Tuesday, April 19, 2011

blissfully happy birthday weekend

I headed to Philadelphia on the morning of my birthday, Friday, April 15th via train. I love departing for a trip or waking up on my birthday someplace else! I drop my (cute new $20 Target) tote bag off at L's, my friend who is also celebrating her birthday. I knew her through an Art History program. I walk in and see balloons, a 2 and 7 candle each topping a chocolate mocha chip muffin and individually wrapped bottles of nail polish. Her mom calls us with our horoscope which says we will soon have many opportunities.

Since L had to study (on her birthday, I know!), I met my old neighbor M, a loving, vivacious and social Lebanese senior citizen, at the Starbucks she named in the neighborhood called Center City. Waiting for her, I sat at the window and people-watched. Because there's such a variety of people, it was interesting. I found myself envious, I wanted to walk down the block as a local too.

After quickly catching up, we head to my favorite place, the Reading Terminal Market. The place was packed! Each stand had a long line ...and rightfully so! I savor my sinful cheesesteak from my cheesesteak place, Tommy DiNic's. And then on top, I pick up a slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting from an Amish vendor and take it to go.

We walk to a bookstore where I have L's gift, a beautiful and highly-rated Greek Islands cookbook, on hold. She loves Greece the way I love Italy. The Barnes & Noble is right across the street from lovely Rittenhouse Square. M and I enjoyed a few bites of that decadent cake. M knew a musician who played his guitar and got to know the stranger sitting next to us on a park bench.

I left the two of them to meet L at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see a couple of dowry chests from Renaissance Tuscany. They were interesting; one of the two was connected to the famous Medici family. We also bummed around the museum, which was fun with L. We really had fun with the art, especially the contemporary art. She also loved the cookbook, not owning anything like it.

view from the top of the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
looking down Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards City Hall

The two of us went out to dinner at Parc, a fancy French restaurant. That was packed too! It had a lovely atmosphere. In fact, I can hardly wait to go to France! I ordered the French classic beef bourguignon which was delicious. It was four pieces of meat soaked in a red wine sauce on top of mashed potatoes with turnips and carrots. L and I split a side of sauteed spinach. The house merlot was also delicious, and affordable by carafe. I had profiterole as a dessert, which is puff pastry, vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. My dinner date ordered madeleines which was served with ice cream and caramel sauce.


beef bourguignon



we totally brought in the candles

L also ordered absinthe. It was clear and served with ice in this large glass canister on a pedestal with two silver spouts. One balances a sugar cube on a slotted spoon over their glass and then shoots the liquor over the cube, melting it. To her, it tasted like (Greek) ouzo and to me, it tasted like (Italian) weak white sambuca. It had a bit of a licorice taste, probably star anise. M met us there for a glass of wine.


The three of us walked over to the bar Noche. It was a long, narrow room lined with windows on the second floor. We met a big group of L's friends there. After some socializing and drinking, we got up to dance and danced the night away. M danced with us most of the night! She was the one who got people to dance! You should have seen her! In her chocolate brown outfit and green hat, not aware she was not in her 20s. She was a big hit! I have no idea what time I left. After too many drinks (for a lightweight like me), I suppose I didn't care.

I caught a train back home the next morning with an Au Bon Pain cappuccino in hand. I didn't do very much the next afternoon as I did not feel so well after all those aforementioned drinks. By evening, it was really raining and windy. Oh well.... you know what they say, April showers bring May flowers... I saw that my hair, which I always straighten, dried into curls at the end of the evening.

My college friends J and B, B's husband N, and I went out to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant on Main Street in Annapolis. B and N gave me a bottle of the wine I drank during my study abroad experience, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo! Isn't that thoughtful? They also tied a luggage tag to the gift bag and picked out a Hallmark card. Having worked there twice, I'm a huge Hallmark snob! Anyway, it was awesome to hang out with my college friends, who are my most like-minded group of friends. And since I had such a great time in college, they are sacred to me. We ordered bruschetta for the table and then I had pasta bolognese in a cream sauce. After that, we hit a charming Irish pub for a beer.

Piccola Roma

our view of Main Street

Galway Bay Irish Pub

The next morning, I drove to Annapolis myself to buy proscuitto, mozzarella and a bottle of the wine I had on my most recent trip to Italy in Verona, Valpolicella Superiore, at the Italian Market. The Italian manager who showed me the wine I was searching for, who kept checking on me and tried to add on to my purchase told me "Some wine, some cheese, some proscuitto, that's all you need for a good time!!" Very Italian. I love it.

That afternoon my family and I created an Italian feast! My dad made meat lasagna which was truly amazing! I made a huge quantity of my vegetarian pasta specialty, which reminds me of my favorite meal on my last trip, the lunch on Piazza Erbe in Verona. My dish was penne mezze noodles, a red pepper, an orange pepper, a yellow pepper, a green pepper, cherry tomatoes and asparagus all perfectly, barely coated in a tomato sauce. I also prepared a not-so-huge portion of sauteed spinach. The leaves really do shrink down! I love having proscuitto as antipasti, which is a rare treat for me. I think everyone really loved the food, having something different and a bit of a cultural experience. I elaborated about my trip to Italy as my grandparents hadn't seen me since before I left.

Penne Primavera

My mom ordered me a birthday cake- a round devil's food cake with white buttercream frosting and pink roses! I very much love cake. I put it on top of my new clear glass cake stand I ordered online and that arrived just in time. My birthday shoes, those deep red peeptoe pumps still haven't arrived! ...oh well... My sister, who also loves to bake, baked me chocolate chip cookies from scratch, which were also put on the table. She usually doesn't bake that kind, my favorite kind of cookie. Unfortunately she couldn't attend the dinner as she works two jobs ...and at a couple locations at each job!

birthday cake!
My two old high school friends unfortunately couldn't make it to my dinner on Saturday night, but wanted to make it up to me, so I think we've decided to mark my birthday by grabbing a burger and toasting margaritas at the Hard Rock Cafe in Baltimore. And we'll wander around the Inner Harbor. They have a dining and shopping complex called Harborplace. It would be nice to indulge in a springtime shopping spree. Maybe Sunday, May 1st? We could take the convenient light rail there and back. It'll be fun!

...it was such a fabulous birthday weekend... I'm unsure if I could have asked for more!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michelle, this is Nathan. I got an interesting email that I thought you might be interested in. The long and short is there is a job opening at the Institute for American Universities; sounds close to your dream job:


    I don't have your email so I put it here. :)