Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm 26 now, which is quite a lot.

On my birthday I rarely deny myself anything that tickles my fancy, often with disastrous consequences.
I started the day quite responsibly, waking in the dark at 6:15 for a fartlek that turned into a steady hard run. I’ve never been good at regulating sprints, and I felt like running hard, pounding out the trail, stretching my legs and pushing myself. It was 6k, which felt like recess after last Sunday. Actually, the whole run had the feeling of recess, racing from one end of the playground and back, before running had any particular goal in mind.
While in the shower I decided on my first indulgence of the day; a Tim Horton’s breakfast. Scoff if you must, but there are few things that start my day off as happily as a bacon breakfast sandwich on a bagel with a large half-coffee half-hot chocolate. Even though nothing involved in the buttery mess has even a passing relation to a barnyard animal, the pleasure of it gives me more energy for the day than any painstakingly-prepared, all-natural, nutrient-packed breakfast ever could. Also, I was able to eat it on the bricks by my work, warmed by the first rays of an unusually warm first day of fall.
For lunch I traipsed down to my favourite coffee shop, Coffee & Company, a place that’s usually outside my budget for lunch. But oh, so worth it. I start with a CafĂ© Voltaire, double chocolate, double espresso, double pretentious. Then there’s their chicken pesto panini. Juicy grilled chicken, still-crisp roasted red and green peppers with pesto spread and provolone cheese, grilled on their in-house baked herb panino loaf. I topped this off with an impossibly rich Godiva champagne truffle.
Not every birthday at my office is celebrated with a cake (although my co-workers did sing to me mid-meeting) but by coincidence there was a baby shower that afternoon, which meant Costco cake and half a root beer. A bad idea in retrospect.
Dinner was at the St. John’s fine dining standby, The Cellar. It’s been my parent’s favourite restaurant for twenty years, but somehow I’ve never been there. I started with baked brie in filo with blueberry sauce and apricot chutney. Now, I’ve never met a cheese that I didn’t like, but warm brie is almost another entity onto itself. It looked so good that everyone wanted a bite, which was a good thing because if I’d eaten the entire thing myself I don’t know how well I could have done with the rest of my dinner. This was the New York strip in red wine and mushroom reduction. Cooked perfectly, as expected, but it fell into the trap that catches so many of these steakhouses: over-peppered. I understand that pepper is an important part of steak and very popular, but I think it often overpowers the sauce, so that you can hardly appreciate it. The veggie side was a dish of beets, corn and red pepper. Sweet, but not too sweet.
With diner I ordered a 2007 Louis Latour pinot noir and I have to say, I was a little disappointed. I usually have something very powerful with steak, like a shiraz or a Chianti. Sometimes even a zinfandel. But last night I wanted something a bit light, fruity, nuanced, and this wine didn’t deliver. It had a very poor nose and was really pretty flat on the palate.
Partially because of the poor wine, I decided to order a glass of Newman’s Own port wine with my dark chocolate hazelnut torte. It was sweetly syrupy which went very well with the slightly bitter torte. At this point I started to get a bit nervous about going home, where awaited my favourite dessert of all time. But could I do it justice?
Well, I did my best. My mother had baked the Betty Crocker cocoa fudge cake. This was my first birthday cake and every birthday cake except for one. (A year in Fredericton) This cake is moist, sweet, creamy and chocolaty. As full as I was, I had a small piece and scraped up every last bit of icing. Anyway, there’s more to last the week now.
That was my birthday. A couple of presents especially worth mentioning: Essentials of Italian Cooking from Boyfriend (oh, you’ll be hearing more about that!) and from my parents (in addition to the fabulous meal) a running jacket and tickets to La Boheme which will be playing here in March. Pretty good haul, I must say.

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