Some of you have asked when I'm going to start posting about my wedding. Since Cat and I are still sorting through all the photos from friends and the photographers, I've decided to get caught up on a few Orange County posts first. My wedding posts will go up later this month.)
The best part about food blogging as a hobby isn't eating the food. That makes me fat. It isn't getting to try new restaurants and cuisines. That drains the wallet and makes me fatter. No, the best part about food blogging is meeting new people who share a passion and love for food.
(Our charming hostess, Joy.)
Joy and Carter were two of the first foodies I met when I attended my first food blogger meet up. With her energetic smile and dry wit, Joy easily captured my affection. We formed a connection that can only be forged between people who love food deeply.
(Grill Master Carter.)
Her taciturn partner, Carter, is another kindred spirit. My appetite is no match for his bottomless stomach, and his wry sarcasm makes him an entertaining conversationalist. Both Joy and Carter have a way of making me feel relaxed and welcome around them. I truly enjoy their company.
(Egad! Caught in the act!)
As such, I was quite pleased when Joy chose to invite me, along with Christian Z and Elmomonster, to her birthday party last month. She insisted that we not bring her any gifts, a restriction which I found difficult to obey.
(Christian and Elmo were both suffering from pixilitis.)
Joy's idea for her birthday dinner was both fun and adventurous. She invited a number of friends and family to her lovely home and asked them to share in a large Persian feast she'd prepared. Apparently she tries out a new cuisine every year. I was impressed.
To hold the ravening horde at bay while she put the finishing touches on dinner, Joy laid out a selection of tasty Persian appetizers from a local middle-Eastern market. There was Salad Shirazi, a refreshing blend of cubed cucumber, tomatoes, and spices, and Mast-o Khiar, a tangy yogurt and cucumber dip to which Joy had added more cucumbers. The Kashk-o Bademjan, a puree of whey and eggplant, was a hit. In addition, she'd also included walnuts, mint, and basil so that her guests could add whatever nuances of flavor they liked to their selections.
Everything was scooped up and eaten using either Sangak or Lavash, barely unleavened wheat breads. I had a lot of fun making little niblets from bread, dip, and herbs.
Another big hit was the Dolmeh-ye Barg-e Mo, which many people are familiar with from Greek restaurants. Pickled grape leaves are stuffed with nuts, herbs, and sometimes meat. The ones Joy had selected had no meat. Their light sourness was perfect for perking up our appetites.
Christian, Elmomonster, and I volunteered to help out in the kitchen. Joy set us to assisting Carter at the grill, mostly to get us out of her hair. Carter had the grilled meats well in hand, but I think he was glad for the company.
Instead, the three of us helped by emptying the veggie baskets when the veggies were done, then refilling them. I think it says something about us that it took three engineers to accomplish this simple task. I did a lot of supervising. I like to think I "holped" improve process efficiency by 33%.
Once ready, the Kabob-e Kubideh (Ground Meat Kebab with Lamb and Beef) was excellent. Joy had a bed of lavash ready for them to rest on, which allowed the bread to soak up the juices. This made for some really tasty bread.
Carter's 33% more efficient grilled veggies were in high demand. During the first part of dinner, he was chained to the grill, cranking them out to meet the needs of hungry guests. I offered to bring him a plate of food, but he managed his hunger with Zen-like indifference.
Joy hadn't just stopped at meat, veggies, and bread. She really went the whole nine yards.
First, there was a Kookoo-ye Loobia Sabz, a frittata-like egg dish with green beans both cooked into the egg and also sprinkled on top. It was moist, fluffy, and bursting with flavor.
Then there was the Khoresh-e Fesenjan (Pomegranate Khoresh with Chicken), one of my favorite dishes. I just couldn't get enough of the tart and savory sauce.
The Gheimeh Bademjan (Eggplant Stew with Yellow Split Peas) kicked the flavor quotient up a notch. The chunky, almost painful, sweet and sour mix left a wonderful tingling sensation on my tongue.
To calm things down, I had quite a bit of the Khoresh-e Bamieh (Okra Khoresh with Beef). The thick and hearty stew, with its mellow tomato sauce and pleasantly soothing pieces of okra, was a nice palate cleanser between bites of the more intense dishes.
Joy hadn't skimped on the starch, either. In addition to the bread, she'd prepared Chelow Ba Polow Paz (Saffron Rice). The buttery rice was perfect for soaking up the flavorful sauces of the other dishes.
The real starch star was the Javaher Polow (Jeweled Rice), with honey, nuts, and dried fruit. I actually saw people scrabbling over the last few spoonfuls.
To help wash everything down, Joy and Carter broke out a number of bottles from their excellent wine collection. They also had large quantities of soda and beer available in coolers.
Joy's dinner was a resounding success. People couldn't stop complimenting the food. Even now, my mouth still waters when I think of the Khoresh-e Fesenjan and Javaher Polow. So good!
Thanks for inviting me, Joy. I had a really good time. You're amazing, and you deserve another Happy Birthday!