Sunday, December 9, 2012

Festa Dei Cinque Pesci Birthday

The Italians have a Christmas tradition called Festa dei Sette Pesci in which they serve seven different kinds of fish including salt cod and smelt and join together with family to celebrate the holiday season. Yesterday, I took part in an adapted version minus two fish for the Cute Gardener’s birthday. 

Because we are such avid foodies and eat out all the time, it’s just not the same to think about birthdays in terms of a fancy meal out at an expensive restaurant so instead, when it comes to celebratory occasions we do a reverse ritual of making the days special with creative food sojourns of our own. For New Year’s, this meant caviar tasting at home; for Valentine’s Day I made homemade ravioli; and for the Fourth of July we spent time in San Francisco whirling through an Asian extravaganza.

I am pretty sure that the Cute Gardener would choose crab as one of the elements in his last meal alive if it was something he was able to plan ahead so I called the Santa Monica Seafood Market and Café to make sure they were stocked on fresh Dungeness before we made our way there. With crab as the centerpiece of the day’s wish list, I knew everything else could go a little more organically.

We started out at the Café for lunch to eat down and dirty comfort-food-on-a-cold-beach-day traditions like fish and chips fried to a fluffy pillow of perfection and a buttery, lemon aioli-dressed lobster roll in baskets full of perfectly cooked fries. I soaked mine in malt vinegar and enjoyed memories of the East Coast when I had first discovered a love of the classic Maine-style frites.

After lunch, we grabbed more food from the fresh, deli case and headed home for a disco nap before a gluttonous seafood dinner. 

We bought a dozen Pacific oysters for $1.50 a pop and prepped them on ice in my fridge. There was something extremely satisfying about shucking them and presenting them as a gift to my man. Six of them were scintillatingly salty and crispy, brine-tinged Malpeques while the other six were large and meaty, black and smoky Fanny Bays in the most gorgeous gradients-of-green, lotus blossom layered shells.

Next the CG sashimi-sliced a dark slab of opah moonfish to clean the palate before our main course. We ate the raw delight with small dabs of salt and black olive tapenade, which made a surprisingly good bite on the tongue.

Although I shucked the oysters, I left the crab discombobulation to the pro.

This in particular is one of those funky things the CG likes to eat and specifically asked the fish monger at the mart to leave on and un-cleaned – the head. I tried a spoonful of the mustard yellow, mushy stuff he pulled out from its ethers and gladly handed over the rest of the delicacy to him as a birthday gift. I actually got pleasure off watching him enjoy it though, unlike the gelatinous eyeball I saw him once slurp off a red fish at a Chinese restaurant.

We proceeded to eat the rest of the crab meat alongside a nice pile of angel hair pomodoro.

To top of the festa, we enjoyed my homemade almond lace cookies with Satsuma tangerines from his garden, a pile of LEGO and old black and white movies. Traditions are best when made fresh and unique by the participants involved!

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