Food Gifts

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I really didn’t want to write any more about my birthday–two posts were enough, don’t you think?–but then there was this quasi-surprise party (I knew there was going to be a party (it was at our apartment, so we had to clean) but I didn’t know who was coming) and Craig told everyone to bring an interesting food gift. So how could I not blog about that? Especially when my friend Josh made the cake you see above: that’s the Sweet & Salty Cake from the “Baked” book (which I bought Josh for HIS birthday). It’s a crazy cake: it’s chocolaty and salty and at first the salt hits you and you’re like “wha?!” but then you’re like “ooooh” and, finally, “ahhh.”

[Photo of the cake, I should point out, is by my friend James Felder of Snapshot Artifact.]

So there was the Sweet & Salty cake but there were also cupcakes which Diana brought from one of my favorite cupcake joints in the city: Sugar Sweet Sunshine on the Lower East Side.

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It’s not a great picture (that picture’s by me, not James, as if you couldn’t tell) but we used a magic marker to inform cupcake consumers what, exactly, they were eating: lemon & pumpkin, chocolate & red velvet, and–finally–vanilla/vanilla & chocolate/vanilla. I had half a lemon and a half of a vanilla/vanilla and enjoyed them thoroughly.

Our friend Kim–who cooked us a Vietnamese meal once before (see here)–brought a Vietnamese tapioca pudding with bananas which was refreshing and light and very welcome next to all that buttery buttery cakey stuff:

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The party went on into the wee hours and the next day, after some intensive cleaning, I put all the other gifts on the table and took this picture:

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That’s a crazy bunch of stuff, isn’t it? How much can you identify from far away? I’m pretty sure you can identify the booze.

Lauren, my old friend who shares not just my birth date but birth year and birth location (born 2 hours apart in the same hospital, didn’t know each other ’til college) brought SEVEN bottles of wine AND a bottle of Bourbon. I definitely suggest you invite her to any and every party you may throw:

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Yes, Lauren brought most of that wine, but the Pimm’s was brought by Ricky who, like me, spent a summer abroad at Oxford University in England and had his first Pimm’s there. He brought it with a jug of lemonade and made Pimm’s cocktails all night. There’s also a dessert wine in that picture–it’s front and center, right next to the Bourbon–that someone else brought, I think it was my friend Raife. So yes, there was lots and lots of booze (and clearly lots of booze leftover, so party at my place RIGHT NOW!)

My friend Matthew, who directed me on The FN Dish, was born and raised in the West Village and a big fan of McNulty’s tea so he and his wife Kelly brought me a whole assortment which you can see here:

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I thought it was funny, actually, because Matthew also turned me on to “The Wire,” he loaned me every season on DVD, and the lead character on “The Wire” is McNulty. Is that a coincidence? McNulty’s Tea, McNulty on “The Wire”?? I think not!

The red boxes in the foreground of that picture were not gifted by Matthew but, instead, the editor of Craig’s movie: Jenny Lee & her boyfriend Cliff.

What are they?

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According to Jenny, “It’s Ginseng tea but it’s like the Crystal Meth of Ginseng.” Apparently, if you need to pull an all-nighter or really wake yourself up, this is the tea to drink. Again: party at my place!

Now on to some weirder stuff. With this stuff, I could use your help:

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I’m never going to remember who brought me all this, so if you brought this for me and you read my blog, can you remind me?

I know Jimmy brought me the Porcini and Truffle Oil: I can’t wait to use that, though I’m not sure how.

Someone brought Mango in a jar, our friend Rob brought Marmite, I think Lisa brought Raw Curry Sauerkraut, and I forget who brought me the Chilean Carica.

Now, question: what do I do with all this stuff? You Marmite-eaters, how do you eat Marmite? You Carica-eaters, what’s Carica? And what’s that Mango in a jar? What do I do with it?

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I’m pretty sure Jenny brought me those lychees (and I love lychees) and our friend Sasie brought the chayote and coconut. I polled my Twitter followers about how to use the chayote, but none of the recipes really called out to me, so there it festers in my kitchen. The coconut I tried to cut open and grate into some banana bread, but nearly hacked my thumb off, so I quickly threw it out. Birthday fruit is dangerous.

Finally, there’s this stuff:

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The Blue Fin box is from my friends’ Dara & Kieran’s dinner at a place called Blue Fin–that’s the chocolate they got on their way out and they re-gifted it at my party. I cry foul!

Behind it, though, is the coolest thing ever. My friend Shirin is Pakistani and her mother and aunt are amazing cooks. I recently went to their house in Georgia for research on a top secret project I’m doing and ate some of the best food of my life. So in that little baggie, behind the Blue Fin, is her mother’s and aunt’s prized spice mixture: a kind of masala (not Garam masala, something with a “P”) and Shirin says it makes everything taste better, especially chickpeas. I can’t wait to use it.

In this cluster you’ll see Granola from my friend Lisa, Almond Paste from my friend Alex (which I thought was cute because I love making this amond cake), Murray’s Cheese malt balls from James Felder which are some of the best malt balls you’ll ever have, and–finally!—salami, also from James, that he says is “really awesome salami, even better than Katz’s.”

And those are the food gifts I got for my birthday. You can see why I needed to blog about this right? I mean if you had a food blog and you received all these food gifts you’d blog about it too, wouldn’t you?

Now please help: which should I eat first? How should I eat it? Marmite & salami on toast? Almond paste and Carica sandwiches? Your advice is much appreciated.

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