i used to think you had to do this.
one of the main reasons was because you never know if you were going to be around for another one.
well, ive been around for about a dozen more birthdays. maybe ill be sticking around for a bit longer.
i started making less and less a big deal about myself for my birthdays and focused on others. i started a short lived (maybe renewed next year) tradition where i would gather up about 100 or so friends and hold a fund raiser centered around food, benefitting our local food bank.
this year, i kinda wanted to keep things quite. i actually just wanted to spend a nice quite weekend with my lovely girlfriend, maybe go out of town. have a nice little dinner...
as you can imagine, i was pretty happy when she told me we were going to have a nice quite little birthday celebration, something during the day then dinner at TFL.
first off, she totally was feeling the vibe i was giving off, i wanted to do something a bit quite. secondly... she got a reservation at TFL!?!?!?! wow. how the hell did she pull that off and right on my birthday too! this is looking real good!
well, even though i was very curious about the day time activity and how she managed to score a TFL reservation, i didnt snoop around for more information. i trusted her. and i wanted things to happen organically. she said the day time activity will be fun, then a nice dinner. simple. done and done.
the morning of, we wake up and drive to napa. maybe i shouldnt have drank so much at home the night before. im praying the day time activity isnt something active. please god, no mountain biking, horseback riding. the drive up alone, i felt like digusting yellow bile was swilling around in my stomach like a toilet flushing, just waiting to explode. at times, i felt like the inside of a magic eight ball.
we make it to our destination. we drive into what seems like an office park.
the meritage resort and spa! dude. score!
ive never been here. im excited... oh wait, whats this? a spa in a cave? ok this is getting very interesting.
we proceed into what is perhaps the coolest spa i have ever been to. yes, its in a cave. we check in. relax. then we are escorted into a room for our couples massage. almost instantly, im off into pampered lala land. man this couldnt get any better. no active crap. stomach is settling in. its been forever since i got pampered.... im thinking. man, this woman is just a little pint size full of amazing.
after a super relaxing couples massage, we decide to relax by the pool, grab a small bite, grab a glass of wine.... im telling you. at this point, there is not a care in the world. got an amazing woman by my side, hella relaxed, nibbling on some shrimp cocktails, having some wine....
everyday should be like this
we relax poolside for a couple hours.
im told there is one more thing we need to do before our dinner at TFL.... WOOHOO DINNER AT TFL!!!
we drive into yountville because she informs me there is something to pick up at ad hoc.... im thinking wtf?!?! pick up something at ad hoc?... are we eating a small bite before dinner at tfl? does she know its going to be like 7 courses of full on food awesomeness in yo mouth?
we walk into ad hoc.... did i mention i love ad hoc? i love the concept. i love the food. i love the atmosphere. i had the pleasure of dining here since they opened up and during the fours years ive been eating here, i have NEVER had anything close to a bad meal. everything has been great to amazing.
i love that ad hoc takes any dish and make it the best they can possibly make it. the thomas keller lineage shows through.
anyways, we check in with the front desk. i see a packed house... its always packed here. its so popular now i had a tough time making reservations the last few times... damn stupid yelpers.
she escorts us outside to the back for some reason... oooh, thinking maybe we are going to addendum. i havent seen the take out window in action, ooo we are picking up some world famous ad hoc fried chicken to go!
there is a giant table set up in their garden.
30 or so of my closest friends old and new. all here. on my birthday. surprise birthday dinner for me. at ad hoc. one of my favorite places in the world.
it was more than i could handle. seriously. im already not great at accepting simple compliments and even though i may seem like the type to be loud and very much the center of attention, when it comes to true attention, i get all flustered and weird. it took me a good 30 minutes or so to let it all absorb in.
my girlfriend planned and organized a surprise dinner for me, in yountville, at ad hoc, special dinning area and all, with a gang load of my closest friends..... i know how hard it is to get a dinner set up in the same city for a handful of people. how the hell do you get hella mofos up into the napa valley, keep it all a surprise and pull this off?
words escaped me most of the night.
i went around to talked to these amazing people that came up to do all this, all the while an amazing meal being presented by the wonderful staff at ad hoc. chef david came up with a few special things here and there for our dinner and i have to say, yes, it was good. really good. i loved hearing some of the things people were saying about the food. some of the most simplest things were the highlights for people. we forget how good a bean can actually be, not just because it was cooked and prepared perfectly, but because it started from when that bean was growing.
pole bean and potato salad
beef carpaccio with porcini mouse
fried soft shell crab.... OMFG GOOD
world famous ad hoc fried chicken
grilled short ribs
no dinner is complete without cheese
a couple from the selectiondinner was amazing. obviously. the drinks were equally amazing. paired up wonderfully with the meal. i was so happy to see my friends enjoy a meal with me at one of my absolute favorite places in the world.
two hours or so into dinner, i began to think of some things that almost made me tear up.
i lived a long three decades or so. not particularly a hard life by any means, but a long one nonetheless. and through all the transformations ive had in my life, i always held on to the notion that i am a good person. i always thought of myself as the type that tries to leave every place slightly better then when i arrived. there have been many hardships as of late and no matter how strong you are inside, they do wear you down.
this night, it made me feel as though i had lived a good life. i may not have my name in forbes, i may not be a famous chef, i may not be particularly rich, but as stupid as it may sound, i am rich in life. i have an amazing woman that organized all this for me. i have amazing friends that helped with the organization and took time out of their busy lives to come out and be here for this.
it really made me truly happy. one of those rare moments in life where everything makes sense.
it was getting a bit dark now and it was about time to go home. dinner was amazing. my friends are amazing. my woman? well im sure you know how i feel by now.
oooooh whats this? a seperate dessert from what ad hoc is serving? OOOOOOO LOOK AT THAT! dude, my woman is hella funny. she knows i dont really do cakes, sweets, desserts. my idea of dessert is coffee, sambvca, a late harvest (fill in the blank).....
she got a whole suckling pig for dessert!! score!!!!!
wait what.... thats not a suckling pig.... wait what?!?!!? THAT IS A CAKE?!?!?!
holy crap me!
YES this is a cake! the evening was settling down, then this bad boy pops out. the table was again buzzing with life. my girlfriend had some how found a cake that could impress a group of people that are not easily impressed. everyone had to take a second look. even the staff at ad hoc had to take a second look.
this whole thing is edible. its a red velvet cream cheese cake. those apples are rice crispies.
what a way to end the evening.
its pretty obvious, i had an amazing birthday, a birthday i wont ever forget. its truly one of those events in your life that you will recall on your deathbed.
life should be full of these types of memories.
surrounding myself with good people, doing what i need to do in my life and most importantly finding someone that shares that goal with me, i think i am well on my way to ensuring my life will be full of these types of memories.
chef david cruz, thank you for an amazing meal
special thanks to seb and simone of s + s gastro pub for helping out with everything. even cooking me a seperate special bday dinner the week before to throw me off. you guys are great friends.
special thanks to chef david cruz and all the amazing staff at ad hoc for an amazing meal with patient and attentive care.
thanks to all my amazing friends for making the drive out and celebrating with us- sammy, aycin and averie, chum, will and jocelyn, jason, hendizzle, tom, tiffany and jeff, thai guy mike, dave, cheryl, kristen and aaron, elaine and dave, arnold and christel, aaron and jennifer, kevo... thank you for taking time out to come be part of this.
and to my special little pint size woman of awesomeness. words can not express my gratitude. if i can make you feel half of what i felt that evening, you will never have a bad day. thank you for all that you have done, for who you are and what we will do.
oh wait, did i mention there were party favors?
bacon marmalade anyone?
wait so were NOT going to the french laundry?