We have a tradition in our home: birthday person picks their dinner (and cake). This tradition has been a fun one to implement. It is cheaper than fine dining but reason to enough to splurge on meals and get all fancy, and it has also forced me to extend my own cooking capabilities~not to mention the outworking of which is gift in and of itself. All of these things say nothing about the immense pleasure of being doted on like royalty.
For feasting, I always bring out a new tablecloth and do some special napkin folds. I *like* to have fresh flowers, but since it is winter and none were available~ I improvised with brown ribbon as a table runner, some stones and a few pictures of Matt scattered as the centerpiece. Another essential for feasting?! Water goblets. Water goblets are an absolute MUST.
In the beginning of this tradition, Matt's requests were simple (looking back, perhaps that is because I was such a novice in the kitchen in those days) but lately, he has been getting more...inventive. One year I made veal parmesan and for the cost of the veal he OUGHT to have felt like royalty. I had never made veal (not exactly in our budget to eat that way every night) and was more than a bit apprehensive but turns out... He said it was the best veal he had ever had. THIS year, though, I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. He asked for salmon.
I hate fish. I hate the smell of fish. The look of fish. The smell of fish. The thought of fish. And definitely the smell of fish. And I feel that adamant in my non-pregnant state, let alone in this constant-nausea state. I can't walk by the fish department of a local grocery without holding my breathe. But I was DETERMINED. (I was also very afraid I was going to be sick.) My goal, of course, was to show him I loved him SO MUCH that I would do the unthinkable. COOK FISH.
I spent the morning buying groceries and every moment after (until dinner) in the kitchen.
I spent $34.00 at the grocery store. I bought strawberries, a mango, oranges, cilantro, a salmon filet, TWO london broils (B1G1F), an artisan loaf, and romaine lettuce. We had the wine already. We dined like KINGS for a price far less than the cost of a fancy restaurant (WITHOUT the wine) plus I only used ONE london broil and only half of the remaining ingredients (except salmon) so we are enjoying those still.
A frugal, meaningful birthday gift? A homemade FEAST.
The full menu:
Hors d' oeuvre:
Fruit salsa with cinnamon tortillas
Caesar salad with freshly grated parmesan and homemade dressing
Salmon with horshradish cream sauce
London Broil (for the rest of us-and him too)
Crash Hot Potatoes
From-scratch Yellow Cake with Peanut Butter frosting.
And of course~ a DELICIOUS white wine. Oh MY, that was good.
The end result of the salmon? The first five bites were taken with eyes closed and audible groans of pleasure and those groans continued until the end. He declared it the best salmon he ever had! (and Matt doesn't just *say* that, you know?!) Chaaaaa-CHING!
I did it!!! Without being sick!!! (but I unashamedly held my breathe and prayed real hard)
I served the "courses" separately (just like fine-dining) and only took a picture of that salmon (for proof). I wish I would have gotten a picture of that bruschetta. SO beautiful and SOOOOOOOO delicious. oh my.
Because of EVERYTHING I had going on all at once, I iced and decorated the cake in five minutes. It wasn't exceptionally pretty but it was exceptionally edible.
I thought it was very precious that when Matt saw all the work I had done on his behalf, he stole away upstairs and changed into a suit. He has such a special way of encouraging people in their pursuits.
He is truly charming, and SO worth the work. (and the smell of fish.) My dearest birthday boy.