It arrived all too fast, and ended all too fast: Dad's 70th birthday. It doesn't seem possible that Dad turned 70. Has that much time really passed by? Well, yes, and it's happening to all of us! I remember grampa Rabideau once saying, while in his 80s, that it's strange how each year seems to pass by faster & faster than the prior. I'm starting to understand his meaning! At 70 years of age, Dad is in good health overall. Despite a few aches and pains, he's more agile these days (especially when he decides to increase his activity!), and he has lost some weight. So, all in all, I'd say it's good.
August 28th was a day we had been anticipating for a while. Turning 70 is a special occasion and deserving of a special celebration. But how to honor it? We thought of a few things - maybe chartering a plane for a day....maybe a hot air balloon ride....and as much fun as these ideas sounded, it couldn't possibly include everyone in the family. Plus, we weren't sure to what extent we were suggesting these things for our own pleasure rather than dad's!! Dad's already traveled by plane a lot, and maybe the height of a hot air balloon ride wouldn't be so appealing to him these days. So, we starting thinking along the lines of simplicity. How about simply planning a gourmet dinner with family where everyone could share in good company, and in a good meal (let's hope!), and in a relaxing setting: at home.
The other part of the idea was to make it a surprise. Surprises are a funny thing. They force you to be a little dishonest with the people you love. I had to tell Dad a little white lie. I told him we couldn't come back to the states this summer....I can't remember the excuse, but we wouldn't be there in August to celebrate his birthday. He took it well, "that's OK, we can celebrate it any time...next time you're here". In reality, we had already bought our plane tickets to Appleton, Wisconsin. A few weeks later during our next phone conversation Dad told me he had almost booked a cruise, but it didn't work out due to some really strange logistical reasons related to getting to and from the port. (This was a cruise leaving from Italy if I recall correctly). Then I started to get worried. I still didn't say anything, but my heart began to panic slightly. OK, so this one didn't work out, but what he finds something else & books a trip and ends up not being there while we are! How awful would that be? Great surprise...eh?
It was time to bring Mom into the conspiracy. I got a hold of her one day in June. "Mom" I said kind of seriously, but actually joking, "can you keep a secret?" "Of course" she immediately responded, and added "yes, yes". She loves a good secret as much as the next guy! I filled her in on the truth and asked for her help. Could she please steer dad away from booking any trips for the two weeks we'd be there! She later told me he was somewhat persistent on wanting to go somewhere, but she kept deleting all the travel deal notices coming into their inbox! He might still browse around the web, but it wouldn't be as easy! Apparently that worked, along with a plot of having something to do the weekend of August 21st. The conspiracy was in good hands.
And we told my sisters, and then some aunts and uncles and cousins...the word was spreading. Could it really be kept a secret? Guess what? The answer is yes! My family can really keep a secret! Sorry if I had any doubts....uhm, well, enough said! The night of our arrival, my cousin Mickey picked us up from the airport & brought us over to our aunt & uncle's house where a party was underway out on the deck.....and that's when we sprung the surprise on dad. And yes, he was very surprised to see us there in Wisconsin when we should have been in France! He did a double-take in disbelief! It was priceless. And too bad we didn't think of taking a video!
The actual day of his birthday was several days later, and we also kept that somewhat of a mystery. He only knew we would plan something at home. As for the rest, he had to wait & see!
In the end, there were 16 of us who celebrated his 70th with a 5 course meal, hosted by his three daughters, as one of our gifts to him. It was a real team effort. I got to do the cooking, but I had extremely good help from a very reliable source, my commis (assistant) Eric! :) Mom beautifully decorated the table with china, crystal and chrysanthemums (also assisted by commis Eric!). Always with a touch of class. Eric's "real job" was to pick out the champagne & wine, & no one was disappointed. Sisters Kim & Fran helped with all the in-between course clean-up & set-up. Anyone who has helped me with Le Yumming soirées in Paris knows how important this is and how much work it takes to keep things moving along smoothly and quickly in between courses & afterwards. I think we must've set a record that night for using the most number dishes possible in one evening....! They did a really great job. Finally, Dustin & Natalie also pitched in with bringing the plates to the table.....like I said, a real team effort.
Here's what we had for dad's birthday. The pictures aren't the greatest...but that night, it was all about enjoying the evening...and not wasting time over picture-taking.
1) Gaspacho Andalou
2) Cantalope, shaved beef & honeydew mellon skewers
3) Dates & proscuitto & red pepper sauce (not shown)
Thomas Keller recipe: Tomato Tartare , Green Beans, Frisée and chive oil
Sautéed salmon on a bed of spinach, with mustard and black-olive orzo pasta; fresh green peas and pink-eye beans and hollandaise sauce.
Sorry, no picture! How the taste preferences seemed to have swayed that evening! kidding...
Dad's choice: vanilla poppy seed cake with custard filling served with vanilla ice cream.
Here are a few other pictures of the evening. It's safe to say we all had fun, if all the empty bottles and empty plates were any indication! I didn't take nearly enough pictures that evening, so Kim, Fran, mom, or Louis, please forward any you might have & I'll add them to this post!
And I'm glad to know that dad eventually got to book a cruise -- leaving later this month where they can celebrate his 70th all over again. Also glad to hear the leaf-pick up crew is organized, and don't forget to let us know how you like the foie gras & Dom Pérignon!
So, the party's over but we're left with some great memories of that night, and of our 2 weeks there. Like I said, it came & went all too fast. We hated boarding the plane since it meant saying another good bye for now. Until next time,
Hugs, Diane and Eric
p.s. Dad, I've been meaning to tell you that I thought the speech you gave at dinner that night was really touching. I enjoyed it alot. Straight from the heart! And thanks again for all your patience, to both you and mom, for letting Eric & I take over your kitchen for all the crazy preparations. We sure put it, and every single piece of mom's equipment, to the test. They passed with flying colors! :)