Birthday dinner for someone special?

I'm cooking a birthday dinner on Sunday night for someone special. There will just be two of us. For a birhday cake, I'm planning on Maialino's Olive Oil Cake (https://food52.com/recipes...). I'm having trouble thinking of an appetizer and main course. Nothing too complicated, but I also want it to be special. Any suggestions? No dietary restrictions.

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23 Comments

stacy February 23, 2016
I love Ina Garten's company pot roast, which we cut up the meat after it's cooked so it becomes more of a beef stew. Served with homemade bread and maybe a salad it's amazing. I made it for Valentine's Day this year
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/company-pot-roast-recipe.html
 
ChefJune February 22, 2016
I'm sure I speak for all of us who've commented here that we hope you'll come back and tell us what you served for this special birthday dinner, laura-yer
 
Michele February 22, 2016
I am making slow cooked Kirk spare ribs tonight for my husbands bday dinner (by request which is easier;). Great pork so salt and pepper do the trick on these and our oven goes down to 170 so I can cook low and slow all day. When boys home from school we will make a flourless chocolate cake. Will likely make collard greens and or a big green salad on the side. The salad cause we are itching for spring and I haven't made a greens salad in a while.
 
Megan February 21, 2016
Try the fennel leek mushroom galette on Food 52. Good as one big piece or in small quarters. Buy the puff pastry. Works as starting course of main. Awesome, awesome dish.
 
My F. February 21, 2016
I know the dinner is tonight so you may have already planned and shopped, but if not I had an idea. Make the olive oil a theme!

Start with focaccia, topped with olives and lots of herbs and drizzled with some GOOD olive oil. Then confit something for a main. MY preference would be turkey thighs, but the process is the same no matter what you choose. Serve over noodles, rice or for amped flavor chipotle mashed sweet potatoes.

If you need recipes:
My mom used Mark Bittman's Turkey Confit recently http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11513-turkey-confit

And actually the meyer lemon focaccia thats currently on the food52 homepage looks wonderful. https://food52.com/recipes/16573-meyer-lemon-focaccia


Good luck!
 
scruz February 20, 2016
i always like the visually beautiful color combinations like salmon, asparagus and polenta or some such plate artistry. i like the freshness and colors of fruit and veggies. strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, broccoli, red pepper, red cabbage, pomegranite. i think it really sets a wonderful tone to look at something that you are going to taste that looks wonderful too.
 
scruz February 20, 2016
i always like the visually beautiful color combinations like salmon, asparagus and polenta or some such plate artistry. i like the freshness and colors of fruit and veggies. strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, broccoli, red pepper, red cabbage, pomegranite. i think it really sets a wonderful tone to look at something that you are going to tasted that looks wonderful too.
 

Voted the Best Reply!

702551 February 20, 2016
Since the dinner guest has no specific favorites and is largely open to any dish, I suggest cooking something that *YOU* like because it will inspire you to do your best.

Whether it be a complicated dish or something simple is up to you. It really depends on how much attention you want to spend on your kitchen activities versus your attention to your guest. This is a question that no one here can answer because no one here fully understand the strength of your relationship with this person nor your abilities as a cook.

That said, if you were asking me, I'd probably defer to more simple dishes so that I can spend more attention on my dining guest. I'm not going to outstrip some 3 Michelin star chef, so what I'd want to convey would be a genuine feeling of hospitality rather than some sort of circus-like food Olympics qualification bid.

But that's just me...
 
Sam1148 February 20, 2016
Do you have a grill? Two small lamb chops 'frenched' on a plate with either Wild Rice mix, or Polenta.
and a side veggie of Grilled/Broiled Asparagus.
Marinade the lamb for an hour or so in Balsamic, garlic, rosemary. Then reduce that on a good heat for a sauce with red wine while it's grilling cooling.

If you don't have a grill. You can use the broiler. Just don't walk away while it's broiling.
 
Greenstuff February 20, 2016
My birthday is also Sunday, and if you were thinking of me, we'd just have an abundance of oysters on the half shell and Champagne or a white wine from the Loire. Hold the birthday cake.

But I was thinking of the many, many birthday dinners I've had, and there are two I remember, both more than 20-30 years ago: Duck with 40 cloves of garlic, made by a friend who doesn't cook very much. Steak and artichokes prepared by my brother in the days before we could routinely afford steak and artichokes. I decided that the most memorable gift you can give is one that pushes you a little outside your standard.

Even more important--don't stress about the food, it's mostly special because you're there together. Happy birthday to your special friend.
 
Windischgirl February 20, 2016
For special occasions, I like to prepare a meal that focuses on unique, specialty, or celebratory ingredients, that I wouldn't use in everyday cooking (i.e., I'm not making chicken!) They'll be a little more pricey, but do-able if you're only cooking for two. For example, I might do filet mignon with a truffle butter, baby potatoes, and asparagus. Or sautéed scallops as a first course followed by handmade (doesn't have to be your hands!) fresh angel hair pasta with exotic mushrooms and a salad of baby greens. A small wedge of a rare cheese, simple crackers, and a few fresh veggies make a simple, light appetizer.
There are certain foods that convey "celebration" to me...chanterelles, asparagus, fresh raspberries, imported chocolate, scallops, filet, foie gras, etc. It's the ingredients that shine through, so that the prep can be simple.
What do you consider those celebratory foods? Those are the ones that will make you happy, and as a result, make your friend happy too.
Enjoy your evening!
 
E E. February 20, 2016
Start with smoked salmon with a nice black bread spread with unsalted butter, radishes, capers, and lemons on the side. Then make Hasselback potatoes, which are rich and can bake while everything else is done. (I fill mine with butter and herbs.) Make a salad of frisee, baby arugula, and minced parsley. Dress it very lightly with a vinaigrette of olive oil, sherry vinegar, and a little Dijon mustard at the last minute. Get a flavorful steak like a skirt steak. Rub it with a little minced garlic, salt and pepper. Sear it on both sides in an iron skillet and then let it stand a few minutes to reabsorb its juices and finish cooking. Then slice the steak on the diagonal and plate it on top of the green salad. You can make a quick pan sauce with the steak drippings, a knob of butter, a minced shallot and a splash of red wine. If you really want to gild the lily you could have a couple of nice cheeses and some nuts before the cake.
 
LE B. February 19, 2016
it's important that YOU be able to feel relaxed, and enjoy yourself. soI would suggest an app that is done in advance so that it helps keep things calm. This time of yr, I'd go for a soothing creamy soup.
Stays hot, doesn't require all kinds of presentation, very warm and comforting; makes people feel good. If you do pasta, pre-cook it, drain it and keep in a collander over or next to the stove. Heat your sauce in a pot during soup course, add pasta and a little pasta water til boiling; serve. Best of luck! What a treat for him.
 
Nancy February 19, 2016
Do you know this person's favorite foods?
Think back to meals you've enjoyed together and see if something doesn't come to you.
Sometimes a home version of a popular food is even better than a restaurant version...you control the ingredients, cooking time etc.
If you want to minimize cooking and fretting time, consider making an appetizer course from a good deli or supermarket - olives, crudités, smoked fish, deli meats, artichoke hearts and so on.
And as there are only two of you, exotic or high quality meat or fish is more affordable than for a big group.
Similarly, for just two people, fancy or fussy dishes - stuffed vegetables, complex pastas like timpano, creamy sauces in vol au vent, quennelles - become more manageable.
Keep it simple, end with the special cake and relax.
(OK so not specifically menu planning, but menu ideas. Hope they help.)
 
Nancy February 19, 2016
OK, I was writing my note and only saw Chef June's after I posted...but that makes at least two of us going for what the guest of honor likes to eat.
 
ItsBrooksie February 19, 2016
Great suggestions. Like I said above, this person has no clear favorites, and seems to like everything, which you would think would make it easy but actually makes it somewhat hard to figure out what to do. Really like the idea of high-quality deli items for the appetizer. Thanks!
 
Nancy February 19, 2016
Laura -
If you like idea of an antipasto course, you could build a meal around that. Omit either meat or fish from that course, but include lots of other goodies...marinated, cooked, etc.
Then make a simple grilled meat (retro: steak au poivre, steak diane?) or fish sautéed in butter with almonds, maybe a green vegetable, good bread, and your cake.
 
HalfPint February 19, 2016
For appetizers, cheese straws (made with puff pastry) and some nuts and olives

Main course: Beef Tagliata, http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/grilled-beef-tagliata-mario-batali
 
ItsBrooksie February 19, 2016
The Beef Tagliata looks delicious and has a "special occasion" feel to it. At least to me. Great suggestion! Thanks!
 
ChefJune February 19, 2016
When I'm cooking a special dinner for a special friend, I like to feature at least one item I know that person especially likes. What does your friend especially like - and then I can suggest something that would be particularly special for them.
 
ItsBrooksie February 19, 2016
He likes everything! No clear preference that I can tell. I know that's not very helpful.
 
ChefJune February 21, 2016
laura-yer -- everyone has a favorite - or at least a food they like more than some others. Why don't you ask him if you haven't already figured it out?
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx February 19, 2016
So many choices. Can you narrow your likes down for suggestions?
 
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