Sunday, May 11, 2008

Anyone Can Cook

So I just couldn’t do it. The party venue du jour of the preschool set is Pump It Up. The place is a well-oiled machine – they get the kids in and out on well-timed increments and the kids do love it. However, the thought of spending my son’s birthday in a warehouse filled with house-size inflatable slides without a stiff Bloody Mary was not one that I could bear.

How glad am I to be friends with Elena Marre, owner of The Kids Table. Not only did I know we’d be treated well when I booked a cooking class for Thor’s birthday party, but alcohol (for the larger set) would be welcome.

When you do what I do for a living, food is a part of every celebration, particularly birthdays. But how do you incorporate something more than pizza and macaroni and cheese into a 4-year old’s birthday. Thus, thankful was I when Ratatouille was the Pixar movie of the year. I was even more thankful when Thor took to it (he knows what a toque is and who wears it). A French bistro themed birthday party for a 4-year old! Hoo-ray!

Like a busman’s holiday, I actually enjoy planning the minutia of a personal event. Once I have the theme, ideas flow from there: invitations, décor, menu and music. With the theme set, I needed to find the image for his invitation. No cheesy paper cartoons for us. I loved the bistro sign at the end of the movie, but was unable to find any sign of the image even on Al Gore's Internet. I used my art class skills, thought to be lost forgotten, bought a linoleum stamp carving set and created it myself. With the exception of the slightly wider, squirrel-like tail, I think it turned out quite well.

My husband and I have quite a few single friends and friends without children so Thor gets two birthday parties: an adult and a kid party. We like to keep the two consistent in theme if possible. This year, given our Francophile-kid party, we had a bistro party. The invitation for adults was the Eiffel Tower. We began with the kid-friendly frites with aioli and gougeres, supplementing with pate of duck livers from the whole ducks that were cut up for the meal’s centerpiece: cassoulet. We partnered it with a salad of butter lettuce, candied walnuts and Roqufort. Dessert was handmade Parisian macaroons and chocolate mousse cake.

For the kids’ party, we were unfortunately unable to get Thor to cook anything more exotic than pizza, but at least it was made with whole wheat crust and topped with lots of vegetables. The kids started out by making their own chef’s toques, moved onto homemade lemonade, squeezing the lemons on individuals, and then rolled their pizzas crusts and topped them. While the pizzas baked, they made and enjoyed fruit kabobs.

While the pizza-making portion of the event was particularly French inspired, we carried our theme to the adult refreshments: a beautiful platter of French cheeses paired with a French wine, two excellently valued wines the Da Estate Vin de Pays Chardonnay 2006 at $7.99 and the La Forge Vin de Pays Pinot Noir 2006, which was $9.99 when we bought it in February, but has increased to $12.99 since then (worth the increase).

But the piece de resistance (to continue the French theme) was the beautiful “Rat” cake prepared by my good friend Naomi Levine of Tipsy Cake. It was an absolute masterpiece in fondant down to the chervil in Remy’s hand. The kid’s loved it and the parents (including us) were amazed.

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