Cinco de Mayo

It's sort of fun having a Cinco de Mayo birthday. I'm not sure what difference it makes, but invariably, when someone asks my birth date and I say May 5th, they often respond with "Oh, Cinco de Mayo!" And I say, "That's right!" My grandfather's birthday was on the day we Americans know as "Flag Day" on June 14th. He always told me they put out the flags for him. So, hey, Cinco de Mayo fireworks and parades...obviously, for me! Also, Mike brought me a carrot cake, which has nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo, but the colors of the Mexican flag are there...sort of. Close enough...

He also brought home two trees. One is a dwarf Japanese maple to replace the one that was crushed when a big branch fell on it this past winter.

The other was a tree I've wanted for a long time, called a "Golden Chain" tree or laburnum for you smarty-pants horticulture types. It's a little hard to distinguish it from the wisteria behind, but here's a picture anyway.

In spring, it gets the most beautiful yellow clusters of blossoms on it.

Our neighbor has one that is just gorgeous. This will actually be our third attempt to grow one. The other two were planted in the same place, and we think the poor drainage in that spot did them in. This one will go in a different spot where it will do better, hopefully. If not, we'll engage the three strikes rule.

So, anyway...yesterday was mostly spent in the kitchen getting ready for our family get-together tonight. It seemed like as good a day as any to add a loaf of challah to the list. Challah is the next loaf in the Bread Baker's Apprentice, and it wasn't going to add much effort to the day's kitchen activities. It's made with two whole eggs and two egg yolks, which gives the dough a slightly yellow tinge. The remaining two egg whites are used as an egg wash just before it's baked. Also, the usual stuff...bread flour, rapid-rise yeast, salt, water, and just a bit of sugar. Once the dough is mixed up, it's formed into a "boule" and then allowed to rise for an hour. After an hour it looked like this.

I took pictures of it at every stage, but they all kind of look the same, so I'm only posting this one. After an hour, it's punched down and then kneaded again just briefly to degas it. The dough was full of bubbles and it kept squeaking in protest as I kneaded it. After that, it was shaped into another boule and allowed to rise for another hour. When that hour was up, I divided into three equal portions that were shaped into boules, and then it was allowed to rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

The next step is to roll each of the three into a "rope" and then they are braided to form the loaf of challah. I had the hardest time getting them to stretch out. The dough was very elastic, and it kept returning to the original length. I ended up picking it up at each end and sort of swinging it like a jump rope to stretch it out some. Still, when I set it back down on the bread board, it shrank back to nearly its original length. With heroic effort, I was able to shape it into a braid.

From there it was brushed with egg wash and spritzed with some water, and then moved to a parchment lined baking sheet. It was given another hour to rise and then baked. It occurs to me that this just might go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest loaf of challah ever baked. The loaf is huge, but it sure smelled good.

I was motivated to bake this loaf because it was the next loaf in the book, but also because it is an alternative to brioche for making French toast. I'm going to freeze this loaf and then we'll take it along on our trip. At some point, I'll make French toast from it and then report back about our findings. This experiment will be highly scientific and written up in a peer-reviewed journal. 

There was other cooking aside from the bread. I made our dessert of Lemon Cheesecake Mousse, but I forgot to take a picture. Instead I'm recycling this image from a previous blog post. It's so light and delicious, and we're having a big heavy meal tonight. No one can ever leave my table without having dessert, and so I think this one will be appreciated.

Also, I made some cocktail sauce for shrimp cocktail, hot dungeness crab appetizer, and tart green beans with bacon, all family favorites. Today I'll be making a salad and then getting the roast beast started. We'll also be having mashed potatoes. It's the same meal I always make for Mike's birthday, and everybody looks forward to the same tried and true dishes, year after year. Think of it as Thanksgiving in May with roast beast instead of turkey.

Aside from all that, I had some time to turn the second corner on the Mommy & Me quilt.

This morning, I finished it up. 

Here's how it looks from the back:

And here's a close-up of the quilting.

My friend Deb and I had a texting conversation this morning. I'll put a label on it and ship it off to her after the baby is born in June.

Also yesterday, there was a little time left over in the day, so I made the latest Solstice Block. We're coming down the home stretch on this one, and not a minute too soon. This is Block #20 of 25 blocks, called "Hugs and Kisses." My fabric makes it a little hard to pick out the X's and O's, but I wanted to use this celebration fabric. This block celebrates Mike's retirement.

Any time I have for sewing over the next week is going to seem like a bonus, and that's how I feel about getting this block finished.

We capped off the day with dinner out at one of my favorite restaurants, The Painted Lady, in Newberg, Oregon. Newberg is a town of about 20,000 people, and so we marvel at this 5-star restaurant with a James Beard award-winning chef right in our little town. The food is first-rate, but the presentations are what make this restaurant such a delight. From here, I have nothing but food photos to show you, and so if that's not your thing, stop right here. If you're like me and enjoy food in all its forms, then continue on and feast your eyes (pun intended).

We had cocktails to start. There was a blood orange cosmopolitan on the cocktail menu, but I had the plain old-fashioned version of a cosmopolitan. There were some pretty white poppies on the table.

Next they brought out this assortment of canapes. They were very careful about Mike's seed sensitivity, and so made those cross-hatch potato chips especially for us. They were topped with hummus. The two green circles on each side were little cucumber "cups" filled with something...I forget what it was...and topped with salmon roe. In the center were some deep fried oyster mushrooms. Those were really good.

We always take our own bottle of wine when we go out, and it was opened at this point. There's so much to celebrate right now that it's hard to know where to start.

So, the little canapes were just a bonus course on our upcoming 9-course meal. We started with this "Amuse-bouche". (They gave me a copy of the menu so that I could tell you all what everything is.) This was a spear of local asparagus, pickled Shimeji mushrooms there on the side, smoked almonds, and Iberico lardo (don't ask me...and actually, you might not want to know). It was all wonderful. There are some little red radishes and green goddess dressing there as well. The radishes were quite spicy.

Keep in mind as we go through this meal that the portions are very small...miniaturized, one might say. The little breads pictured below were tiny little things. The long "baguette" was dill...about the size of my index finger. It had dill seeds in it, and so they brought Mike a little muffin.

That was served alongside this "Miso Custard" which was essentially a soup served in a pottery cup. They encouraged us to drink the broth once we'd eaten all the goodies from it. Good to know, because we're all about licking the plates. It had a big hunk of Dungeness crab, pickled red onion, edamame, sesame powder, and dashi. Delicious.

Next was this "Ricotta Cavatelli" which consisted of some roasted cauliflower and some purple sprouting broccoli (there it is again!), some Medjool dates and a little slice of pecorino cheese over the top. Yum.

After that, we started getting to the meat courses. First, a smoked duck breast. Generally, I wouldn't order duck in a restaurant, or any place else for that matter. Eat Donald? Really? (Or maybe it's Daffy...Daffy-Donald...same difference, if you get my meaning.) So anyway...this included puy lentils, sunchoke puree, huckleberry, and truffles. It was very good, and I barely thought about the duck part.

And then there was the Golden Halibut. In addition to a hunk of halibut, there were fiddlehead ferns, morels, and ramps all with a mushroom"nage" ladled over the top. (A "nage" is a broth with cream added. Yes, I asked, and threw the guy off his practiced script. Such a troublemaker.)

Between each course, they cleared away all the dishes and silverware and brought us a fresh set appropriate to the dish that was coming next. When they brought the sharp knife, I knew beef was coming, and I was right. This is a 28-day aged New York steak with an olive-stuffed Hakurei turnip, potato puree, and a pinot noir red wine sauce. Scrumptious.

From there, we started winding down with a "Fraga Farmstead Creamery Rio Santiam" that included roasted rhubarb, spring onion (candied!) a little graham cracker and some molasses. Don't ask me where the molasses is...I couldn't tell.

And I don't know about you, but I started feeling as if my palate needed cleansing. Fortunately, they brought out this "Roasted Parsnip Ice" with Earl Grey shortbread, kumquat soup, and Greek yogurt.

On a fancy night like this, I splurge with a glass of dessert wine. I happen to love sweet wines, and this was a Spanish sherry. Mike tasted it, but he's more of a scotch or bourbon kind of guy. He made a face at the sweetness. I just slurped it up. Literally. Nobody said I couldn't slurp. (Just now I noticed the "slurp" is contained in the word "splurge," and so I'm saying it makes sense. To me.)

For dessert, they served this "Chocolate Cremeux" which consisted of cashew ice cream, malt candy, cocoa sorbet, and coffee Anglaise.

We finished up with the "Mignardises." Google Translate tells me that this means "sweets". I congratulated the chef for correctly guessing my mental age. The little wrapped up deals in the middle were butterscotch. Then there was a little chocolate drop, a cookie, a rhubarb gumdrop and another little sandwich cookie of some kind. The menu doesn't tell me anything beyond "sweets". Mike was still so hungry, he couldn't even wait for me to take the picture before grabbing one off the plate.

And then because we were feeling as if we were getting shorted on food, they brought out this little box for me.

Inside, it contained this ganache bar. It's still in the refrigerator. I don't think I'll ever need to eat another bite. It'll probably sit there for a day or two.

Okay, and did you gain weight just looking at the pictures? Me too. Again.

So it's a lovely day today. Most of the cooking for tonight's dinner is done now, and so I can relax until about 2:30 or so when I need to get the roast beast into the oven. Between now and then I'm going to get outside and pull some weeds. I'm afraid they're going to grow taller than the house if I don't get them out before we leave. I'm hoping I'll have a little more time to sew today because I want to get a start on my little quilt for the quilt-along that is starting at The Inbox Jaunt.

21 comments from clever and witty friends:

Debbie said...

Happy Birthday,girl! Sounds like you had a grand time. enjoy it and the family.

QuiltShopGal said...

Happy Birthday. Sounds like an absolutely wonderful birthday to me. Both of these trees are beautiful and my favorites, but I don't think they'll grow in my area (rarely see them here, but I may give them a try one day).


Janarama said...

Carrot cake is my favorite. Happy Birthday to Mike, Mae, and again to you Barbara. Enjoy your evening with your family.

quiltzyx said...

The fancy schmancy dinner looks wonderful. You forced me to look up the Iberico lardo - I didn't see anything yucky in it! lol And I checked out sunchokes too. Those are definitely something I'd like to find & try out. Easy to cook and can be eaten raw as well. Need to check out Sprouts next time I'm there to see if they carry them. If not, I'll be looking for them at one of the Farmer's markets. OMG the ganache bar!!!! Wow! That was a nice b'day prezzie from them.
Beautiful new trees! The Maple is so lacy & delicate looking. I looked up the Golden Chain - yoicks!! First thing that came up was the poison garden website from the UK (http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/laburnum_anagyroides.htm). Whatever you do, don't eat the seedpods that look like pea pods...! The flowers are gorgeous though, aren't they.

Kate said...

That was quite a dinner! Now I'm hungry. Glad you got to have such a fun celebration. I'd join with the sweet wine, they are one of my favorites. My Guy would rather have a beer. Hope you can sneak in some stitching here and there as you get ready for your trip.

Lyndsey said...

Mmm that dinner sounds and looks delicious. I sure did put on weight just looking at the pictures. Dinner for tonight sounds great as well and the bread looks amazing.

Lana Ku said...

Feliz CumpleaƱos Barbara! ( In honor of your Cinco de Mayo Birthday lol). That was quite a fancy dinner. Looked delicious and adventurous. Keep on partying! We just celebrated my mother's 90th birthday here in south Texas with mariachis singing to her. Next year you need Mexican food, Margaritas, and Mariachis!

Marlene said...

Happy Birthday. What a grand time you had. Blood Orange Cosmopolitans sound divine-might have to try those. My sister, a friend and I always make a few Cosmoploitians when we get together-have it perfected now!!! Your dinner looks absolutely amazing.

Dorothy Finley said...

Be careful with the "golden chain" tree (they also come in white)-- it can be a "weed" tree, as in, it will "self sow" with those wonderful "pea pods" full of seeds. But they smell heavenly. I had one at my ole house--it had the white flowers, and was approximately 40' tall

Dorothy Finley said...

I forgot----Happy Happy Birthday and many more to come :-)

Motherdragon's Musings said...

Happy Birthday, Barbara, your meal out looked purr-fectly delicious.

Ray and Jeanne said...

Happy Birthday Barbara! Your day sounds like it was great - What a dinner! ~Jeanne

piecefulwendy said...

Both of the trees will be so nice. I like Japanese maples; not sure if we can grow them here, I'll have to check that out Your challah sure worked well for you! I haven't made challah yet, but I hope to at some point. But the dinner! Oh my oh my! I don't know if I've said yum so many times while reading a post! So many lovely foods, and so neat that they know you well enough to take good care of Mike and send a little something (a yummy something) home with you! How fun. Enjoy your day!

Dana Gaffney said...

The trees are such a great gift, that's the kind of thing I like, and he bought a cake instead of having you make you're own, good guy!

Goofin' Off Around the Block said...

Happy belated birthday! The quilting on your Mommy & Me quilt is absolutely adorable! I really like your choice of fabrics for the Xs and Os block, too. Now, I must go get something to eat because all of those fabulous food pictures are making me hungry.

BillieBee (billiemick) said...

Happy Birthday!

Heidi said...

Happy, Happy Birthday! Thank you so much for sharing your celebration with us, oh my gosh the food looks amazing! Roasted Rhubarb! Mike is awesome: I hope your yellow chain tree is happy in it's new home and grants you oodles of blooms each year:)

Judy1522 said...

Happy Birthday!

Brown Family said...

It looked lovely! I am sure you enjoyed every nibble and bite!

Junebug613 said...

Wow, that was some meal. You guys have a much broader palate than I do! It all looked pretty though!

Patty D from NC said...

Sweet elephants. Thanks for linking up with Elm Street Quilts One Monthly Goal and congrats on your finish.