Yesterday was Chris’s birthday. If you are just reading my blog for the first time, Chris is my best friend of almost ten years. We met on the first day of freshman orientation at college in 2010, and we have been inseparable ever since.
We celebrated Chris’s 27th birthday with some of our lovely friends. The evening started out with dinner at one of Chris’s favorite restaurants (if not his favorite). Q by Peter Chang is a Szechuan restaurant located just around the corner from my apartment. Q was actually the first restaurant I have reviewed for my blog, and you can check out that post here. You truly can’t go wrong no matter what you order on off the menu.
I’ve now had a variety of dishes at Q, but somehow we managed to try an almost entirely new set of dishes. This included the stir-fried Branzino and stir-fried Nanjing saltwater duck from the specials menu, plus “Guai” Flavored Chicken Casserole, Szechuan shreded beef, dragon eggplant with spicy garlic sauce, and Wagyu beef lo mein (among others) from the regular menu.
As you can tell, we quite enjoyed the food as we left not much on the table. I loved the set up of our table with the rotating center, allowing us to pass our dishes around with ease. My favorite dish from the main course was definitely the eggplant. I couldn’t believe how well-cooked the eggplant was, given that this is a rather difficult vegetable to cook. The eggplant was perfectly tender without being mushy, and it absorbed all the delicious flavor of the spicy garlic sauce. We also got two orders of the dry-fried eggplant that we just can’t seem to resist during the appetizer round. If there is one take-away from this visit is that Peter Chang really knows how to work an eggplant.
I think it is safe to say that Chris enjoyed his birthday dinner. I am sure he will continue to go to Q even after I no longer live right beside it, but I hope he eats some dry-fried eggplant in my honor every time.
After dinner, we ventured back to my apartment for some dessert and drinks. At Chris’s request, I made a lemon blueberry cake. This is a recipe from my favorite food blog, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. This is third time I have made this cake, but I’d have to say it was also the best job I’ve done with it for three main reasons.
For starters, I did not have my KitchenAid when I made this cake before. What a difference it made! The recipe says to beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for a good 4-5 minutes until it is very light and fluffy. With a hand mixer, I have a harder time standing still to allow for proper beating time. With the stand mixer, I don’t have to worry about that. I can move on to something else while the mixer does its job. The result was outstanding, given me the lightest texture for this butter and sugar combo.
The second reason this cake turned out so well is because practice makes perfect. As cliche as that sounds, it is true. This was by no means “perfect,” but the cake was far better than my last attempt. Since I had made the cake a couple times before, I knew what was coming next. I didn’t have to guess what to do or spend too much time reading the recipe.
Finally, this was my most successful attempt at this cake because I now have the proper cake decorating tools. This includes the cake leveler (pictured above) and the cake spinner and flat spatula (pictured below). I was running low on time and forgot to use my icing smoother/scraper, but overall, I was well-equipped to make this a prettier cake.
This was probably one of the prettiest cakes I’ve made and decorated. Let’s not forget my epic six-layer rainbow cake I made in January. This lemon blueberry cake might be a close second for best cake I’ve made. I also received positive reactions to the cake, which is always a good sign.
Most importantly, Chris loved his birthday cake. I did make it for him after all. We paired the cake with a choice of Campari or Aperol Spritz. Chris is all about the Spritz in the summer, so that was the drink I chose to serve.
Overall, I was so proud of myself for this cake. When placed beside my last attempt at this cake, the improvement is clear. The version on the right was when I made the cake for Chris and Andrew’s housewarming last June. What a difference a year makes! I have worked so hard on my decorating skills. I still have plenty of room to grow, but when I see where I started, I can’t help but smile.