Given my husband John's 50th birthday, preceded by my emergency root canal (ouch!), I've done precious little cooking this last week. But there's been plenty of eating... (Sorry for the loss of the top of your head, Honey, I figured it was worth the shot of you enjoying those killer frites...)
We kicked off the celebrating last Thursday night, with Debbie & Stu the Wine Genius Williams, at Piccolo in Minneapolis. Piccolo is Doug Flicker's new venture - his former was local-ingredient pioneer Auriga, site of our first (blind) date many years ago - serving small plates of artfully composed and delicious food. Like the plates, the restaurant itself is small (piccolo means tiny in Italian), but since the ceilings are high and the decor light and spare, even a long drink of water like me (even in 4-inch heels) felt comfy. We tasted 1/3 or more of the menu, all fantastic, although my very favorite was the fried pork hock with garlic potato puree, Brussels sprouts, and speck. The tender pork hock meat was removed from the bone, chopped, seasoned, pressed back around the bone, lightly breaded, then fried until crispy. Oh yeah. Crunchy-tender, alongside the uber-porky Brussels (speck is an intensely-flavored ham) and creamy potatoes, this dish pillow-talked with my German DNA. Gute nacht, baby. (Read Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl's Minnesota Monthly review here.)
The celebrating continued on Saturday, despite round one of a root canal, when our friends Shane & Kathleen Coen brought over Taste of India takeout. We feasted on chicken (curry and tikka masala), beans (dal and chana masala), warm naan, pickled vegetables, and raita. Novocaine and good pills assured I was feeling no pain - I happily downed everything. In retrospect, yikes, but there it is. I discovered that I did not imagine my enjoyment - leftovers for Sunday's breakfast confirmed the tastiness.
And then Sunday, the actual Big Day, we took the kids to Manny's for steaks. Are you horrified by all of this food? I am, it was completely over the top, but when you've survived half a century, people want to celebrate with you. So bring on the giant steaks, hashbrowns, mushrooms, salads, the whole steak-house-style, moaning-groaning feast. The kids were blown away, and given their growing-teen metabolisms, put away an impressive amount of food. John and I floundered, despite all the deliciousness, definitely suffering food hangovers. Which worked out just fine, since the best part of dinner at Manny's (to me) is the leftovers anyhow - serious leftovers. We hauled home piles of steak, mushrooms, and hashbrowns, and had it all over again last night. Despite round two of a root canal mere hours before, the meal was completely fantastic. (Yep, more pain pills, but I know that it rocked because John and Nathan devoured it all, inhaled it in fact, all good.)
And we're not done celebrating! Heck no. Dinner at Bar La Grassa is coming soon, as is a small gathering at Create Catering's Dining Studio in June. John doesn't much enjoy big parties (unlike his wife!), but he is having a blast getting together with small groups of friends, stretching the party out over several weeks. Great fun for me too. Happy John's Birthday to Me! And to you Honey, Happy 50th, here's to many, many more.