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Monday, December 1, 2014

A Golden Birthday

bubbles and nibbly bits at Tavern on the Green

MARKING my 35th birthday, I'd spent several weeks planning for a special evening out with my best and closest confidants...

getting addresses for the eighty invitations mailed
was not the easiest of feats (in this digital age)

After confirming with my dear friend, Gazelle Paulo that he'd be in town on the proposed date I'd also requested the honor of Marilyn Monroe-esque starlet, Mona Marlowe to be on board as a host for the evening. Arriving promptly at 7:15 p. m. (12 hours past the minute I was born, 35 years prior) I was greeted by Tavern on the Green's host team to whom I'd introduced David, but to my utter surprise: We met this afternoon! Arriving straight from the Cornell campus, David had stopped at Tavern on the Green to 'make some arrangements' for my birthday including reserving a section of couches, concocting a menu for the evening and ensuring that there would be free-flowing bubbly for everyone in attendance! Aside from the printed invitations and having some of the brightest hosts in New York City (and a dress code: Solid ties for men | French or Italian RTW for women), I was anticipating an informal evening, expecting guests would simply 'mill about' near the bar and enjoy a few cocktails while there.

Paul Alexander of The Ones and host,
Gazelle Paulo

As I settled in near the bar's fireplace, the first guests began arriving and it wasn't until our cocktail server started setting the tables with plateware and linens that I'd begun to get an idea of what David had planned...

posing in front of the fireplace
The night ultimately mimicked a reunion for me as faces that I hadn't seen in years joined in the celebration. Halfway through the evening I was surprised again as a candle-topped plate was brought out to shouts of Happy Birthday. Whilst chatting with Gazelle and Mona about their upcoming documentaries and Jenny Smith about demonstrating NARS graphic eyeliner on the 10 o'clock news (#successfulfriends), I'd realized that all good things must come to an end; and like a lady who knows when it's time to leave a party, I made the announcement that anyone who was interested should join me for disco downtown (I'd also announced that it was a "high-low" evening and that the "low" portion was about to commence).

the next day found me feeling positively domestic

After dancing the night away below 14th Street, the next morning I was up surprisingly early. I'd been keeping an eye on the weather as my calendar was reminding me that I was to host my fourth annual The Family Stone-watching and strata-eating party that evening. Alas, with nearly a foot of snow expected, my sisters (who would be driving) and I decided we'd postpone the event until a later date. Having cleared the day for it, David and I decided we'd have a strata and movie night of our own.

this year, David initiated hearts and stars as opposed
to my traditional snowflake shapes
Making the same strata year after year, I decided I'd try a new one this year of which I'd been saving the recipe since last winter. Announcing to David that I was headed to the supermarket, after looking over the recipe at hand he decided that he'd join me on the trip. We agreed upon a slightly modified version of the "hearty greens strata" and substituted the greens with mushrooms (and plenty of onion). Returning home with all that was needed for the strata and some wine and eggnog to boot, our local forecast predicted a stellar evening in!

we also found some good-looking thyme while out
Having prepared strata several times prior, getting started was a breeze; the only completely new addition was thyme, which David demonstrated how to quickly and easily strip its leaves by pulling backward along its stems. After the snowflake heart and star cut-outs and egg mixture were ready, David got to work sautéing onions and mushrooms while I grated a block each of parmigiano-reggiano and gruyere. As we both sipped on a 'mouthy' vouvray, we were getting closer to our finished product.

David demonstrates "de-leafing" thyme
Once the oven had been fully heated and the strata had been assembled in its pan, I went to setting up the front room for The Family Stone, complete with a champagne bucket to keep chilled the Taittinger I'd received as a birthday gift the previous night. And while David continued to whittle away in the kitchen preparing side dishes, I was putting the final touches on our dinner table, folding linens and lighting the candles.

just before...

and just after

The final product was an indeed savory strata, with the meatiness of the (shiitake) mushrooms dominating, yet meeting amicably with the addition of gruyere. And the toothy vouvray (David's pick) was a refined pairing like a sword piercing earth. My pick would have been champagne through and through, but David insisted upon saving the Taittinger for the dark chocolate truffles given by my new BFF's, the Rockefellers, the night before.

a celebratory gathering preceded a quiet evening in

While David and I watched The Family Stone in the cozy of our home, I reflected upon what a wonderful 24 hours I'd just had, and the 24 hours that had yet to happen (the next day would be Thanksgiving). Later that week, I'd remarked to David that it had been my best birthday yet... a golden birthday, indeed!
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