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Big Birthday: Travel, Thai Food and Glass Blowing

In the catering business, birthdays are big, especially the milestone ones. According to 1800flowers, every day, nearly 17.7 million people around the world celebrate their birthdays. In my own catering work, although not quite that many, I have been gratefully a part of hundreds of such celebrations, watching friends and family savor each and every moment.

Early in March, I marked a milestone birthday of my own, turning 50! How does a caterer celebrate? Outside the caterer’s kitchen, with a trip – but food and friends are still involved.

I started my journey visiting my high school friend in New Mexico. A part of the Cochiti tribe, Kimball lives on a pueblo near Santa Fe.In fact, I was at her house on my actual birthday, March 8, and decided to give myself the gift of making her dinner, choosing cuisine not typical of that area nor typically on her dining table: Thai food. I prepared Basil Chicken Pad Thai noodles with loads of veggies, snow peas, carrots, bell pepper, kale, and, of course, ginger, scallion, garlic which is the mirepoix (carrot, onion, celery) for Asian cooking. I made an Asian salad with arugula, spinach and nappa cabbage, Asian pear, jicama, crispy wonton strips and ginger sesame dressing.

While it didn’t seem like a traditional milestone birthday celebration, it did feel like, in that moment, it was just where I belonged.

My travels continued in the state next door, Arizona. In Sedona, seven of my closest friends from Oberlin College joined me. Our days were filled with hiking excursions on the area mesas, lots of laughter – and, of course, food and cooking.

One night was taco night. While one of my friends handled the cooking that night, at home, I often make tacos a lot when people come over. It is a great way to satisfy a lot of different tastes, as well as accommodate dietary restrictions. Everyone gets just what they want – and that’s always a good thing.

We had a very special lunch at a Sedona restaurant called Mariposa: beef empanadas, chicken quinoa soup in a corn broth, and yucca fries. And, of course, there were some amazing cocktails – like the Blood Orange Paloma: tequila, grapefruit, blood orange and pellegrino. (In fact, we've started serving this delicious cocktail at the Harlem Yacht Club!) We all loved this one salad, a Latin twist on n a green goddess salad. We replicated it back in the kitchen of the house we stayed in – and enjoyed it many times during that week away.

And there were moments to savor outside of food – like a visit that me and my one friend (a veterinarian by profession, but a total artist in her soul) made to a shop featuring hand-crafted glass, The Melting Point. The really cool guys working there even gave us a free glass-blowing demonstration.

From the Thai food meal shared with a friend at the start of my trip to the last hike with friends at the journey’s end, my milestone birthday celebration was filled with moments to savor.And those days reinforced what I know to be fact: Whether the moment is sweet or savory, life is centered with food and friends.


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