Taco Ideas

September 15, 2011

For the third year in a row I’m throwing my own Tacos and Tequila birthday party on the 25th. This old man is turning 48, and  there’s nothing I like doing more than cooking for friends and family.

I typically make four different types of fillings for soft tacos, a red meat, a poultry, a seafood, and a vegetarian option. Sometimes I might make two red meats, depending on my mood.

I’m thinking about pork belly carnitas as one option, and maybe lamb for another red meat. Chicken? Not sure what to do. Suggestions welcome for that and the seafood selection. We fried a LOT of shrimp last year, but I may go with catfish this year. I just haven’t decided.

I have my friends bring tequila, beer and dessert. I do everything else.  And if I’ve actually met you in person, and you didn’t get an invitation, let me know. If we’re not too crowded, you’re welcome to join us.

And really, if you have any ideas for an interesting taco type, let me know. I’ve really not decided on anything yet.


Birthdays and Cakes

September 28, 2010

Our family celebrated two birthdays this past weekend.  My youngest child, Clara, turned 10 on Saturday, and for her birthday dinner party, we had fondue.  She and five of her young friends feasted on cheese fondue with bread and summer sausage, an oil fondue with filet mignon and shrimp, and then chocolate fondue with strawberries, marshmallows, and pound cake.  The girls had a blast, and we loved following up behind them, eating the scraps.

My birthday was on Sunday, and my new tradition is to cook tacos for family and friends (and to serve a lot of tequila).  So I had 5 different types of taco fillings: Braised short rib with morita chiles; Smoked pork shoulder (with a rub of achiote, garlic, cumin, sour orange, salt, Mexican brown sugar, chipotle, and oregano), Braised chicken thigh with mustard greens, tomatillo and jalapeno; Flash fried shrimp; and Eye of Goat beans from Rancho Gordo.  I also made 4 different salsas, some pickled onions, guacamole, and other accompaniments.

It was a great weekend, but the true highlight from a culinary sense were the cakes.  I’m not talking about the amazing coconut cake that my sister-in-law made (thanks, Doro!) or the fantastic one brought by my friends at Crumb, but the two birthday cakes.

My daughter is currently obsessed with the film, “Alice in Wonderland,” and that was the them of her party.  Thus, my wife decided to make Clara an Alice in Wonderland cake.  Clara’s godmother drove up from Augusta to help, and two of our kids (along with one of their friends) all contributed in the final project.  The cake itself was a pound cake, and they used a buttercream icing.  They also made figures with fondant and gum paste.  It took them quite a lot of time, but the end result was quite spectacular.  I particularly love the top of the cake, where you see the legs of Alice as she is falling through the rabbit hole.  Absolem the caterpillar is very cool, as are the Cheshire Cat, the playing cards, and the White Rabbit.  I still can’t believe my family made this.

Clara’s birthday cake was a team effort, but mine was made solely by my 15 year old daughter, Ryan.  She knew I was making tacos for dinner, so she, of course, made me a taco cake.  Look at this thing!  I don’t know how she came up with the idea, but it was truly incredible.  I’m still breaking out into a huge grin when I think about that big ol’ taco.  And it was tasty, too!

These cake-making skills did not come from me.  I am quite competent at baking, including cakes, but I suck at decorating.  I’m happy if I just get the frosting on it evenly.  But my wife has turned into a gifted decorator, and my kids appear to be following in her footsteps.  And I love it.

A Birthday Letter to My Daughter

August 27, 2009


Dear Ryan-

It’s really hard to believe that you turn fourteen on Saturday.  I still can’t help but think of you in your blue soccer uniform,  dribbling down the field to score another goal for the Diamonds.  Now you’re the captain of your team.  I remember sending you off to kindergarten at Olds Elementary, worried about you.  You’re now a freshman at Broughton, taking classes with upperclassmen without even worrying about it.  I remember when you taught your younger brother how to read when he was 3.  Now you help a young couple take care of their infant triplets.  You’ve gone from that cute chubby toddler (oops, I shouldn’t have written that) to the beautiful young lady you are today.  I’m so proud of you.  And I am so pleased that you asked me to cook for you and your friends on Saturday.

I know you don’t care for red meat and really dislike seafood, but that’s not a problem.  It’s your birthday, and I’m going to serve you what you like.  We talked about the menu last night, and I think it’s coming along quite nicely, a nice balance between sophistication and familiarity.  Yes, there will be a lot of courses, but it won’t be a problem.  I’ll keep them small.  And no, you can’t have any wine with your dinner.

I promise I won’t try to embarrass you or try to act extra-goofy, I’ll just try to get out some good food and make your guests have a great time.  There’s going to be 12 of them, right?  Wow, that’s a lot of dishes!  And I really can’t believe that we don’t have a single soccer game on Saturday — what are the odds?

Anyhow, this is our menu, but let me know if you need me to make any changes.

Hors D’oeuvres: Foccacia with rosemary, olive oil and sea salt.

Amuse:  Fried bocconcini (mozzarella balls)

Soup:  Summer minestrone

Salad:  Watermelon, mint and goat cheese with aged balsamic vinegar

Pasta:  Fresh ricotta raviolo with vodka sauce

Main course:  Grilled chicken thighs with pomegranate vinaigrette and sweet corn/orzo

Dessert:  Cherry chocolate cake with dark chocolate ice cream

Don’t worry, the portions will be pretty  small, so hopefully no one will be too full after the soup course.

Fourteen.  Wow!  Happy birthday, Ryan.  I’m really, truly touched that you want me to cook for you and your friends.

I love you.