A Birthday Celebration in Courses

Planning a birthday dinner for a savory chef isn't an easy task. Especially if it also involves an anniversary (1 year), and Valentine's Day (he cooked a birthday dinner for his mother and family the day before so we basically stayed close to home on Sunday). (For Valentine's day, I had thought of doing it over-the-top and having some sort of heart theme with each course. But I think it turned out better this way).

I'd planned, researched, second guessed, changed, finalized, and fretted over the menu. I consulted cookbooks, YouTube videos, websites, blogs, friends, and even the man himself (when I found out his favorite seafood was scallops, I quickly added a course). Once the menu was finalized, I planned the prep, making lists (couldn't live without them), scheduling prep as well as shopping and lying. I made and froze rough puff pastry from Michel Roux's Pastry: Savory and Sweet. I made fresh pasta dough and filling, formed, and shaped the ravioli. I made pastry cream, Nutella cream, soup, balsamic reduction and almost made crackers! I pushed myself and my cooking skills by trying new cooking techniques, revisiting others from my past restaurant experiences, all while trying to remember to breathe and have fun. At one point, I started to overwhelm myself with everything that I thought it would just be easier to buy something and be done with it, but knew deep down inside that I couldn't do that. First, S. really deserved something special and what's more special than taking the time out to do something really great for someone you care about? Second, I had set this as a goal for myself and I don't back down from a challenge, so I stuck with it. Saturday night, while waiting for him to come over I laughed at myself and thought, it's not like he's a paying customer, so if it's not perfect, it doesn't matter. I knew he would at least appreciate the effort! Once I started prepping the dinner and cooking (and had my first glass of champagne!) I started to worry less, and the rhythm of cooking and my instincts kicked in. The timing and coordination I'd learned at NoMI took over and even though I'd never cooked scallops before, and I'm still new at pan searing fish, everything went so well, it was eerie.

After the kitchen had been cleaned, the hastily assembled light studio and camera had been removed, and the rockstar feeling wore off, I looked at the photos (which improved as well). Though I found things with each course I would do differently, it didn't mar the feeling of accomplishment that warmed me. Little touches here and there, that would have given a dish a little more eye-appeal, or some styling changes. Of course, I was limited by my budget, and the fact that I can't have everything I want nor do I have the resources that restaurants have. But this experience has pushed me to think even further outside the box and has given me more ideas to play around with. So, here it is, menu and photos!


Apple Parsnip Soup
Buttermilk Bread Crouton, Crisp Apple “Slaw”


Pan Roasted Scallops
Asparagus Puree, Browned Butter, Roasted Garlic Parmesan Froth, Radish Sprouts


Seared Sea Bass
Mushroom Ravioli, Radish Salad, Beurre Blanc


Delice de Bourgogne, Prairie Breeze
Balsamic Reduction, Candied Spiced Walnuts


Nutella Mille Feuille,
Hazelnuts Nougatine, Chocolate Paint

I even typed up a menu for the evening, listing Thomas Keller as my Sous Chef since I got a lot of inspiration and some recipes from his The French Laundry cookbook. I also got inspiration for the scallop dish from the zen can cook


Anonymous said…
So, when does your restaurant open? Will we be invited to the grand opening? Are reservations necessary? Where are you located? My birthday is this spring. Is it too early to book a party?

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