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7th February
written by Steph
Aren't we cute?

Aren't we cute?

Earlier this week I celebrated my 26th birthday.  I’ve been so busy with work stuff lately that I have to admit this birthday kind of snuck up on me.  It felt like pretty much any other day (maybe this is what happens when your birthday happens mid-week?), which might having something to do with the fact that for the past year or so, Tony & I have tried to mark each birthday with a nice little vacation get-away.  Last year we went to the Smokey Mountains and rented a really nice cabin for a long weekend, which was really lovely and relaxing.  This year, however, we decided to forgo that option since we were just up in the mountains over Christmas.  Instead, we decided to stay in Nashville and Tony did all that he could to make sure my birthday was in fact a special day.  I’m happy to report that it was! Part of my birthday stipulations was that I didn’t want the onus of choosing the restaurant we would go to for dinner.  Instead, I narrowed the list down to four prospective places, all of which I deemed acceptable, and then told Tony to pick one of those and to surprise me.  We ended up going to a funky little place called Mambu, which we’d only been to once before.  This little restaurant appears to be in an old house, where each room is decorated in a slightly different style.  We wound up in a room with deep red walls that had an apple theme to it.  We started with a delicious calamari appetizer that had a tomato-based dipping sauce, and a basil aioli drizzled on it.  The calamari were perfectly cooked so that the meat was soft and not rubbery at all.  For our main courses, Tony got the chicken Joan of Arc, which is a chicken breast topped with sweet bacon, served alongside tomatoes & boursin cheese, oven-roasted potatoes, figs & olives.  It sounds like a crazy hodgepodge, but all of those flavors really work incredibly well together (and Tony normally doesn’t even like olives!).  I decided on the duck cassoulet, a French white bean stew of sorts, which was incredibly hearty and warming.  It was garnished with some dried cranberries, whose tartness really offset the rest of the dish nicely.  Finally, for dessert I settled on a decadent slice of coconut cream pie (I had already indulged in a slice of an almond-chocolate torte earlier at school that day), which was drizzled with a berry sauce.  Overall it was a really nice meal, and I’m glad that our second visit to Mambu lived up to our expectations.  We really need to eat there more often!  It’s a great combination of delicious food that is clearly prepared with skill and care and a wonderful ambience, which really results in a wonderful dining experience. Now, what birthday would be complete without presents?  Not mine, that’s for sure!  And I must say, I did strike the motherload this year, as Tony gave me a truly wonderful and awesome gift.  For a while now I have been coveting the complete works of William Shakespeare in individual volumes.  I can’t stress that last point enough.  I’ve had a single volume that contains all of his plays and sonnets in it, and while it’s impressive on the shelf, it’s kind of a beast to carry about and to read.  Those single volume jobs always have really thin onion skin paper and miniscule print that I feel can’t provide for the optimal Shakespeare experience.  Anyway, I’ve been sighing and drooling over the one set I’ve been able to find online that contains all of the plays, each in their own volume, mostly lamenting the cost and the fact that it was really one of those pipe dream desires.  I would never buy it for myself, and thankfully I didn’t have to, because Tony did instead!  I’m sure I squealed ridiculously girlishly when I opened it (belying my 26 years), because it is just so cool (and heavy)!  Look at how even Rory couldn’t keep himself away from the books! 😉 And of course, gifts aside, one of the best things about the day was all of the lovely cards, phone calls, and email birthday wishes I received from friends and family.  I am of course backlogged horrifically when it comes to returning emails, but I think that’s probably a nice position to be in.  Here’s to hoping that my “brief candle” burns bright this year!


  1. 02/07/2009

    Happy happy birthday, Steph!! I’m so happy for you that you got your Shakespeare wish! I also remember having his complete works in one volume and indeed the paper was thin like the bible’s. Nothing beats what you have now.. they’re gorgeous!

    The duck cassoulet is making me envious! 😀

  2. 02/07/2009

    Happy birthday! Looks like you had a great time, and I totally envy you your Shakespeare. I’ve been wanting a complete set for a while, but now that I’ve been warned off the one volume type, I think I might just buy the Penguin paperbacks. They have really cute covers!

  3. 02/08/2009

    Happy birthday!

    Now how is he going to top the Shakespeare gift on Valentine’s Day? 😉

  4. 02/08/2009

    How did I not know when your birthday was?! Happy belated birthday, my dear! What a wonderful gift and dinner!

  5. 02/08/2009

    Thanks for all of the kind birthday wishes, everybody! It really was a wonderful birthday – dinner was excellent, and I loved my present (naturally).
    Claire, the duck cassoulet was really wonderful. So hearty (perfect for the ridiculously cold evening), and the flavors were so deep and rich. I might have to try my hand at a cassoulet one of these days!
    Tuesday, give then that you prefer paperbacks over hardcovers, you’d probably appreciate the individual Penguins more anyway! Mine are Penguins, but are hardbacks. Given their small size, I really don’t find the hardcover a downside in this case. I suppose when it comes to books that I really treasure (e.g., my Harry Potters, my collected works of Jane Austen), I do prefer a hardback.
    Trish, I’ve told Tony that I don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I guess we’ll see if he listens! 😉
    Chavonne, I realized that I don’t know when your birthday is either, so don’t worry!

  6. 02/10/2009

    Happy Birthday! It sounds like you had a great dinner, and the gift Tony picked out for you is awesome! I would love to have a set like that!

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