Birthday months are the best. Yes, I said months. Not just a day, but the feeling you have when it is THE month of your birthday. The WHOLE month. Then each time you do something fun in that month you just chalk it up to a birthday celebration. Every time you buy something you can just think...well, this is for my birthday.
Birthdays are also a checkpoint. It makes you think about whether or not you have accomplished what you wanted to this year or made sure you have seen friends you wanted to make a point of seeing. Unfortunately, the month is not long enough to see all of the friends with which I would like to catch up...that is a good problem to have...not the not-enough-time problem, but that I have more friends than I have time for. It is like the Irish blessing "May your house be too small to hold all of your friends." This is the glass-is-half-full theory. (Don't focus on the size of your house, but on all of the friends that you have.) That is the blessing... and actually, small houses are faster to clean.
My long-time friend, Trudy, and I use birthdays as an excuse to do something a little out of the "ordinary everyday" together. It is an event, not just a gift, because after all, the gift is in the time spent. We have been doing this for years. This time for my birthday we went to Elmhurst to Cafe Amano. It is a great little Italian Restaurant that offers a cooking demonstration once a month. On their website it is called a cooking class, but I say demonstration because it is really not a class where you get your hands messy while cooking. It is more like a demonstration in the dining room. Everyone is seated at tables around the dining room while Chef Marco explains what we are going to eat and how he is preparing it.
The photo below is actually of the Amano Butcher and Market next door.
(A certain photographer took a picture of the wrong doorway, ooops! but you get the idea. It is just as cool.)
During the demonstration, everyone is welcome to ask questions and comment on the food and food preparation while the chef cooks . It also sparks ideas of other dishes that you could make with the ingredients. I am sure depending on whether the group is shy or outgoing changes the atmosphere and dictates how the evening goes. We had a short discussion on pasteurization and homogenization...Trudy, the 5th grade teacher in the room, really knows her stuff. That show "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" should be ..."So You Think You are Smarter than a 5th Grade Teacher? HA. No way, they know everything." That might be a little long for a title. (Hey Trudy, how was my puctuation on that?)
Our first taste was a bean salad...hmm....be brave, Maureen...(not a bean fan)...but surprise, surprise, I really did like them. They were tossed in apple cider vinegar and a little olive oil and sugar.
The appetizer was super simple (and not your typical pig in a blanket)...it was fresh figs stuffed with creamy Gorgonzola cheese, then wrapped in prosciutto and baked. It is a house specialty and the chef said he goes through many many many figs. He even has a fig tree outside that represents his love for this fruit.
Next was a butternut squash and apple soup drizzled with Blackstrap Molasses. I died. It was delicious and unfortunately the only recipe held back from us all night. The Chef said it is a restaurant specialty and they don't give that one out. I am imagining myself sneaking into the kitchen with dark glasses and a trench coat later for this one...(cue the Mission Impossible music).
The salad course was next followed by chicken picatta with artichokes, shitake mushrooms, and capers in a white wine sauce which I forgot to photograph because my fork started moving before I remembered to take a photo.
And then finally BANANAS FOSTER!! One of my favorites.
The evening is very leisurely. Don't go if you want to eat and get out quickly. The cost is $35 for a five course meal and includes wine, soft drinks and coffee. They send you home with printed recipes and a full stomach.
And as always, it was really close to the Elmhurst Metra stop.
If you want to try this evening...click here... http://www.cafeamano.com/calendar.php
If you really like cooking classes, here are two that I have loved that are not on the UP-W twain twacks...
http://www.fullerssecondfloor.com/classes/ This is above Fuller's Ace Hardware in Hinsdale. LOVE this place. Nicest hardware store I've ever been in. If you go, you need to invite me. Did I mention I love this place?
http://www.countrygardencuisine.com/ This one is in St. Charles. We went to a honey themed cooking class. Learned all about bees and honey and cooking with honey. Such a cute place. It is an old farm house and has outbuildings that have been really nicely restored and maintained.
Happy Birthday to anyone in October! I have so many friends who have birthdays during this month. Go do something out of the ordinary to celebrate!