I turned 31 on a Monday. Johannes and I both took the day off work, and went to Nadege on Queen Street West where we shared a $8 cakelet for breakfast that seems unethically indulgent any other time of the year but on a birthday. We hung out at a bookshop, had a cocktail at Bar Raval, and then went home to cook burgers (ground meat from Sanagan’s or Cumbrae’s, mixed into patties with toasted and then ground coriander and a little bit of cumin, salt and pepper and an egg, then cooked in a dry, very hot cast iron pan sprinkled with salt so that a crust quickly forms. Buns from Black Bird Baking Company if we’re around Kensington Market, smeared with mayonaise and Dijon mustard, topped with rings of raw onion, Johannes’s fermented dill pickles, and some very mature Cheddar. Burgers are serious business in this house.)
Then we cooked dinner for some friends. In Arcadia I had an average of four birthday parties every year, over the course of around a month. Ten years of accumulated friends and family will do that. In Toronto, in the middle of a PhD, one party is all I can handle. (I look forward to a post-PhD life where this is not the case. All dinner parties, all the time.)
So this was dinner. To begin, a savoury kataiffi attempt with finely chopped olives, feta, fresh oregano and walnut, rolled sliced into rounds.
We bought billowy pitas from the new Paramount Fine Foods that opened down the street, and served them with Sam Sifton’s oven-roasted chicken shawarma. The chicken, marinated overnight in lots of lemon juice and garlic and paprika and cumin, is roasted the next day, then shredded, then placed under the grill. It was a revelation. On the side we made Michael Solomonov’s hummus tahina from Zahaav, which I’ve read a lot of people rave about. In our case it was close, but no cigar. For the amount of work that homemade hummus requires the results needs to be stellar. Solomonov’s did not change my life. We also roasted aubergine and topped it with garlicky yoghurt and dried sour cherries, and roasted cauliflower and tossed it with a vinaigrette and some flat leaf parsley.
Dessert was chocolate mousse, but it deserves its own post. This is what we woke up to. Immediately cleaning up after a party is anathema to me. Why would you want to erase the memory of the evening? Leave the table be.