This year, I decided to do something a little different for Akemi’s birthday dinner.  Rather than go out for her special meal, I decided to bring the special meal to her.  I hired the services of her fave local chef, Jane Cornborough, and asked her to design a menu especially for Akemi. And so, last night, Jane came to our home and, with the assistance of the super-talented Brooke Pillay, served up an outstanding five course birthday meal…

April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Chef Jane Cornborough ready for action.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
With an assist from Refuel vet Brooke Pillay.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
In setting the table, we realize we don't have proper napkins. So we settle for Akemi's back-up napkins - nothing short of lovery.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
With all the hustle and bustle going on, perhaps no one was more looking forward to that night's feast than Jelly.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Some of the night's fresh market ingredients included wild ramps and celery leaf.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Who's hungry?
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
The first guests to arrive: Rob and Hillary.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
And completing the guest list: Ivon and Sarah.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Akemi checks out the tea collection, a gift from Rob and Hillary.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
And a bouquet from Ivon and Sarah. Akemi doing her best Miss Japan imitation.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Chef Jane whisking up a storm.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Fresh herbs
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Lulu anxiously awaits the first course.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Sarah talks study with Akemi. Ivon is clearly dubious about something.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
The birthday gal shows off her ichigo napkin.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Porcini Mushroom Soup topped with crispy mushrooms, croutons, chives and olive oil. A fantastic start to the meal. Akemi is a huge fan of mushrooms and you don't get much more flavorful than the wonderful porcini. The crispy mushrooms on top were a nice textural contrast to the creamy soup as were the croutons that found a quick fan in Ivon.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Dungeness Crab Salad with frisse, oxalis, avocado,charred ramps, and pickled mustard seed vinaigrette. Wow! Appearances can be deceiving. This looked like the simplest dish and yet it blew everyone away with its fresh, clean flavors. And that mustard seed's all Akemi could talk about.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Cauliflower Risotto with fried cauliflower & puree, parsley, and grano padano. Akemi loves cauliflower and risotto, so Jane came up with this terrific dish. Again, a nice textural contrast between the crispy and the creamy rolled into a whole lot of tasty.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Keeping busy in the kitchen.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Beer Braised Slopping Hill Pork with spring vegetables-fava beans, peas, wild celery, radish, cipollini onions, micro cabbage greens, and jus. Incredibly tender, rich, and luscious.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Ivon's table conversation drives his date to drink.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Rob and Hillary rest up before the dessert course - and humor Ivon.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Akemi's birthday cupcake.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Akemi loves chocolate and is a big fan of the orange blossom truffles at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France, so Brooke obliges by serving up Chocolate Cupcakes with orange blossom ganache and butter cream. Delicious.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
And, to end the meal, a selection of Enrico Rivera chocolate bombolas (Brooke brought back from her recent trip to Spain) in an assortment of tea flavors: Chinese green tea balls with jasmine flower, Japanese green tea with rice and corn, Chinese black tea with Lapsang Souchang, Smoked Chinese black tea with Candied lemon, and pine-nut and green tea Gunpowder with mint and rose petals.
April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!
Brooke and Jane take a bow.

Thanks to Jane and Brooke for a memorable evening.

35 thoughts on “April 27, 2012: Akemi’s Birthday Dinner!

  1. Wow, you’re such a nice boyfriend! Akemi, you’re a lucky girl, but Joe’s luckier! The food (and the company) look lovely!

  2. Like a regular episode of Top Chef Masters. What a thoughtful gift. Intimate gathering of friends. The food looked good, too. I don’t think I wished Akemi a Happy Birthday because I was backlogged on your blogs, so Akemi: BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

  3. Wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy Coooooooooooooooooooool

    Great looking group, and food!


  4. Joe you are so sweet and thoughtful. What a special gift! All the dishes look so good. What time did Chef Jane arrive? I was wondering how early she had to start the meal. Akemi certainly has had a wonderful birthday week. And many more…!

    (Is Lulu okay? I bet she was crushed to see her boyfriend Ivon with Sarah. The cad!)

  5. What a wonderful looking meal! Great job ladies! Joe, how thoughtful of you, terrific idea! Did you sing Happy Birthday?? Need to hear that video, such a nice evening! Akemi is a lucky lady!

  6. Really a wonderful present. Proud of you Joe to continue with the “2 weeks of birthday celebrating” tradition! And, to celebrate in fine style.

    Akemi – Happy Birthday again. Looks like you had a good time.

  7. What an amazing meal. Kudos to Jane and Brooke! And once again, happy birthday, Akemi! What a wonderful treat.

  8. Joey, I think you said a bad word. 😉

    The dinner looks fantastic! What a nice gift, too. I would love to eat like that – all the different veggies and preparations – but I am NOT a whiz in the kitchen. It takes me twice as long as anyone else to prepare the most basic meals because I over-complicate everything. For one, I’m always afraid of cross contamination (esp. since I only have about 3 feet of counterspace) so I’m always stopping to wash my hands and wipe the counter. For two, I don’t have a dishwasher so I often wash dishes while I’m preparing the meal just so I have room to prepare the meal. And for three, I second-guess and/or tweak recipes way too much. The end result is usually pretty good, but the process of getting there just isn’t as fun for me as I would like it to be, ergo, we eat out waaay too much. 😛


  9. wow, what a nice gift. so nice. I am vey envious. Also, what a super nice kitchen. Love those cabinets and countertops. I would never want to leave it. (meaning I wouldn’t want to go to another house to live). a gift to always remember.

  10. Wow, a custom-designed gourmet meal cooked at home — a luxury I don’t ever expect to experience! How lovely. Looks incredibly tasty.

    Which reminds me, if you continue to ‘just say no’, as it were, you should have time to come down San Francisco way and sample our fine dining! When’s it gonna be?

  11. Out of curiousity, how much would a course like this cost to have a chef come in?

  12. G’day Joe

    WOW…nice food and a super nice boyfriend in you Joe. Great of Jane and Brooke to come and cook for your party.

  13. A wonderful birthday gift for Akemi

    Maybe you should consider more eating out more often at home.

  14. Happy birthday Akemi!! 😀 That was some birthday dinner. Akemi…you are one lucky gal to have a guy like Joe in your life. 😉

  15. @Deni: The look on Riley’s face is priceless (especially given the background of the picture). 4 pounds? Must be all the other dogs’ meals that she’s been scarfing down!

  16. This is an amazing gift/celebration. And bravo t those chefs! Glad everyone had fun.

  17. You are a special person, Joe Mallozzi. While I think you are very lucky to have wonderful Akemi in your life, I think she is also lucky to have you.

  18. Wonderful meal! A thoughtful gift, indeed.

    I have wild ramps in my garden, but they struggle, they aren’t native and hate it here. I use the greens, not the bulbs. Maybe someday, when they’re stronger and more abundant.

    Cute napkins! But really, you don’t have real napkins? What foodie doesn’t have real napkins? Sure, all of mine are in a drawer, but I even have my mom’s cotton napkins from the 40s, the type with the pastel borders. Her daily napkins, a wedding gift in 1943, I think. Kinda faded.

  19. Programming alert!
    Takashi Miike’s ‘Imprint’ is shown on ChillerTV’s schedule for 11 pm Saturday night’s – Master’s of Horror installment…

    Episode 13, “Imprint”, originally scheduled to premiere on January 27, 2006, was shelved by Showtime due to concerns over its content. Mick Garris, creator and executive producer of the series, characterized the episode as “the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen”.It is available only on DVD and Blu-ray by Anchor Bay Entertainment, along with the rest of the episodes in the first season.[3] “Imprint” was shown in the UK on Bravo (7 April 2006)
    —–citation Wikipedia.

    I thought some of the group and/or Joe might be interested.

    @Joe, have you checked out ‘Grimm’? I’m a ‘set my head on fire fan’ now after watching about 6 eps.


  20. @ Deni – I think it’s time to change Squishy’s name to Li’l pOOPS! (Emphasis on the ‘oops’ 😉 )

    Speaking of poop…

    I’m just pooped (as in plumb tuckered out) today. No idea why. Nice dinner last night, followed by a stroll down the open air mall for ice cream, and an early bedtime. I did wake up at 3 am and stayed awake for a half hour so I could record a rugby match, but went right back to sleep. I should feel great today, but I’ve been trying for the past 5 hours to clean my house, and it’s just not working. My focus is allll over the place (e.g., I’m typing this instead of dusting 😛 ). I HATE when this happens on my only day to clean, because instead of starting early and finishing up by now, giving me the rest of the day to play, I inevitably fart around until mid-afternoon, then my energy finally kicks in and I end up cleaning until 9 pm, then eat take out (because I didn’t have time to cook), then fall asleep watching tv, a bad habit which just packs on the pounds. Then I’ll be depressed and miserable all day tomorrow. I hate whatever this brain fog/lack of motivation/ADD thing is that occasionally screws up my cleaning day. Grrr.

    Okay…gonna try to do something constructive. Wish me luck!


  21. Nice! Arranging that chef-at-home gift was so gracious and kind of you. Thank you for sharing Akemi’s birthday dinner with us Joe! The food looks delicious, I can almost smell it through the laptop screen. Mouth is watering.

    Hello to Rob and Hillary, Ivon and Sarah!

    @Deni – your Riley girl has the most wonderful expression on her face, what a cutie she is. Keep the updates coming.

    @das – have your thyroid level checked. Feeling rundown may be low hormone level. Feel better!


  22. @Sparrow: She does have quite the mug and knows how to use to it her advantage, especially with Mr. Deni. He melts every time she looks at him with those eyes. Sucker! She’s not eating anything but her own food, but she is growing quickly. I don’t see her getting chubby, but she’s getting very tall (all legs right now). With all the running she does, you’d think she wouldn’t gain an ounce. 🙂

    @Das: Yeah, the pooping/peeing thing gets old, but she’ll come around. She’s still working on “come” (doing well, though, for a 3 month old puppy), is an expert at “sit” and “shake hands” (which I threw in there just for fun), and is mostly eager to please/learn. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s very rewarding to see her happy and thriving! 🙂

    I had the same “thing” today with the cleaning, and you’re right, it’s awful!

  23. @ 2cats – A lack of motivation is a side effect of my bp meds. When I first started on the meds it was really bad, but now it seems to come and go. The ADD is just me, and I have to work a bit harder at maintaining my focus. Fortunately, after a talk with the guy upstairs, I managed to focus and cleaned the entire house in 3 hours! Woo! Now I have no excuse for not cooking dinner. 😛

    @ Deni – I’ve only had two dogs in my lifetime and one we had when I was born, so I don’t know how she trained. But our other dog, a Keeshond/Shepherd mix, was the smartest dog, ever! He trained really fast (we did it the old fashioned way, keeping him in a small room with newspaper), and he also did the standard tricks, like shaking hands, but we also taught him to whisper! He was a real barker, so one day when giving him a treat mom was trying to get him to quiet down, and she scolded him, saying, ‘don’t bark – whisper!’…then she made a quiet bark, something like ‘hup!’ And he did it! Took just once, and from then on he always whispered for his treats. 🙂


  24. Um…just you know…Joe…my birthday is February 8. 🙂 I want Bobby Flay and Michael Symon to cook my birthday dinner. 😉

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