Monday, October 15, 2007

A Birthday Dinner

Today was the Composer's father's birthday, and we always celebrate with a really nice dinner for him. Last year was a Herculean effort for extended family on the occasion of his seventieth; tonight was simple and quiet. I wasn't able to do anything ahead of time at all, due to a houseful of company all weekend, but I did have the meal planned and the day clear to devote to cooking. Which made for a very pleasant time. The girls and I took our time, puttering through the table-setting, shopping, and actual food work. They are such a help!

We kept the table neutral, with a cream cloth, white dishes with a little gold, and little bits we gathered from outdoors in purple colors.

A bunch of purple grass from the pasture as a centerpiece:

A sprig of sumac berries on a linen napkin:

The first course we served plated: hot crab dip spread on slices of baguette and run under the broiler, with grape tomatoes on a puff of alfalfa sprouts.

Next we had a butter lettuce salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, with slices of goat cheese crusted with chopped walnuts.

The main course was strip steaks done in a skillet with a brandy-cream reduction. I had to borrow from a neighbor to have skillet room enough for all the steaks to cook at once.

Dessert (in process here) was an autumnal birthday cake--spice layers with molasses, lemon zest, and ginger, frosted with cream cheese frosting. I decorated it with purple oak leaf hydrangea leaves and a few rusty-rosy hydrangea blossoms on top. Removed the flowers for serving and poured a batch of brown-sugar sauce over the top.

The kids presented Grandpa with a brightly-decorated basket filled with homemade cards. Daisy's was dictated:"You are the best grandpa because you are my grandfather. You're welcome for the presents." Signed with the Greek sign for alpha (apparently), written over and over.


Ruth said...

anna, you are such a gracious gal. thanks for the beautiful pics. it brings so much joy to honor someone you love like you would royalty...i'm sure your father-in-law was blessed.

Anonymous said...

It all looks delicious. Thank you for sharing with us.


han_ysic said...

Wow, I love it all, and I bet the girls had a wonderful time preparing everything with you. Lovely pics too. The berries you showed in one photo, are they edible or just decorative?

YayaOrchid said...

You did a wonderful thing for your family, by honoring your elder, an example in respect!

Everything looks delish! I would love your recipe for that cream cheese frosting. It looks so creamy and thick. And your brown sugar sauce. Sounds so yummy!


Anonymous said...

wow - are these your pics? looks like something from a cookbook or magazine! gramster (alyssa's mom)

Alicia said...

WOW :^)

Saraj said...

Your photos are so poetic...
very beautiful.

Storybook Woods said...

Sounds like a perfect dinner !! Clarice

Davene said...

Wow! Can you fix a birthday dinner for me??? Even your "simple" meals look like a million dollars!!! :)

What a gift of hospitality you have!

Anonymous said...

Anna, Any chance you can post the recipie for the cake, frosting and sauce? I think I have to make it. Soon. :) Sally

Mrs. Rabe said...

Wow! That looked so good!

Thank you for the special way you share the everyday.

Also, thank Giles for the photos. They are, as usual, beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Yum!! All looks delicious!! My birthday is in November!

Amy said...

Did you get the cake recipe from the October issue of Martha Stewart Living? I made exactly the same dessert using a recipe from there for our Thanksgiving dinner (I'm in Canada). It's definitely one I'll make again. In case anyone's interested (I noticed a few asking for recipes) just do a search for "Molasses Spice Cake" at and you'll find recipes for the cake, cream cheese frosting, and brown sugar glaze.

One quibble I have with the recipe - it specifies unsulfured molasses but doesn't tell you whether to use blackstrap, cooking or fancy. I used fancy and my cake looked lighter than the photo in the magazine. It still tasted great but I suspect they used cooking molasses judging from the photo.

HopewellMomSchool said...

Amazing. Lovely. Look out Martha. This lady know how to do a stunning dinner!

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