The sun rose beautifully on my birthday last week. I was very proud of myself for getting up in time to see the sight from the roof deck of the house we rented at Sunset Beach. It was check out day and we were hoping to beat most of the other families off the island and avoid the traffic jams around Wilmington. We accomplished that and celebrated with a biscuit at Bojangle's. Yoo hoo! My first biscuit of the summer and it was really good.
A package from Mme P had been patiently waiting at home for me for over a week with the instructions Ne Pas Ouvrir Avant le 27 Juillet. So I did not ouvrir before July 27. Can't risk making my dear Frenchie friend mad at me. And she is a middle school teacher with beautiful, piercing blue eyes that see everything, even across the Atlantic Ocean. Trust me on that.
I promptly got out the butter and went to work making financiers with my new moule and Dorie Greenspan's recipe.
The Ex-Ex and I went to dinner at Pizzeria Toro, one of my favorite spots. I chose Orange County potatoes, bagna cauda (I had to ask... it is a sauce made with garlic and anchovies), and pecorino.
The Ex-Ex needed his meat so he chose House pepperoni, vidalia onions, and Rustico B.P. (the cheese, I am assuming).
With a red Italian Montepulciano.
I can spend hours there just watching the guys operate the pizza oven and watching the kitchen staff put it all together.
We then ventured up the street to Bull City Burger and Brewery. The BFF was on duty, managing a crowd that was practically lined up out the door. But she took the time to bring me birthday ice cream with a candle!
My first ice cream of the summer, too. Double yoo hoo!
My gift from the BFF came the next day. BCBB closed its doors to the public Sunday evening for a Hog and Beer Dinner. The BFF invited me, Arles Lucy, and Ironwoman for the five course, plus amuse bouche, plus dessert dinner. (I invited the Ex-Ex to go with me but he didn't think that he could eat some of the offerings so I took back the invite. I hold to my Arles pledge to try anything that is offered to me by a chef I trust. Seth Gross and his staff definitely deserve my trust. The Ex-Ex was just fine with that. He enjoys a break from my food adventures and photo-taking, I think.)
Amuse-bouche: Pork Belly "Corn Dog" paired with Bryant Bridge Gateway Golden Ale.
It did indeed tickle my mouth.
First Course: "Skin on Skin or Piel con Piel" Crispy Pork Skins- Chicharron, Pickled Pork Skin- Cueritos paired with Viola Weiss.
Very spicy delight.
Second Course: "Head and Hash" Pig Head Torchon breaded and deep fried, South Carolina Pork Hash paired with Parrish Street Pale Ale
(No photos taken... too busy eating, I guess. I was very curious about this one. The BFF texted me late one night a few days before the dinner to say she had just helped prepare it. Yes, she did. She has come a long way in the past couple of years...)
Third Course: "Kimchee vs. Kraut" Weisswürst with our House Sauerkraut, Asian Five Spice Sausage with House Kimchee paired with Malbourne Maiboch.
I had been warned that the kimchee was spicy, but it was no where near the heat level of the first course which had left my lips tingling.
Fourth Course: (We were warned at the beginning by Seth, Grandé Burger Flipper, to eat small portions... I listened because I knew this course was coming!): "Of Course there's Salad" Pork Rillettes with House Croutons, Local Greens Salad with Lardon, Hard Boiled Farm Fresh Eggs and Bacon Vinaigrette accompanied by Bull's IPA.
Oh mon dieu. I could have dined on this course alone and been a very satisfied woman. I am a big rillettes fan (a kind of pork paté). The little toasts were perfect... crunchy yet chewy. I ate two, I confess. If I could've stashed the little pot of leftovers in my purse, I would have. Trust me on that one.
The salad was perfect. The vinaigrette delicious.
Scroll back up and take a look at the BFF's candle creation. A mason jar filled with water and fresh mint with a floating candle. I was very impressed! The perfect touch.
Fifth Course: "You've got the whole pork in your hand" Pulled Pork Carnitas with House Made Tortillas, Cilantro, Red Onion, Salsa Verde and Lime paired with Pigmeat Markham Smoked Rye.
Since I had eaten two rillettes, I only had room for one of these. But I wanted a second one.
Dessert: House Made Vanilla Ice Cream with Bacon, Caramelized Sugar, and NC Peanuts with Bacon Tuile paired with HsaWaknoW (try spelling Wonka Wash backwards-- not easy) made with cacao nibs. No kidding. Very, very good. Before dinner started, I was asked by the girls if I knew what tuile meant (we tend to zero in on dessert pretty quickly) and the only translation I know for the word is tile, like the lovely red tiles on roofs in the south of France.
Eager to impress Seth, I shared that little fact with him. He grinned and told me that they had taught him that in culinary school. So much for showing off. The man knows everything.
It was a lovely evening and I enjoyed every minute (and bite).
Thank you, BFF!
I have such good friends who know me well. Arles Lucy found beautiful sticky notes and wrapped them in a box with the Eiffel Tower on it. My Sabbatical Chef photo notecards have already filled it up. (More about those one of these days.)
Ironwoman found Eiffel Tower goodies, too. Cookie cutters that I have been coveting for a while--
Mildred the Mixer and I made cookies yesterday using a recipe for rolled sugar cookies that I have had for many years. Oui, mine are pink, bien sûr!
Ironwoman also found Eiffel Tower chocolate molds, so I made some chocolate lollipops, too. (The Ex-Ex is the taste-tester...)
Trop mignonnes, ces sucettes, n'est-ce pas?
She also found lavender infused balsamic vinaigrette at Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar. We are lucky enough to have two of these stores near by. One in Durham and one in Chapel Hill.
Another envelope arrived France, from French Frog. He is very thoughtful, too, and has helped me grow my library of books about Provence.
This one is full of photos, recipes, and decorating ideas, among other Provence specialities. Such as this pot made from broken dishes--
Could we do this, Arles Lucy?
I treated myself to a bottle of my favorite French perfume.
Mme M gave me my first bottle quite a while back, when Cacharel first introduced it. It is not available in stores in the U.S. (as far as I know), but I ordered it from Perfume Spot. I had stopped wearing it for several years, but I missed it. I hope they never stop making it.
It was a lovely birthday. I received many happy wishes from friends on Facebook. I am known to stretch the celebration out as long as I can, but now that it is August, it is time to call it a year. I have moved on to "Double Nickels" as the guy who helped with the financing for our new car called it. I was in total denial, thinking that I would be 54... until he and the Ex-Ex made me do the math. Oh well. (This post will be followed by an article I found that puts age in perspective.) As Tommy Bell was fond of saying "It beats the alternative." Very true. Thanks for the advice, Daddy. Sister Moo Moo has been teasing me with pictures of earrings that she bought for me, but I don't get them until I get up to Spruce Pine to see her. I'm coming, I promise. In time for a swim in the cement pond.
Bon appétit et merci to all my family and friends who helped make it a great day (and year!).