We finally have spring here. Crocusses were blooming in the back section of the garden yesterday and the tulip and daffodil leaves are quite large. The honeysuckle, lilac and forsythia are covered in leaf buds.

To celebrate the disappearance of the snow, we had T’s unbirthday dinner last Friday night. It is a tradition in our family that on one’s birthday, one can choose whatever dinner one wants (within reason). T had requested barbecued steak as his birthday dinner but it was just too much snowy and cold in January to do that. So we postponed his requested dinner.

And are we ever glad we did! We oven roasted some potatoes, sprinkling a few chili flakes on them, steamed some broccoli and grilled steaks (!how extravagant!). We had just read about a morel cream sauce in Patricia Wells’ book, The Paris Cookbook . We didn’t have any dried morels (we decided that morels are NOT within reason). But, inspired by the recipe, T made the most amazing mushroom cream sauce, using dried mushrooms from Chinatown. We don’t know what kind of mushrooms they are but they look like small portobellos. They cost about $9 per lb (or is it kilo?) They are a fraction of the cost of dried portobellos from the Italian grocers but are easily as good, if not better.

T poured boiling water over a few dried mushrooms and left them soaking all day. Then just before watching the evening news, he drained the mushrooms (reserving the soaking water) sliced them and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil. Then he added the soaking water, some heavy cream (!more extravagance!) and a little chicken stock powder (in place of salt). We tasted it and couldn’t believe how good it was. T decided it needed a bit of butter (!even more extravagance!) . We tasted again. He was right! We rolled our eyes in ecstacy. He took the pan off the heat, covered it and left it on the counter til just before dinner and gently reheated it as the steaks were being grilled.

Then he poured the sauce onto the plates and placed the steaks, potatoes and broccoli overtop of the bed of sauce. On each steak, I placed a sprig of fennel from the herb garden under the lights in the basement. The dinner was fantastic! The sauce tasted like truffle sauce!

We drank 1989 Baron de Chateau Pichon-Longueville Pauillac Médoc (!yet another extravagance!) that we’ve been hording in the cellar. At first T thought we should have waited longer to open it – that it was in its mute stage (I think that’s the term he used) . But as it breathed, it opened up and was quite wonderful. Very opaque and quite rich even though there wasn’t a lot of fruit taste. (I’m afraid I’m rotten at describing wine.) It was so rich that we only drank half the bottle. We vacu-vinned it til the next night.

And then we finished the dinner with T’s requested birthday cake: Black Forest cake (!if some cream is good, more must be better!) that I had made that day. I was smart though. I made just half a recipe of chocolate cake (enough for just one 8inch round cakepan) and cut it in half to make a halfmoon shaped cake. Heh heh, I made almost a full recipe of the Syrup, Filling & Topping though. So there was lots of syrup and cream. (Too much syrup – we have some in the fridge to pour over icecream on another night.) But not too many kirsch-soaked cherries. I kept back some of them before slathering the cream over the cake. Then I lined the bottom edge of the cake with the cherries to make it look like a string of beads around the edge. With the shaved extra dark chocolate sprinkled overtop, it looked spectacular (I’ve GOT to get a camera!) and tasted even better.

It was a very happy unbirthday to T! Hmmm, I wonder what I should have for my unbirthday….