Andrew will be turning 21 on Thursday (when we will celebrate in non-pajamas at Boulud Sud), but this is the real birthday celebration. Besides saving money and sparing yourself the lacerations of the cold, there are plenty of benefits to having your birthday dinner at home.
1. Permission to eat retro-stylings like prosciutto and cataloupe and electric green mint jelly. Cantaloupe has a bad brand image these days, known as a filler-fruit in water-logged, overpriced fruit salads, but a full-flavored cantaloupe with salty prosciutto is something special -- if not always in vogue.
2) More crab, less crumb in your crab cake. Dad packed mucho crab, a heap of Old Bay, and a smidgen of bread crumbs into these things. They are the best in a straight-forward, highly-seasoned, crab-generous way few other restaurants let them be.
3. Restaurant ingredients, your way. We got this white fish from my uncle's restaurant in upstate New York. No one can tell us for sure what it is, but it's white and buttery with a flake that's unlike sea bass or anything else we know. Here it was steamed with ginger and scallion, then doused with a concentrated syrup of soy and star anise. So delicious, you drag your vegetables in the fishy spiced sauce and pick up the wilted scallions with your fingers.
Oops, forgot to shoot this when it was cut up. Here's the lamb in leftover mode.
4. Really really smelly lamb. This lamb roast stunk up the whole house. But it tasted milder than it smelled, and a house that smells of lamb is a home.
5. Dad gets to indulge high-low tendencies. This is cauliflower and okra with Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup. I'm not a huge fan of preservative-ladened cornstarch-thickened soups, but I do admit that the soup-sauce suspended itself in the slimy okra matrix in a way that was not undelicious.
6. More vegetables just the way you like them. Here's chayote with pickled mustard greens. No bacon, no nuts, just salt and pepper and two vegetables with two types of juice and crunch.
7. You can shop around for desserts. Maybe a little Americana with a blueberry peach pie. Here's a version from Susan Lawrence, which actually had me bypassing the innards for the pie crust, a toasty, sugar-dusted equivalent of rough-cut slate. Plus we went for an old fav, La Tulipe, with two miniatures: a thin-shelled pyramid of chocolate, mocha mousse, and hazelnut dacqoise; and a single plush raspberry nested inside a pillow of chocolate mousse cut with a tile of raspberry gelee.
Of course, the #1 benefit of having your birthday dinner at home is having everything you like with no thought to theme or profit margins or using your "I'm in public" manners. But, really, this dinner wasn't very "Andrew" given that he doesn't really like lamb, fish, or these vegetables.
My parents said that means my birthday in March can consist of Andrew's favorite foods, but that's not going to happen. Sorry, dude!