Let me start off by admitting, YES, I know this post is super late. I started it back in early August and am just finishing now, but since July is my favorite month of the year, I couldn’t just let it slide. It’s the month of my birthday and at no other month do I feel the fruits of summer more. It’s hot, like uncomfortably hot. I’m glad for the AC at work because our Southern California old craftsman house has none. It’s the perfect beach weather, and thankfully I spent plenty of time on the sandy shores. While August is often associated with the lazy dog days of summer since it’s typically the hottest month, there’s something about the back-to-school craze that takes it over that makes me less inclined to like it. Maybe it’s also that, in true Californian fashion, I anticipate the dread of September school traffic starting up again. It sounds ridiculous, but oh my goodness, it’s a thing, and it sucks.
So thank you, but I’m quite content savoring July and looking back at all its splendor. The beginning of the month saw me *attempting* healthiness. My brother had me on a short carb-cycling eating plan to help me get in shape for my birthday, and it was tough. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t plan well, which made the whole experience harder than it needed to be. The week cycled through one cheat day, a few days with a moderate amount of carbs, and then 2 days of super-low carbs. OOF! I mean, it was ROUGH. This is coming from a girl who readily proclaims that noodles are one of her favorite food groups. The one upside is that low-carb days meant high-fat days. So this is what I typically ate on those days (yes I’m away that toasted bread has a lot of carbs, I told you I was no good at this!):
Once I realized that carb-cycling wasn’t in the stars for me (sorry bro!), I relaxed a bit, and my palate began to wander. I started getting nostalgic for food that reminded me of summers growing up in New England. I implored my east coast friends and family on Facebook to overnight a pint of Stew Leonard’s vanilla fudge ripple ice cream because nowhere else have I found a better fudge-to-ice cream ratio. (My grandfather almost did, until we realized it would cost less to fly there myself! Oof! But, my childhood best friend promised to hand deliver a carton when she visits later this year, score!) I looked up where to get really great soft serve ice cream and Italian ice. I started pinning recipes for CT-style lobster rolls, even though I really only had it a couple of times before I moved away. Still the more I pinned, the more I could no longer just dream of sweetly-fragrant toasted rolls and big pieces of lobster bathed in lemon butter & herbs — I had to make ’em:
It wasn’t the best I’ve tasted, but it was pretty damn good, especially for my first time making lobster rolls. I feel like my best friend back east would have been proud. But before I had even a moment to digest and sit fat and happy with satisfaction, it was birthday time! Despite a huge effort to get in shape for a weekend in Vegas (it seems July was a month of poorly planned good intentions… ), all I really cared about was the cake. Originally, I planned to bake my own cake (last year I made a version of this with Frangelico and then got so distracted while icing that I spelled my own name wrong … Yeah, I know, ridiculous!). I chose the most elaborate cake I would have made to date, this beauty from Bakers Royale.
That was the plan, anyway. Maybe it was the realization that I wasn’t ready to tackle that just yet. Or maybe my weekend birthday trip managed to sneak up on me quickly, with all the packing and planning and working late, that I gave up on the homemade idea and asked my sister and mom to pick one out for me. Lucky me, I got two birthday cakes: one that my sister got from the local favorite Freed’s Bakery for the typical crazy-Vegas party with my friends (sporting an ode to one of my favorite DJs!) and a beautiful, rich chocolate cake that my mother picked out from Filipino bakery Red Ribbon for the smaller family barbecue. Two completely different but equally delicious cakes, both of which I was more than happy to devour (& share!):
This year my birthday was a Monday, so I took the day off to spend a little more time with my family, as well as check out Giada de Laurentiis’ new restaurant at the newly renovated Cromwell. There were so many things on the menu that I wanted to try, so we split several small plates to share among the 5 of us for appetizers and then a few entrees (mine was again, a lobster roll, this time Maine-style served cold with aioli. So much better than my homemade version, but I ain’t mad! I’m still pretty proud of how it turned out and was happy to try another take on it).
We also sampled several of their signature cocktails, including white & red sangria, and the most surprising win, the Barbarella: a refreshing mix of orange spice ginger beer, gin, lemon juice and basil foam. I’m a huge fan of ginger beer, so this one popped out at me, and I’m so glad I tried it! The basil foam sounded weird but it seemed to alter the way the cocktail tasted, and I appreciated the whiff of basil every time I went for a sip. I anticipated the food so much that I didn’t even consider that the drinks could be the star, but they truly made my meal so much more memorable.
What could be more memorable than great food & delectable drinks on my birthday? Meeting the restaurant’s amazing creator & namesake herself of course! I really wanted to NOT geek out over this because I used to watch Giada de Laurentiis’s Everyday Italian show religiously when I first learned to cook, but I couldn’t help but be starstruck. Conversely, Giada was gracious, funny & kind — and her candor & ease when talking to me and family was not only refreshing but warm and welcoming. Having the chance to meet her and talk to her was truly a birthday wish come true.
When I finally returned to the real world after all the celebrations, along came boxes of leftover cake and food. While it felt just sublime sitting on the couch and eating cake for
dinner an evening snack several nights in a row, it seemed like this month of indulgence was catching up to me.
Even now, stepping into September, I’m more sluggish and craving lighter options and trying to take advantage of the last fresh veggies and fruits from the farmers market. I set a few goals for myself for this month, including one I’m excited to share with you soon. The majority focus on balanced eating and spending less money, two things I certainly didn’t do back in July. Still, it was all worth it, and gain my favorite month left me with big smiles and a bigger, happy belly. :-)