My basic recipe for a great birthday is to figure out what you want to do, and do it. Where do you want to be? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be with? What do you want to eat? I know that we can’t always get what we want but I knew that being at work was not going to make it a special day for me. So I took the day off on Friday to celebrate my birthday.
Rem asked if I wanted the “gym alarm” set and I decided that though I would go work out, I was going to just go when I woke up…which turned out to be 10 minutes later than the alarm would have rung. It felt good to start the day with a workout especially because I knew I would be having some wonderful meals later.
Here is what 52 looks like, for me anyway, with no makeup, no Photoshop, nothing retouched, right after my shower.
Now it was time to fix a special breakfast. Deb Perelman, who writes Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs, posted a Fried Egg Sandwich recipe last Monday. I love fried eggs and I love fried egg sandwiches and when I read her recipe I knew it was what I wanted for my birthday breakfast.
This sandwich has the components of one of my very favorite lunch dishes, Salade Lyonnaise. I’ve had it at Left Bank in Larkspur and it is a lovely combination of bitter greens (traditionally frisée, though escarole, dandelion, and arugula all work beautifully), crisp bacon,gently cooked egg and warm Dijon mustard vinaigrette.
The salad would be delicious with croutons (I can’t remember if it usually has them or not) and the toasted ciabatta roll which is the base of the sandwich made a great foundation and would make great croutons. I didn’t find any frisée (French curly endive) by itself at Safeway, so I got some spring mix and picked out lots of the frisée from my bag. I could happily make it with arugula which I can get at Trader Joe’s but if you don’t like bitter greens this would also be very good with spinach.
I increased the bacon from the Smitten Kitchen recipe from one thick slice for two sandwiches to two thick slices for one sandwich. I hardly ever buy bacon and I really wanted to enjoy it. I also cut it into a large dice than the 1/4 inch pieces Deb suggests. Here is my (barely) adapted recipe.
Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Cheese
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Cheese is not pictured above because I didn’t like the idea of blue cheese on this sandwich – I thought it would overwhelm the bacon-egg combo. At the last minute I added some crumbled feta and it was delicious.
1 ciabatta roll
About 1 cup frisée, spring mix with frisée, arugula or spinach torn into-bite size pieces
2 slices thick-cut bacon
1 teaspoon Dijonnaise (a combination of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise from Best Food’s that I love) or 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese or blue cheese if that appeals to you
1 large egg
salt and pepper
I find eggs cook better if they are at room temperature (thank you Tom Hudgens from The Commonsense Kitchen). I don’t usually remember to take the egg out of the fridge soon enough, so I put it in a bowl or measuring cup and cover with hot tap water for a few minutes before cooking.
Split the roll and toast it.
Put greens in a medium bowl. Cut bacon slices into 1 inch pieces and cook in a small, heavy pan over moderate heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels, and save the bacon fat in the pan. Stir the red wine vinegar into the bacon fat and let it bubble for 20 to 30 seconds, then remove from heat and whisk in Dijonnaise. Immediately pour hot dressing over greens and toss together with with crisp bacon.
Lightly butter the toasted roll and mound the dressed salad on one half. Top the salad with crumbled feta cheese.
Wipe the frying pan with a paper towel so you don’t get scorched bits of bacon in your egg. Reheat skillet over medium-high heat and add a pat of butter and swirl it to coat the pan. (Yes, you could spray your pan with non-stick spray and omit the butter but I figure you’re already in deep with the bacon and egg, you may as well enjoy every calorie). Crack the egg into the pan, season lightly with salt (with bacon and feta already in your sandwich, you probably don’t need much salt) and pepper and reduce heat to medium. At this point you want all your attention on cooking the egg. My egg was cooked slightly more than I would have preferred, though it was still delicious, because I was opening a birthday present. Put a small lid over your egg and cook for one minute. Remove the lid, flip the egg (you can turn off the heat at this point, the pan will stay hot enough) and cook 20 seconds more.
Put your perfectly cooked egg on top of the salad on the roll and top with the other half roll, and enjoy!
The beautifully wrapped birthday present I was opening contained this marvelous set of little painted pottery bowls.
Of course I had to have my fruit salad in one. I love them!
After breakfast, I headed south to Filoli, in Woodside, California, about an hours drive from our apartment.
Filoli is a country estate with 654 acres of land, a 36,000 square foot Georgian house and the part that I love, a beautiful 16-acre formal garden.
It was named by the first owner, William Bowers Bourne, by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo:
“Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.”
I have been visiting Filoli for several years and I was hoping to see the Daffodil Meadow in bloom. The garden is beautifully maintained and constantly changing, so I knew it would be a good visit even if the daffodils weren’t in full flower.
This lovely arrangement greeted all visitors in the Visitor and Education Center – I couldn’t fail to see it was bursting with daffodils.
The grounds are calm and the garden is designed so vistas open to you as you wander between each area. The main sound is birdsong and the air is fragrant with the scent of blooming flowers. Potted daffodils were in profusion from these little miniature “Tiny Bubbles”,
to giant pots bursting with bright, cheerful blossoms.
I got to see the Daffodil Meadow in bloom.
It will be blooming for the next few weeks I would guess from all the buds I could see. It was early for many of the flowers, but it was still beautiful. I circled around through the various garden spaces, past the swimming pool, around the terraces and back to Daffodil Meadow for another look.
Parrot Tulips (also called Ruffled Tulips):
The Garden House:
The Garden Shop where I bought a cuff bracelet for myself:
The walking had whet my appetite so I finished my visit with lunch at the Cafe, turkey and Havarti panini with pesto and artichokes and a side salad:
Plus a slice of lemon cake:
Note: More pictures from my Filoli visit are here.
I did a little more shopping on the return trip to Marin and still had time for a pedicure before going out to dinner.
Rem and I went to Insalata’s in San Anselmo.
The lighting was low and romantic but not very helpful for pictures of our (mostly) delicious meal. I started with the Syrian Fatoush Salad and then had the Lamb Tagine. Rem enjoyed Porcini Crusted Flatiron Steak. Though I loved the salad, I found the sauce with the lamb a bit too salty and I didn’t finish the sauce-soaked cous cous.
Which was a good thing. Less cous cous meant more room for dessert. We decided to split this one because the name alone was enough for me to want to give it a try.
“Happy as a pig in mud” always sounded pretty happy, relaxed and content.
This should have been called pig in mud since there was only one pig. But the large shortbread cookie and the rich pudding was more than enough for us to share.
Until our waitress brought another dessert! We really became the pigs at this point.
This decadent and delightful dessert was a triple chocolate torte with a burnt sugar caramel sauce and creme Chantilly. I could have licked the plate clean it was so good. I was a very full but happy and content, much like a pig in mud.
Rem took these last photos when I was showing him the bracelet and two different necklaces I had bought for myself.
It had been quite a lovely birthday, punctuated with several wonderful phone conversations with friends and family, filled with love, beautiful flowers, delicious food and plenty of chocolate. I was tired and happy.
Thank you for the visit.