It has been my blogging tradition to do a post about my family’s holiday meal. This year everything was different – literally everything! My whole perspective on food is shifting because of the bariatric surgery I had in July. I’m eating pretty normally now – normal apparently for normal people. I’m still astonished by how little food it takes to make me feel satisfied. The problem is that my volume is so low I can’t seem to get enough protein. So not only is protein a priority, it has become the priority.
The second thing most different thing was the menu – or perhaps how the menu was established. Entertaining at this level has become a little too much for my Mom and Dad. (They still do it occasionally, but we won’t “make” them do it for us anymore.) We see how long it takes them to recover. That won’t stop them from contributing! You may recall that although my sister hosted Thanksgiving my Mom made the turkey (and stuffing and wild rice) and my Dad baked bread and there were contributions to the appetizer table.
This year my 21-year-old daughter (the baker) decided she was going to take on the family holiday. She’s worked in a production kitchen. She’s helped plan and prep meals for weekend retreats. She’s had lovely dinner parties for 4, and hosted (with help) dinner parties for 8. But the family holiday is a whole new level of stress. She’s got her Grandmother’s china setting for 12. She’s got enough open space in her apartment. She’s got the culinary chops to pull it off.
She doesn’t have place settings for 20, or 19, or 21 or Who is coming to this event anyway?!? She doesn’t have table space or seating for that many – room, but not the furniture. She doesn’t have linens or enough silverware or glasses. She also is waitressing, covering shifts for everyone who asked off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day along with her regular shifts. Five busy and under staffed work days followed by a dinner party for 20ish you’re hosting on Saturday is something only to be undertaken by someone that young. Oh, and my parents coming into town planning to stay with her as well.
She really was brilliant. She told everyone what she was making (ham and mashed potatoes) and what they were to bring. She rented tables and washed up my old linens and dug out my stored silverware. She did everything in her power to make sure everyone would be comfortable, contributing, and welcomed. For most everybody that was enough. The few lines in the sand she drew (no you can’t bring him he wasn’t invited/if he doesn’t want to be here he can go home) were appropriate and as gracious as possible.
I ate all week. Karina, Orion and I opened presents to each other Christmas eve and I made king crab and beef tenderloin. I had a crab leg and maybe an ounce of beef. On Christmas day Karina panicked and I went over to help her decorate her tree and get the house ready. She took me out for lunch – Chinese of course. Friday my parents came into town and we went to the restaurant where Karina was working for dinner. Mom had mussels, Dad had a vegetarian pot pie, Orion had fish and chips (and my fries and Mom’s fries) and I had a steak and Stilton pie (mostly just the insides). I baked my Mom a birthday cake and so we had some of that as well. The restaurant staff was happy to have their share of cake too. Plenty to go around when a “piece” amounts to a few bites.
Then there was the big dinner Saturday. Dad made a tin of his caramel corn (a tin the size of a 4 gallon tub) and several loaves of bread. He swore they’d eaten all the gravlax (he makes that too) for breakfast. (Some found its way to my refrigerator, but no bagels.) Mom brought shrimp dip, oysters and caviar, and artichoke dip. I added a cheese ball (Mom’s recipe) and some pomegranate salsa and chips. Just a little to whet the palate! I managed to have a bite of everything but some of it waited until the next day.
Dinner was the lovely bone in ham that Karina made, along with her mashed potatoes and gravy. Darcy put together a beautiful spinach salad with almonds and blueberries. My Mom dug out her homemade blue cheese dressing. I roasted up some vegetables. My little sister, Janine, made desert – a raspberry bomb – a tradition from our childhood that I haven’t had in years. What a treat! (2 bites worth, but I know where the leftovers are….)
You’d think I would have taken photos, but I was busy helping out in the kitchen and getting the tables set. Kept me from drooling all over the food that I couldn’t eat. (Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t have done it. There was too much!) It was actually a more simple meal that we usually have, but it was especially tasty and more than enough.
We were missing Andrea (part of the reason Karina hosted was because our Thanksgiving hosts were out with his family) and my niece. But we did have Janine and her boys (another coup for Karina). Everyone left early. The elders were tired, Janine had to get home, Darcy and Zac had more relatives to visit before the day was out. Karina was asleep in my lap within an hour of everyone leaving.
I’m so proud of my daughter for pulling off a daunting affair at her age. She may even be willing to do it again next year (paper plates?).
My birthday was February 28th. I’ve always maintained that the older you are, the longer you get to celebrate. So, even though I started early and am past the actual date I’m not quite done yet. Birthday dinners were a big thing in my family. Regular readers will hardly be surprised by this statement. The deal was that although we couldn’t afford fancy dinners out, Mom and Dad were willing to cook whatever we wanted.
Being blessed with a birthday timed to hit all the post Valentines Day seafood sales I was indulged. I developed a fondness for crustaceans early and never let up. I also happen to have a birthday perfectly timed for Restaurant Week. It’s slow this time of year so Monday-Friday participating restaurants offer a pre-set menu of typical fare at significantly reduced prices. It’s a great way to try out new restaurants, and a good excuse to get folks to take me out.
On my actual birthday I stayed in and cooked. I was thinking about ordering pizza, but Orion wanted steak so I went for it. But in another “good timing” gig, our celebration for the Goddess Lucina happens to fall on the first Sunday of March and that’s also a food rich event.
I have eaten out A LOT celebrating my birthday. So far I’ve had:
Picking up Orion at my folks they made me birthday dinner of sea scallops in wine sauce with pesto linguine. The recipes aren’t as full of butter as they used to be, but still very tasty.
Dinner at Fogo de Chao with Karina and courtesy of Orion: including smoked salmon, cheeses, and asparagus from the salad bar and about 17 different preparations of chicken, sausage, lamb and beef. The best cut of meat hands down was the special Brazillian cut. Desserts were a definitive Brazillian flan, a molten chocolate cake, and a turtle cheesecake. Orion sang me Happy Birthday in Portuguese.
Lunch with Judy: produced homemade rye bread fresh out of the oven along with roasted cauliflower and a lovely mushroom and sausage quiche.
Dinner at Campiello with my 50+ women’s meet-up group: I had meatballs in the house marinara with fried basil leaves, fresh butternut squash ravioli in browned butter and a baked chocolate mouse cake with salted carmel gelato and caramelized peanuts. The food was excellent, the company a lot of fun and the service exquisite. They handled a bunch of rowdy women like pros. The staff answered all our questions (even the ones about other restaurants) and accommodated our dietary quirks. A really fun evening (and how I really spent my birthday money).
Dining in with Orion: I made fillet minion, which I cut off the tenderloin and wrapped in nitrate free hand sliced bacon from the coop. I paired it with roasted asparagus sprinkled with parmesan and a baked potato. Not too difficult and very satisfying.
Dinner at Piccolo with Karina: Karina and I have established a history of fine dining and conversation about the details of the food we eat. We’ve dished dinners all over town, in New York City, in Washington D.C., in Florida, on cruise ships and anywhere else we’ve traveled. I started her early (she was maybe 5 on that cruise). When we talk about our separate vacations the conversation usually revolves around the food we tried. It’s hereditary. My Mom’s travel logs all detail our vacation dining as well.
We had the tasting menu, starting out with a lengthy debate about who was going to get what. Clearly we needed to avoid duplication and taste everything! Our waiter stepped in and answered questions about how the food was prepared. Karina stuck her head into the kitchen a few times to watch them prep and ask questions there as well. Piccolos focuses on locally sourced food, lots of small bites and beautiful presentation. We were in foodie heaven.
Piccolos is actually a small little neighborhood kind of venue. The decor features stacks of books about food. I noted the coffee table book on Olives in the bathroom and the Oxford Guides to Food and Wine. The cookbook that we snuck to the table was an Italian cookbook by a local author, The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper with post-it notes stuck all through it commenting on the recipes. The waiter thought she’d probably left it visiting the owners previous restaurant. Clearly it remains a favorite. It kept us entertained between courses and now I have to go find a copy! (Karina wants one too.)
Lucina’s Day brunch is set up as a pile of finger food and conversation among the women followed by dinner with the families. The ladies I celebrate with cook so it’s always a treat. I brought wine and pesto stuffed mushrooms. We also had olives, pita, dried oranges, lots of cheeses, dolmades, figs, chocolate and orange cakes, nuts. Perfect food to chat over. Dinner added beef ribs and chicken and brie stuffed mushrooms. Stuffed was the word of the day.
Maybe this week I’ll get around to making myself a cake.