Monday, 2 November 2015

Happy 50th Birthday to Jonathan!

Jonathan celebrated his 50th birthday this summer, what a perfect occasion to pick up our Ten Plates summer tradition. It had been a couple of years since we had hosted our famous Ten Plates dinner party and we were missing this fabulously decadent and major labor of love, summer party occasion. Tash and I devised this feast several years ago to celebrate Jonathan's end of July birthday. He loves to eat, we love to cook. The end result, a culinary gift of love to our sweet guy. 

We decided to do a menu based on traditional British dishes, but with an American twist. It's the story of our lives, blending our two cultures together, so much fun, always so interesting, and sometimes a bit controversial!

The deck is always on oasis of serene, leafy green and big enough for several tables. Lucky for us, cousins Tasha and Jim came early to help us set up.

The party is just starting, and what a party it was! So much fun; wonderful guests, the food turned out great and we even had fabulous music thanks to Will, Beth, Susannah and Chris!

Our first course, Smoked Mackerel Butty, was a twist on the famous bacon buttys of England. We made our own butty, actually a parmesan basil muffin and instead of the traditional bacon, we sandwiched smoked Michigan whitefish in the middle. It was a stretch, but a tasty one. 

Here, Tash and I are putting together the "Oh, I Only Drink Bubbles," second course, devised to put everyone at very happy ease! Btw, isn't she something? I think so.

The third course was one of our very favorites, foie gras. As an added treat, we found Italian maraschino cherries to grace the top. So rich and delicious.

This lettuce dish was a really spectacular fourth course.
Finding the quail eggs in West Michigan was a bit of a challenge, but after scouring the Asian stores in Grand Rapids, I finally scored what I needed. 

Fifth course, summer soup with fresh Michigan corn, South Shore basil and silken summer tomatoes.

These next little guys packed some gustatory punch! Our sixth course is simple to make and full of flavor, yet light and tasty. Marinate your shrimp for 10 minutes in Sambuca liqueur (tastes like licorice), wrap in prosciutto and grill for one minute per side. Serve with a bit of sriracha mayo. The result, heaven on earth, but in your mouth! 

Our seventh course was a spin on all the sweet corn sandwich choices available in your local Marks and Sparks. So this is not a sandwich, but it does incorporate sweet summer corn and Michigan summer tomatoes, blended with fresh pesto to make you wish summer would never end. 

These are as good as they look. Our eighth course, luscious lobster fritters, with a kiss on top and served with capered remoulade. Kill me now. 

For our ninth course, we salute Jonathan's drunken late night English vice, lamb kebabs. Ours were a bit more refined, baby lamb lollies grilled with herbs and our very own preserved lemons. Jonathan loved them, just saying. 

For our final and tenth course, we presented our very own house-made vanilla ice-cream, Michigan peaches and rich pound cake. Suffice to say, all plates were cleared and a very happy night was had by all! 

Life is best celebrated by enjoying the moment, savoring every memory, and making it all count. Life is fleeting, tender and so very precious. Grab it by the tail! Cheers and best wishes to our dear Jonathan, on his 50th birthday. You are loved. 

And, as they say, the proof is in the pudding!  Here is our birthday boy dancing on the table, cuz all great parties end this way! 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Clovelly, My Sweet Clovelly.

Hello, England! It's mid September and we've just landed in London. After a year living back in the USA, we are here once again in our lovely England, and the first place we head is here, to you. You can't imagine how happy I am to have made it back to this special place. My Clovelly. You are so beautiful.

And so we careen down the little road, so familiar, to Clovelly! Place of beauty, small and sweet, mysterious and quiet, holding secrets close to your coast-hugging soul. Yet, you always let us in. Still and away, you await our arrival.

GB and I are giddy with happiness, here we are again. Seems like we belong here. We can't wait to wander your sea-rock cobbled street, and struggle up your cliff-side winding lane. 
Here's hoping for clear skies. Your cobbles are treacherous in the rain.

Lovely tiny harbor, full of toy boats resting on the sea bed. Will the seas ever rise again?

GB and I wander along the centuries old sea wall and marvel at the boats resting on the sea bed.

Saugatuck T-shirt in Clovelly, yep, that's my guy! Gotta bring a little of Michigan here to the place we love.

And yes, the seas are true to their word, and they do rise again.

And off we wander; exploring, laughing, tripping along. This world is our oyster and we have so much fun, like we always do, because we always do.

I love this vista, at the top of the town, on the edge of the cliff. Down below is the sea, wild and unforgiving. 

These streets, paved with sea stones, lasting through the centuries, are remarkable to behold, and difficult to traverse. Happily, no rain as of yet.

Here we go, off on an adventure, following maps written on napkins and hoping we find our way, through gardens and coastal paths. Seems simple, so far.

Her directions seemed so clear- the nice woman in the pottery shop directed us on our way. Everything was going well, until we encountered these guys, their horns were a bit scary. How to traverse the field without getting impaled?

We went the long way around, and eventually ended up in the Clovelly Court  Gardens. England weather makes for gorgeous gardens, and this Victorian kitchen-style garden was very beautiful.

Pears, anyone?

And then we were in the Clovelly churchyard. I love to look at all the old gravestones and wander the paths, peaceful and beautiful. Something I never got tired of in England. My mom loved to do the same. Wandering and wondering, who went here before? Feeling the past and enjoying the moment. 

The inside was something, too. I love how the churches are open to anyone to just walk in and take a look around. There's no one there, and it's cold, but you can feel the history, the sanctuary, the peace and the tranquillity. Absolutely spellbinding. 

Can you imagine the hundreds of families that belonged to this Norman church, over all the centuries?  The lives, the loves, the travails, that were borne, lived and died here? So much history in one place.  

And now we're off again, on one of my adventures through the English countryside. I drag Gb along ( and some sort of map), and he's happy to go with me, because he likes to see me happy ( I am one lucky woman), and I am so giddy when we are off on an escapade. The possibilities are endless!

I trot, sing, and basically scamper through the fields, meadows, and Englishness of England- this can mean rain, mud and fearsome cattle with big horns, but on we go, forward. No one knows where we will end up! Well, I exaggerate, GB will make sure we end in a pub somewhere. 

The view from the coastal path is beautiful, quiet, and it goes on and on. 

Through the woodsy trail we wander, glimpsing the view, happy together, marveling at all the nature around us.

And here, a resting place... The English are so thoughtful.

The skies stayed clear...

And the fields clear of imminent danger...

It was a wonderful day, just a beautiful day. I am a happy girl!

GB is glad to be back in the pub, with his best girl. Cheers!

  After a drink and a rest, we negotiate the path back home.

Clovelly, Sweet Clovelly, I will be back, I promise.