Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Significant Birthday Long Weekend

They say 40 is the old age of youth, 50 is the youth of old age. Now that I've reach the ripe, old age of youth, I can't say I feel any different. That I'm on the cusp of old age, of walking the path of behaving as an older person would. I suppose the fact that my knees have been hurting more than ever, with the slightest exertion triggering off a bout of stiffness and pain, reminds me that I am getting old(er), the physical machine that is my youthful-looking body is actually older than it appears to the outside world. My knees keep me feeling older than I actually am. So I guess in many ways I feel much younger than my biological age, and yet in one respect, I feel a lot older.

The big 4-0 celebrations started on the eve of the big day with a trio of little birthday cakes/ pastries courtesy of the girls at the office. I received a lovely glass teapot which I've always admired and debated if I need yet another teapot just so that I can see beautiful tea leaves especially those in the form of a flower, bloom into a lovely form in the transparent glass. The love of a beautiful object is overpowered by the knowledge that I already have 2 teapots that I use very often plus a ceramic coffee pot which I don't. I could not justify yet another teapot. But it is a different story when someone presents you with one as a gift. I inaugurated this beautiful pot with 1 of the tea leaves bloom that came as part of the birthday gift. The bloom was just gorgeous and it opened up pretty spectacularly, almost like a little garden in itself with different flowers held together so tenuously. It was a visual treat as much as one for the taste buds.

On the actual day itself, we took a day trip up to the Southern Highlands and had a wander around Bowral and Mittagong, 2 quaint villages. I had the best chicken and leek pie for lunch at an award-winning patisserie in Bowral, and so bought a cold lamb and rosemary pie for my dinner later that evening, to be heated up in the oven when I got home. Unfortunately, that was nowhere near the standard of the first pie and I was sorely disappointed. Luckily, redemption was had in the pear slice and mocca chocolate tart we also bought for our after dinner dessert. The chocolate pistachio macaroon was however, a letdown. I don't think any macaroon I've had so far in Australia has been satisfactory actually.

We found the Sturt gallery at Mittagong this time and I was tempted by some beautiful ceramics. But bearing in mind my imminent unemployment, I curbed all thoughts of supporting any local (starving) artist and instead chose to preserve some wealth to support my (possibly-to-be-soon-starving) self.

On our way back, we stopped at Howard Lane vineyard and G bought a couple bottles of wine, 1 of which was a sweet chardonnay which was quite unusual but probably up my alley exactly because it was sweet. We thought we would bring it with us to the birthday kaiseki dinner we were going to have at Mino the next evening with 3 of my closest friends here.

The kaiseki dinner was my fourth experience there. But still as good. The 2 kaiseki menus had changed a little bit, possibly to factor in seasonal changes for what is available. The courses were presented in the beautiful manner typical of the Japanese. Everything looked like a work of art, to be carefully picked up and slowly savoured. The little pieces added up to a big meal, we were all groaning that we were full even before the main course arrived. I particularly like the entrees of seared scallops with ebi roe and the asparagus and duck deep fried in blue cheese. My salmon main course had a nice miso paste type sauce. I stuck with the usual green tea ice-cream while the others went for more exotic choices of black sesame (not one of my favourites) and fig and pistachio (which I was tempted to go for and which was the highlight of all the ice-cream choices I reckon). The creme caramel in the shot glass was so yummy everyone wished the portion was larger, even after swearing that we all couldn't eat anything more after our main courses. I missed the chocolate coated in soy powder which wasn't part of the set this time, but I guess the creme caramel was not a bad substitute.

So that was my 3-day significant birthday long weekend celebrations. Life's pretty good when you're surrounded by family, friends and good food.

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