Cooking for Dad's 94th Birthday Week

This year we were able to time it so that Dad’s week here in Hope coincided with his 94th birthday!He’s been working in his barn and in better shape than I’ve seen him in years, in fact I only remember seeing him without a belly in photos. This predictably changed in the course of his one week stay and I gained the same 2 pounds as last visit. Here’s the complete rundown:

Cocktails and Wine Gin and tonic with loads of lime Several excellent reds including an AC Côte Roti and 1994 Titolo exported by my friends from Montecastelli in Tuscany, but the highlight was a 1996 Muller Catoir Spatlese, the sweetness and receded but was still like nectar with an enchanting tinge of acidity. (He asked for more of this one.) Dinners (2) Aged rib eye steak and Yorkshire popovers, grilled Vidalia onion halves, endive gratin Roast duck on the grill with kasha varnishkes Devilled short ribs, encrusted with morel mushrooms and bread crumbs and beet and potato blue cheese salad Wild king salmon grilled on cedar sheets, seaweed salad Grilled baby back ribs, corn spoon bread Spaghetti and meatballs Aged beef hamburgers with Vidalia onion slices on golden sweet potato buns (he was winding down by now and left 1/4 of his for lunch the next day which did not keep him from eating a big piece of grilled pizza) Lunch French ham for sandwiches on the 50% whole wheat bread he pronounced wholesome Fabulous grilled pesto and oven dried tomato pizza from Elizabeth Karmel’s new pizza book. Bread Apricot walnut, 50% whole wheat Breakfast (2) Blueberry pancake breakfasts (2) Bacon and basted country eggs, toast on the 25% whole wheat bread with my marmalade and also green tomato jam—a great recipe Melissa Clark wrote about in the New York Times last summer. Windfall blueberry muffin (I just happened to find enough tiny blueberries ripe for the picking by the side of the road for 2 perfect muffins) Dessert cherry pie (actually churrant pie as each cherry was stuffed with a currant), with Turtle Mt. Ice Cream (his favorite was the chocolate mint chip and then the cookie dough—mine the plain coconut—see Notes and link below) This was technically his birthday ‘cake.’ I think it was the most perfect one I’ve ever made and was deeply thrilled when his comment was “It is a masterpiece!” (I’ve never heard him say the word before!) Hot chocolate cake and coconut ice cream Special Treats: bacon candy (bacon sprinkled with brown sugar and baked til crisp) Our last day before departure he asked to go for a ride in search of some mill he remembered and I didn’t. We drove through the Jenny Jump state park and then ventured down some dirt road I thought were posted but with my Dad’s encouragement and my threats that it would take me an hour to drive backwards if it was a dead end we discovered this exquisite farm which is for sale. I was ready to move but the voice of reason, Elliott, vetoed it. Notes: Cherry pies slices reheat beautifully even on day 3: Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC. Set the slices on a pan lined with foil, preferably non-stick. Curl up the foil so it supports the back edge of the pie crust and around the sides to cover any exposed fruit area and bake for 10 minutes. The crust recrisps and the fruit warms just the right amount. Turtle Mt. Ice Cream—this creamy delicious ice cream doesn’t get rock hard in the freezer but magically doesn’t melt quickly on the plate either. Check out this link to find who carries it in your area: www.purelydecadent.com, 866-388-7853