27 is the Loveliest Number

I hadn’t thought so until recently, but it’s confirmed: 27 is the noblest of ages. (!).

Thursday was my birthday. I’m not trying to sound like a jerk, but I wasn’t extraordinarily stoked for this b-day: I wouldn’t be gaining any new privileges (legal or otherwise), I wouldn’t be hitting any chronological milestones, and I hadn’t had the foresight to take the day off work.

That’s not to say I was unstoked — I look forward to any instance of frosting-eating. I’m just saying that this birthday didn’t produce the level of anticipation as, say, my 21st birthday, or my 25th.

Guess what? This birthday (birthday weekend, as it were) was totally awesome. Here’s a breakdown of the highlights:

1) Office Pizza Party. My sis and coworkers (NDW, Anne, Stephanie, Brent, and Stephen) joined forces to throw me a lunchtime pizza party! The pizza was from Irving, of course; of course, Sys ordered my favorite combo: half pepperoni, half jalapeno + pineapple. (Note: people were seriously impressed by the jalapeno/pineapple combo. And I was like, “Consider this your formal introduction to the Queen of Pizzas.” There’s a reason I eat this pie like, once a week.)

The party didn’t stop with the ‘za, though: my pals also got a delicious cake (chocolate with white icing and choco frosting between the layers), which they adorned with a yellow-eyed chocolate bunny. (How nice that my birthday fell shortly after Easter, yes?) The cake decorator, in a burst of ingenuity, frosted my initials on a clear piece of plastic that was placed atop the cake. Why the decorator did this, no one knows, but this detail amused us all.

And Tampico: let us not forget Tampico! Stephanie brought back fond childhood memories with her purchase of bright pink punch. The taste is hard to describe, but I’ll liken it to the nectar you put in hummingbird feeders. That shit is SWEET.

A giant THANK YOU to my pals for throwing me such an awesome and sugary fete: you guys are the best!(!!)

Ti Couz's take on the shandy: it was as refreshing as it looks.

2) Dinner at Bar Jules. The Garky Girls are bad at keeping secrets. It’s impossible for us not to tell each other what we’ve gotten each other for Christmas (or birthdays, or Halloween, &c). We can’t hide our sadness or our exuberance. It’s cool: we’ve learned to cope by honing our faux-surprise skills. Hook, unlike us, is the master of keeping secrets, and he kept the location of my b-day dinner under wraps until half an hour before our reservation. That takes some skill.

Neither of us had been to Bar Jules; both of us have been itching to try it. Like so many restaurants in the city, Bar makes use of local, seasonal ingredients. Unlike its siblings, Bar structures its menu (which changes daily) around that morning’s market offerings. Each day, the menu is rewritten, and that evening’s guests can once again be surprised.

What caught my eye was the lamb chops, served with a gratin of potato, leek, and escarole. I’d actually had a steak hankering, but lamb sounded pretty good, too. Hook ordered a salad of little gem lettuces, radishes, feta, and dressing, followed by striped bass (salted; stuffed with fennel and lemon before being cooked) served with beets and the daintiest cucumbers of all time. Predictably (but no less laudably), our food was delicious. Served medium-rare, the chops were nearly identical in symmetry and pinkness; the lamb had a rich flavor, complemented by the wine I’d selected (Pino Nero, if you must know). The real star, though, was the gratin: those fingerling potatoes (more like fingernail potatoes, so tiny they were) were tender. The leeks added depth of flavor, and the breadcrumbs lent necessary crunch to an otherwise soft dish.

Hook was keen on his choices, as well. Our one complaint (aside from the fact that we’d evidently booked a res during geriatric dinner) was the limited menu. I understand Bar Jules’ desire to serve only items at the height of freshness; still, a beef option (that’s not steak tartare) would have been nice. I was craving steak, yo. Lamb is good, but it’s not steak. Capish?

Whether we’ll return to Bar Jules is undecided. Given the short menu and the plenitude of other great eateries, we might pass. Then again, we’ve been known to give plenty of places a second chance, deserved or otherwise. Time will tell! In all cases, time will tell.

Birthday portrait! Note the budding sunburn.

3) Surprise Picnic at Dolores Park! If you thought the birthday festivities ended when the sun set on the 28th, you thought wrong. Hook had planned a supersecret surprise picnic.

After brunch at Ti Couz (arranged by Sabina @ Hook’s request, so as not to arouse suspicion), H. suggested that we stroll to the park.

“Well…” I said. “I don’t know. I have some stuff to do.”

“It’s a beautiful day,” he countered. “We don’t have to stay very long.”

I knew something was up. I caved, and gladly. There, in our typical spot on the hill, were my pals, snacks and Tecate in tow. Acknowledging my love of frosting, Hook had ordered three varieties of Bi-Rite cupcakes: chocolate with mint frosting; banana with peanut brittle frosting, which was topped with crushed peanuts; and chocolate with buttercream frosting blobs (themselves encased in a thinner layer of chocofrosting).

Until Saturday, I’d only had Bi-Rite’s ice cream (HOME RUN). Rest assured, I’ll return for the ‘cakes. Heavy on the icing, the cupcakes were moist, rich, and of moderate denseness — I like my cake with a denser crumb, to be sure, but these weren’t slouchy. To the sadness of all gathered, the frosting began to melt in the intense afternoon heat,* rivulets of buttery sugar easing off the cakes’ domed tops.

Left to right: mint, banana, and plain ol' chocolate. Eff yeah.

Don’t even worry, though: we solved that problem. We solved it good. By the time the heat had broken, only two or three of the original two-dozen cupcakes remained. I hope that those remainders nourished some worthy raccoon (or, more likely, rat). I hope that glorious frosting fueled some dog’s pursuit of a frisbee. At the very least, I hope that frosting did not melt and puddle, only to coagulate at the bottom of the cardboard box.

And that, friends, was my birthday weekend. Pretty damn enjoyable, if I do say so myself. I was left with a wicked bad sunburn (thanks, strapless dress + inadequate application of sunscreen!) and a moderate case of heat exhaustion, but those were a small price to pay for such buttery, friend-filled revelry. I don’t know how 27 will shape up, but I hope last weekend was a predictor of things to come.

***

*Which is not a phrase you’ll usually see associated with San Francisco, ever.

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