Sunday, April 12, 2009

birthday & easter eggstravaganza

My birthday this year was pretty low-key, but also just perfect. I had a fun Work Birthday Celebration on Thursday (my birthday eve), and we got lunch from Dormont Dogs and one of the most fantastic cakes I've ever tasted and seen from Vanilla Pastry Studio. (the folks at big Burrito know how to celebrate).

Dormont Dogs is a little venture started by Chef Captain Barnes and his wife, and they make the best dogs I've ever had. Great ingredients and clever combinations make for some delicious hot dog fare. You can almost get everything on the menu in a veggie dog version *and* they have sweet tea on the menu. It doesn't get much better than that. We had a FEAST.

And, if that wasn't enough, the cake that Vanilla sent over was just unbelievable. I'm sad I didn't get some pics of it, but it just didn't last long enough for that. It was a four-layer vanilla cake with a melt-in-your-mouth, light-as-air buttercream, covered in shaved coconut. And, between the layers alternated the buttercream and the most delicate and perfectly tart lemon cream. The cake was so moist, and while I'm sure it was far from a "lite" treat, it tasted so light, so spring, so sunny, so delicious that even after consuming my fair share of slices, I still can't stop thinking of it. Really, really stellar.

And, that was just Birthday Eve!

On the day itself, Barbara gave me some fantastic handmade gifts, and we had a quiet evening at home. Check out The Meerkat Johaansen with his new friend The Meerkat Snicklefritz! You should have seen them laughing and playing!


On the next day, Barbara made me breakfast in bed, and I had a half-industrious/half-lazy afternoon around the house. In the evening, we went out for my birthday dinner at Eleven (my favorite restaurant in town) where Chef Derek Stevens works magic with food as his medium. We had the Chef's Vegetarian Tasting Menu (this is available every day, folks!). The meal was beautiful, and we even lucked into an extra course that the chef sent out for us to try. Here's the run-down...

Amuse Bouche:
a tiny little grilled cheese sandwich on house-made bread with morels, Upland Farms Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese and ramp pesto.

A fantastic way to start the meal! My first taste of morels and ramps for the season, and a taste of a cheese that I'd been wanting to try since Chef Bill Fuller declared it "the best cheese produced in America".

First Course: Soup and Salad
golden beet puree, whipped goat cheese, sumac
Three Sister’s Farm mesclun, olives, lemon, garlic, mint

A beautiful plate. The greens in the salad were so perfectly tender, and expertly dressed with a hint of lemon, and balanced with briny olives and delicate mint. Lovely.
The soup was the texture of velvet, and delectably sweet, and nicely balanced by the tang of the goat cheese. There was another odd taste that I couldn't place in my tastebud memory banks--I guess the sumac? I don't know anything about it. Will have to do some googling.

Second Course: Asparagus and Peas
raclette, sauce gribiche, fingerling potato crisp

This dish was Spring personified. Not only was it just a beautiful plate, but it had it all--bursting with seasonal freshness, rich colors, a mix of bold and delicate flavors and a little whimsy thrown in.
This was the only photo I took during the meal. I wish I'd captured everything, but I was too busy enjoying everything to concentrate on documenting it. But, really, wow. I'd never had sauce gribiche, but our server described it as a "tartar sauce, in vinaigrette form". It was briny with little capers, lemony, and super-fresh tasting while also being rich and satisfying. A perfect foil for the tender spring veggies. And, the tiny little whisper-thin fingerling potato chips were the perfect topping. Not only completely adorable, their crispness provided yet another layer of texture. Again, wow.

Bonus course!
Morel and Ricotta Ravioli
ramp pesto, Swiss chard, Parmigiano Reggiano

This is one of those moments that make me love my job. Getting to work with really talented chefs, and best of all--getting to try the fruits of their labor! The chef sent out this plate for us to try, and it was easily one of our favorites of the night. The ravioli were pillow soft, and stuffed with a rich ricotta and morel filling, and topped with some braised ramps and Swiss chard with a drizzle of ramp pesto. Fantastic!!!

Third Course:
Trumpet Royale
dandelion greens, semolina gnocchi, cipollini onions, balsamic vinegar

The main course was our least favorite, but it still had some great components. The mushrooms themselves were lovely (the surface just perfectly scored), but the texture just was a little tough. We ate around those to try the perfectly bitter dandelion greens and the rich little gnocchis. Yum.

Ehrrin - Meyer Lemon Meringue Shortcake
lemon ice cream, lemon curd, blueberry hibiscus tea, candied lemon

Oh! This plate was just beautiful! And, the lemon ice cream was rich and sweet, but the curd and blueberry tea was tart. The meringue and the shortcake rounded the whole thing out, and it was just divine. How I love a lemon dessert!
Barbara - S’more
marshmallow ice cream, graham cracker, milk chocolate Godiva mousse

Mmm! Rich and light at the same time! The mousse probably was the standout here, but the whole plate was just amazing. I had to sneak several bites to confirm.

Salted Caramels

Ah, a perfect send-off for our last bite. Perfectly lovely little caramels, just with a hint of saltiness and with the bottom coated in a superfine granulated sugar.

A meal to remember indeed! Oh, Eleven, how I love thee!
Eleven on Urbanspoon


And that brings us to Easter morning. Barbara and I both woke up to Easter baskets chock full of tempting treats (the first thing I tried was a Smoked Chocolate square...interesting). And, after we'd dug through our baskets, I went to the kitchen to unpeel the eggs I prepped yesterday. I'd seen a photo of these on my favorite food porn site, Tastespotting , and needed to know more. The photo was from the Barefoot Kitchen Witch blog, and she walks you through a step-by-step of how to create these stunning Easter treats. I can't believe how simple it was! I'm following her to a tee, and making deviled eggs with them for our Easter dinner at Barbara's sister's house this afternoon. I hope everyone is as charmed as we are!

Happy Easter folks!



1 comment:

ellen said...

my mouth is totally watering -- sounds like a wonderful, food filled birthday weekend