November 2, 2009

Birthday Dinner Surprise!

Jason turned 26 yesterday, Sunday, November 1st. My gift to him was a surprise, homemade, candle-lit, birthday dinner two days before his actual birthday. To throw him off a bit, I told him we had reservations that night at a nice restaurant located nearby (*wink wink*).

Although I was busy preparing for the surprise all week long, he was completely oblivious and didn't suspect a thing! (That's a guy for you!) I tried to be fairly well prepared by getting everything that could be done ahead of time, done well ahead of time. But, there were still lots of small details that had to be left for the last minute - setting the table, lighting the candles and (the big one) getting all the food cooked and plated. As if that wasn't enough pressure, Jason decided to come home early from work that day!

That turn of events called for some creative & sneaky thinking. Flowers had to be hidden in my bathroom (which he never uses), behind the shower curtain. Food was secretly being prepped while J. did other stuff around the apartment. And the birthday cupcakes were baked in plain sight (no way around it) - but he thought they were for some guests we were having over the next day. And thanks to our upstairs neighbor who joined in on the deception by taking J. out for happy hour, I was able to get him out of the apartment while I took care of the last minute details.

He came home a couple hours later, slightly intoxicated, to a beautifully set table and lots of burning candles. Surprise! You know that nice restaurant you thought we were going to? It's actually right here :) He was completely surprised I think he really enjoyed it :)

[I took that picture of the Eiffel Tower on our last day in France]

The menu was French, inspired by some of the memorable dishes we had on our recent trip to France.

Pate de Foie Gras
on toasted french bread

Salade de Chevre Chaud
rounds of herbed goat cheese breaded and pan-fried served over a salad of mixed baby greens

Sole Meuniere
fillets of sole fish pan -ried in a brown butter sauce with lemon and thyme
(If you saw the movie Julie & Julia, you'll recognize this dish as the dish that got Julia Child child started on her way to being a master of French cuisine. I'm sure my sole dish was not as fabulous as the one Julia had on her first day in France but it was tasty and not at all bad for the first time ever making this dish! I also had to use frozen sole fillets because I couldn't find any fresh ones [not a local fish]. )

Confit de Canard
pan-seared preserved duck thighs
(They come fully cooked and packed in a tin can [two thighs per can]. All you have to do is crisp the skin and outside meat and heat through. So simple and so delicious!)

Pommes Sarladaises
potatoes sauted in duck fat
(Use the duck fat that comes in the confit can. Remaining fat can be saved for another time and another usage.)

Gateau d'Anniversaire
birthday (cup)cake
(I had this grand idea of making French macarons. Bad idea. They're much more difficult than I thought. Luckily, I had the foresight to try making them a few days before and when they didn't turn out well, I switched to plan B: red velvet cupcakes [from packaged mix]. Even though they're not a French dessert, it's still nice to have birthday cake on your birthday!)

fruity white wine from Burgundy
(J.'s favorite white wine)

It was one big fat satisfying and romantic meal. I'm kinda proud of myself that I was actually able to pull it off without any major missteps. The flowers are still fresh and beautiful and some of the candles are still sitting on the dinning table. It was such a beautiful meal, makes me wish every meal could be like that!

[a shot of the aftermath]

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