Saturday, April 6, 2013

It's Spring Again!

The days are getting longer, and I for one could not be happier. I enjoy the coziness of fall and winter. Soups simmering away on the stove. Cuddling close under a blanket. Scarves. Braised tender meats served in delicious soul-feeding sauces. But spring and summer? Grilled steaks and burgers and veggies. Sundresses. Moscow Mules, which Dave turned me onto last summer. White wine. Flip flops. The late sunlight for playing in, running in, and cooking under. Bocce ball on the lawn. I thrive in summer, and spring gets us all the closer.

Maybe I'm biased for being a spring baby. I celebrated number 28 a few days after spring began. It was very low-key birthday this year, but that was alright by me. The day before my dad and Vicki came down to Portland to visit me. I made us pork chili verde for dinner. I had the pork braising for hours, but we talked, and snacked on chips and salsa while it was cooking. It was the first time I made it, but it turned out pretty great for a gringa. Dave worked that night, but joined us just in time for dinner to be ready when he got off. We noshed on a spread of chili verde, corn tortillas, guacamole and rice. After we ate we played spades which was a lot of fun. My dad and Vicki killed us, but that is because we kept overbidding by one, and going further and further into a hole. Next time we know to take our bid down by one. ;) It was their first time meeting Dave too, and that all went over well. We had a blast.
I worked the lunch shift on my birthday. My co-workers spoiled me rotten with a cake and flowers. My boss also opened a bottle of Champagne to celebrate the three year anniversary of Dorio. I cannot believe the restaurant is already three years old! I was blessed by regulars and brand-new customers alike once word got out it was my birthday. After work Nitiya and I went out for a cocktail at a new restraunt called The Fireside just down the street from Dorio. I had a delicious gin, kumquat cocktail, and Nitiya had a variation of a sazerac. I would definitely go back there for another cocktail, and the menu looks pretty tasty too.

After Fireside, I met up with Sass for a ride to Tigard, and Dave made us a scrumptious dinner. We had Manhattan clam chowder to start. He used his mom's recipe and it is perfect with plenty of of bacon. For our entrees we had beef shanks, roasted cauliflower, which he knows I love, AND these amazing brussel sprouts. He had made me the brussel sprouts once before about a year ago, and I've been thinking about them ever since. They are first roasted, and then tossed in a bacon mushroom sherry cream sauce and they are incredible. We drank wine, watched lots of Cheers and a movie, and I could not have been happier.
The weather was beautiful the following weekend, and I got to spend plenty of time outside. Seventy degrees in March?!? Dave and I both had Saturday morning off, so we played in the garden. We first walked to the nursery and bought kale, chard, broccoli, catnip, thyme, mint, lavender and oregano starters. We also bought zucchini and sunflower seeds. I had previously purchased cauliflower and beet seeds. We planted all of the starters straight into the earth that day as well as many of the seeds. Some of the seeds we began in separate starter boxes so we can move them inside just in case it gets to cold again. I was so excited to work in the garden with my honey. I realized this could be the first of many of "our gardens", and I think we'll make a good team. He needs me to remind him to plant just a few flowers (I really wanted the lavender and sunflowers), and I need him for his gardening knowledge which is a bit more advanced than my own. I can definitely see us getting obsessed with it in our older days... For the record, Misery had destroyed the catnip by the following morning. She just cannot resist it. At least we tried?
Easter was the next day and it was perhaps even warmer than Saturday. I woke up pretty early and went on a short run before I decided I did not want to. Then I came home and began some food and drink prep while Dave got ready for work. We had brined a picnic shoulder for about a week and half to make a ham for Easter Dinner. I brined it in rosemary, thyme, sugar, clove, garlic and bay leaves. On Easter morning I dried it off and stuffed it with garlic, onions, fresh rosemary from the garden and a few Calabrian Chilies. I stuck some toothpicks in it to hold it together, and put it on the smoker with applewood and hickory chips around 9:30 after Dave left for work. It ended up being on the smoker for over eleven hours.

While the ham smoked all day, Sass, Thai, and I relaxed and partied in the sun. We started with delicious, spicy, bourbon bloody marys, with a mix I made that morning. We also did some mimosas and white wine. We threw out a blanket on the lawn, and sat out there chit-chatting and laughing until the sun went down. I had to make some irish nachos for lunch once I realized we probably should not wait until the ham to eat. I was wearing sunblock but I got tan lines. That is pretty incredible for March in Portland! We all had Easter baskets too. I had put together some for Dave, Thai and Sass which I had a blast doing. Thai surprised me with one loaded with chocolate (plus flowers, aw!)

Dave ended up getting off around 8PM that night and Sass was nice enough to pick him up. Our ham was looking pretty good by the time he got there. I ended up glazing it in a pineapple, Sriracha, brown sugar sauce. We ate it with garlicky potato au gratin, and drank a delightful sparkling wine and Amarone.
It was certainly the best Easter I've had in a long while. It was the first one I've had off in years, the company was delightful, and I was pretty impressed with our ham. It was perhaps a bit unconventional, but it was delicious, loaded with smoky flavor and a little heat sweet heat from the glaze.
I finally got to eat at Little Bird last week. One of my regulars treated me with a birthday dinner. It was amazing. I forgot my camera and my phone is not working while it is not plugged into the wall right now, so I could not take any pictures, but all the dishes were so very beautiful. We shared a butter leaf salad with an artichoke dressing and fried capers. Then I had sweetbreads and veal blanquette potpie and a foie gras torchon. For dessert we had a lemon creme brulee. It was so delcious and I cannot believe I never thought of that before. I might have to try to recreate that one. The whole meal was incredible. I would definitely go back there. I feel so lucky to have so many people value my birth!
Next on the agenda: Getting ready to move! I will miss my apartment. I'm trying to enjoy it while I have it. I think I will make a point of staying downtown a few extra nights per week up until the move. If nothing else, I have to be here to pack so I'm sure I'll get some time in with this place. After nearly three years of living here, I have lived in this apartment longer than anywhere since leaving my parent's house after high school. I would like one more sunny day of drinking wine on the balcony, but for now Dave and I are committed to a sober April, so it will have to be an extraordinarily beautiful night we have both have off in order to break that pledge. Or maybe we can just whip up some horchata and tacos... I also have to get ready for my next half marathon on Cinco de Mayo, and get into a set running routine for the marathon. This spring and summer will be even better than the last. I'm looking forward to getting to enjoy it even more this year since I'm working so much less. After nearly six months I can say having only one job is wonderful!


Nikki.O said...

Your birthday weekend sounded perfect! I should update my blog with my birthday weekend, too. I can't wait to come visit you guys at the house - are visitors welcome on the couch? :)

Erin said...

I'm actually keeping my bed to be put in the third room for friends to crash on, so it will bee better than a couch. ;)