from now

i received an artfully-crafted mix cd for my birthday. it was my favorite kind of music: sweetly melancholy, songs whose sounds were made of equal parts leaving it all behind and coming back home, of fresh flying starts and getting lost in the past. i have a feeling that this certain string of songs, many years from now, will also sound like my first week of being twenty-four.

it has been spinning nearly every morning as i bumble about, getting myself together for the day. it has been the soundtrack to my thoughts as i drive to work – sun high in the sky – and as i make my way home, speeding through a twilight that comes down a little earlier everyday. and the songs were there when i drove to have a belated birthday dinner with my parents, my mom a passenger in my car for the very first time in my life. it was just us for the ride. she asked me, in her carefully-paced english, questions about my life, my work, my friends. i answered carefully, too, trying to stretch my words to cover the years of distance between us. and as i answered, i had the strange feeling not only that i had grown up, but that suddenly we both could see it.

around birthdays, or any other marker of time in a given year, i suppose it is expected to take stock of your life, to make plans for the next stretch of it. and as much as i wish for more long, solitary drives into the oblivion that is my twenties, i hope that i will also remember to simply be a daughter.

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gary danko

this is my first official time writing here, and what better way to kick off the blog than to share my recent memorable dining experience! it was a couple weeks ago at gary danko, a restaurant i’ve been wanting to try for a long time. well, an occasion finally arose for me to go and let me say… i’m already excited to go back!

to put in context, it was the man’s birthday and i had had to call exactly two months ahead of time to secure a reservation at a decent time! i didn’t mention making birthday plans to him, as i wanted it to be a surprise. a few hours prior to dinner on his birthday, we went out to happy hour with some friends. i thought he was just going to sip on some margaritas but to my HORROR , he started finishing about 3 too many drinks and also ordered a HUGE plate of nachos! finally, when i could stand to watch no longer, i put my foot down and told him firmly, “NO MORE NACHOS!” this confused him, since i am not one to ever control his food intake.

when we finally arrived at the restaurant, he was totally surprised, which made the inconvenience of being secretive worth it. in terms of ambience, it was a lot more crowded and louder than i thought it would be – but i actually prefer that to most quiet, stuffy restaurants so i didn’t mind at all. being the gluttons that we are, we both ordered the summer tasting menu with wine pairing and substituted some of the courses. one thing i loved about gary danko is they let you “mix and match” the courses. theoretically, you could have 5 appetizers in a row and they’ll adjust the portions accordingly.

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before the first course came out, our server (very friendly all through the night, btw) came with an amuse bouche, a cool asparagus soup of some sort. it was very refreshing and perfect for whetting our appetites.

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for the first course, i ordered the seared sonoma foie gras with caramelized red onion and nectarines. we were both taken aback by the huge portion of foie gras, but it was delicious – so tender it melted in my mouth. ahh, like butter. the sweet wine that the sommelier paired with the foie gras went together more harmoniously than any other wine with other courses, and i’m slightly sad i don’t remember the name of the wine!
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he stuck with the traditional first course meal, which was a soup with glazed oysters and osetra caviar, zucchini pearls and lettuce cream. i personally love caviar, but mike felt it slightly salty.

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then came the second course. i had seared sea scallops. again, both of us tried this and loved it. it had hearts of palm, fava beans, frisee and prosciutto, and anyone who knows me i love almost anything with prosciutto!!!

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one of the favorites of the night, however, was his second course – the lobster risotto with laughing bird shrimp, parmigiano-reggiano, basil oil, and the corn. we both loved the corn. i think i could have done without the shrimp, but he seemed to like it. we both agreed we’d definitely order this again the next time (yeah, we were already talking about what we would/wouldn’t order next time we were there)

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the meat course was next and he had a lemon pepper duck breast with duck hash, bacon braised belgian endive and huckleberry sauce. he loved this dish and i thought it was pretty good, but not orgasmic.

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i had a filet of beef with potato-leek napolean, cassis glazed shallots and basil butter. the meat was very tender and had so much flavor that even though i was full already, i managed to almost finish the entire thing. the cab that the sommelier paired with this was just icing on the cake. it wasn’t until mike said “you know, you don’t have to finish that whole thing if you’re too full” that i finally put down my fork in defeat.

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by this point, we were stuffed, but bravely accepted the next course – the cheese plate! gary danko is known for their cheese course, and i being a total cheese freak i was looking forward to this all night long. we each picked four cheeses and managed to at least taste each of them.

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for dessert, we both got the chocolate souffle, also another signature dish at gary danko. our server came to us with the souffles and poked a hole in each. he drizzled two sauces – a creme anglais and a dark chocolate sauce – in each. this, along with the sweet mas amiel – mmm!!!

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as if that wasn’t enough, the server finally came out with an assortment of small birthday biscuits and cookies and a candle! mike took one bite of one cookie and gave up. i didn’t even bother. by this time i was half buzzed and half suffering from food coma. all i could think about was how much i wish i had my stretchy pants with me. so the server offered to pack up our cookies. then he came back with ANOTHER package for me – it was a blueberry muffin for the morning! apparently they only do this for female members of the party, no matter whose birthday it is ;)

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the experience at GD is going to be remembered fondly for a very long time – not just because the food, wine pairing, service was perfect, but because i was in good company and it was a great celebration. seeing mike surprised and having a good time makes me happy. if only i wouldn’t be burning a serious, serious hole in my wallet and ensuring a heart attack by 30, i would be back there every month. i know he doesn’t particularly like celebrating birthdays and has told me before he’d be happy ordering roundtable pizza and calling it a night. so he was particularly pleased and thanked me multiple times – but little does he know… i probably enjoyed his birthday much more than he did! in fact, i should be the one thanking him for being born and giving me an excuse to visit restaurants! :D THANKS MIKE!!!