Sunday, November 09, 2008

I'm Soooooo Tired

We had a bunch of people over last night to celebrate my 40th birthday; the actual day is Tuesday, but Saturdays are more conducive to parties. In keeping with the dinner party traditions of our crew, we made it a pot luck, but I took care of all the main things. Everyone loves my smoked chickens, so I made six of them, plus polenta, and pressure-cooked cabbage with peppercorns, juniper berries, fenugreek, cumin, and caraway seeds. Others brought 2 kinds of greens, turnips, fruit salad, amazing cheeses, and more.

For starters, I made more of my maple-togarashi popcorn, which is a nice accompaniment to sparkling wine and gave early arrivals something to eat while we waited for the rest. Once everyone arrived, I gave each person a coffee cup with my patented cappucino mushroom soup: crimini, shiitake, chanterelle, portobello, and porcini all caramelized and puréed with espresso and cacao nibs, and served with foamed milk on top with a few more cacao nibs. I didn't take a picture, but there's some soup left so I'll try to make some later this week. I also made a caramelized onion tart with gruyère and pine nuts, which was as good as it sounds.

John and I had been lamenting 1968 as a birth year, since it is widely hailed as one of the worst ever in France. But he's resourceful, and incredibly generous, and produced two immaculate bottles of 1968 Viña Valoria; 1968 was a great year in Spain. He actually apologized for not spending $1900 on a bottle of '68 Vega Sicilia. I pulled out a 1995 Remírez de Ganuza so we could compare Riojas, and it was fascinating; as good as the Remírez is, it's still a baby in comparison. And the Valoria was a delight, and continued to evolve over the course of the evening. By the end, it had arrived at a sort of Brunello kind of place, with dark, tarry fruit at the core- but all the leather and spices swirling around that core were unmistakably Spanish. Best of all, we only drank one of them, so I can save the other for a future birthday. This wine has many more years left in it.

Christine found my Mom's incredible cheesecake recipe, and made me one; I haven't had it since my Mom died and it was perfect. It's the best cheesecake of all time, and I might just post the recipe- it's also very easy, and kicks the asses of all other cheesecakes ever made. Sirkka made me an unbelievably beautiful espresso-chocolate cake with fancy frosting and chocolate covered espresso beans on top. I'm ashamed to say I didn't take a picture.

I got a wonderful pile of gifts, including a haircut on the spot from Richard, a fashion industry pro, who arrived with his kit. John and Chris had just returned from a tour in Japan, and they brought me an astonishing pile of culinary goodies:

Chris brought me the wooden box, which is a bonito shaver; the fish-shaped thing in the foreground is a hunk of smoked dried bonito that one grates into the box and then uses to make dashi. I have coveted his for years, and he remembered. All the rest is from John; udon, ume plums, kombu, dried shiitake, yuzu miso, ume vinegar, 7-spice, sudachi juice, kinako, soba-cha, and a soy-mirin sauce all made by this one woman who John reveres. My head is spinning with ideas, and with gratitude. I have the best friends in the world.


cookiecrumb said...

Oh, such good friends! And staggering menu.
Happy birthday (comin' up). I can't believe you're 40.
I'm a million.

(I have a Popol Vuh captcha: pimpoti.)

Jo said...

Another year, another bottle...what a great way to celebrate.
I am jealous of the bonito shaver, i have always coveted one myself.


Heather said...

You DO have great friends! Very thoughtful. When I went to Tokyo I brought back lots of stationery, but stupidly, no goodies (except bacon ramen - how could I not?). I'm cringing now to think what I'm missing. It didn't help that I can't read katakana.

Happy birthday! Again!

The Spiteful Chef said...

You had to make your own birthday dinner? Ah well. I suppose chefs prefer it that way anyway. The cake is gorgey, and the gifts (though fishier than what I'd like) are very cool. Happy Birthday!

peter said...

CC: You don't look a day over 850,000.

Jo: I'm so excited- as soon as I broth all the smoked chicken carcasses, it's going to be dashi madness up in here.

Heather: John is obsessed, and finds people who can help him find the good stuff.

Kristie: Honestly, I would have preferred to have someone else host. But I didn't want to impose.

cook eat FRET said...

this post is so out of my league and over my head i feel like calling you so that you can explain it to me...

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

You gotta be kidding me -- you got your hands on a 1968 Rioja!? I am now officially jealous. Wow.

peter said...

Claudia: You have the hotline number.

Hank: John is very into the birth-year wine as a gift. I'm saving the other bottle for 45 (maybe.)

Anonymous said...

Woa - Happy (belated) Birthday!
You really have the coolest friends ever. And they play Jazz too, right?

So cool!

Have fun with all the goodies from Japan.

peter said...

Yep, they play Jazz. I'm starting to open the goodies up and experiment...

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It sounds like a perfect celebration - happy belated!

The 40s ROCK. I'm about to plunge into 50 next summer.

When you spoke of 68 being a horrible year in France, I thought, "What... what do the riots and strikes have to do with his celebrating now?"

God, I'm so clueless.

peter said...

You're not clueless, Jen- you're just what the French call "soixantehiut-tarded."