Sunday, July 17, 2011

Surprise, surprise, surprise!

a guest post from Mr. Leaven

I recall few childhood memories as well as my fifth birthday, crisp mental snapshots of green grass, decorations, cake, games, and lots of friends -- a delightfully self-centered day in Derry, New Hampshire.  There is an almost unsurpassable happiness in those memories.  Years have passed since that first day of July 1971, and with them the need for the pomp and parade of birthday parties.  Now I am content to enjoy simply and quietly the passing of another year.  My wife made my favourite, tomato corn pie (she posted the recipe last year about this time -- it is to die for, and with my annual ageing party, I am doing just that), and gave me some wonderful and very practical gifts, just like her fantastic mother does.

You may imagine my puzzled look when she handed me another birthday card yesterday.  At first I though it was a joke, one of those, "I was cleaning up, found this card, so, here, pretend it is your birthday all over again" things.  Inside the card were instructions like "don your driving gloves" and "bring a jacket and leave your sandals behind."  Where are we going that I need to be in a suit coat and barefoot?  Ah, you mean wear dress shoes and not your sandals!  Slow on the uptake there.  She told be to be ready in a couple of hours, that we were going out on a sort of picnic.  Aha!  The explanation for our early Saturday morning trek to the gourmet cheese store!  I really am slow.  But, wait!  It's pouring rain!  Not to worry, I was cryptically advised.  Well, perhaps we're going somewhere where it is not raining.  I got my stuff packed, pondering where my wife was taking me, but enjoying the overall mystery.  I like surprises more than she does.  I worked on some house chores, and, at one o'clock, headed for the door, the...front door?  Usually we go to the garage, get in the car, etc.  It was at this moment, the impish grin on her face as emphasis, that I realized that SOMETHING bigger was afoot!  A glance over her shoulder out the front door window revealed a car...no, a stretch limousine...on the street in front of our house!  What the heck is going on here!?!  The driver took my stuff, opened the door, and...there were people already inside!  Total and overwhelming surprise!! I had no clue that any of this was going to happen!  I got inside and there seated before me is a whole cadre of good friends, with whom I would enjoy the remainder of the day on this mystery journey!  Wine was opened, and the mood turned even more festive!  We munched en route on some fantastic flatbread, courtesy Smitten Kitchen and my wife.  Divine!

Our journey wound through the backroads of south-central Texas first to Montgomery and the Retreat Hill Winery, where we talked and tasted and had a wonderful time.


The next stop was the Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville, where Penny helped us relax on the patio, and where we broke out the cheese.


The pace was so relaxed that we got to our last winery tour stop, Pleasant Hill, somewhat later than expected, and pretty much just changed there.  Changed for our dinner destination, that is, as yet a mystery to me!

The Inn at Dos Brisas.  Wow!  My wife and I had discussed this remotely, but I had totally forgotten about it.  Located in Chappell Hill, it is praised for its excellent dining experience.  Eight courses, with wine pairing, and three-and-a-half-hours later, I heartily agree.  Amazing does not begin to describe the experience.  Some pictures below caputure some of the amazing dishes we enjoyed, though I left out a superb tuna tartare and terrific cheese plate, having forgotten to capture them before consumption.  The descriptions are recollection only.  The menu was personlized and I will try to retrieve it from them.  The wine pairing was phenomenal.  It was the best I have ever had, and I will try to retrieve that and add it in.

Dos Brisas Emblem

Amuse Bouche: caramelized onion, olive, anchovy goodness

Spring rolls with peanut curry satay on Himalayan salt block

Avocado, crabmeat, and watermelon, with foam

Salmon and beets like I have never tasted before - soooo good!

Milk-fed chicken on carrot sous vide puree with foie cannelloni


Dry-aged beef with eggplant three ways

You are looking at the best potatoes that I have EVER tasted.


Pink peppercorn pineapple sorbet with kiwi, mango, and kefir lime meringue

Dessert: fig ice cream, white chocolate mousse, hazelnut chocolate crust, and fig


This was the better than any birthday I have ever had, even my fifth.  I adore my gal!


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