Monday, October 22, 2012

What a Birthday!

On Sunday, I celebrated my 46th birthday.  On Saturday, Kevin gave me the best birthday gift I have ever received.  It was a complete surprise.  For the past several weeks the only information I was given regarding that day was noted on the calendar "Steve must be dressed and ready to go by 7:30 A.M."  Very Mission Impossible.  Maybe that is why we watched Mission Impossible I and II on Friday evening.

On Saturday morning my clothes were layed out for me and my destination was entered into the GPS.  I was given three cards and instructions about when I should open each.  The time approached 7:30 and I was out the door.  The GPS was programmed to the American Club resort in Kohler, Wisconsin.  
Once in the parking garage I was instructed to open card number one.  The card contained a newspaper clipping about the 13th Annual Food & Wine Expo.  Now, I knew the event existed but I completely forgot about it this year.  When inside the hotel, I went to the concierge desk and was given all the necessary information regarding the weekends activities.  At that point, I opened envelope number two.  This card contained a ticket for a cooking demonstration with none other than Lidia Bastianich, my favorite Italian chef on PBS.  Making sure I got there rather early, I was able to get a front row seat! How could he have possibly topped this but there was one more envelope to open.  
The demonstration was conducted and Lidia offered her tips and thoughtful bits of Italian wisdom which she often shares on the television show.  She cooked a wonderful roasted beet, wilted beet greens, granny smith apple, and goat cheese salad with a balsamic and olive oil dressing.  The combination of the sweet beets, tart balsamic and granny smith apple, and creamy goat cheese worked extremely well with each other.  The ingredients mixed to combine a crisp and refreshing salad as a main course or side dish.

After the demonstration, I opened envelope number two which contained a ticket for lunch with Lidia.  What a shock that was!  I was to join Lidia and 70 of her closest friends for an intimate luncheon.  My lunch companions were two of the nicest people. I met them while waiting in line for the events.   Ron and RuthEllyn have homes in Wisconsin, Chicago, and Italy.  Ron was Italian and we bonded instantly.  He was a foodie as well.  We had a wonderful time chatting while dining on a three-course meal.  
The first course was a Squash Risotto with crumbled Humboldt Fog cheese with Balsamic Vinegar.  The Humboldt Fog cheese with like a deep creamy combination of blue and goat cheeses.  It was paired with a crisp Pinot Grigio.  The second course was a skillet Gratinata of Mushroom and Chicken.  The tomato sauce was light without being heavy or acidic.  The breast was cooked to juicy perfection and one of the best I have had in a long time.  The second course was paired with a full-flavored Chainti Classico Riserva from Banfi.  The final course was dessert and consisted of soft and chewy pignoli (pine nut) cookies and a Ricotta Cheesecake with roasted pears and grapes.  This was served with a sparkling Banfi Rosa Regale. 

At the end of the meal, Ron called Lidia over so she could take a picture with me for my birthday.  She came over but said she needed to make a quick announcement and then would be back for the picture.  The special announcement she had to make was to announce my birthday to the whole room.  Kevin had requested she mention it and she actually did.  Below you will see me with Lidia Bastianich.  The day was surreal.  
As lunch was winding down, Ron and RuthEllyn asked what my plans were for the rest of the day.  It turned out they had an extra ticket to Christopher Kimball and the chefs from America's Test Kitchen.  They offered it to me and asked if I would join them.  After the demonstration, we parted company and exchanged email addresses.  I promised I would forward a copy of this blog with pictures to them.  
It is here that I would like to take the opportunity to thank Ron and RuthEllyn for their generosity to me on my special day!

Thanks to Kevin for making an opportunity of a lifetime come true!  I can not thank you enough!