Steven's Birthday Celebration (and how I made the Rich Table Sardine Chip)

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This post may be a bit late, but I wanted to be sure I did it right. This year, Steven celebrated his 29th birthday. I am so proud of what he has accomplished and overcome this past year and feel so lucky to get to call this man mine and witness all he does in his work and for his friends and family.

Today we’re going to go over all the things we did to celebrate the day of Steven’s 29th birthday.

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The Gifts

This year, I chose quality over quantity when it came to Steven’s gifts. One thing Steven told me was important to him in the upcoming year was spending more time with his brother Doug, so I themed the gifts around the idea of things they could share and enjoy together.

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One of Steven’s favorite traditions with his brother is to assemble Lego sets together. They’ve tackled many projects over the years with each other (one of them being the Taj Mahal, which I witnessed them whip up together with a friend in just a few short days.) So with the help of Doug, I researched to find him a large set they hadn’t yet done together: The 4163 piece Big Ben kit. This piece has unfortunately been discontinued, so sourcing it online took many phone calls to achieve. But it was so worth it to be able to equip Steven and Doug with their next big Lego project.

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Steven and Doug are also big fans of wine. And with Doug being the expert on the subject, I thought what better to get them than some Sangiovese to enjoy the next time they’re together? Since they’re both well versed in their Napa wines, I decided to visit Flatiron Wines to find something unique that they may not have tried before.

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I purchased the Brunello di Montalcino 2013 Sangiovese. It has the distinction of being one of the four first winners of the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita and is one of Italy’s best-known wines. I’m hoping that they’ll have as much fun drinking it as I did going through the aisles of Flatiron to find it

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Homemade Rich Table sardine chips

This year, I wanted to challenge myself by making one of Steven’s favorite dishes for his birthday. So I planned for a plate of the infamous sardine chips from Rich Table. If you’ve seen my post about our Valentine’s Day 2019 celebration, you’ll know that this dish is one of Steven’s favorites in the world. So I did some research, found the recipe online, went to the Ferry Building a day in advance to get all the ingredients together and prepared them when he got home from work the day of his birthday. And they were a hit! Let’s get into how I made them, as well as my discoveries during the process.

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Rich Table has a published cookbook of many of their most popular recipes, which you can find on Amazon and most Bay Area bookstores.

They have their sardine chip recipe published on 7x7.com, which is where I found it.

This recipe was both easier and more difficult than I thought it would be. So let’s get into 2 things I wish someone had told me before making this dish:

1. Buying a mandolin makes this dish 100x easier, but it’s not completely necessary. I don’t own one, so this made cutting the potatoes into thin slices quite tricky. But even if you don’t have a symmetrical ring of potato skin around the outside, it will still look gorgeous once it’s fried. So don’t kick yourself too much. Just make it as evenly thin on all sides of the slice as possible.

2. Sardines are incredibly tedious to work with. The moment I brought them out of the can, they were already falling apart. Cutting them in half was quite the feat. And then when I realized they were filled with tiny bones, I tried removing them and getting stressed out about getting a full piece of sardine to fish through my chip. Note to self: Get de-boned sardines if possible next time. But even though it was a tedious process, the chip turned out really beautiful after it was fried. All I needed to do was find pieces long enough to fish through at least one of the chip’s folds. I would fish one piece through either cut until they met on the back of the chip. Frying did the rest to really adhere the fish to the chip, and you couldn’t tell that I struggled by looking at the finished product.

THE RECIPE

Dipping Sauce Ingredients

1 two-inch piece fresh horseradish root

1 cup crème fraîche

The zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper

1⁄2 bunch chives, chopped

Chip Ingredients

Grapeseed oil for frying (Or any type of oil with a high smoke point. This is to insure your chips don’t burn)

2 medium russet potatoes

12 sardine fillets, halved lengthwise

Salt

Lemon juice

Watercress or arugula, for garnish

Dipping Sauce Directions

  1. Use a microplane or other fine grater to grate the horseradish into the crème fraîche. Stir to combine.

  2. Add the lemon zest and a tablespoon of lemon juice to the crème fraîche mixture and stir thoroughly

  3. Season with salt and pepper and it let sit in the fridge for 1 hour before serving. I recommend making this dip an hour before you make the chips. Making the dip the day before or much earlier in the day could cause it to harden and lose its light fluffy texture in the fridge.

  4. Garnish with chopped chives right before serving.

Chip Directions

  1. Fill a wide pan with grapeseed oil until it’s about half a centimeter deep.

  2. Cut your potatoes in half. Slice the cut side of the potatoes using a mandoline or knife. Be sure that the slices are slightly thicker than potato chips, about 1⁄8-inch thick.

  3. Make two 1⁄2-inch-long incisions on each potato slice. Carefully thread the sardine fillets through the slits in the potto slices, and lay them down on a paper towel.

  4. Heat your oil until a cooking thermometer inserted reads 350°.

  5. In small batches, fry the sardine chips in hot oil for about 1 minute on each side, or until both sides are bolden brown

  6. Remove the chips from the oil and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

  7. Serve the chips over a bed of arugula, with the crème fraîche dipping sauce on the side.

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Dinner At 54 Mint

A couple hours after our snack, we walked down the street to 54 Mint for our 7:45 reservation. Being that Steven loves Italian food, and the reviews were so incredible for this place, I felt it was the perfect match.

Pescetti Fritti and Supplì

Deep fried Lake Superior wild smelts, caper’s mayonnaise, sea salt, lemon | Tomato and basil rice croquettes with molten smoked mozzarella

In honor of the sardine chips we ate earlier in the night, Steven ordered a plate of wild smelts. They were perfectly crispy and a nice alternative to calamari, another of Steven’s favorites.

I personally couldn’t pass up on the chance to have tomato and basil croquettes. That ended up being one of the most delicious appetizers I’ve ever had in San Francisco.

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Gnocchi al Ragû and Spaghetti alla Carbonara

House potato dumplings, pork and beef ragù, parmigiano reggiano | Spaghetti, organic eggs, guanciale, black pepper, pecorino

For the main course, Steven decided on gnocchi. A dish that we attempted to make once, and failed miserably at. I think it was one of our biggest kitchen fails of all time. But I think this delicious plate of potato dumplings got us in the spirit to potentially try out hand at it once again…now that we know everything that could go wrong.

I ordered the carbonara, as I do any time it’s on a menu. After making carbonara at home, and having it at many restaurants, I can truly say that what Jamie Oliver has said about carbonara is true: It’s all about the peppery flavor.

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TORTA al CiOCCOLATO

Chocolate cake, whipped cream

Finally, Steven enjoyed a nice slice of chocolate cake, which our server topped with a birthday candle. He made a wish and really enjoyed his dessert. And I enjoyed the tiramisu I ordered. In fact, I dug into it so quickly, I forgot to take a photo. But please enjoy this shot of Steven enjoying a slice!

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I had a lot of fun planning Steven’s birthday celebration, as I do every year. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our celebration and that it has given you some ideas for any upcoming events in your life! Until next time!