Two years ago, around this time, I was nervously plotting my exit strategy from DailyCandy and losing sleep over the massive, life changing decision I’d made to go work on an oyster farm for a year. I was turning 31 and life was about to turn upside down.
That year, Dave and I celebrated the roller coaster that was our lives with dinner at Craigie on Main, which had just moved to its new location in Central Square. As we sat ringside overlooking the kitchen and chef Tony Maws as he worked, Dave presented me with a card which I opened to find a very loving message of support and a print out of an order he’d placed earlier that day. He was giving me my first pair of waders for my birthday.
It was a sweet, hysterical moment for both of us. We had no idea what was about to happen or where this path would take us. We didn’t realize that it would be so physically and mentally grueling yet turn out just as rewarding. We weren’t aware that ungodly early mornings, crazy travel adventures, smelly gloves, and shucking knives would become part of our daily conversation. Or that a whole new family of oyster farmers and friends would enter and take permanent residency in our lives. But here we are, two years and a million good laughs later, without a single regret and even crazier adventures to look forward to.
This year, I turned 33 and am staring down a completely different type of life change. The book will be out this fall, turning my fantastical, odd life story into something physical that will be out there for the masses. (Writing it has turned out to be just as difficult as some of the oyster work was… only, easier on the lower back.) Other than that, my future is a blank slate. I have a million ideas, just a few of which are as zany as this last one, but still, I have no idea what’s next.
In the meantime, I’m eating. Birthday eating has always been an entertaining sport, something to mark the occasion. I’ve never thought much about blogging what I eat (except for extreme cases) and sort of liken myself to this guy, who has a hard time recalling what he eats even though he writes about food. But when I eat really well in one single day, like I did on my birthday last Friday, I think it’s worth noting.
I started my day writing about white truffles and continued on the exotic route with lunch at Coppa where my friend Nicole and I devoured an uni (sea urchin) panini and addictive beef tongue crostini. We followed that up with a wild boar ragu over chestnut fettuccine (a dinner special that chef Jamie Bissonnette tempted us into trying for lunch) and, finally, a dessert of bianco pizza sprinkled with chile oil.
Despite the insanely large lunch (especially for someone who works from home and may take time for a cup of soup and a handful of nuts when she looks up from the keyboard), I was starving in time for dinner at newly opened Bondir in Cambridge. I was so excited for this meal (especially after receiving the requisite: “dude, should be sweet” from both Bissonnette and chef Louis DiBicarri earlier that day) and was in no way disappointed. Chef Jason Bond was most recently at Beacon Hill Bistro, making this his first solo endeavor. The menu changes daily and I love the way he’s set it up because everything on it, besides a few apps, come as half portions, giving Dave and I the opportunity to eat almost everything available that day (a table of four sitting next to us actually did that).
I died over a couple of his dishes, including a mountain of handmade burrata over shaved fennel and an Indian-style flatbread (the burrata is made in Everett and I’m now on the hunt for more), as well as a rich, elegant bouillabaisse risotto topped with a few clams and tender pieces of fish. The spice milk broth and shellfish ragu that went into the dish turned the rice into something unctuous and delicious – straight from the sea. We also tried something I’d never tasted, Chatham Rose Fish which had the silky, melt-on-your-tongue texture of goose liver. Another ingredient I need to track down more of. (Local, available in winter? Who else catches or uses this?)
There were no birthday candles in our Chocolate Enlightenment dessert — only fireworks. The pyramid of heady chocolate was topped with a savory tea foam and sat on top of hazelnut dacquoise. I think we lapped up every last bite, a true testament to its ridiculousness.
It’s been a struggle to come down off that high but there’s nothing like the sobering reality of 15 inches of snow to bring an end to the merry making. I was thinking of nothing but the farm this morning when I woke up to find this outside my door.
I’m sure the oysters will be fine. I just hope the Plex is stocked with plenty of propane.