23 February 2009

Grace's Birthday Dinner 2009

As Grace is always willing to be my test subject for new recipes, strange ingredients, and other gastronomic explorations, I was more than happy to cook dinner for her birthday party this weekend. Her only request was crab, and my mind was thinking Mexican.

We started out with a pretty basic set of crab legs and clarified butter, though dusting the legs with Old Bay before putting them in the oven provided a delicious twist.

Next up was what ended up being a huge hit amongst the gathered attendees: homemade guacamole. I honestly didn't do anything special, just combined avocado, onion, lime juice, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers, and a dash of salt, served with good organic blue corn chips. Fresh ingredients make a big difference, and tossing it together mere moments before serving helps out. Plus it's better than some of the processed guacamoles out there, which are basically Crisco with 2% avocado and green dye.

I was really in the mood for fajitas, so I grilled up chicken, ostrich, and buffalo along with the usual onions and peppers. A few people present got to try ostrich for the first time. It's a fun meat to cook; I wish I could find more cuts around here.

What to pair with such a dish? Popular Tex-Mex is a notoriously difficult wine pairing, but my advice in such situations is always to roll the dice, run with something weird or obscure, and hope for the best. This wine beat the odds and worked out very well--the 2006 Wolfgang “Gru-Vee” Grüner Veltliner from Austria. $13, 12% abv. Apricot and floral aromas, medium acidity with a peach flavor, dry but still fruity. I bought the wine on a whim but ended up very happy with it. And providing a friendly design (musical notes and the fun abbreviation Gru-Vee) is genius for the oft-intimidating Germanic wine labels. I should note that the ladies present stuck to their beverage of choice, Coors Light, a more traditional and equally valid pairing for such a meal.

Dessert was provided by the guest of honor. She made her awesome crème brûlée, which I photographed for a previous post. All in all, yet another satisfying dinner party and another successful trip around the sun for our dear Grace.


fredric koeppel said...

"chicken, ostrich and buffalo along with the usual onions and peppers"???? you're amazing, though I'll admit that I never cared much for ostrich, even when it was a "trend" in restaurants 10 or 12 years ago.

Samantha Dugan said...

Gruner with tacos?! Who would have thunk, gonna give that a try tonight.

Benito said...


This cut of ostrich was sort of like flank steak, making it perfect for fajitas: hot and fast cooking and thin slices. The birds are, however, notoriously difficult and dangerous to raise, and I don't think you'll be seeing Ostrich Gorditas at Taco Bell any time soon.


I was really surprised, but happy with the results. And this was the cheapest GV I've seen so far.

Dirty said...

Sounds like a great meal!

Thanks for that link to the faux-amole. Man....

Benito said...


One of the truly great quotes of all time came out of that Kraft guacamole debacle:

"We think customers understand that it isn't made from avocado," said Claire Regan, Kraft Foods' vice president of corporate affairs.

Sure, because whenever I want a little guac but don't feel like bothering with avocados, I just grab a tub of shortening. Yum.

Megan Cathey said...

Curious: where did you get ostrich in Memphis? I'd love to try using it but wouldn't know where to purchase it. Thanks!

Benito said...


I got it at Whole Foods (formerly Wild Oats), but I've also seen it at Fresh Market. Look in the frozen section, where they keep the buffalo, pheasants, quail, and other specialty meats.

There are two forms available: small steaks and pre-seasoned, sliced meat. The second type is probably faster and easier to cook, but I'd suggest using the whole steaks if possible and season them to your liking.

You can see one of the steaks in a post from June.

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Grace said...


Thank you again for the awesome birthday dinner. Everything was delicious and I really enjoyed myself. You really are the best friend a girl could have.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

.....processed guacamoles out there, which are basically Crisco with 2% avocado and green dye.

[gags and faints]

The Wine Commonsewer said...

Grace is such a lovely name. Happy birthday........