Obligatory birthday post! I had tons of things keeping me busy this month, including having my brother and some of his friends visit, shows to go to, CMJ, my sister-to-be come and stay for a few days, and birthday festivities! First things's first: Champs. We go to champs at least once a week. We make a point to take everyone who visits us to Champs at least once while they visit. We are pretty much obsessed. They've always offered specials, but they now make these printed cards that they put inside the menu with three specials offerings, because it's often easy to miss them when you stumble in. This is the sweet potato hash, and it has kale, mushrooms, onion, sweet potato, guac, sliced jalapeños and their chipotle dressing, which I am in love with. This dish was created specifically for me and my taste buds. No just kidding, it was on the specials list. They'll make it specially for you too.
It's a tradition we have in our little two-person family that we celebrate all special occasions, including but most importantly birthdays, with Ethiopian food. Our favorite restaurant is in New Jersey where we used to live, so we make the trek out there every once in a while. Now, to go over two tolled NY State bridges, through the Garden State Parkway, and whatever godforsaken traffic said obstacles may be withholding, that's got to be some damn good food. Believe me -- it is that good. We make a thing of it and get appetizers, eat every last bite on the platter, get Ethiopian coffee, and vegan chocolates. They are also BYOB, so we bring a couple bottles of red wine and yeah, like I said, make a thing of it.
Now, while photographs of Ethiopian food may not be magazine-cover status, the taste of it is way better than anything that has every graced the cover of Bon Appetit. This is especially true at Mesob Restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey. I have eaten at dozens of Ethiopian restaurants in several different states including legendary DC and PA. Mesob still wins. This is the best food. Ever.
We went to Mesob on the weekend before my birthday, which fell on a Tuesday, and the hassle of getting to and from Mesob on a weeknight is pretty impossible. So on my actual birthday, Alex cooked! It's really cute to see this super learned almost doctor get so flustered and confused by tasks that I complete on the reg. It makes me feel powerful. Anyway, he did a great job. He followed the recipe for New England Glam Chowder from Isa Does It, and lucky for him I always make notes in the margins of anything confusing or what I thought worked or suggestions for next time, such as "salt!" or "put nori in the blender," because I could see him literally losing his mind trying to crumble nori by hand. It came out great and we adorned it with handfuls of oyster crackers.
Surprise! He made me cupcakes! Baby's first cupcake! Also the first cupcake I ate that I didn't make or buy! They were perfect. The best birthday cupcakes I could ask for.
We put the cupcakes on the table in lieu of bread or whatever you dip in your glam chowder. Just kidding, we didn't dip our cupcakes in it. That would be gross.
The following weekend I made a meal that we lovingly refer to as "Italian Dinner." The plate is divided into quadrants. It always has meetballs, pasta, greens with beans, and caesar salad. It comes with breadsticks and red wine. As uncustomizable as I have just made it sound, I changed it ever-so-slightly this time, by making the tempeh meetballs from Isa Does It, instead of my usual recipe. I also made the beans with a ton of arugula my Italian customer gave me from his garden. This time I made the sauce how his father makes it. It was on point. I was inducted into this family when I was taught the secret to his success this summer. My Italian food game is at an all-time high.
We've talked about the breadstick phenomenon, haven't we? It's like when you bake someone some bread, they are like, "Oh cool. Bread." But when you bake them breadsticks they are like, "OMG I LOVE BREADSTICKS," you know? They are only like 20 minutes more difficult and warrant a 100% better and more worthy response. Plus they are better for dipping into your special sauce.
The day after I made this dinner I got really sick, and decided I am going raw. I always say I'm going raw forever after I get sick. Rt4? Compromise? Who's to say... Oh look! Almond Butter!
KZ Passing out now.