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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Celebrating Jules' Birthday

We celebrated my brother Jules' birthday twice this week. The first time was last Sunday (a day before his actual birthday). Together with Uncle Jeff, Auntie Kathy and Isabelle (who are visiting from Manila), we drove to Temecula. Partly to have lunch and partly to sightsee the beautiful local vineyards and wineries. Lunch was at The Smokehouse, the signature restaurant at the Ponte Winery. I've blogged about this restaurant and winery a couple of times before. The first time Jojo and I were at Ponte, I wrote about how lovely the grounds were and how charming the outdoor restaurant was. I love the landscaped grounds, the large wooden craftsman buildings (reminiscent of modern farmhouses), the vast expanse of vineyards that stretched as far as the eye can see. I had even wished I wasn't married yet just so I could plan my wedding there. Since I am married, Jojo and I conceded that we would plan our future daughter's wedding there someday. The second time we were there we took my folks and found the place packed with a 3-hour wait for a table. That's way too long, so after sighttseeing the grounds and browsing the gift shop we left to eat somewhere else. Third time's a charm since this time I made a reservation early and we found ourselves sitting down to Sunday brunch with a breathtaking view.

I wish I could say that the lunch was as good as the view. Maybe my expectations were too high or maybe the 100-degree temperature that day made me a little more critical than usual since I found the food just so-so. We shared the warm artichoke, spinach and cheese spread with toasted bread. I usually like this dish because of its creamy texture and the way all the ingredients blend together. Italiannis back in Manila had a great version and so does my mom. But this time, the spread lacked the usual creaminess and was actually quite dry which made it difficult to eat since the ingredients separated and fell off the bread. It was hardly "spreadable" and a tad on the salty side. I ordered the barbecue chicken pizza which was the size of a dinner plate and topped with chicken, cheese, basil, red onions, and barbecue sauce. The crust was good (chewy and crunchy at the same time), the sauce was a tad on the sweet side (more so than typical barbecue sauces), and the chicken pieces were finely shredded rather than the usual chunks. I usually prefer chunks of chicken just because finely shredded chicken has the consistency of mush. The good thing about it was the generous amount of mozarella cheese which I love. Jojo had the chef's omelette, Jules had the eggs benedict, Uncle Jeff and Isabelle each ordered the fresh trout risotto, while Auntie Kathy had the turkey sandwich. Everyone was satisfied but no one really raved about the food. A nice touch though was my brother getting an apple cinnamon bread pudding for dessert to celebrate his birthday.

The second birthday celebration for Jules was last night (a day after his actual birthday). We had our first outdoor barbecue of the year. Usually we bring out our barbecue grill on Memorial Day weekend to commemorate the last few days of Spring and the start of Summer. This year, the warm weather came early so we thought we'd get a headstart on outdoor grilling and backyard dining. Of course by the time we started barbecuing the weather had turned chilly and we had to eat indoors. Oh well. I had marinated three types of steak (Porterhouse, T-Bone and Ribeye) and together with that Jojo grilled fresh ears of sweet corn. Auntie Kathy made a whole wheat pasta topped with pesto and heated some frozen baby peas and carrots. And Uncle Jeff popped open a bottle of Riesling to celebrate. The corn was sweet, the pasta good and the steaks really tender. Everyone had their favorite - Uncle Jeff and Jules liked the Porterhouse finding the thick cut of beef more juicy and succulent, Auntie Kathy and I enjoyed the T-Bone since the meat near the bone is usually more flavorful, Jojo liked the Ribeye since the marbling gives it a softer, almost creamier feel. I'm not sure which cut Isabelle liked best but the good thing is, like all of us, she did try them all. Dessert was good old Ben and Jerry's ice cream for some (but none for me since I've been plagued with a week-long cough/sore throat).

So that's how we celebrated by brother's special day. Happy Birthday, Jules!


jml said...

Jules is a very lucky to have 2 birthday celebrations. But he is really blessed to have a sister and brother in law and family who went out of their way to make his birthday really special.

jol said...

I am so glad that Jules had a wonderful celebration of his 30th birthday. Thanks to all that made this possible.

Anonymous said...