Before I resorted to sesame noodles, there were several special occasions marked with delicious meals.
My first attempt in 2010 to make lighter food was this pumpkin and lentil salad from Bon Appetit. I substituted butternut squash for the pumpkin, regular paprika for smoked, used a generic bag of regular lentils instead of the French variety, and omitted the mint. Despite the changes, the salad was filling and had a satisfying blend of flavors. The only problem with it was that I didn't crumble the goat cheese enough and the lentils stuck to it. I love goat cheese, but I didn't love having large clumps of it covered in lentils throughout the salad.
I had a second encounter with goat cheese in Charlottesville at a "gourmet burger bar" called Boylan Heights. The "gourmet" in the restaurant's description about its burgers is no exaggeration: the beef is purchased from a local, organic butcher, and there are fifty high-quality toppings available. Each table is stocked with Scantron sheets and pencils in case diners want to customize a burger. Inspired by the turkey and white bean burger from Belvidere at Broad that I'd eaten a few days earlier, I selected goat cheese, spinach, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers, and they certainly didn't disappoint. My bowl of sweet potato fries disappeared quickly as well - they were sweet and salty with just the right amount of crunch.
Normally either Davy or I will make a nice dinner for Valentine's Day, and we go out to eat on another night to avoid the crowds. This year we splurged on lobster tail (two for $15 on sale at Fresh Market!) and filet. Davy labored over the meat, lobster, garlic mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli, and we even had enough filet to convert the components into a second special dinner.
The week before Valentine's Day was the Super Bowl, which I have never cared much about besides the food and some of the commercials. This year, however, I was cheering for my former high school classmate Marques Colston and the Saints. Davy and I hosted a get together with the traditional pigs in a blanket, Greek potato skins, bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, and spinach and artichoke dip.
For dessert, I made the chocolate whiskey and beer cupcakes from Smitten Kitchen, and used food coloring to turn the Bailey's buttercream frosting gold. I also attempted to pipe some fleur-de-lis in dark whiskey ganache to mimic the Saints' logo and team colors. I have a long way to go before I become a cake decorator, but I do believe that my cupcakes were good luck. Let's hope that this post is good luck, and that my tribute to winter food will make spring come faster!