Happy birthday, Jean!
Jean was the school librarian, and we got along really well. Getting to hang out with her was part of the reason I stayed in the same school for seven years, until I had a green card and a degree and had to find paying work.
We've been friends ever since — 16 years so far — and get together when we can for lunch, shopping, movies.
Yesterday was Jean's birthday. Her daughter Alex and friend Mary had sneakily arranged a surprise dinner for family and friends, and The Boy and I were invited.
It was a very Italian evening; not only were half the guests born in Italy, but the menu was inspired by Mario and Lidia.
We began with marinated zucchini:
Amazingly tender stuffed cuttlefish with pine nuts and raisins:
And scallops gratinate with butter, lemon and sage:
Those, mind you, were just the appetizers. While we stood in the kitchen, chatting and nibbling and sipping prosecco, Mary casually threw together the main course, cavatappi affumicati.
We moved into the dining room, where the table was set with lead crystal and yellow roses and wine in carafes (y'know, rather than just plunking the bottle on the table as we do).
Oh, and place-cards.
Then there was a vibrant anise-citrus salad with honey-poppyseed dressing:
And homemade biscotti with almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves, which were good by themselves but positively danced with the Vin Santo.
And then the birthday cake: a zuppe inglese.
Think light, fluffy layers of sponge cake sandwiching chocolate and vanilla pastry cream. Assume the involvement of, oh, a dozen eggs.
It was a lovely evening, and we felt privileged to be a part of it. Thanks, Mary — and happy birthday, Jean!