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I am a lucky, lucky girl.  I got not one birthday dinner, but TWO.  And there will be a third in a few weeks with my favorite ladies.

I love that my friends and family know me well enough to understand that a nice dinner is a thrilling and happy occasion for me, and a wonderful gift.  I do love a good greeting card, and I received several of those.  Again, I’m a lucky girl.  Let me tell you about my birthday dinners.

My wonderful husband made reservations for us for dinner at emmer&rye on my actual birthday.  He made the reservations.  As a surprise, without prompting.  It was a momentous occasion, and it helped build excitement for the meal itself.  The night was gray and rainy, but walking into the house on Queen Anne that holds this lovely restaurant was like walking into a grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve.  It’s a warm, gently-lit, cozy space, intimate without being dark or fussy.  I immediately forgot the grim weather outside.

At emmer&rye, you can select several small plates to share or go the traditional appetizer/entree route.  We did the former, and there were so many options it was almost overwhelming: luckily, we had the help of a dashing and knowledgeable waiter, who sorted us out quickly and steered us down a very nice dining path.   We ordered tall, horseradish-y bloody marys– not your typical evening cocktail, but they turned out to be an ideal accompaniment to our meal.  With cocktails in hand, we tried farro fries with yoghurt-sage dipping sauce, and then a frisee salad with duck confit, lobster mushrooms, a very light vinaigrette… and rabbit.  I had never had rabbit before, to my knowledge, but I will have it again.  (It tasted a lot like chicken.)  Our next plate was garlicky clams with ham, chilies and a toasted baguette.  Garlicky indeed; it was thinly sliced and abundant.  And delicious.  We then had chicory & field greens with braised pork belly, hazelnuts and poached egg.  I thought R was going to faint with happiness.  If that had been first out of the kitchen, I am guessing he would have cancelled the other food and ordered three more plates of pork belly.

Maybe the best part of the evening was discovering that dessert could be ordered as a tasting menu as well.  After some initial discussion of choosing four desserts, we came to our senses, narrowed down to two, and enjoyed a dark, rich chocolate cake with my beloved sour cherry compote and a warm nectarine crisp with noyaux ice cream and almond topping.  I thought I would love the cake best, and it was very good, but the crisp was a perfect ending to a special fall meal.  We left feeling just giddy enough to dance down the sidewalk for a quick second. Happy birthday to me.

Scene Two

Last night, we were eager to see R’s mom, who returned to Seattle after a two-week trip that took her up into Canada, all the way to Banff and back to Vancouver before coming south to us.  We headed into Ballard, hoping to finally have dinner at The Walrus and the Carpenter… but it was not to be.  (Thanks for nothing, Bon Appetit.)  The wait would have been “approximately up to” 90 minutes, and it was already after seven.  So we trekked down the street to beautiful Bastille and had a lovely meal.

Bastille is an impressive restaurant to walk into at night.  Soft lighting, dark wood, oversized tables and chairs and booths, clean white tile on the walls… and fire.  Fire!  Right on the table!  We didn’t sit at the fire table, but there’s a reason it’s in the window.  It was busy for Wednesday night, but we sat immediately in one of the bar-side booths.  R got a beer and his mom had some red wine while I enjoyed La Rive Gauche, a fizzy concoction featuring cassis and elderflower liquer. It was not my first time enjoying this particular cocktail, and it won’t be my last.  After deciphering the menu for a good long while, we ordered: steak frites for R, greenling with green beans, cherry tomatoes & nicoise olives for his mom and chicken oysters with frisee and roasted potatoes for me.  We also ordered gnocchi with bechamel, roasted cauliflower and tomates a la provencale for the table.

Sadly, my entree left a bit to be desired, but the side dishes were really wonderful.  The cauliflower was crispy and well-seasoned, the gnocchi was as tender as it could be and the tomatoes were stellar: sweet, nutty from the breaded topping and creamy from the bit of goat cheese in between.  Heaven.  I wish I had just had a big dish of those!  For dessert, there was almond cake accompanied by blueberries in cognac and lemon balm ice cream (which tasted like oysters to me, I don’t know why) and salted hazelnut creme glacee (it was ice cream) with hazelnut feuilletine.  Decadent and different than anything I had ever had before, really a treat.  The biggest treat of all was enjoying another birthday dinner with my husband and mother-in-law in a lovely restaurant.  I hope everyone is as lucky.