“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal." ~Julia Child
This was a long time coming. 346 days, to be exact. I had waited those
out painstakingly, squandering my culinary creativity for this one
Pat and I met on November 6th, 2010. I was jet-lagged (I
had been in San Fran all week) and wired for a night out After
10 years of having the same friend (shout-out to Amanda Bankert), our
lives finally, and rather unexpectedly, converged. Four days later we
had our first date, and there was no looking back. Over the last year
we have embarked on so many fantastic journeys and shared so many
fantastic experiences. Except one. We haven't celebrated each other's
Yeah, I know, kind of weird. And, to be honest, looking back, it
does feel like one thing has sort of been missing from our
relationship. Pat was born on October 22nd, and I on October 31st. And
when you consider the timeline of our relationship, it's almost funny
how narrowly we missed our birthdays. When I consider that, it sends me
off on some philosophical tangent where I get all cerebral about fate,
and timing and parallel experiences, blah blah blah. All I know is that
we've celebrated every major holiday, vacations, friends & family
milestones, 4 (yeah, freakin' FOUR) weddings, new jobs, new homes,
personal accomplishments, births of babies, *breathe* but not...one
another. We haven't gotten to celebrate us. I have been excited for
that opportunity for almost as long as we've been together.
So, 346 days later, I got what I had been waiting for. Pat's
birthday! I could finally unleash myself, and cook for him, the meal
I'd been quietly crafting at the back of my brain and inside a tiny
pocket of my heart for an entire year.
There is no better culinary muse than Love (I believe this might be true for everything in Life; there is nothing better than Love). With Patrick and our wonderful relationship as inspiration, I was driven, no...compelled, to lay on his plate the manifestation of everything I feel: my heart come to life. I was brimming with ideas, and was in a tournament with myself to arrive at the perfect meal. Cooking is, to me, as much a form of self-expression, as any other art form. I cannot paint, I cannot write music, I cannot dance, I am in no way an artist of any kind (and I'm ok with that). But I can cook. Food is a palate I know well. And I had finally been handed an occasion in which to unfurl my creative wings, and just soar.
When I finally got into the kitchen on Saturday (already a few glasses of wine down, and of course, more waiting in the wings), I was so ready to create this, I was literally tingling with excitement (or, maybe that was the wine?)! I got all my ingredients laid out on the counter, and looking at all of it, I suddenly felt the way a conductor does when he stands in front of his orchestra, or a painter in front of their canvas. And, as I stood there basking in my creative glory, I could feel that this experience would be different. For, sitting in my audience, just through the doorway, feet kicked up, ice cold beer in his hand, relaxing and comfortable, was my inspiration. I raised the chef's knife, and commenced my symphony, my culinary cabaret.
Patrick's Birthday Menu
*Butter Lettuce Salad with Apples, Walnuts & Blue Cheese
*Black Pepper Crusted New York Strip & a Pinot Noir Reduction
*Crispy-Smashed Roasted Potatoes with Horseradish Cream
*Roasted Wild Mushrooms with Thyme
*Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake with Vanilla Gelato
*Freixenet Extra Brut Champagne
Steak + mushrooms is a classic combo and I wanted to mimmick that in some way, without just the standard sauteed sliced variety. At the store, I picked up really gorgeous shitakes and creminis, fresh from Kennet Square (mushroom capital of the world). Large slices, tossed simply in good olive oil, fresh thyme, salt & black pepper, I roasted them also at 450, and I wasn't expecting quite how delicious they would turn out. The shitakes got browner and toothsome, in a really wonderful way, and the creminis deepened their earthy, heady flavor. A positively sublime partner to the steak, there's a reason this pairing works.
This was, without a doubt, the best meal I have ever cooked. Every single second of conceptualizing and executing it was born out of what I felt in the very depths of my bones: a deep and beautiful fondness for a very special man. And the more I reflect on it, I realize it was also the perfect representation of my style of cooking, and of our relationship: traditional roots & foundations, with shades of whimsy, modernity, and a whoooole lotta Love.