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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Extended Birthday

bread snowflakes for "Morton Family Strata"

THIS year was the second annual tradition of watching The Family Stone with my sister, Kim (it's been a favorite holiday movie of mine ever since first seeing it, several years ago); this year I decided to make the Morton family strata that Sarah Jessica Parker attempts to make in the film. (I found the recipe with step-by-step instructions on the blog, Small Home Big Start.)

strata; fully-prepped and ready for its six hour fridge-soaking

While I let the prepped strata soak overnight in the fridge, Kim joined me Wednesday afternoon for a Thanksgiving Eve lunch at Cookshop

roasted butternut squash flatbread, anyone?

A couple of weeks ago I popped in for a quick, at-the-bar dinner and had the most delicious roasted kabocha squash, heavily seasoned with garlic and red chili pepper flakes. I thought it so uncommon to prepare (naturally sweet) squash with loads of garlic and pepper... but the contrast worked wonderfully well (it was only a side dish--I'd made plans to order it as an entrée portion on my next visit)!

Cookshop's assorted housemade treats

Alas, the roasted kabocha was not available on the lunch menu; but Kim and I quickly decided to order the grilled flatbread with roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions as a starter, to share. While we sipped on prosecco, we made plans to order a side of roasted maitake mushrooms, over polenta and bouchot mussels with French fries. But by the time the mussels arrived, I was already satiated. However, I did manage to save a bit of room for Cookshop's assorted housemade treats. Among them were: a "Cookshop cupcake"; oatmeal creme pie; salted caramels; (miniature) cinnamon macarons; chocolate oat bars; snowball cookies; and root beer marshmallows. The cinnamon macarons were my favorite and yes, the root beer marshmallows actually tasted like root beer! Later that night, Kim treated me to some early birthday gifts...

don't mind if I do!

Earlier that afternoon, David had arrived home from Cornell for the holiday weekend and was able to enjoy some champagne with Kim and me while we readied ourselves to watch The Family Stone. A couple of glasses of wine in, I popped the pre-soaked strata in the oven to bake for 1½ hours. A third of the way into the movie, it was time to taste the Bradley family's Morton family strata.

if only every holiday could be so easy

I must immodestly say... that my strata came out (nearly) perfect! It could have used a touch more salt, and black pepper, or perhaps some additional parmigiano-reggiano (the recipe only calls for parmesan, but when cooking I always try my best to use the finest ingredients possible). By the time we left for Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of the family, the following morning, only one of the eight servings of strata had remained.

THANKSGIVING preceded my birthday by just three days and by Sunday night, I was joined by David and two of my closest friends for a (quiet) birthday dinner at Tipsy Parson.

the best kale salad in West Chelsea

Literally, I had to wait all summer long for Tipsy's seasonal Tuscan kale salad (wilted kale, wild mushrooms, toasted almonds, dried cherries, crispy shallots, sherry vinaigrette) to return to their menu. With roasted kabocha squash, it's the best kale salad I'd ever tasted! (I'm beginning to notice a pattern--regarding squash--here.) I also sampled some of the seasonal pickle plate with mushrooms, carrots, scallions, okra and red grapes, all pickled in a nutmeg-seasoned brine. Absolutely delicious!

a slice of bacon-wrapped homemade pâté en terrine

Come Monday, David had to head back to Ithaca and for me it was back to work. But Mondays are my new Fridays, as I seem to be having Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. At around three o'clock today, I'd wondered if it was too early to dig into some of the rest of my birthday treats. I decided I'd begin with the homemade country-style pâté made by my dear friend, Cynthia. Wrapped in bacon and filled with big pieces of pistachio, I could hardly wait to taste the delectable-seeming terrine!

post-pâté, I was in need of a palate cleanser

Cynthia's pâté was quite possibly the best pâté I'd ever tasted (hopefully she's taking holiday orders)! But after the richness of the pâté I'd found myself wanting for a palate cleanser before moving onto the next course; the Veuve Cliquot rosé--given by my dear friend, Danny--seemed to do the trick!

macarons from La Maison du Macaron, Chelsea

By the time I opened the box of macarons from La Maison du Macaron (also given by Danny), I should have known I was heading into dangerous territory.

just two... to start

I had to guess the flavors Danny had chosen for me and I think I was pretty successful, until I had gotten to the last (I'd tasted). The pearl-studded macaron seemed to have a key lime filling while its companion was undeniably passion fruit-filled.

ah, how I'd missed the irresistible crispy-chewy texture
of a proper French macaron!

With the box of macarons in dangerously close proximity, I "tasted" a maximum of three more including an ultra-lemony lemon-flavored and a gold-dusted one whose flavor I was unable to guess.

quite pretty, but it's flavor was unbeknownst to me

When I'd previously told a co-worker at the restaurant the details of my possible plans for a "day off brunch," he responded, Who are you--Marie Antoinette? Talk about decadent! 

Ahh... let them eat macarons.
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