Posted on by Dawn Casale


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I am always curious about adult birthday celebrations. The way people choose to celebrate the day they came into the world is very personal. As kids, it’s obvious. You have a party, usually centered around some theme you are interested in at the time and then invite your whole class to join in the fun. At the end of the day, the only things that really matter to you are the cake and the presents. It’s innocent and pure and really easy because someone else (your parents) make all of the decisions for you.

Once you start making decisions for yourself, birthday life becomes somewhat complicated.  Have a party or let your big day slip away unnoticed? Hope that your bestie or significant other plans a gathering? Notify your friends that your birthday is approaching and gently suggest they take you out? There are lots of ways to handle the conundrum. Luckily, this year, I was not burdened with any of it because my amazingly awesome family, friends and husband decided to shower me with a flurry of birthday celebrations fit for a queen.

The kick off celebration took place at my parent’s house and all I can say is what a way to get the party started! Aside from the fact that my whole family plus closest friends were in attendance (which would’ve been enough!) my mom put out a spread like no other. I’m Italian, so I’ve seen a spread or two in my time, but this was something to blog about. Because she knows that I am a fan of the small plate, she went that route as opposed to a sit down coursed out meal. This allowed the opportunity to graze a bit, mingle a bit, then visit the food table again. And again.And… Well, you get the picture.

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My mom pulled out all the stops for this meal. She started with a selection of artisanal cheeses because what’s a celebration without them? Heck, what’s a day without some fine cheese? Of course, charcuterie, olives, breads and all other savory bits were well represented. This portion could have been the entire meal, but that would not have been nearly glutinous enough. So for the second round, she covered every square inch of her tremendous kitchen island with platters of lovely, petit bites.

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There were sliders with a choice of three, yes three, fillings (crab cake, salmon or filet mignon). A luscious arugula, fig, and fontina pizza that has a little kick from a zesty dressing. Olive pinwheels that were as pretty as they were tasty. Shrimp cocktail with a perfectly spicy cocktail sauce. Mini baby back ribs that fell off the bone.  Flaky phyllo mushroom turnovers. And perfectly fried eggplant fritters filled with fresh mozzarella. I am certainly forgetting something here but the food coma that ensued after my second round renders my memory quite foggy. I just know that there was not one thing I or our guests could have wanted for.

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Except dessert.  In this case, only very certain sweet treats could hold a candle to that feast. In my world those desserts are angel food cake covered in whipped cream topped with big flake coconut and pumpkin pie in a cornmeal crust. Those, of course, were supplemented by some other items but they were peripheral for me because my focus was clear. It took all I had to clear some room for slivers of each. All in all, the meal, the dessert, and the company made for one memorable, albeit fattening, celebration. It incorporated every element of a perfect party and I felt lucky to be the guest of honor.

Posted on by Dawn Casale | Posted in cobble hill


Dawn Casale

About Dawn Casale

Barneys New York was the place I called my second home for six years. It was the classroom in which I learned the importance of aesthetic, the power of creativity and the joy of indulgence. At a point in time which I cannot specifically put my finger on, I reflected on my career choices and decided to return to that which I really knew... food and humanity's love of it. I began to think about my childhood and how much of it had been happily spent in the kitchen. The memories of the aromas and flavors that came from my grandmother's kitchen were vivid and exhilarating. That is where I learned about the ritual and significance of food, the sense of happiness and comfort it brought, and the essential elements of quality and care that went into its preparation.

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