I don’t have the best luck with birthdays. I celebrated my 21st alone in a hotel room in Chicago, my 23rd arrived around the time of the second Mystery Misbehaving Toe surgery, and I spent my 24th at a forum called “Let’s Chat About Dying” before returning to an empty house. In addition, my birthday is National Sorry Day.
So it wasn’t that surprising when I came down with a virus the day before my 25th birthday last week. It also wasn’t surprising that when I started crying at 5am, after six hours of lying in bed feeling progressively more delirious and unwell, it was less about being sick than the fear of being unable to go to Sage for my birthday dinner.
Thankfully, not only did I make it to Sage, but my parents and I had a truly splendid night. A week later, I’m still swooning over the gorgeousness! the creativity! the deliciousness! the fact that my Mum almost disappeared into the couch, so great was her camouflage!
Upon being settled into our cozy corner of the restaurant by our charming waiter, we were served warm bread rolls and homemade butter topped with fancypants salt. The butter was so ethereally light in texture that “homemade” must have meant “whipped by fairies”. There were also aperitifs of burnt orange (for Dad) and passionfruit, citrus, and vodka (for Mum and me).
The above amuse bouche of mushroom miso cappuccino had an intoxicatingly earthy aroma and, while a tad salty, balanced well with the crisp crackers and marinated mushrooms.
My Dad’s and Mum’s entrées (appetisers) were lovely, with vibrant fresh flavours accentuating the core ingredients. However, neither dish compared to the stunning aesthetics and inventiveness of mine:
So pretty. Oh my. How? Everything. So pretty! Like a scene from the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales! The cumin brioche was so delicate it dissolved in the mouth, the bruleed egg yolk melted into the sweet malt powder, and the salty olive dust, crisp cracker, and locally-grown carrots all held their own. Lovely, subtle, intriguing.
In this photo (thanks Mum!), you can see my parents’ main meals and our shared witlof salad: candied walnuts. Mum adored her choice, and the bite I had of scallops and pumpkin spoke of clear yet complex flavours. Dad was likewise impressed with his dish, and I loved the tangy-vinegar kick to his red cabbage.
But, again, my dish reigned supreme. Supreme! Oh yes.
Word cannot express how much I loved this vegetarian (so close to vegan!) main. The globe artichokes were pickled-then-fried, with a glorious crunchy tang. The pan-fried Jerusalem artichokes were nutty-creamy-delicious, the kale was oh! kale! wonder!, and the sherry hazelnut dressing and creamy artichoke puree brought everything together into a please-don’t-end-let-me-scrape-the-plate whole.
I would almost have been satisfied to end at this point, without dessert. But that’s a lie, because we all know how I feel about dessert.
I sweet-talked my parents into ordering the two desserts I wanted to try (apart from what what I myself ordered). After all, it was my birthday, right? I barely had a chance to try Mum’s raspberry and rhubarb dessert, so keen was she on it. I was mightily impressed by Sage’s spin on a chocolate dessert, not only for the gorgeous plating but because the avocado cream tasted undeniably of lemon-infused avocado. On its own, it was quite savoury, but worked beautifully against the sweet chocolate mousse.
But, people, nothing compared to my dessert. Nothing.
Chestnut desserts, light of my life! I was stunned by this dessert even before I started tasting it. I loved, loved it. The centerpiece was the luscious chestnut mousse log, topped with a fresh hazelnut, toffee shard, and chocolate branches. Scattered around the plate were the equally-delicious-and-heavenly chocolate cookie pieces, maple syrup drizzles, smooth and fresh apple puree, nutty crumble, malt ice cream and, last but not least, caramelised chestnuts.
There are no words; this dessert made my heart soar. So much goodness. It was the perfect end to a dinner that made my birthday feel truly celebratory.
I must give a big shout-out to our wonderful waiter, who overheard that it was my birthday and arranged two birthday treats. The first was a glass of Valdespino El Candado Pedro Ximinez, which blew my mind with its lingering sweet notes of chocolate and toffee. The second was the glowing candle that arrived with my dessert, and the firm order that I make a wish before blowing it out.
I can’t tell you my wish, of course. In truth, it was less a straight wish than a jumble of thoughts, feelings, words, and hopes. I have faith that The Wish Powers That Be understood me, though. And I thank my parents, and Sage, for a most wonderful night.
P.S. Find my last review of Sage here.