Friendsgiving Done Right

IMG_1162.JPGSince I was a kid, the Peanuts holiday movies have been part of my memories of the season. Though Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown is my favorite (my parents have my copy of the soundtrack, I think), A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving also warms my heart. But I can honestly say that I’d never considered eating/serving/recreating the, um, unconventional Thanksgiving dinner Snoopy fixes for the gang. As of last Tuesday, I can now say that I’ve encountered one of the meals on my nonexistent “Ridiculous (And Slightly Off-Putting) Holiday Movie Meals” list. That night, Adam and I attended our second DinnerLab dinner, where dessert was a riff on Snoopy’s culinary masterpiece of pretzels, toast, jellybeans, and popcorn.

That was definitely the most unconventional dish in the five course lineup, but it was executed with panache and a bit of sass. A bit of background: DinnerLab is a company that hosts popup dinners in unconventional locations in cities around the country. The meal is conceptualized and prepared by one of DinnerLab’s culinary staff or a guest chef.

This time around, the Friendsgiving-themed meal was quite a treat. As the tagline for the meal goes, it was "an unconventional Thanksgiving meal with our family of culinary pros before you have to deal with the lumpy mash and overcooked turkey of your blood relations. Welcome to the family!" Luckily, my family's Thursday meal wasn't like that, but Dinner Lab delivered in spades. The venue, Revelator Coffee Co.'s coffee roasting and warehouse space, just made it cooler.

For both of our Dinner Lab experiences, we’ve sat with complete strangers. Both times, the conversation has been excellent, usually centered around food culture, drinks and cocktails, and pop ups. And then the food. Ooo, the food. Even after six years of memorable Friendsgivings, the DinnerLab food was unique – and delicious. I'll spare you the full descriptions of the meals and give you the highlights:IMG_1163

The first course was Prince Edward Island ceviche with mussels, tomatoes, and shredded skate wing. Highlights: textural variety from the grape tomatoes and celery pieces, salt and taste of seafoodIMG_1165

Next came the roasted veggies. Highlights: rainbow carrots and beets gave it a slight sweetness, while pickled beet slices and crunchy fennel provided a lovely counterpoint

Not pictured: LA Charlie, a slice of beer braised pork belly with cranberry (and science) caviar, pickled beech mushrooms and cauliflower puree. As one of my favorite dishes of the evening, I tucked in before taking a picture.IMG_1166

As Markus Carter, our chef for the evening, explained, "Chile Colorado is something my grandma used to make for me when I was home." Highlights: contrasting texture between the shredded tongue and the polenta stuffing cakes, general savory tastiness and crunch of pumpkin seedsIMG_1169

Ah, yes. The Peanuts Thanksgiving. Carter encouraged us to taste each dish separately and then blend them together to experiment with the different taste profiles. As a note, I'm not a fan of jellybeans, but the jellybean fluff texture was really nice, and paired nicely with the coffee. Highlights: perfectly textured popcorn panna cotta that, with a touch of the pretzel caramel and a bite of the sweet toast crumble, tasted like buttered popcorn.

Thankful things

Did I mention Adam's also a fearless hunter of cats and other small game? Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite holidays for quite some time. Since I began trying to live mindfully of the people I love and things I do, I've found that gratitude for all parts of my life puts everything else in perspective. Suddenly, things that seem overwhelming or frightening become opportunities for growth and development. In that vein, here are some things I'm thankful for:

  • Work. I have three jobs I love. They are immensely fulfilling and amazingly fun, pay my rent and allow me to live a rich and full life.
  • Deadlines. Though writing challenges me to learn constantly, it also provides me with a solid alternate source of income. Though I have six deadlines coming up within the next week, they are proof that I've made an amazing amount of progress in my career. I can't wait for the stress of this spell of deadlines to be over, but I'm more excited to see the results of this intense spell of writing.
  • Friends. My friends are my support system. I'm doubly lucky that I count my coworkers as friends, so I'm able to spend time with my loved ones even when I'm at work. They're amazing.
  • Cooking. The Crockpot is my best friend. I'm able to make large batches of relatively healthy food...while I'm writing or bartending or elsewhere. Sharing food is a beautiful way to show love, and large quantities help with that tremendously.
  • Family. Outside of my blood relatives, I have developed an amazingly loving family that accepts me totally and completely. Not only that, I have a kind and handsome man to share my life. I am deeply lucky to spend even the tiniest corners of time with my Adam, and can't wait to see what the next years will bring.

What are you grateful for?