Friday, March 22, 2013

Tom's Spring Themed Birthday Celebration


Tom turned 24 this past Monday, March 4th. We had a little dinner for him on the day of, but the official birthday celebration was postponed until this weekend. Everyone took their part in the preparations, and Tom's birthday bash turned into a lovely event this Saturday evening.

In my role as decorator, I wanted to create a light, airy feeling to go with Tom's spring theme. We chose a light creme table cloth and napkins with white square plates and gold chargers. With a strong focus on the centerpieces, the white plates camouflaged with the table, allowing a thin rim of gold to float among a sea of white. The napkins we had on hand had a decorative edge that did not go with the theme, so I folded each into a narrow strip and folded them around the plates. A fork and knife folded perfectly above the napkin in the center of each place setting.


Finding the perfect flowers was quite the adventure. I started with the idea of different values and hues of green set against the white of the place settings. Unfortunately, the plethora of green blooms and leaves were not as readily available as I presumed.  A new idea was in order: I wanted to keep green as an important factor.  While one usually lets colorful blooms peek out of a forest of green, I decided to allow green to become the accent color, surrounded by smaller blooms of other hues.

A purple flower, somewhere between queen anne's lace and heather served as the body for our main bouquet. I cut it fairly short and sat it in a large candle holder.  We paired it with a bunch of beautiful leaf green yoko ono flowers, which I stuck into the heathery masses at random. The final display is reminiscent of green buttons floating around a violet cloud.

Three bright green dahlias in crystal footed glasses surround the main bouquet. The glasses disappear into the tablecloth, the blooms look as if they are suspended in midair. To contrast with the dahlias are two tiny bouquets of peach carnations, sitting like peachy pom-poms on the tabletop. I extended the centerpieces towards the ends of the table to have enough decoration to fit a table for 7 people: leftover yoko ono blooms were paired with tiny pink branchy flowers for the two ends of the table. 


Tom created his own appetizer dish for the meal. He created an amazing shrimp and cucumber ceviche in a sesame ginger sauce.  He paired it with a fresh white wine, which I will allow him to explain for himself:

Scribbles from the Sommelier:

Since the ceviche hors d'oeuvre is a South American dish known for its acidity and freshness, only one style of wine came to mind: Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.  This light-bodied, fresh white wine with vibrant citrus flavors and clean acidity was the perfect complement to the delicious ceviche.  I anticipate enjoying this pairing many times in the coming beautiful spring and summer weather. 

Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp Ceviche

2 Kirby cucumbers
Kosher Salt

1 scallion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked, peeled, coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup fresh pea shoots for garnish

dip sauce:
1 tablespoon hot chili pepper sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon white toasted yellow sesame seeds
1/4 cup red, green and yellow bell pepper,finely diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
To prepare the cucumber: Cut off ends of cucumber and slice lengthwise from each side until you reach the central seedy section. Arrange slices on paper towels in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for a half an hour.
To prepare the ceviche: Assemble all the ingredients for the ceviche (except for pea shoots) in a large bowl, mix to combine, season to taste and let marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
To prepare the dip sauce: Put all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine. Reserve.
Rinse the cucumber slices and then dry with a paper towel. Put one slice on a work surface, and make a roll, holding it in shape with your hand. Fill the roll with a few spoonfuls of shrimp ceviche and garnish with a few pea shoots. Repeat until you have used up all the ceviche.
Arrange the rolls on a serving platter. Spoon some of the spicy dip sauce over each roll and sprinkle the rest of the sauce around them.  


A lovely champagne we drank with cheeses while preparing the meal.

Tom's dad prepared an amazing dinner for us.  He made flank steak with chimichurri sauce, lemon and herb roasted potatoes and Eric Repert's cumin scented carrots. All of the flavors were light and tangy and would make a perfect spring time meal, I hope you guys have a chance to try some of them out.

Eric Repert's Cumin Scented Carrots

1 ½-pounds baby carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch cayenne
½ lemon
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the baby carrots in a large skilled with butter, honey and about ⅓ cup water. Heat over medium high heat and season the carrots with cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and tender, about 20 minutes.


Chimmichurri Sauce

2 cups chopped parsley
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Rub some on steak before grilling and serve alongside the flank steak.


These potatoes were my absolute favorite thing on the menu! Tom's dad boiled them once, then added lemon juice, zest and herbs and sauteed them in olive oil until they developed a delicious crunchy outside.  I decided not to torture him for this recipe too, but shoot us a message. If we get some interest, I will ask for this recipe as well!

Scribbles from the Sommelier:

Since our entrée was a variation of classic Argentinian cuisine, my idea for a wine pairing came to me effortlessly; we had to enjoy some Malbec with our meal.  Malbec, a grape originally from Cahors in Southwest France, has exploded onto the international wine scene with the success of its clone in Argentina.  The delicious bold fruit flavors and spice of the wine made it a natural choice for grilled flank steak with chimichurri sauce.


Here's to more amazing dinners!  Goodnight.

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