October 5, 2009

Birthday Feasting

My birthday weekend (I turned 36 on Friday) revolved around--what else?--FOOD!

The celebration started on Friday with dinner at the chef's table at
Monarch. To get to the table, you have to walk through the kitchen & up a narrow spiral staircase. The table is enclosed in a glass room that overlooks the kitchen.

We all ordered the 5-course tasting menu, but were treated to a few more. Here's the menu that Chef Galliano & his team constructed for us; we had two dishes per course (forgive me for the lack of dish details, but I'd had a few cocktails by then & didn't write anything down!).

We had so much wine with our dinner, that it was actually difficult for me to keep up!

Aperitif: We had joked around on Twitter about bringing jello shots. Josh (the chef) was nice enough to make them for us! GOURMET jello shots! Awesome. I wanted many more.

Jello Shots: Apple, Grape, & Cranberry


Chicken Confit Nugget
(One of their signature dishes)

First Course: 
Foie Gras & Beef Terrine 

Poached Egg

Second Course:
Shrimp & Spoonbread

Squid Ink Fettucini with Crab

Third Course:

Salmon with Potato Cake, Beet Puree, & Horseradish Foam

Monkfish with Greens, Pasta, & Savory Broth

Fourth Course:

House-made Andouille Sausage with White Beans

Lamb Pot Roast with Ravioli

Fifth Course:

Turkey Shank with Cornbread & Cranberry (Thanksgiving on a plate!)

Butcher's Cut of Beef with Duck Fat Poached Potatoes, Mushrooms, & Greens

Chocolate Cake-Like Thing with Ice Cream
(By this time, I'd had A LOT of wine.)

Deconstructed Bananas Foster 
(I think.)

Everything was amazing, and all of my favorite foods were represented...poached eggs, pasta, Thanksgiving, & duck fat! We had a great time, getting too full & a little drunk.

On Saturday, the "Food Blogger Mafia" (stay tuned for more details!)--aka Stephanie, Kelli, Annie, & I--had a sleepover. 

So, of course, we ate junk food...which really meant we consumed our weight in cream cheese dips. I made my mom's infamous taco dip. Kelli made buffalo chicken dip (though, she got fancy by using shredded roast chicken). Annie made a radish dip (gimme the recipe, woman!). Steph made pretzel/rolo treats. I also brought a bag of giant Cheetos because...well...they are GIANT CHEETOS! Do I need another reason.

We also had two cakes. Yep, TWO cakes for FOUR girls. I made a mojito cake (recipe below) & Annie bought me a very pretty red velvet cake made by Mathew Rice (pastry chef at Niche whose recipe was recently featured in Martha Stewart Weddings). 

See that? That's what they call "name dropping."

But wait! There's more (name dropping, that is)! On Sunday, I walked around the Taste of St. Louis event and ran into Chef Hubert Keller! He was looking at some art at one of the booths. He was very kind...just as he is on television & just as he was the FIRST time I met him (I attended a Boulevard beer dinner at SLeeK & he was there to cook). That's right...I'm FANCY.

The look on my face is called "smitten fangirl."

* * * * *

(cake recipe from Warren Brown's Cake Love cookbook)


Dry Ingredients
2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 whole cloves (ground into a fine powder)
1/3 cup oven dried mint *, crumbled

*Dry the mint in a 350 oven, watching carefully so that it doesn't burn. It should crumble easily. This took me about 20 minutes.

Liquid Ingredients
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon limoncello (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
juice of two limes

Creaming Ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups extra-fine granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lime zest
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Incorporated all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, whisk briefly,  and set aside.
  • Incorporate all of the liquid ingredients into a bowl, whisk briefly,  and set aside. 
  • Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, and yolks into separate bowls and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) cream together the butter, sugar, and lime zest on the lowest setting for 4 to 5 minutes.
  • With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolks, fully incorporating after each addition.
  • Add the dry ingredient mixture, alternating with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.  Move swiftly through this step to avoid overworking the batter.  Don’t wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next.  This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
  • Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl (don’t miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl).  Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter's structure.
  • Prepare the cake pans.  For 9-inch-round cakes, line the bottom of each pan with parchment.  Deposit the batter evenly into the pans and smooth out with an offset spatula, making sure the pans are two-thirds full.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pans from the oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack, about 25 to 30 minutes before removing from the pan.  Loosen the cake gently from the pan with a small offset spatula and invert onto a flat surface.  Remove the parchment from the bottom of each cake and wrap the layers tightly in plastic.  You can refrigerate the layers overnight or up to 5 days before frosting.  
Buttercream is easy. I simply mixed together 2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature) with 1 package powdered sugar (adding in gradually). I added tablespoons of light rum until I had the consistency I wanted...creamy, smooth, spreadable. It's pretty boozy, but I wanted to taste the rum!

* * * * *

Here are a couple more pictures from the weekend:

The crispy skin garnish reminded me of a scene from Silence of the Lambs
Only much tastier.

Trying to play a tune on the many wine glass I had accumulated throughout the evening.

Our view of the kitchen from the chef's table.

It was fun watching our dishes come together & trying to guess what it was before we were told.

Me & my BFF Sarah

Preparing the dipstravaganza at Annie's downtown loft.

We're on a roof!

Thanks to Steph for taking pictures on Friday & Saturday. Most of these are hers!


Brittany (He Cooks She Cooks) said...

Amazing dinner, friends, cake and Hubert Keller? Sounds like a fantastic birthday!

KetzerMusic said...

I thought I recognized Steph's handy work. I'll be honest, I only knew 1/4 of the foods you referenced, and those are from listening to Steph, but sounds like you had and amazing meal with amazing friends. As an official Fanboy of FBM, Happy B-Day!

Anonymous said...

Your Monarch food pics were amazing. I'm usually disappointed when people take pictures of the dishes, they never look like they were meant to in my opinion. Yours were fabulous.

Anonymous said...

Your birthday celebrations look wonderful. I love the cake!

Happy Birthday!