to the mousse and blood orange zest as a garnish. I served it with a side of cardamom-scented whipped cream.

She Who had only heard stories about this dessert, so I wasn’t sure it would live up to it’s near-legendary hype. I’m happy to report it did.

I hope another year won’t pass before I update this blog. I already have a few ideas for future posts. Stay tuned.

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